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Suddenly wary of strangers

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Hello all,

It's been a longtime since last posting. This forum was a goldmine for helping me raise Bob through his puppyhood. He's now almost 3 and for much of the past year has been an amazing maturing companion.

Recently however he's been increasingly wary of new people which is really unusual. He's always been incredibly sociable apart from a brief month when he was 10-11mo old. It's escalated quickly over the past few weeks from the odd bark to batting their hands away with a snap to flashing teeth at pretty much everyone approaching with a look to pet him. His typical behaviour is to attention seek and often put his head in people's hands. 

The vet can't find anything wrong health-wise and his routine is the same. I've gone right back to basics with instructing people in advance and a fistful of treats given to strangers. It's just really odd and I cant yet find a common variable for the reason why.

It's also been suggested by a friend that the aggression means its time to get him done (not suggested by the vet) - I thought this was a bit of a myth?

Any ideas or similar stories would be a great help.

Luke & Bob

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My first thought is there anything that would make him anxious but you said nothing has changed in how you do things.

So how about:  is there anything different with you?  New stress? New smells? (Like a new job might have?)  Two of my dogs got hyper protective of me when I was going through some stress at work.   One of my dogs would get all worked up when i was playing a certain video game.  It wasn't even a violent one but I guess I was giving off stress vibes because when I would purposely take deeper longer breaths during certain sequences she calmed down.  

I don't know, just a thought.  

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Yep, going on 3, turning into a mature dog.  It is so weird that they just change so much.  Everything you did as a puppy to socialize him - do it again.  This is a phase and you can help him through it.  They get their brain turned on around that age.  If he is not neutered then his hormones are really messing with his emotions and thinking.  I had to seek out a vet behaviorist because my sweet boy turned fear aggressive toward other dogs at that age.  You can help him through this, but it might take professional help.  My boy had six months on beef flavored chewable prozac as we worked through his emerging issues.  I had to watch him, but we went to obedience and agility classes.  He competed in herding and even got his started titled.  Take care of this now and he can have a long and happy life.  I also vote for the neutering as this temperament is probably not one to pass on and getting the hormones turned off will help him emotionally.  

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I'd recommend doing some research before choosing to neuter your dog because of this. I've read several articles mentioning more recent studies saying that the belief that neutering will curb aggression is not true and in fat may even cause it to increase.

Unfortunately, this one doesn't cite the studies, but will give you some information to consider and a starting point for further investigation: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201805/neutering-causes-behavior-problems-in-male-dogs?fbclid=IwAR04bBA71UOl9Enm0F-r1mcJnAEurAVbQCaHAL7ISXMOquQacQs9KoHsda4

I agree that if this continues it's not a temperament you want to pass on, but vascectomy will accomplish the same thing as castration in that regard without removing the hormones. There are other (health) risks associated with de-sexing dogs.


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I know as dog mature their personality can change. Things that at one time didn’t bother them they can become sensitive to.
My border collie Val was exposed to many environmental sounds as a puppy. Part of his puppyhood he came with me to a metal shop with a ton of loud noise without being fazed. He came across country with me also being exposed to rumble strips. He went through countless storms without issues. Around 2.5 years he just became thunderphobia that he now has to get medicated for.

I think someone mention on these boards awhile ago that they couldn’t figure out why their dog didn’t want to get into their car and it turn out the dog had gotten an electric shock a couple time when it had jump in which spooked the dog. 

Sometimes there is a reason for a behavior that is easy to overlook since to us it seem minor but for the dog it wasn’t.

sometime it’s just their brains becoming an adult.

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Years ago we had a rescue dog that was very fearful towards strangers. What helped her to be more at ease with strangers was no interaction with them. Just to be in the same room without them trying to pet her or talk to her or even look at her. This way she wasn't pressured into doing anything she didn't want to and could do everything at her own pace.

I can't help you with why he's doing this - but he is sending a clear message: he doesn't want anything to do with strangers, so perhaps listen to that. I'd take the pressure off and give him some space with people and at the same time very slowly teach him to trust that he doesn't have to worry so much when there is strangers around. Treats can be part of that, but I wouldn't let other people feed my dog, at least not at this stage where he clearly doesn't want to be near them.

I'd maybe start letting strangers give him a treat when he is confident enough/interested enough to sniff them. Even then probably not. 

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My BC became fear aggressive towards people and especially other dogs starting around 5 months of age. I sought help from my vet and a certified behaviorist. The behaviorist, like mentioned in the above post, advised that strangers coming into my home have no interaction with her whatsoever. No talking, petting or eye contact with her. They would come in and eventually sit down, let her check them out (again, not even eye contact with her). Once she seemed more at ease with them in the room, I would have them drop her ball on the floor or a treat, still making no eye contact. Eventually she would start picking up the ball and dropping it in their lap. They would repeat this over with her until she was obviously comfortable with them. Then, she was their friend forever. We are still working on her fear aggression with dogs, but that is a much bigger challenge.

I don't know why your dog is doing this, but I think you should try this technique with people who are willing to help you out. It made a world of difference for us.

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