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Canine Behavior/My dog prefers my sister :(

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Maisey
Maisey  
I got my dog (chiweenie), Maisey, while I was living alone, and a little over 2 years later, my sister and I began renting a home together (she has an older yellow lab).  Over that last 6 months or so, Maisey seems to prefer my sister over me, which kills me because I love her to death and do everything right for her (best food, groomer, daycare, etc.).  My sister never seemed to show much interest in Maisey, which has made this even more confusing.  It's only been recently that my sister has been showing more affection to her.  One last piece of information, which I do not know if it matters or not.  I have always taken Maisey to an in home daycare and over the last 2 months or so she has only been going 4 days instead of 5 and staying home with my sister that day.  My sister is home constantly except for working 4 days a week, which is at night.  It seems like my baby has stopped loving me.  Why has she started showing preference to my sister?

She has shown preference as follows:  with thunderstorms and fireworks, she follows my sister instead of me, she seems more excited to see my sister than me.

Any thoughts and/or advice would be helpful!

Thanks,
Melissa

Answer
Thank you for your question and the picture of Maisey. She's adorable.

I know it can be frustrating and even hurtful when our dogs seem to take a shine to someone other than us. Without observing how you interact with Maisey compared to how your sister interacts with her, it's impossible for me to tell you definitively why she might be spending more time with her right now.

It's possible that your sister's somewhat disinterested interactions is actually appealing to Maisey. If you are particularly affectionate, picking her up, snuggling her cooing to her, etc. it may actually feel a little overbearing to Maisey. You mentioned that she tends to follow your sister during thunderstorms and other scary events. How does your sister respond to this? Some dogs require a lot of cuddling and reassuring during such events, while other dogs prefer to just be near someone who is calm and quiet. If your sister is just allowing Maisey to be in her space, but is not directly engaging with her, Maisey may find this more soothing and reassuring. Sometimes our efforts to reassure actually come across as a little frantic, which can actually make the dog feel less secure.

With my own dog who is very frightened of thunder storms, I've found that allowing him to just lay at my feet and I rest a foot against him so he can feel my physical presence, is the best way to comfort him. My instinct is to scoop all 35 lbs of him into my lap and whisper reassurances to him. But he finds that a little smothering. So I have to restrain myself a bit and know that with my boy, when he's feeling anxious, less is more.

On the flip side, if your sister is very animated with Maisey and this distraction is helping her forget the scary thunder monster, then perhaps offering that kind of activity would be better for Maisey.

So in essence, take note of how your sister engages with Maisey in those moments when you wish she would be choosing you instead and then try to emulate that and see if it makes a difference to Maisey.

I'm sorry this is not more specifically helpful. But without observing the interactions, it's not really possible to help you determine how to change what you're doing or what to ask your sister to change in her interactions. If you'd like to provide some video of her interactions with each of you, I'd be happy to view them and let you know what I see and where I might start to adjust the interactions. You can post videos on YouTube and in the settings you can declare them to be "unlisted" which means they won't show up in public searches. Then you can reply to this as "private" and provide me the URL links to the videos.

Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance.

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Masters Candidate (Animals and Public Policy - Animal Behavior)
Tufts Cummings School of Medicine
Worcester, MA Behavior Specialist
http://NutzAboutMutz.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 5 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If youíre looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if youíre local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.

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I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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