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Marley Girl

My BC pup wanted to attack a woman

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I've had Marley since she was six weeks old. She's now 17 weeks. She's a great pup around those she has met, but extremely wary of strangers. The other night I took her to my son's guitar lesson and we were sitting outside when this woman came toward her to pet her. Marley backed up and growled, nearly fell off the porch trying to keep her distance from this woman. About ten minutes later, the woman attempted to pet her again. This time Marley barked and growled and, when the woman walked past, went to nip at her leg! I pulled her away so she couldn't reach the woman. Well, since not all people are bright crayons, some come back for a third try five minutes later. Big mistake. Marley was so upset with this woman I had to hold her back in a bear hug so she wouldn't lunge at her. Marley was so aggressive after this third time, I had to take her away from the situation and other people and she was all happy to just be alone with me in the car.

 

Obviously I cannot condone my puppy's aggressive behavior even though I understand it. What can I do about this behavior to make her less aggressive to people who don't know better than to invade what she seems to feel is her personal space?

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Have you thought about visiting the yellow dog uk website, they ship worldwide. We have just purchased a vest for our collie which reads "I NEED SPACE" might help until your puppy grows out of this stage and people might repect your puppys space more

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Protect. Your. Dog.

 

Marley had a perfectly natural reaction to someone rudely entering her space after she clearly made it known she was uncomfortable with the situation. When it became clear to Marley that you weren't going to do anything to help her, she made the reasonable decision to escalate. Backing away hadn't helped, maybe lunging and nipping would get the point across.

 

Look, I get it. People are idiots, and even after a dog (particularly a cute puppy) gives plenty of clues that it's scared and uncomfortable, many will just think they need to cuddle them harder. But it's up to you to stand up for your dog. You should have politely told the lady to back off the first time Marley started backing away. A polite way for her to meet Marley could have been with her off to the side, not looking at or approaching Marley, with a treat - and let Marley come to her. Once she persisted, you should have literally stood up for Marley - get between Marley and this scary person. You don't have to be rude, but you do need to be firm and direct. I don't know why, but even intelligent people will not only be total idiots around strange dogs, they will ignore the dog's owners. One of my good friends backed Rudder under a car trying to pet him when he was a baby, after I explicitly told him to ignore the dog and stepped away for 2 seconds to answer the phone.

 

She will not be aggressive towards people when she learns that she can count on you to protect her and de-escalate a scary (for her) situation before she's overwhelmed. It will help to give her positive interactions with people. Enlist a few friends who will listen to what you tell them and set up rewarding experiences for her.

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OK, first of all, I would suggest reading this article as soon as you have a few minutes. To be clear, this article primarily addresses dog to dog interactions BUT there is some wonderful information about being your dog's advocate and defender that I think might apply to your situation. It's long, but it really is worth a read... http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

 

First of all, you can NOT let people just approach your puppy when she is not comfortable with them coming up to her. If all of her interactions with people are like this then her fear of strangers will get worse, not better.

 

Try to look at the situation from your dog's point of view: Scary person approaches, Marley growls and tries to run away (warning and avoidance). Scary woman approaches again, Marley growls, barks and nips (louder, very clear warnings). Scary woman approaches AGAIN, Marley goes into a full out attack because nothing else has worked to keep this lady away from her. She feels like she has to handle it on her own. Not only was this very scary thing allowed to approach her multiple times but, to top it all off, the interaction ended with her restrained in a "bear hug" which must have been absolutely *terrifying* for her.

 

We both know this lady was likely harmless (a little dim-whitted, but what can you do) but you must keep in mind your puppy was genuinely afraid of her. Marley gave the appropriate signals to this woman, but since they were completely ignored she felt she had to escalate. I kinda' don't blame her. I can't stress enough that it was *your* job, as soon as you saw her first reaction, to step in and take control.

 

Anyways, so as not to come across as completely negative, let's look at what you could'e done in this specific situation.

When the stranger approached and you saw that Marley was uncomfortable your first step should've been to block the stranger and (nicely) let her know that your puppy is nervous about new people. You could even tell her you are "training" as I've found people often respond very positively to that! From there you could've done a few things... 1) you could have just had a pleasant conversation with her about how adorable your puppy is, so long as Marley felt safe being behind you. 2) you could have handed her a few treats and asked her to toss them towards Marley (not getting close enough to cause a reaction) so that Marley starts to associate this stranger with good things. 3) you could've asked her to sit next to you (sometimes people are less scary when they are closer to the dog's level) and ignore Marley even if she comes over to sniff.

 

The key to all of these things is to watch Marley and see how much she can handle. If the lady just standing and talking with you is too stressful for her then you need to move further away. Really, the best thing you could do is ask friends (who you can explain the situation to ahead of time) to help you out with desensitizing Marley to new people. As you've experienced strangers can sometimes be persistent and oblivious, so there's no garuntee they aren't just going to run over (again and again and again) and try to pet her even though she's made it clear she isn't comfortable with them.

 

I just saw Jexa's post and she summed up everything I just said perfectly in three words.

 

Protect Your Dog!

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Wow, I feel awful for letting my Marley girl down when she was looking to me to protect her from this intruding woman. But I'm thankful for being set on the right path when it comes to future occurrences, and I'm sure there will be many because this was not the first time. The first time, I immediately took Marley out of the situation and my boyfriend got mad at me because he said the woman was "slow" and her little girl was just three and Marley has to learn to not growl when people get in her space. The way I saw it, Marley had every right to have her displeasure known and I did the right thing by taking Marley out of a scary situation. I didn't want to be rude and say something in Marley's defense to the woman. My bad.

 

Thank you for the great advice. It's much appreciated.

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Yup, protect your baby. She had no choice and she warned both of you.

But of course that is a bit tricky for a whole lifetime.

 

So you need to think about how to change/modify her behavior. It appears that this is not totally a surprise for you as she is weary of strangers to begin with. Fear can escalate into aggression if there is no way to cope with it that is ever presented to the dog. Now let me say, I don't care if my dogs approach strangers or even like them. I actually don't mind for mine to not care about making friends. I do however think it is much better for their mental state to be making this choice because they know they don't have to rather than being afraid to. And of course outright aggression is a totally different and much more serious story.

 

With a foster I have that is super spooky....it worked best to be in the open (secured area of course) and sit a distance from my "helper". The dog comes to me for reassurance...gets a pet. Looks at the other person, gets a pet. A reward each time to look. Then I withheld the pet. At some point moved closer to my helper. Encouraged her to take a longer look or even a step. Up to her. If she got lots of courage...she got a huge reward (pet or even a treat from me as she would shoot right back to me). My helpers where also armed with treats. But did not need them in the beginning as she was too stressed to take them anyway. But with time and reassurance...she has become a bit of a pest...almost like she is so terribly proud of herself that she can now go up to strangers that she has to show off....Not to say she runs up to strangers (and no, this dog was not showing any aggression yet except maybe taking a nip at a heel if pushed too far. A literal drive by type of shot as staying for anything more would have required to stay in the strangers presence) No, she is not perfect. She will still bark and do a circle at times. But it is super short now and I can help her if I need to.

 

So along with keeping her safe...I think it would be super to try to help her out a bit. It is no fun to spend your life in fear!

 

Edited to add: I think human partnerships are super important. But your boyfriend should have little say in this. Unless he is willing to face the music down the road with this dog. NO dropping her off at the pound when she is older and more determined. These type of pups need help. They need to be prepared for the world. And the person in charge of this is the owner. The person that choose to take on a living, breathing being. Yes, admittedly, sometimes we lack the tools right off the bat. But with online resources, trainers by the dozen (although all are obviously not alike) and communities like this one....there is tons of help out there.

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NO! She was not trying to protect you! She was afraid and protecting herself because she didn't trust you to fill that role. Read the article. Protect your pup from the idiots of the world and get rude if you have to. Both you and the woman your pup growled at made some big mistakes with regards to dog behavior. You can learn from your mistakes and make sure future encounters go more smoothly.

 

http://www.sacramentodogbehavior.com/6mistakesbmod.htm

 

www.dogstardaily.com Another good source of training articles from Dr. Ian Dunbar.

 

Dr. Patricia McConnell has written some excellent books on dog training and behavior.

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You got a bunch of good replies from those above, and some good references. I'm glad to see that people chimed in with succinct and spot-on advice for you in this sort of situation.

 

Oftentimes, people mean well (including your boyfriend) but it doesn't make what they do or say right. You are your dog's protector. If you had a small child who reacted in fear to a stranger's approach, you would make sure to be his/her advocate and provide leadership and protection. It should be the same for your dog.

 

Best wishes!

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Sorry. Misread a comment that looked like it said she was trying to protect you.

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I really like the book Click to Calm for this sort of issue, but I know others prefer Control Unleashed. I believe there is a puppy version of Control Unleashed that may be easier than I found the original which was written for teaching a class. There are also books out there on dealing with shy dogs that you might want to check out. Anyway, I agree with those who have stated that you will need to protect your pup from the clueless people out there. And you may need to be extra vigilant with the well meaning people in your life who may want to push Marley too fast out of her comfort zone. Which may mean not allowing those people to take her out into certain settings.

 

At such a young age, her fear of strangers is obviously a temperament issue you want to address. My first Sheltie was extremely fearful. He made a lot of great progress in his life to the point that most people who met him thought he was simply a dignified, cool dog rather than being shy. But one of my mantras with him through all the classes, agility shows, get togethers, fun times and stressful times was "He'll always be who he is." He was never an outgoing, happy to meet strangers kind of dog and that was ok. Some places (my training club, dog shows and oddly pet stores) were more comfortable for him than others. So I did what I could to help him feel confident and safe when we went out, which sometime involved not letting people interact with him. With kids, I'd say, "He's scared of you. Isn't that silly?" and they could understand that and not infringe on him, even when I could see they really wanted to. Adults sometimes took a little more persuading, especially the "dog experts" out there. ;) I always positioned myself so I could physically intervene if necessary.

 

Fearful dogs take extra work, but it is so rewarding to watch them come out of their shells and become more confident. Stay patient, persistent, proactive and if needed, protective. Good luck!

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Hi MarleyGirl~

You've got some great advice and great articles to read, so I don't have a whole lot to add. That "7 Mistakes" article is awesome, one of the best I've read and the simplest to heed, so definitely take that to heart.

The other thing I'll add is that I have an excitable, sometimes nervous girl who also had fear issues when she was young. As a little puppy, she loved everybody and seemed just ... normal. But at about 4 months old, she started freaking out over pretty much everything. She'd dive behind my legs, growl at strangers, hit the end of her leash in efforts to escape, etc. One time I was trapped in my seat at a large sheepdog trial and some clueless spectator insisted on petting her. At the time, I lacked the moxie to be rude, even though I could feel the growl vibrating in poor Gael's chest, so I just hugged her head against me until I could get away a couple minutes later. Bad mama, no cookie.

How did I handle her fear? I pretty much let time take care of the problem. I took Gael everywhere with me, I comforted and protected her if she was scared, I did NOT force her to meet or associate with anybody that she didn't want to. I just made sure she got out and around a LOT and that her experiences were positive. As the article says, a dog does not have to make contact with people to be socialized! They just have to learn how to be comfortable in a social situation. Today, Gael is 4 years old and pretty much loves everybody again, though sometimes unexpected things freak her out.

The most important thing to remember is the last thing on that 7 Mistakes list: DON'T be too polite. That's hard for most of us to do, but when you tell someone to leave your dog alone and they refuse to listen, it's okay to be rude. The fact of the matter is, you're protecting your dog, you're protecting the person from possibly being bitten and you're protecting yourself from a lawsuit for having a "vicious" dog. Just say NO to serial petters. ;)

You must take time and go slow. You cannot tell a dog, "Oh, stop being a wimp, it's fine" when they are honestly afraid. No more than you could force a spider into my hand and tell me, "Stop being scared of spiders." Sorry, I don't care what you say, I'm going to go into a total panic anyhow! It's the same thing for your dog. Her fear is real - even if it doesn't make sense to you. Even if it's inconvenient or embarrassing. To her, the fear is real. It's your job to help her though and beyond it.

Best of luck! :)

~ Gloria

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I didn't want to be rude and say something in Marley's defense to the woman. My bad.

 

Gosh, I know a few other people have already said this, but I feel like I have to say it again...

 

Don't worry about being rude. A random stranger who isn't listening to your requests to give your dog some space could do so much damage to her progress... and for what?? You are the one who will be working with her to overcome her fears, to reassure her that you've got her back, the one who lives with her and loves her for the rest of her life. Who cares if someone you'll never see again thinks you are a little bit mean because you wouldn't let them pet your puppy?!? Put the needs of your gal over the wants of random people... and don't feel even an ounce of guilt about it.

 

I mentioned in my initial response that I've found strangers respond VERY well to "We're training". It doesn't take long to explain and usually that's an admirable thing, so very few people I've said this to myself have been upset. I've also seen the harnesses someone else mentioned, which politely communicate to everyone who can read that the dog might have an issue. Something like "NERVOUS" or "TRAINING" might be good for your gal. I can't speak to the quality of the construction of these (and I have no affiliation with the brand) but here's a link so you can see what they look like. http://www.amazon.com/Caution-Non-pull-Approach-Prevents-Accidents/dp/B008OH1OMO

 

At the end of the day, though, just don't ever feel bad for standing up for your girl. By the way, if that's her in your profile picture she is freakn' adorable. :D I'd want to pet her too... but I'd at least ask first. ;)

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Remember that you don't have to be rude about it. Be polite but firm and if someone will not listen to you when you do that, then that is the time to escalate your "correction" to them. It isn't rude if you have to increase your forcefulness because someone else does not respond appropriately to your initial, polite requests.

 

And, yes, I agree that it is not easy but you learn to stand up for your dog and it becomes natural to respond in her defense. She will also feel better knowing that you are in charge and she doesn't need to worry about strangers, and it will help with the problem.

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Remember that you don't have to be rude about it. Be polite but firm and if someone will not listen to you when you do that, then that is the time to escalate your "correction" to them. It isn't rude if you have to increase your forcefulness because someone else does not respond appropriately to your initial, polite requests.

 

Yesyesyes! This ^^

 

Thanks, Sue. I saw your response and then re-read my last post. Oops! I didn't mean to make it sound like she should "come out swinging" at anyone who wants to interact with her puppy. :P

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Totally agree with Sue. You don't have to be rude or harsh when you set limits. I think I am very pleasant, usually smiling while being quite clear I am not allowing my dog to socialize. Sometimes I even stick around to chat if I have the time and the other person appears able to follow directions. I also never say my dog is mean but instead my dog is shy or my dog is unsure. I am not walking a mean dog. I am out with my well mannered dog who is minding his own business and not interested in making friends right now. There is nothing wrong with that. :)

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I didn't think you said anything wrong but were just being emphatic, and that's what we often need in order to get a point across. Once we've been polite first, that is! :D

 

Yesyesyes! This ^^

 

Thanks, Sue. I saw your response and then re-read my last post. Oops! I didn't mean to make it sound like she should "come out swinging" at anyone who wants to interact with her puppy. :P

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I can't thank you all enough for the fantastic advice and reading material. I've had plenty of dogs, but this is my second puppy. The first, an Aussie who's now 10 months, is the complete opposite from Marley. He adores everyone and the more you're in his face, the happier he is! Marley is just very reserved and on the serious side. When you take her out to play, you'd think she was playing a competitive sport the way she eyes the ball and moves over to the side giving you space when kicking a soccer ball. She's no-nonsense and doesn't mess around whether training or playing ball. And she's evidently not a social butterfly and that's okay by me. I saw some of the "dog in training, give me space" vests suggested and that is surely an option if talking to people and letting them know to give her space doesn't work. Needless to say, I've learned today that I am her voice when her obvious signs to people go unheeded and in her own time things will become less scary.

 

I started reading that one article about the lady in the mall and it had me laughing my head off at work. All I could think to myself is "my poor Marley feeling intruded upon and groped by strangers!"

 

Thanks again!!!

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Totally agree with Sue. You don't have to be rude or harsh when you set limits. I think I am very pleasant, usually smiling while being quite clear I am not allowing my dog to socialize. Sometimes I even stick around to chat if I have the time and the other person appears able to follow directions. I also never say my dog is mean but instead my dog is shy or my dog is unsure. I am not walking a mean dog. I am out with my well mannered dog who is minding his own business and not interested in making friends right now. There is nothing wrong with that. :)

 

 

This. :) I also didn't mean to advocate outright rudeness! Far from it. But if rudeness is ever necessary, don't hesitate. I'm such a marshmallow that simply saying "no" often feels like I'm being rude! So, yeah. Don't hesitate to say no thanks and walk away.

 

~ Gloria

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The first time, I immediately took Marley out of the situation and my boyfriend got mad at me because he said the woman was "slow" and her little girl was just three and Marley has to learn to not growl when people get in her space. The way I saw it, Marley had every right to have her displeasure known and I did the right thing by taking Marley out of a scary situation.

Really glad to hear this! Explain it to your boyfriend the same way the article does...how would he feel if some big guy got in his face, he pushed him away, and then you yelled at him for being rude? And if he still doesnt get it, ignore him and do right by your pup :)

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Camden's mom, thanks for the great read! I found it interesting that people in general seem to think dogs should have "politically correct" behavior, for lack of a better phrase. A dog has his space invaded by a touchy person and verbalizes his displeasure with a growl and backing away, and the dog is now unfriendly and aggressive and all these other negative things as far as people are concerned. And this is a dog just minding his own business and not bothering anyone, yet he's the one branded the problem. I feel better armed to go out into the world with my little Marley today and do right by her.

 

One question to the masses... What do you do in the event that your puppy becomes agitated by the mere presence of another dog in her midst and lunges for the other dog growling while taking a walk on leash? What I've been doing is holding her back and, then when the other dog is no longer distracting her, getting down on the cement and giving her hugs and telling her it's okay to help settle her down. I've never actually raised a puppy so this is a far different experience than a dog for me. I guess a want to raise her right and train her right.

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I started reading that one article about the lady in the mall and it had me laughing my head off at work. All I could think to myself is "my poor Marley feeling intruded upon and groped by strangers!"

 

I *love* that article by Suzanne Clothier. The first time I read it my head was swimming... it completely changed the way I interact with my dog (and other dogs, too). I've probably re-read it half a dozen times and without fail she still makes me laugh with that "lady at the mall" comparison. It's funny, to be sure, but it's also such a clear example of how we can be unfair to our dogs, even if we have the very best of intentions. I'm glad you are giving it a read.

 

I had never heard of or read the "7 Mistakes" article that Liz linked. I sat down and gave it a read this morning and WOW that's a really good one too (thanks, Liz)!!!

 

Anyways, I just wanted to say that I'm thrilled that you are doing the research and reconsidering how to best help your pup through her stress and fear. It's really admirable and I wish you and Marley all the very best going forward!

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