Dog fear / trust, toothless agression

Zman

New member
Joined
Aug 9, 2021
Hi everyone,

We adopted a rescue dog from a local shelter about 7 mo ago. Our last Pointer/Dalmatian mix rescue had passed after a wonderful 16-yr life with us. This is now a our 3rd time adopting, and each one has been both wonderful and challenging.

"Nettie" (name from shelter) is a 40 lb female that looks like Jack Russel / Beagle / Boxer mix. She has been a more complex and demanding addition to the family. She is adorably sweet and loving, but it is clear that Nettie has suffered abuse at the hands of previous owners. She will inexplicably cower at times and shows extreme fear of anything / everything new or different.

When we first brought her home, the environment was both exciting and frightening. Her behavior would swing between showers of love & licks to fearful growls with some snapping. The snaps always seem to be scared warnings and have never really connected. She really did not bark at anything or anyone during the first 3 days. By day 4, she had clearly decided that the house was Nettie's domain. She became protective of anyone approaching the yard or front door - sounding very ferocious. The moment this person enters the house, however, she calms down into cautious curiosity.

There are 3 full time residents - me, my wife and our young adult soon - and Nettie has become fully comfortable with us. She is incredibly affectionate and playful and a simply wonderful member of the family. She hardly ever shows any fear-based aggression to us now. The only exception would be if we accidentally step on tail, bump her in side or something. If this happens, she immediately goes into cowering submission. It is kind of heartbreaking to see, but just give her an abundance of love to immediately bring back the happy dog.

We hired a local animal behavioralist to help with setting up the basic commands of sit, down, stay, come, heel, look-at-me, and go-to-your-place. The last one in the list is used when people come to the door. Nettie has to go to a designated bed and stay calm until the guest has entered and taken a seat.

This has been working pretty well, and she seems to be a very eager-to-please, trainable dog. The only remaining problem is the issue of fear and trust. With the exception of the 3 of us in the house and a couple of additional family members, Nettie has a significant problem establishing lasting trust with any individual. The behavior is kind of odd and confusing. She will often go directly up to a person and being licking their hand or leg. She may even jump in their lap. A few seconds later, however, Nettie will start growling and sometimes snap at the same person to which she had initially showed affection. Needless to say, people are understandably confused by this - as are we.

She has never landed a snap or bitten anyone, but it is clearly not a good thing.

We are not sure how to address the distrusting / fear behavior, and our hired trainer has not offered much help in this area. We are not sure wether to do some sort of corrective, scolding action or to perhaps try some other type of response. Thus far, the only generally effective strategy has been telling the individual to never make eye contact with Nettie. This seems to partially diffuse the interaction, but it is not a realistic strategy moving forward.

We desperately love this animal, but it is imperative that some sort of progress is made with the behavior.

Hoping someone out there has some effective strategies and recommendations.

Thanks much!
 

TTouch

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2021
Dogs who behave like this have often been in and out of rescue, likely into several homes with different 'rules/regulations' in each one, so had little to no training, often being allowed to do as they please, maybe bought as a play thing for children and maybe taken away from mother/siblings too early, rather than been abused by a previous owner, which is always the new owner seems to think ( or has been told by the shelter volunteers) as it is a quick and 'logically' understood and gains pity for the dog from new owners wanting to adopt.... clearly a 'sensitive' dog who needs direction, a routine and training to know what is acceptable and what is not and by doing this you will build her confidence and that will build trust and respect......

So you can 'do' nothing about what happened (or didn't happen) before you got her, so stop thinking about what might of happened as she is a dog and dog live in the moment, so what happens NOW is the most important to her ( and you) You also then work from thinking/solving an issue and not from a reactive emotional response of feeling sorry for her... feeling sorry for any animal or human never 'helps' them. This might sound harsh to you, however it is not meant to be it is about making it very clear and simple...dogs are very clever at survival and do what they think they need to do to survive, trouble is her survival methods is likely why she ended up in rescue as someone else didn't give her any rules/routine to live by and dumped her instead so someone else ( you) are seeing the results of their lack of ownership/care.

Change your word, 'protect' to 'possess', she is not 'pretecting' she is 'possessing', but it is not 'her house' and you are not her employees and visitors are coming to see you not her so by taking control you will take the pressure of her having to possess. Fear/anxious dogs are the most dangerous, far more dangerous that outwardly 'aggressive' dogs...

She will often go directly up to a person and being licking their hand or leg. She may even jump in their lap. A few seconds later, however, Nettie will start growling and sometimes snap at the same person to which she had initially showed affection. Needless to say, people are understandably confused by this - as are we.
Get her on a lead, let it trail so you can step on the lead very quickly without talking/running around trying to catch her or trying to stop her 'rude' , over excited and reactive behaviour, anyone/everyone arriving ask them to ignore her, which means no touching, talking to her or looking at her, this takes the pressure off her to 'perform' her silly/bad/rude/over excited behaviour and as you have control she can't run up to them or jump on their knee only once she settles down/lays on her bed or with you holding her lead and she is sitting quietly with you can she go over for a calm gentle stroke and then back to her bed although certainly for a few weeks I would just work on keeping her calm/quiet in the same room if possible and at a distance from visitors so she has a chance to learn to use her nose and if she doesn't calm down then remove her from the room until she is calm/quiet as you have her on a lead all can be done in silence...as noise/chatter/chasing after her/chaos all feeds into her rude , anxious and reactive behaviour and 'feeding treats' also praises her for her rudeness/anxiety/reaction... you are aiming for a thinking dog, not a reactive one.

Get her booked into some basic dog training classes. that will get you into a routine of basic training, give her some socialisation and likely the first time she has had that opportunity to enjoy an hour a week for a few weeks one to one with someone/anyone.

Nettie sounds like a confused pup, not her fault but her behaviour is how she has learned to deal with her lack of confidence, as said these dogs can be the most dangerous as you have already seen once the passive licking doesn't release her anxiety and they don't 'go away' she jumps on them, growls/snaps and the next move on from that is a bite

Any half decent qualified animal behaviourist would have assessed her very quickly and would have told you ways of how to address it...certainly learning tricks, like sit, wait, down, bed and anything else you can train her will certainly help build her confidence... nose games , simple things like hiding treats around your room and teaching 'find it' will also help..... as anxious dogs often fail to utilise their nose which is their first sense and the sense which dogs get the most information about the world/people around them, instead they cut that out and use their ears/eyes and so they don't have that important information about them in this case people coming in, so it is a 'shock' to her and why you are seeing this behaviour from her.
 
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linda2147

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
New Hampshire
No dog likes to be looked at in the eye. Its a challenge to them. To start building her confidence play games with her and let her win. Each time she wins will boost her confidence.

Leash her to you when you have company and discourage anyone from trying to interact with her. She is unstable and can quickly get aggressive She is growling and snapping out of fear and a fear biter is the most dangerous kind of dog to have. I never let strangers interact with my dog, a bite happens quickly and one must always assume their dog will bite. My shepherd is aggressive, not a fear biter, just doesn't like anyone other than the family, she won't go out of the yard to chase or attack anyone but if they try to approach me or enter the yard she will defend.
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when you have a dog like this or your fear biter you must always take precautions with people visiting or even if she is with you outside, you don't know what will set her off so always be mindful of the kind of dog you have.
 

ILovepetBlaire

New member
Joined
Mar 19, 2020
Very well said, Linda. I also think that training would really help in this situation.
 

linda2147

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
New Hampshire
training will not eliminate her problems, the best you can hope for is to control it. The basic problem is still there so always assume she will bite so take precautions and it will be all right.
 

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