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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb. 11, 2009
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    Default More Aussie help/thoughts needed... (sorry, a bit long)

    So a bit of backstory on my guy... Gatsby has been an absolutely wonderful dog for the 8 months I've had him. He's a mini-aussie and true to his breed is super shy around new people. Not aggressive, he just hides under tables/behind legs/in another room. (and up until 3 months ago, peed all over himself ) Around new dogs on our walks, he pretends to be "the man" and then the other dog gets close and he hides behind me, and then when the dog passes he pretends "Oh, I just tripped away from you, come back here!" The dog groomer ladies love him, apparently he's a model citizen while being bathed and groomed, and loves to give them kisses. I just picked him up from having his undercoat shedded out and the lady who groomed him threatened to take him home with her.

    I've been taking him to puppy class at Petsmart just to get him socialized. he's already pretty obedient, so I just wanted to get him around new people and dogs. He has been making huge progress! He has decided that the yellow lab puppy that's there is the coolest thing to ever walk the earth, he loves him, and he is so incredibly curious as to what the papillon is (rat? dog?) that he always has to check her out. He's also been making friends with the yellow labs owner, and last week decided that she was ok enough with her to start licking her hands and letting her pet him. HUGE for Gats! So now we greet dogs appropriately (sniff noses/butts, maybe a lick and on our way we go) and he's starting to take food from strangers. He's even been venturing out to play during play time with the other dogs.

    And then disaster.

    A little girl (4-ish) snuck up behind him during "play time" at class - Gats and I were focused on the lab who was wriggling in front of us - and slammed both her hands on his back and was "petting him" in that way-too-rough way that kids do when they don't know any better. Scared the living daylights out of him (you could see him literally jump out of his skin) and he spun around and bit her. Barely got her, no blood, just a lot of screaming and tears. I smacked him, and he was shaking like a leaf. Managers came, and it was determined that she just scared him, he's not aggressive/malicious, the girl's mom is apologizing, I'm apologizing.

    So the problem: Now Gatsby thinks everything is out to get him if the person isn't me, my boyfriend or my parents and the dog isn't his brother or my mom's dog. I took him on a walk today and my never-aggressive dog is growling at everything and lunging at everything. Will he work out of this given a couple days (it's only been 4 since "the incident"), or is he scarred for life? Can I do anything to help him!? He's not even a year old and I'd hate to have him think the world is an awful place for the rest of his life!!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec. 4, 2007
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    Ontario
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    Default

    Keep working with him, he will get over it.

    Don't feed his fear. On a nice day go for a walk somewhere that isn't busy. Somewhere you are going to meet a couple people that you know (perhaps pre-arange this). When you meet them, ask your pup to sit beside you and stay. If he tries to cower and hide behind you or growl viciously give a firm but emotionless correction, tell him again to sit and stay. His growling agression and hiding behind you are not acceptable behaviors.

    Don't get upset with him, you just want him to see that there is nothing to get upset about. Its only someone new. The reason why I say mabey pre-arange something is because this way you can let the person know what you are doing. They might need to stand a little farther away from you than they normally would, and they should ignore the dog until his behavior is acceptable.

    Most aussies by nature don't love everyone. It's a characteristic of the breed, so socializing them to be accept a social enviroment takes a little more work than your average Golden (though I would take the aussie anyday. I don't understand why you would want a dog that has no preference of you, its owner than the guy robbing your house!).

    Your dog reacted to the situation he was in. He was already excited then something (the child) startled him. It doesn't sound like it was agressive, so I wouldn't get too excited about it.

    Unsupervised children DO NOT belong in a dog training class. Just like at the barn, if your attention is going to be otherwise focused, its not a safe place for your children to be. The little nip she got is the least of what could have happened to her, she was lucky.

    edit: I liked Watermark's idea of treats.
    Last edited by Rhyadawn; Mar. 11, 2009 at 10:40 PM.
    Riding the winds of change

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  3. #3
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    Jan. 16, 2007
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    2,169

    Default

    Yah I'd like to know what a 4 yo girl was doing loose in the puppy class at petsmart.

    The trainer should have known better. Yes to taking single puppies out to be petted in a highly supervised manner for social experience with toddler, but NO to 4 yo making her own decisions about what puppy to pet and how to do so.

    Sorry this happened. I do think you will have to do some remedial work, and kids may be a real issue in the future if you don't.

    You need a real trainer to help you, not the petsmart variety. Find someone with a totally positive training program who has experience with helping dogs through "stranger" and anxiety issues.

    You can do it but you will need some systematic and knowledgeable help.

    You might also want to read Jean Donaldson's books DOGS ARE FROM NEPTURE and others, available at dogwise.com. She is straight out the best explainer of how to deal with socialization issues in dogs. Funny too.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Posts
    401

    Default St. John's Wort is your friend

    Aussies are very bright and very anxious critters. My first aussie developed a severe anxiety disorder at about 6 months which ended up with him biting a dinner guest - Not Cool. I had taken him through two obedience classes,but they did not help. He'd totally lose it when someone cam eto the door, going though toll booths ("THE TOLL-BOOTH ATTENDANT IS JUST A MAIL-MAN IN DISGUISE!I i KNOW IT!!! i KNOW IT!! HE MUST DIE!!!!!").

    In desperation I took him to a vet/behaviorist,who recommended St. John's Wort. It took awhile to take effect, and took absurdly high doses (3 pills/day) but he became a totally new(calm, friendly) dog! No more anxiety attack, no more aggression.

    Give it a try!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    May. 21, 2008
    Location
    Sonoma County, California
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    Default

    My first Aussie was much like this, very shy with strangers. I took him to many three day events, and he had a hard time with new people. So I started enlisting the help of "strangers" (fellow competitors) to walk through our barn aisle during the show with some dog treats. They were to stop and greet him, and offer him a treat (even he would not take it), then just amble away as if it was no big deal. This really helped him come out of his shell, and he became much friendlier and at ease with new people.

    Poor guy sounds very sensitive and the new behavior is fear. It might be a good time to invest in a little time from a trainer and get some good help now since it seems he may be prone to stuff like this.



  6. #6
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    Feb. 11, 2009
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    616

    Default

    I have no idea why anyone thought bringing children to puppy class was a good idea (in addition to the girl, the mom brings her even younger son too!). But thanks for all your advice!! The St. John's Wort is interesting, might have to use that in conjunction with re-training him that the world isn't a horrible place. DpyDgz, where did you get the herb for your dog/how many mgs? I also like the idea of enlisting a lot of people's help on settling him down.
    Thanks!!!!!!!



  7. #7
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    Dec. 4, 2007
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    Ontario
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parker_Rider View Post
    I have no idea why anyone thought bringing children to puppy class was a good idea (in addition to the girl, the mom brings her even younger son too!). But thanks for all your advice!! The St. John's Wort is interesting, might have to use that in conjunction with re-training him that the world isn't a horrible place. DpyDgz, where did you get the herb for your dog/how many mgs? I also like the idea of enlisting a lot of people's help on settling him down.
    Thanks!!!!!!!
    the classes I took with Ceidleigh last year were taught by this little old lady. She is 87, not even 5feet tall, and owns 5 Rotties (the youngest of which was a ten month old male). She is the most increadible woman I have ever met.

    if you brought a child into the class you were told to leave. If you did it twice you were asked to not come back. Getting a babysitter is much easier than a night spent in emergency getting a face stitched up.

    She (the instructor) was very strict on maintaining that you shouldn't set your dogs up to fail. You know your dog, you live with him. You know what he can handle even if its going to push his limits a little. He needs to re-establish his comfort zone.
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
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  8. #8
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    Feb. 11, 2009
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhyadawn View Post
    the classes I took with Ceidleigh last year were taught by this little old lady. She is 87, not even 5feet tall, and owns 5 Rotties (the youngest of which was a ten month old male). She is the most increadible woman I have ever met.

    if you brought a child into the class you were told to leave. If you did it twice you were asked to not come back. Getting a babysitter is much easier than a night spent in emergency getting a face stitched up.

    She (the instructor) was very strict on maintaining that you shouldn't set your dogs up to fail. You know your dog, you live with him. You know what he can handle even if its going to push his limits a little. He needs to re-establish his comfort zone.
    Is Ceidleigh your dog's name? I love it! And where does this little old lady train out of? It seems I need her help You're right, I definitely dont' want to set Gatsby up to fail, I try to make all my animals' learning zones safe so that they learn properly the first opportunity, not learn all the wrong ways first. That's why this was so frustrating!



  9. #9
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    Dec. 4, 2007
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    Ontario
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parker_Rider View Post
    Is Ceidleigh your dog's name? I love it! And where does this little old lady train out of? It seems I need her help You're right, I definitely dont' want to set Gatsby up to fail, I try to make all my animals' learning zones safe so that they learn properly the first opportunity, not learn all the wrong ways first. That's why this was so frustrating!
    sent you a PM
    Riding the winds of change

    Heeling NRG Aussies
    Like us on facebook!



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar. 11, 2002
    Location
    Bell, FL
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    Default

    Didn't read all the replies but there are several things you can do. I have Aussies and a mini (who loves everyone). As some said, go out for a walk, with LOTS of treats. Have nice people you know come up and treat the dog. Or, if he manages to walk by something good, say yes, and give him a treat. My mom's Aussie is very shy, but will take treats from others. She has never had a bad experience with kids, but still does not like them.

    My male also use to not like other dogs in his space/sniffing him. So everytime he would look at a dog, or allow it to sniff, he immediately got a treat. He soon learned other dogs near=treat, and is much better!!!! You need strangers to equal good things.
    \"I never play horseshoes \'cause Mother taught us not to throw our clothes around,\" ~ Mr. Ed



  11. #11
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    Jan. 25, 2009
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    Default

    Have you tried to gradually start working on desensitizing him to a little more roughness? In other words, pet him a little more roughly, pull on his ears a bit - give lots of treats and use a happy voice. I do stand behind my dogs because that is something that can make dogs uncomfortable. Since I don't have little kids, I try to desensitize to the things they do so at least they've experienced that type of thing before.
    That said, what is good about what happened is that he did nip (rather than really bite), and it is understandable. Here he is focused on this other dog, and all of the sudden something is behind him and touching him and he doesn't know what it is. He probably got scared and reacted suddenly. I would keep working with him and continue desensitizing him.
    I'm not saying it was the instructor's fault, but you might look for a different obedience class. You might be more comfortable somewhere else.



  12. #12
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    Feb. 11, 2009
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    I'm definitely taking him out of that class and have already spoken to the instructor. He's already nervous in a place he's comfortable in (the park) and I know he'd freak out if taken back to that place. Plus, he feeds off of me and my energy and I already know I'd be on edge. His vet gave me the name of a lady in town who is experienced in dealing with dogs like him, so we'll probably use her to help bring him around.
    As far as desensitizing him... we rough house with him all the time and he always has me in his face poking and prodding and petting him heavily and he's never had a problem. Just that in all those instances he knows I'm there, and at class he had no idea what was coming. We'll definitely be using these suggestions to help put him at ease with strangers again. Trips to the barn and lots and lots of treats are in his future... nothing quite like food to bring them around



  13. #13
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    Apr. 1, 2008
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    I'm going to disagree a little with some of the other posters. Several have suggested that you take treats with you and have strangers feed him. I would modify this and have YOU feed him. Don't place him in a position of conflict...."want the treat-am afraid" because that can lead to snatching for the treat. Most people don't understand the difference between a fearful dog grabbing for a treat in order to get away and an aggressive dog biting. If teeth connect with flesh most people think the dog is biting. I would avoid this by having you feed him. In addition, even if people understand the diff, the reaction is to jerk their hand away (sometimes with vocalization) which might make him more frightened of taking treats from a stranger.

    If this dog were at my house we would start a LONG ways away from other people and work on a system called LAT (Look At That) where the dog notices a fearful item and looks back to the handler immediately for a treat. It should progress from a head and/or body turn to an eye flick. I would probably set up a chair at someplace like a feed mill (farmers/ranchers/livestock people generally tend to notice but not approach) and allow the dog to observe from under or behind the chair. I would offer treats for appropriate behavior. Eventually the dog should be comfortable enough to start sniffing around and show generally relaxed behavior. When the dog is comfortable enough to come around in front, I would gradually increase my criteria until the dog is comfortable enough to offer the eye flick mentioned above. At that point I would move the chair about 2 feet forward. I would also keep these sessions extremely short. Like 10 treats worth. Should probably be 5 minutes or less to eat 10 treats. If the time frame is much longer than that, you are too close. If you live where the weather does not permit a chair yet, I would stand and allow the dog behind me. When he can come to the front to accept treats, then I would follow the above criteria.

    The idea is to keep both the dog and the stranger safe. If behind me is keeping that criteria, then behind me it is. This is not "babying" the dog, it is staying within a comfort zone where he can learn the task I want him to.



  14. #14
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    Nov. 2, 2006
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    Default

    I agree with 3dogpack...good advice.

    I would also like to suggest taking him to an agility trial - just to observe. http://agilityevents.net/index.php?page=Events it looks like there are a few coming up in April near you. This will be a high dog/dog people concentrated event and he will have dog savvy folks with good vibes approaching him, and he wil see lots of other dogs having fun playing in agility etc. Plus, you might find some leads on better training classes- other local aussie folks etc. It would be well worth your while to go there with a chair and your pup for an afternoon.

    Try for his sake not to anticipate situations- be a fun safe person for him - and let him know that you are not going to let anyone hurt him.

    I am not a huge a of the petsmart training classes- I think they serve a purpose for some people...but in general I would advise not going to them.



  15. #15
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    Feb. 11, 2009
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    616

    Default Update!!!

    Took Gatsby to the barn today and he was awesome!! I know a couple of you didn't advocate giving treats to strangers to give him, but with the object of normalcy for him (because that's how we've been handling strangers) that's what I did. I started in an aisle that no one was in/people that I didn't know (our barn is a huge complex of stables) who wouldn't bother him, and then after he was ok with Batman, a jack russell, I took him to my aisle, and talked with a couple of the high school girls there about just ignoring him and after he relaxed a little, I gave them treats to offer him. He didn't growl at all (except at the sheepdog that no dog likes.. poor Abbey!) and took the treats politely and like a good dog. The girls offering the treats also moved slowly and were great about listening to my instructions. He ended up letting everyone pet him (including a 10 year old who was hilarious - "he might not let you near him or try to bite you, so don't push him and be careful." "oh no, he'll like me!!" - and he did indeed like her!!! She listened well to me about how to approach him and everything and he ended up licking her hands and offering her his back to rub since he adores back rubs). He wasn't aggressive at all towards any people, just poor Abbey and that behavior was corrected.

    Thank you all for your suggestions!! I think he just needs to be in a safe place for a while with people who aren't focused on him except for when he's comfortable. It was so good to know that he didn't morph into an "i hate everyone and everything" dog overnight! I don't know what caused the behavior in the park, but probably just insecurity and fear. It'll be something to work on and monitor in the future. And we will continue to avoid children, for sure!!!



  16. #16
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    Nov. 22, 1999
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    Default Perhaps also try agility classes?

    I have a cattle dog that was very shy as a puppy. He never showed aggression to dogs or people but I always worried he might become a fear biter.

    We went to a puppy class but then, rather than continue in regular obedience classes since socialization and confidence were my real goal, we took agility classes. It seemed like over time the classes helped his confidence. He loved going to class. Although he was never a great agility dog -- he was always slow and methodical and never did overcome a fear of the teeter -- but working positively in an upbeat fashion through his nervousness with the equipment (he overcame his fear of everthing but the teeter -- would do the dog walk and tunnels and the tall steep thing), seemed to help his confidence in other situations. The classes are small and everyone knows each individual dog's issues and the other attendees are often 'used' to help with particular issues.

    He also attended daycare at the place we went to class since I have a long commute from farm to work it was the only way I could attend classes after work. He started out very fearful everytime I dropped him off but over time came to love going there in part I think cause he loved the classes.

    Interestingly he can still be nervous when we go places in the city with alot of people -- but as soon as he sees other dogs there he lightens up -- like it must be ok if there are lots of dogs as well as people.



  17. #17
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    Nov. 26, 2003
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    NE FL
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    I have an aussie that just turned 12. He has never been really fond of children, but learned to tolerate them being around. Of course, I always made sure that he was not ever placed in a bad position or treated rudely either. When he was younger he would just get away and go lay down somewhere. Now if he is laying down he just rumbles a bit and turns his head away. He's a very good dog.

    I just have to say that that 4 year old's mother needs to put the dog training class on hold for awhile and maybe go take a parenting class instead. She's lucky that your dog didn't rip her kids face off. And then your dog would have been the one to pay for her stupidity.
    "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin



  18. #18
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    Feb. 11, 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaegermonster View Post
    He has never been really fond of children, but learned to tolerate them being around. Of course, I always made sure that he was not ever placed in a bad position or treated rudely either.
    He got thrown in an uncomfortable situation today with lots of people on just a few city blocks (at a St. Patty's day race my bf was running) and he was pretty good. there was one kid who was about the same age as the girl who scared him, and he laid down by my feet and just watched this kid play about 4 ft in front of him. The child never tried to pet him, nor did he make any loud noises or sudden movements, just looked at Gatsby with curiosity and moved on. I was glad that Gatsby just observed and didn't jump to any conclusions about the situation.
    Oyvay, I feel like a parent of a child with this aussie!!! It's tough work for someone coming off of Golden Retrievers her whole life (and who doesn't like kids anyway.. that *could* play a part in Gats' dislike of the small people)



  19. #19
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    Jan. 8, 2007
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    That same situation happened to me too-I had my Aussie in a pre-Novice Obedience class and a Family Manners class was going on at the same time. I had my back to that class, and when it dismissed, a little kid came tip toeing over to peer at my Aussie around a column in the room. Scared the daylights out of him-a monster sneaking up on us! He was suspicious for a while of anyone coming up behind us, but doing the same thing you are, he more or less got over it. As so many have said, Aussie's are more suspicious by nature and I find the worst thing I can do is get emotional over it. Mine thinks kids are meant to be licked from head to toe, but is very afraid of (mostly) men (some women) who stand tall and sort of stare down at him. But if you obviously make your self less intimidating and come with treats, he's comfortable.

    Dogs-he is overly cocky in HIS territory (barn, my apartment) but the second a more alpha dog looks at him, he flings himself on his back and does the whole,"I'm just a little puppy!" thing.

    Anyway, like I said, sounds like you are handling it right and making progress! I wish I had socialized mine a lot more earlier on, may have been able to not have as many fearful incidents, but I do realize it's a big part of Aussie personality and I make sure to stay on top of things when strangers approach, or in new situations.



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