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Concerning behavior


ejano
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Robin and I were out and about for the first time in a few weeks -- picking up bird seed at the local feed store. He had on his usual public "pet me" face...tail wagging, head up, but when approached by two little boys, he let the first one pet him, then the second moved forward and I swear I heard his jaws snap. Too late, I realized that the little boy (about 8 years old) was holding a very large Reese's candy bar (the four cup size) which he was drawing back in one hand while he was reaching to pet Robin with the other, so Robin might have been going for the candy, but I can't be sure as not ten minutes later we were in the aisles when a very strange acting man approached and Robin definitely growled - a rumble just loud enough for me to hear him.... we took a left turn and he was fine, back to his usual politician self, seeking out people to greet (though I didn't let him, keeping him at a close heel), tail wagging, sitting nicely at the checkout for his biscuit even though the strange man and his stranger girlfriend were two places behind us in line carrying on weirdly.... Robin crunched his biscuit, we waltzed out the door with no problems, with a clerk leading the way, carrying our bird seed...

 

This is the first time Robin has ever acted even remotely questionably in public -- he adores his "fans", who ever they may be...though it has been some time since he's been out amongst them...

 

 

Thoughts?

 

Liz

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My boy jude is always a quiet one. But one day we were sitting in our house in Utah and he just started barking and growling and carrying on. I cautiusly went to the window he was at and looked out, and there was a neighbor from across the street a few houses away from his screaming on the phone and jude was barking at him. A few minutes later, the cops were there. it was some sort of domestic violence thing going on, and they took him away.

 

When my dog barks or growls, I take it to mean something and I take it seriously.

 

And if there's food, I know Jude will try to get it. Unless it's on my plate, he thinks it's his.

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How old is Robin now?

 

He will be two next month.

 

(I should add that the house has been in an upset for the past month...my mother in law was hospitalized for what turned out to be her final illness...between that, the snow and the freezing temps = lots of crate time, lack of exercise, etc. Today was our first real outing since the whole mess started well, just about a month ago.)

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My boy jude is always a quiet one. But one day we were sitting in our house in Utah and he just started barking and growling and carrying on. I cautiusly went to the window he was at and looked out, and there was a neighbor from across the street a few houses away from his screaming on the phone and jude was barking at him. A few minutes later, the cops were there. it was some sort of domestic violence thing going on, and they took him away.

 

When my dog barks or growls, I take it to mean something and I take it seriously.

 

And if there's food, I know Jude will try to get it. Unless it's on my plate, he thinks it's his.

 

Robin's not a grabby dog - he won't go after food if it's not being offered to him. He doesn't even counter surf and there's plenty of opportunity in this lazy house - but if he's offered, he'll take it for sure and this store is a veritable treasure trove of goodies. The counter girls start to throw treats at my pups the minute the walk in the door, so it's possible he thought the boy was giving him a treat then taking it away and he WAS snapping at the treat, but I'm really thinking now he didn't like two boys reaching for him at the same time... too many hands reaching at his head... none of my dogs are overly familiar with children so this was my crucial error and could have led to a very big problem.

 

I know he didn't connect with skin as the kid wasn't upset at all...nor was his mother, who was right there with him. She was asking me if he was part Aussie...there's very few red Border Collies in this "neck of the woods."

 

 

As for the stranger -- I didn't much like the person either and I wouldn't have answered the door if he were on my property. But Robin can't make those judgments for me and he can't go around growling in public. Time for some desensitization to strangers, I guess.... perhaps walks in town are in order without letting people make contact with him? I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I don't want him developing a "problem" either....

 

Liz

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Kids can be tricky because they are unpredictable and sensitive dogs can find that stressful. It is tough because obviously you don't want anything to happen. I always closely monitor interactions between kids and Orbit because i find that his signals of discomfort are so subtle that most people cannot pick up on them. I also always make sure that he has the opportunity to move away so that he does not need to move into the kids to get away.

 

As for the situation with the adult, I personally allow my dog to show his discomfort through vocalisation. Orbit is very perceptive and can tell if someone is not quite right from a far distance. As long as he is not following through after the growl, i would accept that as him telling me that the person makes him uncomfortable. By taking away his ability to communicate his discomfort, he may act upon that discomfort.

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Dear Doggers,

Ms. Liz writes:

 

 

As for the stranger -- I didn't much like the person either and I wouldn't have answered the door if he were on my property. But Robin can't make those judgments for me and he can't go around growling in public. Time for some desensitization to strangers, I guess.... perhaps walks in town are in order without letting people make contact with him? I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I don't want him developing a "problem" either....

 

Dogs are good at spotting anomalies. Better than we are. They are also very good at broadcasting their owners' uneasiness. Robin may not have "made the judgement on his own".

 

Nothing wrong with an appropriate warning growl and, from Ms. Liz's description it sounds like this one was appropriate.

 

 

 

Donald McCaig

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Personally, if my dog (or horse, or a child I'm in company with) is showing some judgment in alerting me to something, I think the most reassuring good leadership action is first, to acknowledge the Thing; and second, let your companion know you'll take over from here so they can settle back down and tune into you again. (And then follow through and behave like you're in charge of the situation, whether that means the Thing is actually harmless, or you agree with your companion that an alarm is in order.)

 

This doesn't apply to consistently over-anxious or fearful individuals, or situations where you're stuck in the presence of known triggers or making a discovery of previously unknown triggers. Then you're managing an ongoing issue, rather than trading communications (and hopefully enriching your relationship) as a result of a blip event.

 

I've heard and read this general comparison on numerous occasions but I think it's a good one. Suppose you're a small child out with your mom in a department store, and all of a sudden you realize some odd-looking stranger has been following you, and staring at you, and you're not sure what his expression means, and now he's standing between you and your mom and the exit from a dead-end space created by a merchandise display. Your mom seems oblivious and just keeps shopping. And the guy keeps staring at you, and he isn't moving, and where he's put himself you wouldn't be able to get past him and leave a polite amount of space. And you're beginning to feel the need of defense or escape. So you tug on your mother's clothes and say, "mom!" And maybe that doesn't work, so you tug again, and say her name with increasing urgency, maybe even raise your voice and swing around to face the odd-looking man and/or point at him.

 

It's not real reassuring or educational if your mom just goes on ignoring you.

 

It's not real soothing if your mom just tells you to quit acting up, whether she says it nicely and hands you a lollipop, or uses a scolding tone in the process.

 

What you'd probably find most reassuring would be for your mom to acknowledge your concern, check out the scary man, and take over. Her response might be: yes, dear, I see him -- that's a clown, you don't need to worry, see I'm not worried, how about these socks? She might respond: aha! a clown -- junior, take my hand -- sir, I understand your intentions are friendly but you need to step back please, you're upsetting my child. Or she might even go: JEEPERS A CLOWN WE'RE LEAVING RIGHT NOW.

 

Which type of reaction leaves the child with useful information (for future clown encounters), a sense that his/her communications are heard, and confidence that mom is leading responsibly?

 

Just my two cents on a gloomy Sunday morning.

 

Liz S in South Central PA

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Personally, if my dog (or horse, or a child I'm in company with) is showing some judgment in alerting me to something, I think the most reassuring good leadership action is first, to acknowledge the Thing; and second, let your companion know you'll take over from here so they can settle back down and tune into you again. (And then follow through and behave like you're in charge of the situation, whether that means the Thing is actually harmless, or you agree with your companion that an alarm is in order.)

 

This doesn't apply to consistently over-anxious or fearful individuals, or situations where you're stuck in the presence of known triggers or making a discovery of previously unknown triggers. Then you're managing an ongoing issue, rather than trading communications (and hopefully enriching your relationship) as a result of a blip event.

 

I've heard and read this general comparison on numerous occasions but I think it's a good one. Suppose you're a small child out with your mom in a department store, and all of a sudden you realize some odd-looking stranger has been following you, and staring at you, and you're not sure what his expression means, and now he's standing between you and your mom and the exit from a dead-end space created by a merchandise display. Your mom seems oblivious and just keeps shopping. And the guy keeps staring at you, and he isn't moving, and where he's put himself you wouldn't be able to get past him and leave a polite amount of space. And you're beginning to feel the need of defense or escape. So you tug on your mother's clothes and say, "mom!" And maybe that doesn't work, so you tug again, and say her name with increasing urgency, maybe even raise your voice and swing around to face the odd-looking man and/or point at him.

 

It's not real reassuring or educational if your mom just goes on ignoring you.

 

It's not real soothing if your mom just tells you to quit acting up, whether she says it nicely and hands you a lollipop, or uses a scolding tone in the process.

 

What you'd probably find most reassuring would be for your mom to acknowledge your concern, check out the scary man, and take over. Her response might be: yes, dear, I see him -- that's a clown, you don't need to worry, see I'm not worried, how about these socks? She might respond: aha! a clown -- junior, take my hand -- sir, I understand your intentions are friendly but you need to step back please, you're upsetting my child. Or she might even go: JEEPERS A CLOWN WE'RE LEAVING RIGHT NOW.

 

Which type of reaction leaves the child with useful information (for future clown encounters), a sense that his/her communications are heard, and confidence that mom is leading responsibly?

 

Just my two cents on a gloomy Sunday morning.

 

Liz S in South Central PA

 

 

Very good sense, thank you. I didn't correct him - We just walked away - took a left through the dog food aisle (Happy stuff there!) and talked with him in a light tone about finding the bird seed. When we we encountered the man (not face on)and his wackier acting girlfriend in the checkout line, Robin ignored him in favor of a "friendlier" person.

 

I didn't want to overreact to make it a "big deal" to him, until I figured out if it was a "big deal" So, perhaps, that was the right reaction?

 

Thank you -- and I'll more closely monitor his (and Brodie's) interactions with the younger crowd. They really haven't seen anyone younger than 12 since the ice cream stand closed last fall :(. We are bereft of the younger set, within easy visiting distance, in this family.

 

(Gloomy here too in NE PA -- where is the warm up they promised?! Plus an inch of snow overnight!)

 

Liz

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Hmm..very thought provoking answers and interesting perspectives on this topic. And Liz, I know how much you love your dogs and you'll figure this out. It could just be, as you point out, all the tension in the house lately.

 

Scooter's as gentle as can be and absolutely adores kids, but when my 30 something niece was here for Thanksgiving a year ago with her two girls (four and eight), he bit her Thanksgiving night. Not the kids--her. He'd been marking wherever she was for a few days before that. Now, I don't find her particularly strange or threatening, :rolleyes: but there was something about her he must have found disturbing and maybe with all the activity going on at the time I missed some signals he'd been sending all along. He didn't bark, he apparently gave no warning (I was out of the room at the time) and just sat there quietly afterward like nothing was wrong.

 

I do know that for a while I found myself tensing up whenever anyone came near him and really had to fight that fear, for both our sakes. Thankfully, he's never reacted like that to anyone else since, but as much as I love my boy, I know that no dog is ever 100% reliable, but he's sure the heck more than most of my human acquaintances! :D

 

Good luck!

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Dear Doggers,

Ms. Liz writes:

 

 

As for the stranger -- I didn't much like the person either and I wouldn't have answered the door if he were on my property. But Robin can't make those judgments for me and he can't go around growling in public. Time for some desensitization to strangers, I guess.... perhaps walks in town are in order without letting people make contact with him? I don't want to make a big deal of this, but I don't want him developing a "problem" either....

 

Dogs are good at spotting anomalies. Better than we are. They are also very good at broadcasting their owners' uneasiness. Robin may not have "made the judgement on his own".

 

Nothing wrong with an appropriate warning growl and, from Ms. Liz's description it sounds like this one was appropriate.

 

 

 

Donald McCaig

Your reply sparks my memory -- my Scotty had earned the name "Protector" though he was very mild mannered about it - using his outsized frame and that Border Collie stare - One morning my DH, a contractor, was stomping about the house, upset in general at the weather, the lack of cooperative delivery people putting him behind schedule, etc. Scotty pushed passed him, into the study where I was making phone calls for DH, sat down pointedly in front of me, facing DH, who was scowling at me (but not AT me, - he was just mad at the world in general, but Scotty wouldn't have understood that). He just looked up at DH, didn't overtly threaten. We both laughed and DH patted Scotty and life was fine. Another time, my sister was lecturing me on some transgression, and Scotty came flying out of nowhere to take up a position between us, again just looking up at her and she decided I'd heard enough on the subject :). Strangers would come to the door, and there was Scotty beside me, just sitting there, looking up at them. I don't recall him ever uttering a sound.

 

I suddenly felt very unsafe when he died. If Robin is developing that sense, it's fine with me -- if, like Scotty, all he does is look (or perhaps a very soft growl).

 

Liz

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