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Jessie T. Wolf
April 10th, 2007
03:57 pm


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My Dog Hates Me... :(
So when exactly does fear aggression go too far? I've been having some problems with Zena lately, and I am actively seeking out advice from a trainer in Vancouver, but I am curious to know if anyone on Live Journal might have any ideas as well, as to what you would do if you were in a similar situation. Please forgive the length of this post, but I am very perplexed, and saddened by this. :(

Zena is my rescue Staffie cross that I've had for a little over two years now, and while her behavior was very bad when I first got her, and she's improved a great deal in the time I've had her, the past few months I have noticed things going backwards.

In most cases, she is a very friendly and happy dog. Even though she is much more friendly and seems to show a lot more self confidence when meeting new people now, there is still that bit of fear in me that if someone moves too quickly with her, she will react in a negative way. She was very skittish when I first got her, and any quick movement towards her, or anyone putting her face close to her face would result in her snapping at the air.

I realize that this is a defense tactic that is associated with fear aggression, and taking her to obedience classes for about six months when I was still living in Toronto seemed to really help reduce that anxious behavior for a while. But I find myself still warning people not to go too quickly with her, and my heart jumps up into my throat whenever people don't listen, or forget. She has snapped at, at least two people in the past, who have crossed her boundaries. Thankfully at those times she was wearing a muzzle, but that kind of behavior is still very unacceptable, and I don't know what to do to stop it.

I can't reprimand her, or correct her. I can, physically, tell her a harsh "No!" or give her a sharp tug on her slip collar to remind her who is in charge. But I can't do these things without her reacting as if I'm going to kill her, and I'm the most horrible person in the world! I was taught to do a balance of correction and praise, and I correct when she does something wrong, but I praise her to high heaven when she does something right as well!

I get a lot of avoidance behavior from her, and especially lately she has taken a great liking to Tim, because he doesn't correct her. He is now the Good Guy, and I am the Bad Guy, and the only reason I tell him not to physically correct her is because I don't want to risk her ever biting him because she gets scared. She has bitten me in the past, early on when I had her, but it's easier for me to let that slide. I cannot have her bite anyone else, period.

We've had to start introducing her to the crate again, even though it stresses her out a great deal. We have no other options, as she will have accidents and chew when left out by herself. She was starting to get a bit better with it, but lately I've had to fight with her to get her in. She will not come to me when I call her to go in her crate anymore, and she will proceed to either hide behind Tim, or try to crawl under the bed. We go through the same scenario practically every day.

When I have to approach her to get a hold of her collar to lead her to her crate, I have to go slowly. She has always had issues with having her collar reached for, and to a degree I've always had to go slowly, as her body language tells me that if I were to go too fast, she would not hesitate to bite (wide eyes, ears back, stiff body and lips). There have been a few occasions where she has turned quickly as if she were going to bite, but so far she hasn't crossed that line.

I have tried to associate her crate with good things, by putting her in to feed her at meal times, (with the door open, and sometimes closed) as have I tried putting in treats. Treats do not work at all to lure her into her crate, and neither does praising her. I've tried putting in towels and dog beds to make it more comfortable, and she will either urinate on them, or chew them up, or both.

Once I can finally get her into her crate, she will sometimes let out a very low growl and even bare her teeth at me once the door is closed (she has always been fearful if cornered in a small area... this is not a new reaction, though it was something that I thought was beginning to go away... and now it's come back).

I don’t like the fact that I have to be so very cautious around her, and warn others to be as well. I have never been able to completely trust her with other people, because the slightest mistake could lead to a lawsuit, and I’d be charged with having a “dangerous dog.” All because she will suddenly become fearful and react. About the only thing I can be sure of is that she is predictable, meaning that I do know exactly what will trigger her behavior, and thusly I have had to modify my own behavior around her.

For all of the times that she is a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog, it makes me cry the times when she is suddenly not. If she has it stuck in her mind that I am going to do something “bad” to her, how on earth can I show her that that isn’t the case? With all of the positive training and situations that I’ve been in with her, I can’t believe that she still has so many trust issues with me. I know that her previous owners scared her and were mean with her, and that conditioning from her first home are most likely the cause of her behavior. But if in two years I have not been able to convince her that I am not going to do to her what her previous owners did, than I don’t know what to do.

Continuing her obedience in general is always a great thing, but that does not solve the real behavioral problems that she has, and unfortunately I do not, at this time, have hundreds of dollars to spend on a behaviorist. I also have no way of knowing if this is something that she will ever get over, if she went to a behaviorist or not. Her attitude with me has changed a great deal, and she no longer seems to be the same happy dog who once looked up to me, and smiled and wagged her tail. Now, even when I just want to give her a pat, her ears go back and she hangs her head. When I call her, she comes with hesitancy, almost a crawl. She does not make eye contact with me anymore. She is always looking off to one side, or will just roll over onto her back in submission.

I hate the thought of my dog being afraid or worried around me, and I have no idea why this has suddenly changed. I don't know if all of this is mostly due to the stress of moving to BC, from Ontario (that could be a huge part of it). Maybe it's the new environment. Maybe it's because there are two of us now - both Tim and I, whereas before it was just Zena and I, and she followed me more readily. Now she seems to ignore me, and follows Tim.

If the situation was different, and it was still just she and I, then I would probably continue to put up with her quirks. But it is not just she and I anymore - I have to take Tim into account now, and any of our friends who come to visit us. Her behavior has become quite unacceptable, and is beginning to become a huge concern to both me, and Tim. The fact that my dog no longer trusts me - and that I cannot trust her - has broken my heart, and I really don't know what to do at this point.

I suppose the biggest question here is, should I be putting up with a dog that I can't trust? I love this dog so much... those of you who know me personally and have met Zena know just how much I adore her. But if I cannot find a way to work through this with her, what are my options? :(

Current Mood: depressed

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 10th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
*hugs* It sounds like there's been a lot of stress in her life lately - and fear motivated behavior is the hardest kind to break. Don't beat yourself up over this, it sounds like you're doing everything you can. My only real suggestion is to try to minimize the changes in her routines. Instead of a crate, is it possible for her to have a larger confined area, say a bathroom or extra bedroom? Maybe one of those large doggie play-pen enclosures? She's coping with so many changes right now - that might be why she's regressing with the crate.

I think that if you keep doing what you're doing, stick to the positive reinforcement and keep the training up (give her something to do other than worry!) she'll eventually start to move forward again. In the mean time, cut yourself some slack, ok?
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 12:02 am (UTC)
Oh Jess'... I'm so, so, SO sorry to hear about all that. :(

I know how much you care for Ze', how hard you've fought for her. Working with her, trying to get her over her past abuse... Trying to teach her to trust again.

It sounds like the move has had a negetive effect on her, as well as having a new pack-member (Tim) added to the mix. The crate-aggression is most concerning. The fact she'd get so saucy towards you once confined is scary, you're the last person in the world she should feel the need to bare her teeth at....

I wish I had advice for you. But I have no experience with dogs that have any form of H.A... I'm so sorry. I hope you find answers that will work for you. :(

[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 12:10 am (UTC)
I think to some degree there will always be some fear. Obedience classes will certainly help, but if she was abused, it will always linger in the back of her mind. My boyfriend rescued his dog from an abusive home 4 years ago. He's so so sweet, but every now and then if you make a quick movement, he'll flinch, as if he thought he was going to be hit. Or if he meets a male stranger with a goatee or toque, he'll attack.
I dunno..I don't know much about dog training. :/ Good luck!
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
I'd have to say that it's probably a combination of the things you mentioned it could be. She's had to move and she has someone newer around all the time. That can stress an animal out.

When we moved to the place I live now, my cat Artemis didn't come out from under my mom's bed for the better part of three days. Ate a little and used the litterbox, but that was it. The rest of the time you couldn't find him without getting on the floor.

I'd say give it more time. She's been better behaved before, no reason to think it can't go back to that with time and work. Giving her up would only cause her more stress and bigger problems for anyone who adopted her next, if she wasn't simply put down due to her looks/assumed breed.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 12:18 am (UTC)
I'm not sure how well it works, and I'm by no means as experienced in animal training and behavior as you are, so take my few suggestions as "stupid stuff that Delphi would do in that situation" ;)

What I'm thinking is perhaps a lack of a "safe place" to retreat to when she's scared or something's stressing her. For the black lab I've had around for a while, her safe place is a beanbag that she'll run to and sit on. When she's there, there's nothing bad that happens to her. If she has to be punished, (say, for peeing in the house), I'll remove her from the beanbag and take her some distance away from it before reprimanding her. Then she runs back to it to pout. The few times I've had to put her in a crate. It's been set next to the beanbag, where she can see it.

Also, a perhaps silly idea would be trying a bit of standard reconditioning. Push the boundries of the fear-based bahavior, such as (CAREFULLY!) moving your hand quickly towards her when presenting a treat. Associate an object or place for reprimand (such as a specific leash used when she's been "bad" - leather if you usually use nylon, or vice versa).

As for her crate, have you tried putting her food and water in it, and leaving the door open? Get her used to having to go into it to eat and drink, so that it doesn't scare her anymore?

The first rule I've always been taught in animal training is consistency. But, like I said, you're far more experienced with this then I am. *HUGS*

Good luck, and I hope it all works out.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
"As for her crate, have you tried putting her food and water in it, and leaving the door open? Get her used to having to go into it to eat and drink, so that it doesn't scare her anymore?"

(Part of this answer is copied from a previous answer I gave to someone else...)

Yep, started feeding her in her crate from day one after the move to associate the crate with food/good things. She will eat much easier in her crate now, especially when I leave the door open (she will actually go in on her own when she sees me get her food bowl). But sleeping in her crate she still has some issues with. Granted she is not barking her head off, but she will pant for hours, before finally going to sleep (a sign of anxiety). She will growl (sometimes - not always) when I approach her while she is in her crate. I believe the reason for this is because she feels confined/threatened and can't escape, and so she becomes defensive.

Thank you for your advice, Delphi. :) I will look at everything that folks have suggested, and see what I can do. *hugs* Thank you for your support!
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
Administering the crate may not be the best answer, as it just gives her the impression you can't manage her. You have to be the calm, collected, in-control Alpha. When she gets too excited, playtime's over, no more treats, no reaction at all. It may also help for her to observe your other dogs following your commands, heck, try it with Tim. "Tim, sit. Tim, lay down. Tim, come here."
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
heck, try it with Tim. "Tim, sit. Tim, lay down. Tim, come here."

Is it bad that I think that's hot?
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
Depends on what else you're embellishing the situation with.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC)
I never use the crate as a punishment. Originally, when I was still living in Toronto, I'd put her in her crate whenever nobody was home. Couldn't leave her unattended with the other dogs (BIG time fights) and even if she was just confined to the kitchen, she is the type that would have accidents in the house. She has separation anxiety, and freaks out when she is left alone. So I started crating her, but found out that she would bark continuously while we were gone, and by the time I got home she would quite literally be sitting in a puddle of her own drool. She would also chew the sides of her crate.

Here, again, I have to crate her when no one is home, but because we are renting and share this house with our landlord, I am trying to eliminate her constant barking by helping her to like her crate. So I've had her start a brand new routine, since the very first day we came here, even when we were in the last apartment. New environment = new routine.

I started feeding her in her crate at every mealtime to associate the crate with food. She will eat much easier in her crate now, especially when I leave the door open (she will actually go in on her own when she sees me get her food bowl). But sleeping in her crate she still has some issues with. Granted she is not barking her head off, but she will pant for hours, before finally going to sleep (a sign of anxiety). She will growl (sometimes - not always) when I approach her while she is in her crate. I believe the reason for this is because she feels confined/threatened and can't escape, and so she becomes defensive.

It is very disheartening, but I can’t leave her out. I have to think about Tim's dogs as well, and Zena can't be left out with them, unsupervised.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
Broken dog. Needs lube and tuning.

Never had / known an aggressive dog before so buggered if I know, but that doesn't mean I'm going to skip out on the obligatory furry DURRRR! HUGZ!
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Tim's probably just a natural canine pacifier, as I tend to be ... dogs, even "problem" and "aggressive" dogs seem to become comfortable with me much faster than with others, and quite a few dogs have even taken to me over their lifelong owners.

My take on canine companionship is vastly different from just about anyone else's that I know ... I don't believe in training a dog to 'behave'; I'd much sooner move someplace I could keep the dog safe and sound on acres of romping ground (with digproofed fencing) and no humans around to offend if and when my companions feel compelled to express themselves verbally. I've been a companion to a number of rescues and have never had a problem, aside from seperation anxiety when I had to go somewhere (like work) I could not take them with. I was never fully successful at relieving that, though getting both additional canine and human companions for my critters to spend time with them during seperation anxiety did help somewhat.

Fear and aggression toward me healed over time by simply spending as much time as I could with my companions, including sleeping.

My methods are probably not yours, and its not as though I had an exact solution anyway, but ... I wish you the best. The move was probably very stressful for her and it may take her more time yet to adjust.
[User Picture]
Date:April 11th, 2007 06:15 am (UTC)
I am no expert, but I will say that like humans obediance training only gose so far. Sometimes the nature will still shine through with all the nurture.

Howver, what I find more intersteing is the psychology of dog training. Most humans say they are training the dog, but I think dog is also training the humans. Its a trade off.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC)
*hugs* I have some thoughts that might help, or you might have tried em already, but here goes...
For the Crate: Sounds like you're doing great and keep at it with getting her used to seeing it as a safe place. If she seems scared/trapped when you go up to it, try keeping the crate up against some walls, or set it up so it's mostly solid around her, that way she can't feel like she's exposed from all sides. Makes it more "Den-like" too.
Also, try exercising the HELL out of her in the mornings. From my expereience, and everything I've read, it will help a ton with her pent up emotions and fears, as well as exhausting her so she's easier to handle. Plus, it'll give good bonding time back to you guys.
And, like other people here have posted, You're Alpha. She's gotta know that, and Tim has to support you in that role. Maybe not disciplining her himself, but not letting her get away with anything either. A trick that works great on puppies and may work great here (not sure how much she can be with you) but to keep her attached to your belt by her leash at all times (or as often as you are around). That way, wherever you go, she goes. She'll get used to your body movements, the idea that she's gotta follow you around and do what you want, to know you're safe, etc. Builds nice strong bonds. And of course the benefits for puppies (not the case here), is that when they have to go to the bathroom you're right there to know it!
You prolly already knew all these tricks before, but I just figured I'd throw my 2 cents in. I know how much you love her. *hugs* I hope everything works out for the best.
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