5 month old barking at people
I'm still going through all the other posts here, but I wanted to put something up to see what others thought.
Mauser is 5 1/2 months old and is generally very well-behaved. He knows I'm the boss and in all alpha respects that I can think of, he accepts that I'm alpha. I got him about two months ago, he was somewhat shy at first, but we've been going to the dog park for closely-supervised play, and he enjoys it a lot.
People and dogs were no problem after the initial shyness. He was accepting of friends and family that came over, people and dogs at the dog park, and even on walks. Starting about two weeks ago, at 20 weeks of age, he became very agitated at a close, trusted friend of mine who he had seen at least 6 times for hours at a time. This happened when my friend arrived and came up onto my deck in the pitch darkness. This friend is a true dog-lover, and has no fear of dogs, but is also not in the dog's face about it. Mauser was barking and going crazy. I tried to stop him, to correct him gently but loudly, he ended up circling around, barking, and trying to nip at my friend from behind. No growling, no other indications of
vicious intent, just barking and slight nipping. (not trying to minimize, this is bad enough) We finally got him cooled down, and all was fine.
A couple days after this, at the dog park, we were alone for maybe a half-hour, and after this when people arrived, he started barking at them, almost like he had claimed the bench where we were sitting as our "territory". That night, he barked at a woman he had met before, and when she started walking away, Mauser walked after her and tried nipping. It's safe to say that he will now do this to almost anyone that I'm talking to, or who is even in my general vicinity at the park. Not dogs though, only people.
He seems to be nervous or scared when these things are happening, he doesn't want people to pet him when he's doing this, he will dart away. He's also following me more closely. Sometimes he will be right with me for a while. I try to engage him with the friendly dogs, and he will forget about me for long periods of time. Then, when he comes up to me and a group of people that we both know, he will start barking at them again. It's hard to get everyone to act consistently towards him, but I'm trying to get them to give him treats when he stops barking and is calm. He will settle down, maybe even sit down at a bench directly under them, but then a few minutes later, he'll come back and start barking at them again for no reason. I do scold him when he does this, not massively angrily. Someone tonight suggested that I should be more forceful with my scolding. Of course, when he's actually pursuing someone (it's mild pursuit, but still...) I am definitely more forceful. When he is good, I give him lavish praise.
Nothing has happened to give him a bad impression of strangers as far as I can tell. He was initially very jealous of other dogs, but I worked on this and the jealousy is mostly gone. I know Shepherds can go through a second fearful phase at some time between 4 and 8 months, maybe this is it? Maybe he's sensing my mild nervousness at the implications of this behavior? Maybe this is his way of claiming me as his? I can't think of anything else. Sorry for the long post, hopefully I included all the pertinent details. Any ideas or suggestions?
Personally I think he is resource guarding you. But I'm not expert and Ill let others pitch in. A quick search on resource guarding humans on this forum will help you. Good luck :).
You're picking up on his fear and anxiety. If you want to confirm it the next time he is like this try to distract him with food. If he won't take it then it is pretty safe to assume it is fear. Fearful dogs won't take food. The event where he was frightened by a member outside your family likely caused him to become people reactive. The answer to fixing this is not to correct him loudly or be forceful because you are essentially adding more stress to the mix when he isn't necessarily sure about why he is being corrected.
In your mind you are correcting him for his barking at someone. You might think this is fairly straight forward but try to think of it from his perspective. All he hears is you yelling as he is focused on a perceived threat and in a fight or flight state. It is more likely to confirm his suspicions that the situation is a tense one and that his response is appropriate.
To fix this try working engagement around strangers. You should find the range at which he does not feel threatened by them first. This is done by taking him when he is hungry and feeding him while getting progressively closer to a stranger. The point at which he stops taking food is his threshold. Work near this threshold by giving him treats for paying attention to you and not the strangers and then as he becomes more comfortable gradually work your way in closer. The idea should be not to try to get him to interact with strangers but to interact with you around strangers and treat the strangers like furniture. Something to be ignored not to be frightened of.
This exercise does several things. Helps him learn to pay attention to you in different places and around distractions. Suddenly strangers being present starts to mean fun and food and not tension and fear. It will teach him not to fixate on the stranger but look to you instead. It also sets up a situation where he will start looking to you for cues on how he should react in that situation.
I'm with Baillif, with such a young dog, and 5 months being around a fear stage this is coming from a lack of confidence.
I'd stay away from dog parks for awhile because you can't control him or the situation. And that will add to his lack of confidence in himself AND YOU.
The more he knows you are in control and can deal with a situation, the more he'll let you deal with it AND/OR cue from your calm behavior to realize it's ok. Without that confidence and leadership from you he feels he's got to deal with the scary and he's NOT set up to do so appropriately.
How YOU react. How YOU control situations. YOUR body language and your pup learning to look to and learn from you because you've got it, really!
Controlling the environment BEFORE your puppy feels they have to react is key. So being proactive with the treats and training and your body. WHERE YOU STAND even can make a huge diffence in relationship to the new thing.
Many of us have issues around this age and it's why most of us set up those dog classes and know we will be attending for the next 6 months or so. That way we end up with the ADULT dog we want for the next 12 years.
Really read what Baillif posted, I think it's right on the mark. You need to work on building on your pups confidence and not build on their fear.
Good advice, this is what I was looking for, thank you. The strange thing is that he WILL take treats, I've been giving them to the strangers to give to him if he is quiet, and he will then go up and get them. But then, ten minutes later, he'll walk up to the same stranger and bark again. But I like the concept of working it out between us, and removing the strangers to some extent from participating in the situation, since it would be difficult to have to teach every stranger exactly how to act, but relatively easy to do the same thing with the dog around every stranger. I knew getting him to focus on me would be helpful, I've been trying to do this in other situations, so I will make this a priority. I will go over your advice several more times and let it sink in. Thanks again.
There is a chance if you give the treats to the stranger to give to the dog that the dog will start to demand treats from the strangers. You don't want this cause they will start showing behaviors you didn't expect. A benign one would be to pull for strangers and I'm guessing you don't want this.
Another less benign one is they go up to a stranger get a treat then go up to another stranger get a treat over and over. Then one day they go up to another stranger he gives no treat, perhaps giving the puppy a strange stare and the puppy is like where the **** is my treat!? CHOMP!
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This sounds extremely similar to my Zelda.
I've tried a lot of things from what people have said on here, and either i am not good at the techniques and training or Zelda has a severe fear aggression towards people that is out of my training ability.
Basically what it comes down to, I am finally getting a trainer to do a private session in my home to help me.
When i first met her she was barking and barking at me and would stay as far away from me as possible, but when she was in my car she warmed up to me right away.
I didn't know much about her, and i took her for walks and at first when people would try to pet her she would just bark and move away from them, i didnt read her body language than. And thought "it would be good for her to socialize." So despite her obvious body language of, "I dont feel comfortable with this situation!" i still let people try to pet her at first.
She took the petsmart beginner class, the trainer couldn't even pet her till the last class. No interaction with anyone except a petsmart worker who would throw treats at her until she took it from their hand. She also snapped at a girl the first training day at petsmart, this is when i new i had to be a lot more careful! At first i thought it was fear, than i thought it was guarding me, and now i feel its just pure fear aggression.
Now, on walks, i avoid any confrontation with people. If they come close and i cannot avoid them for whatever reason, i tell them, "my dog needs space." I also have a hat i wear that says, "In training. Ignore Dog." Don't be afraid to say these things to strangers. In my opinion generic things like "my dog needs space, we are in training," is better, because people dont usually get fearful of that and yet understand that they need to avoid your dog. I feel like when people are told, "My dog has fear aggression" or "My dog isnt good with new people" "my dog isnt friendly" - it makes the people's energy be fearful or distrusting at least, and dogs can read this and can react to it.
My brother recently came home from Iowa, he hasnt met my dog. I had him completely ignore her even when she went up to sniff him. And it worked. Three days after, they are on the couch together and he can pet her and I trust them 95% together! So this brings hope to me, that its defiantly workable. So perhaps if you have a trusted few people you can invite over, to completely ignore your dog. So they are not threats, its not big deal. They have no interaction with them at all.
It is also important to be sure that your energy isn't worked up when you see a stranger coming or if they are coming over. Dogs can read this, and i know for me it is very hard to stay calm. But it does make a big difference.
For a little while Zelda was lunging at people on our walks, but i have her sit and let her watch people pass by and wait till they are ways away and praise her for being good and not lunging or barking, and it has stopped. I think that is as far as I am comfortable with doing with her and is why I am having a trainer come out to help me with this and with many other things.
My advice for you is:
-Stop the dog parks.
-Get a reputable professional trainer to help you!! (Because what i say is just from my experience, and i cannot see your dog doing the behavior so its hard to say if it is fear aggression or something else.)
-Ask people to COMPLETELY ignore your dog. (No talking, eye contact, or touching- not even if the dog comes up to the person, completely ignoring!)
- Be "smart" on walks or any social interaction.
Good luck! I hope this helped you some. If anything know that I am in the same boat! :)
5&1/2 months old he needs training, socializing and constant guidance but you
have to provide that.
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