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Canine Behavior/My pup doesn't appear to like my mum?


We have a beautiful 6 month old golden retriever puppy called Beau.  Since we brought her home she just loves everyone and everything. She is so excited to see anyone who visits us and licks them all to death, especially the postman.  She is loving and very gentle with everyone and all dogs.  For some reason the only person who seems to worry her is my mum.  

Mum is elderly, 85 years and not very mobile. She has met beau on serveral always occasion but mostly when a lot of other people were around.  But recently I took her to mums flat and she refused to go near the front door, I eventually had to carry her in.  She would not settled and paced around til I took her home.  Mum then visited us and she clearly worry and seemed frightened.  There was not normal greeting and just left the room and avoided her very obviously.  There was no barking if growling just avoidance.  Can't understand why.  My mum us a lovely lady and likes all animals.

It is quite possible that your Mum's fragile ability ("not very mobile") makes your dog fearful, due to lack of cognition (not having been exposed in early puppyhood to people with disabilities).  Do not ever again carry her in to see your Mum.  Although your dog's behavior may upset Mum (because Mum is, after all, a wonderful person, quite loving, and this might very well upset her), the dog is obviously reacting to something.

Not to alarm you in any way: but the domestic dog's sense of smell is much greater than our own (depending upon breed type, 200x to much greater); dogs can often scent illness (dogs are now being used, in fact, to scent samples from Humans in order to determine the presence of various cancers, for example).  Mum also cannot move around freely as do other people your dog has seen and this is confusing for your dog.  When other people are around, Mum's presence is not as "immediate" as when there is no one else but you and the dog.

You cannot give Mum treats as a way to bribe Beau into not being fearful; even if Beau were to accept treats, they would actually be rewarding her fear.  The best course of action is to allow the dog to retreat, should she desire to do so. If you want to remedy this for the sake of Mum, in the UK there are many state sanctioned behaviorists.  Counter conditioning would be required, in YOUR home (not your Mum's) and will take time and $.  Should you choose this option, see the following sites in the UK:

Meanwhile: when your Mum visits (and there are not a lot of other people around), have a little "party" in sight/hearing of the dog for a couple of minutes: laugh, sing a little song, sit on the floor (you, not Mum) at dog eye-level.  If Beau leaves the room anyway, do nothing; if Beau decides to peek back in, have your "party" again.  Keep a squeaky toy handy, one she will only see when Mum is around.  Carry this squeaky toy around for a few days yourself; give it a lot of attention (I know this sounds corny, but we are creating a "trophy object" here).  Tell Beau about the squeaky toy but don't let her have it.  When Mum arrives, give Mum the squeaky toy.  You might just see Beau, over the course of several visits, begin to approach Mum in which case Mum should give Beau the squeaky toy.  Retrieve it (no pun intended) yourself after a minute or two and give it back to Mum.  Between the "partying", your sitting on the level of the dog (on the floor), your not trying to bribe Beau or entice her, your allowing Beau to make her own choice of whether to go or stay, and the "trophy object", you might just be able to convince Beau that Mum, although "different", is quite interesting and rewarding.

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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

Past/Present Clients
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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