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Canine Behavior/Is my pug afraid of me?


Hello and thank you for your help!
I appreciate it greatly. :) It means a lot to me that you would devote your time to helping.

My pug, Prissy, is a little over 3 years old. I LOVE HER SO MUCH and would do pretty much anything for her. She has saved my life in a sense because I have a debilitating illness that has caused me grief, sadness beyond belief and frustration. I value my pug more than most people because she's so beautiful and loving. She helps me to forget my problems and the things that plague me.

Here's the dilemma. She has pigmentary keratitis and has to have neopolydex and tacrolimus administered once a day into her eyes. I'm the one who has been putting the drops in her eyes for about 2 years now.
She hates the drops because let's face it, who likes to get stuff in their eyes?! I always reward her with her very favorite treats, sing her happy birthday which gets her all excited, and just reward her with love and affection every single time I do the drops.
Whenever I walk into a room and she's relaxed or sleepy, she sees me and immediately jumps up, her tail goes down and she seems like she's on alert. She seems afraid of me and I suspect it's because I'm the one who does all the "bad" things to her like cleaning out her wrinkles, baths, drops, other medicines...and some of those things have to be done every day! She doesn't exhibit hyper vigilant behavior with anyone else but me so I concluded that it's because I'm the one doing all this stuff to her. I'm so confused because I shower her with love and affection. She seems distant and fearful of me. She doesn't even give me little licks on the cheek anymore. She licks my husband and my mom and dad...pretty much everyone! Lol.
I don't think I'm overthinking this. I know she feels uneasy about my presence.
I asked other family members to help out in the maintenance like the eye drops, but it always falls back into my hands, and frankly I don't know if I trust them all the time to do things properly. I don't want to have to depend on other people to take care of my baby. My husband doesn't want that responsibility so it always ends up being my responsibility.
I'm her "mama" and I take care of her but it seems like she prefers others.

Thank you thank you thank you for reading this.


Licking is not "kissing", as some people construe it.  It is a juvenile appeasement behavior.  A dog can "lick" out of a feeling of sub-dominance or even anxiety, or self perceived low status in the social hierarchy.  This behavior is demonstrated by puppies toward older dogs in a multiple dog setting (especially those older dogs who are "caregivers") and so the transition to licking humans (created conspecifics) is normal.

Your dog perceives you as being higher in social hierarchy.  She may stand upon your entering a room (with her tail "down" in a submissive posture) out of "courtesy" (in the dog culture).  You administer her medications, bathe her, etc., all of which are quite "dominant" behaviors on your part.  Like her dam (mother), you are her primary caregiver and her temperament appears to be such that she is showing deference to you, as she "should" in the dog culture.

Be careful about praise and reward while the dog, herself, is experiencing something negative.  You might inadvertently be rewarding her own fear/avoidance (mental process of "get me outta here").  Sing a little song, be upbeat, talk to her throughout the processes of medication and/or grooming.  When all is said and done and you have released her, have a low key "party" and offer a special treat when you see she is happy and not demonstrating submission (as you describe when you sing happy birthday to her).  By rewarding her with a high value food treat (bit of string cheese, bit of chicken frank, etc.) when she is CLEARLY relaxed and alert (tail up, wagging happily = not down and wagging), you are then rewarding her relaxed state and endurance of her medication or grooming.

You might try to create a cue for those times when you will be interacting with her in a manner she does not like.  Purchase something you will put away at all other times, a thing you won't forget to put away (like a plastic garden squirrel, etc.)  Put it in plain sight when you are prepared to medicate or groom her.  Go TO HER, do NOT call her TO YOU.  Attach a lightweight leash (no hands on) to bring her to a specific place (consistent spot) you use only for these purposes.  Do the deed itself.  When you remove the leash, observe and then do as described above in terms of reward.  Remove the cue and put it away.  Slowly, over time, she will come to see that object as representative of your intentions.  Always proceed in a non-dominant manner when leading her to her spot for medication, etc.  

Don't take it personally.  The dog respects you and is allowing you to do what is required.  In any environment where a dog is demonstrating normal submission (no outright fear or defense aggression), that dog will appear to be showing deference to that individual in a manner that is not seen toward other human members of the household.  This is normal.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

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Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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