Antisocial With Dogs. Insufficient Early Habituation and Socialisation.
His young lady owner refers to him as antisocial – towards other dogs in particular.
Gunther is yet another young dog that has lacked the right kind of early socialisation or sufficient habituation. He should have encountered a variety of people, other dogs and been exposed to life in general during the second, third and fourth months of his life – before he came. It’s little wonder he’s antisocial at times.
The 8-month-old Dachshund I met wanted to be friendly but he’s torn between friendliness and fearfulness. He barked at me for a while before, quite suddenly, becoming my best friend.
His ‘antisocial’ behaviour is progressively worsening. There are, however, inconsistencies.
His antisocial behaviour depends largely upon where he is.
Gunther’s young lady owner works in a shop and takes him to work with her. He has a pen at the back. Other people work there too and members of the public are constantly coming in and out.
Gunther, watching them from the sanctuary of his pen, is absolutely fine.
At home he is different. He’s very antisocial when someone he doesn’t know first comes in.
When I arrived he was loose in the room as I walked through the door. A huge human walking directly into his space can be very intimidating for a tiny dog – or any dog really.
Gunther has a similar pen at home to the one at work where he’s very happy. Had the lady put him in there first, I’m sure he would have felt less intimidated and been less antisocial with me. He could then have come out to join me when I was sitting down.
Worse close to home
The further away from home or shop he gets, the more relaxed Gunther is. I suspect, as he gets older, there is a territorial element to the antisocial barking.
Standing on the lady’s lap as she sat beside me, he barked at me.
Then, suddenly, he decided I was okay and had his nose in my ear (a nose shaped for the job!).
Gunther also barks frantically at things that he should have been habituated to early on, preferably before the lady got him at fourteen weeks of age. He is scared of bikes, pushchairs and so on – anything with wheels.
Now they are going to play catch-up.
It’s a matter of doing two things: systematically desensitising him (getting him used to these things and to people and dogs when out without pushing him over his comfort threshold) and counter-conditioning him (adding something he likes to level out that fear).
I liken it to a see-saw. The little Dachshund sees something that scares him, so his end of the see-saw drops. Immediately the lady now must give him more distance and introduce something he likes, special food for instance. His end starts to rise as the other end goes down until it has levelled out. It may even be that ultimately the other end of the metaphorical see-saw is on the ground and his end of it is happily in the air!
The lady has a little girl age three. She and the dog are wonderful together though perhaps the little girl, being a little girl, gets Gunther too excited at times.
We devised a pushchair game for the child. She can wheel her buggy about slowly, pushing a tub of Gunther’s food. One piece at a time, she can drop food on the ground as she moves along. She will be counter-conditioning him to wheels.
Underpinning everything is lowering Gunther’s permanently high arousal/stress levels. They are constantly being topped up with every excitement or bout of fearful barking.
It’s okay to carry him
At work, the lady needs to take Gunther out regularly for toilet breaks, but in order to succeed with the behaviour plan she must protect him from close encounters with things he can’t cope with. It’s a busy area and for now she must accept that he is antisocial. Fortunately he’s small enough to carry if necessary. She can then put him down on his favourite piece of toilet grass and carry him back.
If she sees someone approaching, the young lady must protect him from unwanted attention. He’s a people magnet! She may also find an I Need Space vest useful. (The Yellow Dog Company do bandannas and leashes with the wording, but if someone is able to read the small words they will be much too close).
The young lady will introduce him to more ways of de-stressing by chewing, foraging, doing ‘dog’ things and using his brain.
Different kind of walk
She will give him a different kind of short daily walk. Currently he encounters all the things that cause him to be reactive or antisocial as he walks near home and near the shop.
In the car, she will stop off on the way home from work to somewhere free of dogs, people and wheels. Here he can mooch and sniff on the end of a longer lead for a little while, recharging his batteries.