FEAR WHEN APPROACHED BY 'CONFIDENT' DOGS

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JO_SIE70's picture
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Mac is now a year old, still an entire male and doing really well in his working trails training. He is responsive, obedient and will do anything for a tennis ball. He is generally a very confident dog, not worried by new situations, people, dogs and we have had foster dogs which stay with us as well as friends which bring their dogs around. Out walking he generally isn’t bothered with other dogs- would rather play with his ball, but will greet dogs and this morning had a great game of chase with a female spaniel we met out walking. I can call him away from play at any point, and he would always choose play with me/ball over play with another dog. If I don’t like the way a dog is rushing up to us, or it looks boisterous I will put him in a down stay and release him when the dog has left.

However with some dogs we meet out walking he goes into complete melt down- really really fearful. Generally it is larger male dogs which approach him, or which he cannot move away from (i.e. narrow pathway).  If we meet such Males in a field, no problem, he doesn’t go to them and if they approach him he can move away. The males are usually confident in their body language (stand, square, tail up, stand ground). This morning we met an male Airedale along a narrow pathway- I always ask Mac ‘back’ behind me when passing dogs on a narrow pathway, so I did this as usual. The Airedale in front of its owner, and confident (dominant can I still use that word!!??!!) in its body language stood its ground still, tail up, confident. As we approached I walked past. Mac behind me then met with the Airedale and was very frightened- tail tucked, front legs braced forwards, ears flat back, mouth open and yelping/yelling- and to anyone who was in earshot may have thought he was in the process of getting attacked. The Airedale did continue to move towards Mac and he continued to make this horrid din, and overtly fearful posturing. The owner took her dogs collar. I said to the owner that he was frightened, and she said that ‘he didn’t touch him’ which was true. I grabbed Mac’s collar and pulled him past. Within 10 seconds of passing- he was back to his usual self- not worried or fearful just normal. We continued with our walk, met several other dogs which weren’t of any interest at all and a Labrador which ran up to him barking and he moved away tail tucked and that was it.

 

Beside from not walking where he may encounter dogs on a narrow pathway what is the best approach here any one got any ideas? He meets plenty of dogs, we have foster dogs occasionally, we go on courses where there are lots of dogs but the only time he does this behaviour is in similar situations as above or if he cannot ‘escape’ e.g tied up under a table in a pub it is definitely a fear behaviour in my opinion- and it is normally Male dogs (he is entire so I am aware this may be of interest to other Males). I obviously don’t want this behaviour to escalate to fear and aggression, but on the other hand want to know the best approach with regards to how to best reduce the behaviour.

 

Other than this he is a fantastic dog!

Thank you.

 

Jo

glengate's picture
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It seems as if you send him an inadvertent message that he needs to be fearful by placing him behind you in a position of shelter / possible danger.  You've also taught him to be submissive by downing him (down being a very vulnerable position) whenever dogs you consider to be boisterous are approaching.  It kind of sounds like he's become what you've taught him to be whether that's what you meant or not. 

JO_SIE70's picture
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Hmm.. I always put my dogs behind me on a narrow pathway, the same as I go first through gates, doors in my home, out the front door first etc mainly as I don't want to get barged and secondly because if there is a vicious dog around the corner, or a brave cat which runs past as I open the door I don't want my dogs to be first to see it. I also always walk through sheep/ livestock fields with the dogs back behind me as a form of off lead control. By putting my dogs in front, especially guarding breeds is it not putting them in a position of protection? I don't use my dogs as protection dogs so have never encouraged this behaviour. I have always popped my dogs in a down for their tennis balls which they wait in anticipation for- they don't even notice the other dogs, they are ball obsessed, I also do this in many other occassions where no dogs are present, and practice instant down stays at distance- they are rarely walked on lead so such commands are a neccessity really. I see where you are coming from, but feel if he felt vulnerable in down stay then he would show body language to indicate this, but he is focused on me and the ball and that is it. I would never have wanted to make him feel vulnerable, but also never wanted him to feel protective or feel the need to guard me- mainly because I would hope that he doesn't need ever to defend me or himself. He will do a sit or a stand stay when dog approach too, othertimes like this morning I let him play and he did so for 20 minutes non stop.

KevinK's picture
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I was actually gong to say the exact same thing as Glengate, but had to log off earlier.  Laying down in the dog world is a very submissive pose, (If your dog gets in  trouble, tell him to lay down... I bet the reaction is much different than if you just ask for a down during training) and by forcing that submissive pose, not only are you putting the other dog in a position of advantage, it is making your dog look and feel week.  What you do walking solo, or though doors, or etc. should be viewed differently then when there are other dogs involved.  I would recommend working on building confidence, not avoidance strategies.

JO_SIE70's picture
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Hi,


There is no forcing involved in getting him to lay down-I clicker train obedience and he has never been forced to do anything- it is reward based training where his reward is the ball, he does anything for a ball and the reaction when there are dogs present are exactly the same when there are no dogs present.We never avoid dogs. He never has any fear type reactions in his down, he doesn't even look at the other dog- they sniff him and he is not in the slightest bothered.I guess its difficult to explain in here and what I say may be misinterpreted.

Anyway booked to go to a show this weekend with him with a good friend, so will be meeting plenty of large working breeds.

 

Thanks for your help.

 

Jo

KevinK's picture
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Didn't mean force as in literally "force", like push him down or anything.  I know I meant (and I'm pretty sure Glengate meant too) that by putting your dog in a down you are putting him in a submissive pose.  Also, a dog looking away can be a submissive move, or fear based.  Putting a nervous dog in a down would be the equivelent of being in a bad area of town, and holding out your cash so that if someone wants to take your money, they don't rough you up first.  It's a very vulnerable and helpless position for a dog, and it will make a nervous dog more nervous.  Have you tried to do anything to build your dogs confidence?  Tug is a great way, if you don't play you can give that a shot.

JO_SIE70's picture
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We are training in Working Trials (agility, tracking, control, search) and Competitive Obedience- he is toy obsessed. He is a very confident dog 99% of the time, dogs have to be for trails as it asks a lot of them, its essentially civillian police dog work. His down gives him an alternative desirable behaviour he can be rewarded for. His desire to play is very high and that is why he doesn't look at the other dogs he is looking intently at me to see when the toy will appear! We play tug, fetch, find and lots of other games.

Anyhow since my last email things have been great- we have started fostering again for the local dogs home so he is getting pletny of exposure to bigger dogs in a controlled environment. We have him booked into shows and courses and have been out tracking training with my friend and her ridgeback. The clicker has been great at marking all non reactions out walking so will continue along this way.

Thanks for your help.