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Canine Behavior/My dogs behaviour


I have a staff, she is 19 months old, and i have only had her for about three weeks, as previous owner struggled to keep up with daily walks... She is perfectly well behaved for a pup, she is house trained, and listens to most commands! She is very welcoming to all of my visitors, apart from one person!! When my nephew comes to visit she will become quite scared, her tail held between her legs, she will quiver with fear, and sometimes barks quite aggressively when he talks, or faces her. But when he turns away, she quietens down, will sometimes go over to smell him, but as soon as he faces her again she barks and runs to a corner again acting very threatened... We have tried everything to show her that he means no harm, even had him stay over for the nigh... But she wont seem to accept that he will not her! What is wrong? How can we break this fear that she has of him?? (My dads jack russel also behaves the same way around him, though not as fearful as my staff)... Is it something to do with my nephew, or is it insecurities in my dogs behaviour

Hi Abigail -

Sorry to hear you are having trouble with your pup. It's hard to say without seeing the situation, but I am going to say that it has something to do with your nephew since your father's dog is also fearful of him. Is he very tall? How does he greet the dog? Does he make himself small and greet low or does he stand over her? (A sign of dominance) Think about his clothing. Does he wear hats that freak her out? What about cologne? Remember a dog's sense of smell is about 500x more powerful than ours. Think about anything that makes your nephew different from anyone else. Tattoos? Diet (you sweat out what you eat, again scent) Does he try too hard to make the dogs like him? Forcing himself on the dogs will only make the situation worse.
Try this's called treat and retreat. Let your nephew sit on the floor with his back to the dog. No eye contact (sign of dominance) is allowed. This is all about building trust. Have him hold the treat out in a flat hand behind his back until the dog sneaks over and takes the treat. Praise this in a happy voice, but don't scare her. Your nephew immediately takes a 2nd treat and throws it away from him so she has the opportunity to leave and also be rewarded. This builds confidence and trust. This may take several visits!  As she gets more confident, she should be able to approach him more and more. Tell him to use his voice and avoid any petting at first. When he does pet (in time) pet under the chin, back, or on the chest - not the top of the head - which scary for fearful dog.
Most important thing is to work at the dog's pace. Too much too fast and you will lose any progress you've made.  When your dog is having the fear reaction don't soothe her. Petting and talking in a soothing voice will reinforce the fear. If she is in the room with him and not having a reaction, praise, praise, praise! To let her know she is offering the right behavior. I would stay away from any aversive corrections because she is already seeing your nephew in a negative way for some reason.  Good luck. Keep me posted.

Canine Behavior

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Jennifer Ganser, LMT, ABCDT


For canines I can answer questions related to behavior, obedience training, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) For equines I can answer questions related to behavior, barn management, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) I am not a veterinarian and it is not within my scope of practice as a licensed massage therapist or certified dog trainer to diagnose health conditions. Please contact your pet's veterinarian for illness related questions and emergencies.


I am a licensed massage therapist for people, horses, and dogs and a certified dog trainer. I teach group obedience classes as well as private lessons. I also work with horses and help barns establish good management practices.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Certification Board of Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

2009 - graduate of Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy 2010 - certified in canine/feline first aid + CPR by Red Cross 2012 - graduate of Post University equine program 2012 - graduate of Animal Behavior College Obedience program

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