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Allie_Geris

Nipping at Strangers

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My male BC (Bogey), about 2 and a half, has started nipping at strangers very unexpectedly. It's not an aggressive bite, more just a nervous nip. We recently have moved and this is sort of when it started. He has never been great with small children, but recently it seems it's been all strangers.

 

This is concerning to us because it seems to be very unexpected. For example, yesterday I was out walking him and my other BC (his sister) after work. A neighbor approached me and asked if my dogs were nice and I responded yes. He reached down and was petting them as he was talking to me. He even crouched down and let Bogey lick him in the face. As we are standing there talking when the guy takes his hand back from petting him, Bogey jumps on him and nipped and grabbed his shirt sleeve. His tooth got caught on it which just made the situation worse. Once I got Bogey off of him, he was chattering his teeth. Meanwhile his sister, Sophie, is just sitting there calmly letting him pet her. He stood there and talked to me for another couple of minutes and thankfully being a dog person didn't seem to mind but it's been weighing on me. Why the sudden change? One time I was walking him and a guy walked past us and didn't even acknowledge us and as soon as the guy passed us he whipped around and nipped his ankle.

 

He is SO great with me, my fiance, my family and friends, and most of the time other dogs. What concerns me is that it's so unexpected and I never know how he is going to react to people. He seems to be protective (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) but I don't want him to be so protective that no one can come over to my house. What's so strange is sometimes he LOVES people, and then sometimes he gets like that. It's concerning because it's so inconstant and we don't know what to expect.

 

We got him as a puppy at 8 weeks old and have him and his sister. I don't want to make him out to be this terror of a dog because he is for the most part a very well trained dog that obeys us. He is very loving and a great companion and has never showed any signs of any sort of aggression towards us. Him and his sister have had the exact same upbringing and are polar opposites. She is laid back and doesn't seem to care much about other people as long as they pet her haha!

 

Any advice on why this may be happening, what's causing it, or how to fix it would be great! We've recently started agility training with him thinking it might help with his confidence level. I am just worried he is going to do it to the wrong person who isn't a "dog person" and having to deal with those consequences.

 

Thanks for the help!

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I don't have any experience with aggressive dogs.

 

However, whenever someone says "started nipping at strangers very unexpectedly" I have to wonder, are underlying medical conditions ruled out yet?

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Dear Ms. Geris,

 

The unexpected isn't Bogey. Bogey's face/head/nose/eyes is his immediate experience of the world. It's one of the ways who he is. Allowing a neighbor to pet him is (most here will disagree) is a marginal invasion of Bogey's space. The neighbor's putting his face next to Bogie is asking too much of your dog.

 

And why?

 

Let me put it this way: how would you like a stranger to kiss you?

 

Donald McCaig

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I don't have any experience with aggressive dogs.

 

However, whenever someone says "started nipping at strangers very unexpectedly" I have to wonder, are underlying medical conditions ruled out yet?

 

What do you mean by underlying medical conditions?

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Pain or other discomfort can cause dogs to bite. Low thyroid function can cause aggression.

 

Any time a dog starts acting aggressively, especially if it seems to be out of the blue, a trip to the vet to see if something's wrong is in order.

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"This is concerning to us because it seems to be very unexpected."

 

No, it really isn't at all unexpected if you can recognize the signs. See what you wrote in the quotes I listed below.

 

" One time I was walking him and a guy walked past us and didn't even acknowledge us and as soon as the guy passed us he whipped around and nipped his ankle."

 

"I never know how he is going to react to people."

 

"Him and his sister have had the exact same upbringing and are polar opposites."

 

From what you are saying, he has always been a nervous dog. He is NOT being protective of you, he is being fear aggressive. He is defending himself because he is being put in uncomfortable situations.

 

"Once I got Bogey off of him, he was chattering his teeth."

 

Aggressive dogs don't chatter their teeth. It's a sign of stress. Bogey was freaked out.

 

"We got him as a puppy at 8 weeks old and have him and his sister."

 

It's a common problem when people raise littermates that the more shy, reserved of the two pups only becomes more so as they grow, overshadowed by their more confident sibling.

 

Read this article, He Just Wants to Say Hi.

 

STOP letting people crouch down in his face, approach him, pet him or even look at him. It is extremely threatening to a dog for someone to be eye to eye with them. Bogey was licking the strangers face to say, "Please don't hurt me!" If you keep Bogey safe, he will trust you and not feel the need to defend himself. (Yes, he felt he was defending himself when he nipped at the heels of the stranger.)

 

Get him out in public without his sister to socialize him. Socialization means exposure and showing him that the world is a safe place. This means defending him from the public. Step in front of him if you have to so that strangers can't grope at him. If people genuinely want to be helpful, ask that they stand still while you give treats to Bogey. Show him that he can be near people and nothing bad will happen. In fact, strangers are FUN because he gets yummy treats and praise.

 

Teach Bogey some tricks and have him perform them for strangers, but don't let anyone touch him, corner him, stare at him or crouch down facing him.

 

As he gains confidence, you can hand strangers treats and ask that they toss them to Bogey. Again, they should not try to approach, touch, make eye contact or get down on his level.

 

If Bogey doesn't want to be friendly with strangers, so be it. To make him safe in public, show him that there is no need to defend himself because you always have his back.

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I agree with Liz P. You might also want to look for a positive training class or private lessons with an experienced positive trainer. Correcting Bogey will only exacerbate the issue so avoid trainers that think correcting the issue will help. Good luck, I know you can help Bogey deal with his issues. :)

 

Also, you might want to buy and read the book, "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons. I highly recommend reading the intro and first chapters. Of course, the rest of the book is helpful too.

 

Bethany

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Our older collie is predictable in his unpredictability. Strangers are told not to touch him and everything is fine.

 

He is never allowed to interact with children, not because he has ever shown any aggression towards them, simply because children can't be trusted to be sensible.

 

He looks like he wants to be petted and will put up with it for a short time but strangers often don't see the slight signs of tension. Go on too long and he will snap.

 

He is now great with family and OK with a few favoured outsiders he knows and who know the deal with him. He a really sweet dog but he gets stressed when strangers invade his space.

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No competent trainer, whether "positive" or traditional corrects fear behavior.

 

No argument there.

 

The problem is that many trainers do correct fear based behaviors (and/or don't even recognize that such behaviors are fear based), and yet they promote themselves as being competent.

 

So it's still good advice for the OP to ask probing questions as to how a trainer will go about helping her help her dog.

 

If there are any corrections involved, I'd run (not walk) away as fast as I could.

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I agree with all of the above. Liz P's post is particularly detailed and well explained.

 

I would recommend to immediately start protecting your dog, but would also bring him to the vet to rule out any medical conditions (hypothyroid, infections, pain).

 

Just as an added thought: my personal bias is that dogs do not like to be petted on their heads. Yes, the friendly dogs have learned to tolerate such 'affection', but I think it is a marginal behavior at best. How would you like a stranger to come up and start stroking your head. It drives me crazy to see TV shows and videos of people rescuing shy, fearful dogs who, after they have captured them (because the dog has been trying to avoid capture, not coming willingly to the rescuer), immediately start stroking their head.

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Just as an added thought: my personal bias is that dogs do not like to be petted on their heads.

 

This is very true, and I've seen this explained in information about dogs many times.

 

When I see my own therapy dog recoil ever so slightly from strangers who pet him on his head, I use it as a teaching moment, pointing out the flinch and the reasons for it. Most of the time it seems to fall on deaf ears, but I hope that people will remember it later on.

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