Hand hold - my puppy is scared of people

(13 Posts)
talia66 Fri 13-Dec-19 23:10:10

I have a 5 month old pup. He is an amazing dog and I get such joy from having him. However he is quite fearful. He is good with dogs, but a bit skittish on walks - this I can cope with. But lately he is very unsure of people. If they ignore him he is happy. But if they come towards him he hates it and barks at them.
If they are slow and careful with him and he can sniff them he is usually fine. And once he knows you he is fine.
Today a behaviourist came to my house. He barked at her for 10 minutes straight. She was great, really helpful and she is giving me a plan. By the time she left he was fine with her.
I just feel a bit overwhelmed because of Christmas. I am hosting and he hasn't met my in laws. They don't like dogs and to be honest I am dreading it. I feel a bit low generally (I get a bit depressed in the winter) and I think I am making my self (and probably the situation) a lot worse.
Has anybody experienced anything like this? X

OP’s posts: |
Wolfiefan Fri 13-Dec-19 23:16:25

Do they have to come?!
My pup used to spin at the end of the lead to get away from people. The trick was to stop people approaching her. She became comfortable with them standing and chatting to me and then gradually decided they weren’t that scary. We also went to list of different places. Shops, dog shows, days out. But never allowed her to be swamped by people or overwhelmed.
And I wouldn’t get people to feed treats. You may think that is a fast way to stop a pup being scared but it could end in someone getting their hand grabbed as a fearful pup tries to snatch a treat. Or that you get the reverse problem and she mugs everyone for treats. grin
If you have to have guests can you give the dog a safe space? Can you get them to come with you on a walk before they come in? It’s a bit late now but a settle command or a look at you would be helpful.

mylaptopismylapdog Fri 13-Dec-19 23:28:03

If he is good with dogs maybe try him with a doggy day care we’re there are several others dogs and people supervising, Being in a small pack may help him learn from other dogs that other people are safe.

AvocadosBeforeMortgages Sat 14-Dec-19 06:43:36

I've got a dog who generally just avoids / ignores strangers - and has quite a few issues with anxiety in general. After a house move he went full guard dog and stopped letting strangers in the house - we had to get a behaviourist in in the end (he now just thinks visitors including the Asda delivery man are here to play fetch with him and will mug them for a game - a substantial improvement even if it's somewhat impolite!)

I would suggest not forcing your DDog into interactions with strangers - you don't want him to start escalating behaviour to make sure people don't get too close - the last thing you want is a bitey dog. Mine wears a lead slip that says "ask before stroking", and I've found it surprisingly effective - I think the ones with a direct instruction, not just "nervous" are most effective. Mine has the undertone that suggests he might bite - he won't, but I'm happy for people to believe that as it means they keep their hands to themselves! I got mine from here www.saintroch.co.uk/ My DDog would be a really crap therapy dog, but it stops 99% of people just reaching out to grab him because he's little and cute. He ignores strangers and is happiest if they ignore him too - and we live in a city centre so there's no avoiding people!

Likewise, I wouldn't have random strangers routinely feeding treats - you'll put the dog into a state of internal conflict, where the dog has to go near a scary thing to get the food it wants. Much better to work with the behaviourist to teach DDog that humans aren't scary food dispensers!

Could you meet up with your in laws and the dog in advance - perhaps for a nice walk in the woods or somewhere low stress for DDog so he can meet them? Christmas is a high stress day for dogs anyway - no routine, lots of food, lots of human emotions to pick up on, visitors (and WTF is a tree doing in the house?!) etc. I'd make a plan to ensure you have somewhere DDog can choose to go, or be put if the need arises, preferably with a stuffed kong to entertain if he does end up being put there!

We've got a relative who doesn't like dogs we don't like her either and who declared DDog "vicious" after he ran at her growling and the rest of the family sniggered. You have my sympathies!

Hepsibar Sat 14-Dec-19 07:17:46

What about another dog?

StillMedusa Sat 14-Dec-19 13:48:36

Mine is now 7 months old (today) and has been exactly the same.. she's a fairly reserved with strangers breed anyway but she was starting to panic if people got too close.
I think it was partly my fault..because she is a rare breed and very very fluffy everyone kept wanting to touch her when she was smaller, and frankly she hated it.
She started barking at strangers (and anyone without a dog with them!)

This was just as I was having two guests arrive to stay for a month...

What I did was to ask that when they guests arrived they were to ignore her completely and come into one room while I literally shovelled high value dog treats into her in another...so she could hear them without having to be near them. Then gradually she pottered over and sniffed..huffed a few times but actually didn't bark the place down.
On walks I asked anyone who came near not to touch..had to be quite blunt about it, and after a couple of weeks of not being touched she started to relax..now she will sometimes approach people quite happily. No treats as others have said.. scary person= food isn' the best way forward.
She still barks at my neighbour and the odd random person but I think she senses my neighbour is horrible (her cat died in my arms after we had cared for it for years cos she neglected it) so I don't mind that!

If it comes down to it... your dog DOES come before hosting... someone else can do it, or have a quiet xmas and let them know that by next year it may be different.. you don't want to set your dog up for failure! I have already had to warn my relatives (who all come to me) that if my Puppy comes into season in the next week then Xmas is off ..my brother didn't believe me that it might be a problem with his intact male dog....

Raphael34 Sat 14-Dec-19 13:58:28

In an ideal situation you could do a few dummy runs with friends to see how she reacts and work out what works best for her. If that’s not possible I’d get her crate trained and just shut her in another room while hosting for the day. I can’t see another short term way of reducing trauma/hassle. Unless you have a friend she’s comfortable with who’s spending Xmas day alone that could have her?


whateveryousay Sat 14-Dec-19 20:33:41

I have a dog that doesn’t like people. After spending hundreds, if not thousands, on behaviourists, I now just ‘manage’ him.
He has a ‘safe room’ at home that he is shut into if we have visitors, and if we have children visiting he goes to doggy daycare, as it’s just not worth the risk.
We walk in secure fields, or road walk on a short leash. Not what I’d hoped for when I got him, but I’m learning to accept that he us how he is 🤷🏼‍♀️

talia66 Wed 25-Dec-19 23:00:03

Thanks guys for all your help, support and advise. Your replies were so helpful. There are some good tips and also it is nice to know I am not alone!
The day went ok. He growled and barked at my inlaws a bit - as a whole I managed to control the situation by keeping them apart as such as possible. Unfortunately my in laws didn't handle it well. I told them to ignore him and give him time and eventually he will get used to you being here. But they just couldn't do that. My father in law whistled at him - which set him off. And they didn't get what I meant by no eye contact and kept trying to engage with him. I just don't think that they have a clue about dogs! Anyway it has given them something good to go to the rest of the family and gossip about!!

OP’s posts: |
MarshallPNutt Fri 27-Dec-19 09:54:21

Well done, OP. IME many other people struggle to understand that what seems friendly to humans can be quite stresful and threatening to dogs.

I have met very few people who understand that staring at a stressed dog makes it worse, not better.

Fieldofgreycorn Fri 27-Dec-19 11:05:58

The behaviourist probably talked to you about the importance of appropriate and regular socialisation with different people? Also being careful you’re not over rewarding fearful behaviour by making a fuss of him when he reacts to people like that?
Sounds like you’re doing the right thing and getting it sorted.

Bobstergirl Fri 27-Dec-19 11:16:11

Dont worry about rewarding fearful behaviour by making a fuss you can not reinforce an emotion.

However what you do need to do is make sure you control situations so that you dog does not have to react so eg increase the distance turn away from the situation that is making your dog react.

Fieldofgreycorn Fri 27-Dec-19 14:58:58

He’s barking at people. If you make a fuss and say good boy he can take that as a reward for barking. Better to distract/ desensitise and reward when he doesn’t react.

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