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Old 05-22-2010, 02:15 PM
43,012 posts, read 92,280,949 times
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My son's friend recently got a new puppy when it was 7 weeks old. He has had it for approximately a month so that means it's around 11 weeks old. It's part labrador and sheep dog.

Their household has 5 dogs and a billion cats. It's an isolated place so the dog doesn't have interaction outside of the immediate family members and pets. Whenever anyone visits, it hides behind a family member.

Since the parents recognized this is a problem, they asked me if the dog could come visit and stay overnight with their son so it could get more socialized. Of course, I agreed and everything went extremely well.

But I'm concerned about the dog's temperment and wonder if I should advise them to start working with a behaviorist as soon as possible.

It's very young and super sweet. I picked him up in the morning, and he spent the day at my house while the son was at school. Then the son came over after school and slept over. The dog was fine with me---didn't hide. When I introduced him to my dogs, I sat on the sofa with him on my lap. My dogs are not aggressive. They merely smelled him. Yet, he growled and then tried climbing into my jacket while I was wearing it to hide from them. Fortunately, he quickly overcame his fear of my dogs and everything was cool the entire visit with them.

He wasn't afraid of my son or my husband. Within a hour of being at my house, he climbed right into bed while my son was sleeping and snuggled up to him. When my husband came home at night, he ran right up to greet my husband----and nobody else was around except our other two dogs. For the most part, he didn't hide behind anyone while he was at my house and did very well. But he hid behind us from non-family members, like he does when he's at his own home.

My neighbors have a 5 month old puppy. I decided to introduce them for some socialization. The neighbor's puppy is part doberman and coon hound----she's a super friendly and submissive puppy. She rolled over on her belly and just exposed herself to him, but he just sat on my lap (I was sitting on the ground) and wanted nothing to do with the puppy----was afraid of this super submissive puppy! Sigh----that was cool---I didn't push anything, we left.

When we were in the yard with our dogs for 'bathroom' time, he heard a car door close and he RAN LIKE LIGHTENING across my yard and into my house! He's THAT skitterish about everything and anything. That's just one example of how afraid this puppy is of everything. If he doesn't run and hide, he growls. His tail is perpetually down ALL THE TIME.

The good news:

---He's super sweet (and very adorable!)

---If you say no to him, he just stops what he's doing. He's not upset by hearing no. He doesn't cower to no.

---He doesn't bite. YET.

My concerns about his temperment is that he growls. He's not dominant, but he's definitely NOT submissive. He's a frightened dog that growls---at dogs, people, noises, etc.

I'm afraid that this is a dog that will grow up being rather dangerous if he is not socialized properly with professional guidance.

Am I wrong to be concerned? Any suggestions? Any ideas?
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:05 PM
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Given his young age, it sounds like he needs confidence - he'll get that from socialization, positive puppy classes - it sounds like he may get lost in the shuffle at the owner's house. Some are more high strung than others, probably the sooner he's enrolled (with the owner), the better it will be - even simple exercises like walking thru a hoop should help. He may need to be current on vacc's first though, the vet should have come recommendations or your friend may know of some good schools, given all her dogs or maybe you know of some places.
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:50 PM
Location: Santa Barbara CA
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You are not wrong to be concerned.A puppy with fear issues usually has fear aggression as they get older.

For now the best thing to do is do not cuddle or in any way respond to the puppy when it shows fear as even petting it and cooing "its ok" will be taken as a postive reward and make the problem worse.

My Jazz was a fearful puppy, terrified of other dogs and puppies and a bit shy of people until she mets them. Like the puppy you are talking about she is in many ways the sweetest dog I have ever had as long as she is not afraid . I got her at 12 weeks and she was with her real brother up until I adopted her. The puppy you talk about was with this family at 7 weeks so did leave its siblings a bit early which can lead to big socialization problems.

Jazz is 14 now and she has never bitten any one but will threaten people when they do frighten her such as the vet. She is great at reading people and when we did agility demos at retirement homes or homes for handicapped kids she was always a favorite as she loved to cuddle with these folks and give them kisses. She tends to be very social with people unless they frighten her. Dogs are another story as she does not like strange dogs coming up to her. She has been in dog fights with dogs that were strangers to her but because her bite is inhibited and all that aggression is just show she has never injured another dog but if there is a fight it can be frightening as it does look visious.

Her fear was so obvious in puppy class that the trainer suggested I put her in his doggey day care so I did and each time she went she spent the morning studying all the dogs there and keeping to herself by mid day she made her move and soon had control over all the dogs and I mean control. The guy had a stream and little pond and Jazz despite still being a puppy controlled who could play in it and who could not.She controlled who could play with who or who could play with what toy. She was a puppy Hitler. Unlike a true alpha dog she used aggression to get her way.

I also took her to a dog park and we met with the same group everyday and after getting to know the others she had a ball playing with them but if a new dog came she would study it and stay away until she had her plan and if necessary show aggression to get it to do what she wanted. She did well with all these dogs as long as everyone played by HER RULES. She does well with other family dogs in her pack as long as they follow her rules. People say Oh she is an alpha which is not true at all as she is a border collie cattle dog mix so all her genes say Take control but she is a fearful dog so to do it she uses aggression so I call her the bossy fear aggressive control freak. It is a dangerous combo except in her case I know she has that inhibited bite.

If we do meet a true alpha dog Jazz is the first to submit to it and will either go belly up or cover its muzzle with licks. True alphas are not that common but we have met several and they just have this way about them that makes other dogs know who they are and they tend not to use aggression.

Non alpha dogs that come up to her are met with aggression unless they are dogs she knows then she delights in seeing them. She remembers dogs she played with years ago and if we happen across them she gets very excited and wants to see them.

I worked with many trainers on her issues but most gave me info that I felt was 100% wrong like use the alpha roll on her when she gets aggressive with a dog..well hello she is doing it from fear and making her see a dog and fear it then add the fear " Oh mom is going to freak out and throw me down" will only make the problem worse. I did end up seeing a behaviorist that was a vet with a PHD in behavior when she was 2 and he was alot of help. He did tell me that he felt that some of her fear issues were genetic especially given she is from the herding breeds and that they also tend to be dogs that really do not like "working with others" ( dogs that is) while the hunting breeds tend to be dogs that love working with others. So he felt that her issues would be life long so I just needed to learn how to manage them and control her such as she had to have a fanatstic recall so if she was off leash and was going for another dog I could call her off.

She has been a major challenge these past 14 years but so worth it as she is a fantastic dog and a major love bug to all she knows.

If they want to try to turn this pup around they need to get help ASAP before that socialization window closes. You said he is part lab, part sheep dog by sheep dog do you mean old english or border collie? as they need to keep in mind that while labs tend to be very social the herding breeds tend to be more aloof and don't tend to enjoy other dogs in their face. One of Jazz's biggests rules is when she meets a dog she prefers butt sniffs before a facial meeting hence the problem as alot of dogs come right up into her face first and she sees that as very rude so acts in an aggressive manner to inform them of this.

So no you have a valid reason to be concerned and I think trying on their own to socialize her to friends dogs will make her like Jazz where she loves the groups she does get know but has a difficult time meeting a new dog. But I would like to stress once more despite these issuues I would not trade a minute of the 14 years I have had with Jazz so far as what a dog and I have learned so much about dogs and behavior from her She is indeed my once in a life time dog. You are a good friend to have this concern and be asking about it as most dog bites and dog aggression are fear based. Good luck.
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Old 05-22-2010, 07:16 PM
Location: Massachusetts
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The puppy sounds perfectly normal. Many puppies are fearful when they are young and with reason: they are encountering new things all of the time and have no idea what they are or how they should deal with them.

I disagree that you should not reassure him. But then, Dash usually gives very good advice. I just know that reassurance is key with my dog when she is frightened. It all depends on the dog and what/ how it responds to certain techniques. I would trust your own judgement in this respect and consult a trainer if necessary.

I agree that he needs confidence. I find that reassurance is the best way to instill said confidence. He does seem more shy than most puppies but I have also seen a fair share of them that hide behind their owners in frightening situations. That is actually a good thing b/c it means that the pup trusts you, which will prevent him from fear biting.

Futhermore, growling is a warning to alert people, usually for their benefit. A growling puppy is alerting people; in the case of the cat, he was letting you know that there was an intruder/stranger in his space. In the case of the vet, it was a warning [again] that an intruder/stranger was in his space. And while fear biting can develop, it won't develop if the puppy is always reassured and allowed to explore, which will acclimate him to his envronment and make him feel more secure. He needs to experiment with situations so that he knows (and feel confident) handling different situations.

So, that's what I suggest: more exploration and more interaction, with lots of positive reinforcement. If, for some reason, he becomes overly aggressive in an instant, I would reassure him and keep the reprimands gentle. Whatever you do, don't push him to take on more than he can handle; patience is the key.
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Old 05-23-2010, 09:50 AM
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The dog's owners apparently recognized an issue and asked for your help. That sounds like they're receptive, so I would certainly share your thoughts with them. The puppy is in a critical development period and needs socialization, done properly, (i.e., not being put in situations which freak him out and overwhelm him) NOW. There is a very short window of opportunity for this (up to 16 or 18 weeks?) during which the dog should be exposed to as much as possible (people, places, dogs, sounds, etc.) to develop comfort and confidence.

You are kind to care so much about this puppy. And if you can help this family by continuing to be a source of socialization, kudos to you!
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Old 05-23-2010, 10:03 AM
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Dashdog is 100 % correct. Been there, too.
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Old 05-23-2010, 11:52 AM
Location: Phelan
205 posts, read 624,310 times
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could it also be that you had him on your lap when the dogs greeted him? You gave the puppy status over the other dogs having him on your lap in an elevated level. This is why little dogs tend to be snappy when their owners are holding them; they have status due to the elevation and coddling.

We think of reassuring our dogs as a good thing, like we'd do with a child. But with dogs it works in reverse. We make it worse by bringing attention to it, petting and cooing to the dog only makes him more fearful.
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Old 05-23-2010, 04:54 PM
Location: 500 miles from home
30,013 posts, read 16,597,455 times
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Lucy growled at Ringo the first night we brought her home! And we were sooo concerned about what Ringo would do . . she was the one who growled!

Now she is super submissive to him . . . so not sure what was going on there.

I just think she was scared. New house; strange dog much bigger than her . . . .
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