No Longer Scared of People Arriving

Dog is now fine with people coming to the houseTravis is better with people coming to the house!

This is was my story about him eighteen months ago:

They lady says: “I wanted to take a moment to update you on Travis. He’s doing well and will be returning to the States with us in February. Your tips for introducing him to strangers in the house have worked beautifully. The kids have had friends over and he’s been just fine with them…….. it’s outstanding, and the same principles will be applied after he returns to the States”.

I feel so pleased for Travis and his family after his rocky start in life and that he is no longer scared of people arriving.

Two Miniature Schnauzers, Scared of People. Go Away!

MiniSchnauzerAlbert1Go Away, Go Away, Go Away, they bark!

Whilst Bill barks and backs off, Little Ben (now one year old) charges at people coming to the house. The person then recoils of course, and Ben achieves his result – the person backs away. Now he is actually making contact with his teeth.

Both dogs barked frantically for a long time when I arrived – I didn’t recoil when Ben made contact! We tried various strategies. I took no notice of them. I looked away. I stayed sitting down. I moved slowly. Eventually I dropped treats gently onto the floor. Any sudden movement made them jump away.

This isn’t aggression at all – it is pure fear.

I asked the owners to show me what they did when people came. Like many people, they have reinforced the behaviour, maybe sitting on the floor with them and petting them while they growl and bark Go Away – in effect backing them up in their belief that the ‘intruder’ is an enemy. Then, having had enough, they will loudly command them to be quiet. How it is currently dealt with must be confusing for the dogs. Reinforcing them for NOT barking makes more sense.

These little dogs nMiniSchnauzerBarnabyeed to learn that visiting people mean good stuff – calm owners, nice treats and eventually fun, but being removed when things become too much for them. The people also need more ‘guinea pigs’ to the house to work with.

Because they have few visitors it’s a vicious circle. The more reactive their dogs are to visitors, the less the owners feel able to involve their friends and family.

Unsurprisingly this fearful and noisy reactivity, barking Go Away, extends to people on walks – and to dogs.

The wrong type of dog training

I would say that old-fashioned formal dog training classes have made things worse, especially with Ben. I felt really sad to hear that, because of his barking, he had been pinned down in the middle of the hall and forced to lie there while the other owners and dogs walked around him. It’s hardly surprising he believes people and dogs are bad news!

Knowledge of what makes dogs tick and how to train them positively based on scientific fact has advanced hugely over the last few years, but unfortunately a lot of existing trainers simply haven’t kept up. Old-fashioned dog trainers just keep on doing what they always have done, and dog owners, in their ignorance, believe in them.

Spookiness. Found at six weeks old on a motorway.

Spookiness maybe inheritedHe was found as a 6 week old puppy on a motorway in Miami with a tight rope around his neck.

Spookiness probably has a genetic component.

In the circumstances it seems likely that four year old mix breed Travis was born of fearful parents and his spookiness could have a genetic component.  He has had a couple of accidents due to bolting due through fear. On one occasion he was knocked down by a car.

He actually does very well indeed, but over time his spookiness of people is increasing, those that approach him and especially those coming into his house.

He has now bitten a couple of times – lightly so far and not breaking the skin.

They have shut him in his crate for many hours several days a week, which needs to change somehow. Even though he doesn’t seem to be suffering because of it, eleven hours at a time is much too long. They feel they can’t ask someone to let him out or to walk him because they can’t trust him with people entering their house.

He was better than I thought he would be

After I had sat myself down at the kitchen table which is the safest place and least threatening to a scared dog, and sent the teenage son to bring him in on lead, I was expecting lunging, barking and snarling. Not at all.

Travis was obviously very uncomfortable, making a sort of huffing, snorting sound, but he didn’t bark and he didn’t lunge. Very soon the lead was off but I sat still. He ate a bit of biscuit I dropped on the floor, and was soon taking it from my hand. I didn’t look at him. It is always easier if dogs are food-orientated like Travis.

Soon I was teaching him to look me in the eye – a real challenge for him – and to voluntarily touch my hand.

His confidence needs building up in every way possible and in all aspects of his life. I demonstrated how people should behave when visiting – and also how the family should behave in order to help him out. By shutting him away things can only get worse.

Travis is just a very jumpy dog, skittish at sudden sounds and spookiness resulting in wanting to bolt if he meets or hears something unexpected. He feels more confident when out with the son, but that will be because the lad himself feels more confident and it demonstrates how the owner’s own confidence can so effect a dog.

A stiff drink before walks could do wonders!