Dog Training/My Pug Is Afraid of Dogs
Hi there! Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.
I hope you can help.
Here's the story:
I have a 3 year old pug named Prissy. She is as cute as can be, a little snugglemuffin, a bundle of cuddles. She loves people, has no issues with approaching people but she does demonstrate some subservient behavior when meeting new people like lowering her head and getting down on the ground. I don't know why she does this.But once that is out of her system, she's jumping and playing and so on.
The real problem as I see it is how she interacts with other dogs. She DOESN'T interact with them at all! I know it is my fault because I have a fainting problem and I can't always take her out for walks and to the park, beach etc. Actually, I got her when I first got sick as a way to help me cope with this debilitating illness. I chose a pug because I know that pugs generally don't like to be super active and don't require tons of outdoor exercise. (we do exercise together though by playing and walking when we can)
When she meets other dogs, she immediately puts her tail down between her legs, runs away or walks away briskly, she begs me to pick her up, and she gets nervous. I try not to cater to her by picking her up or babying her. I actually interact with other dogs in front of Prissy to let her know that these animals are safe and our friends. But nothing is working.
I'm kind of embarrassed by this because people are always asking me what's wrong with my dog. Also, I'd like her to play with the other dogs on our street but she won't have anything to do with them.
I tried socializing her for an entire year by taking her to pet classes where she would spend time with other dogs, I took her to the dog park at least 3 times a week (where she would just sit alone in a desolate corner or wander off by herself), and I tried to get her to know her "cousins." She's just TERRIFIED.
AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.
I desperately want to correct this. I love my pug so much. She's literally a piece of me now. It hurts me to know that I may have damaged her because I have limitations. I just want her to be happy and social.
The lack of consistant interaction with other dogs at a young age would be why you are seeing these behaviours. However, you must take into consideration that she does not have to be best friends with every other dog she meets. We do not expect our children to be best buddies with every other child they meet or know.
The classes were a good idea and returning to a class environment with a Trainer that knows about Canine behaviour should help you improve she behaviour to some point.
There are Natural Remidies that can assist her, such as Bach Flower "Rescue Remedy" and a "Thunder Shirt". These will help ease the stress to get her over the first part of the hurdle of emotion she is feeling.
Finding neigbours and friends with clam, easy going tempraments and low play levels, to work with you will help.
Below I am including some articles I have written and various subjects that will assist you in moving forward with her.
Dogs proficiency in reading body language
You can talk to your dog for hours; tell him your deepest fears and greatest aspirations. He won't understand a word. However, your expressions and movements of your body speak volumes to him.
Dogs proficiency in reading body language should come as no surprise since, as pack members, dogs have to communicate with each other without the benefit of a verbal language. Instead they communicate through conscious and subliminal signing or gesturing, and watch for the actions and reactions of the other individual.
Sure, a dog can be taught that certain words mean certain things, but because dogs do not have a language center in their brain, they can never learn syntax and will never understand sentences. If you think they're understanding what you're saying, you might be right, but not for the reasons you think. For example, you might say, "Do you want to go outside?" As you say these words you walk toward the door, or look toward it, or gesture toward it. The dog might hear the word "door" and read your body language to construct what you are trying to communicate. Oh, so he wants to know if I want to go outside, the dog may think - completely ignoring the question and the words "do," "you," "want," "go," etc. Nevertheless, with the help of body language, the message is transmitted.
A dog's natural instinct is to look away from another dog's eyes to avoid challenging him. A stare is a challenge, and a fairly rude one at that. Dogs will naturally tend to look away from us, unless they are challenging us or we have trained them to do so. If we stare at them, unwittingly or not, the signal we transmit is one of confrontation. A dominant dog will stare back, growl, and generally escalate aggressive behavior until the other party backs down whereas a very submissive dog will squat or roll and urinate in deference.
Different people give conflicting advice on how to deal with dominant dogs. For example, some Rottweiler breeders say, "Never look a Rottweiler in the eye." Others say, "Always look a Rottweiler in the eye." Why the difference? The former group is telling you that you always have to be a Rottweiler's boss, and the latter that you should never challenge a Rottweiler. Both have a point, depending on the individual dog and the circumstances, but the safest thing to do is blend both pieces of advice: Avoid looking directly into the dog's eyes and instead look at the tip of his ear. That way you can look at the dog without issuing a challenge and can have the best of both worlds.
Head and Neck Position
If a dog holds his head up high, he is confident and perhaps challenging. If he holds his head low, he is deferring, fearful or depressed. A dog will read our head and neck carriage the same way that he does another dog's. If you approach a bully dog with your head in an upright position, even if you are above his head, he may interpret this appearance as challenging – certainly not as deferent. In extreme cases, he may start to growl and act threateningly. However, if you approach the same dog with your head bowed, there is a good chance that he will recognize your body language as submissive, perhaps even as soliciting play, and may be disarmed.
Interferences Around the Head
The muzzle and nape of the neck are sensitive areas for dogs. They are sites at which the dog's mother would deliver messages of chastisement, admonishment and her leadership. When dogs grow up they seem to remember this early mode of communication and many retain sensitivity regarding interferences in these areas. In dogfights, most of the 'legal' action is directed toward the head. Muzzle- or scruff-grabbing are favorite fight moves. When humans come along and grab a dog by the muzzle or scruff they are asking for trouble. Whether they get it or not depends on their perceived level of authority.
Unfortunately, the most common human offenders regarding this type of intervention are young children, who naturally lack authority because of their small size and junior status. The results of children's interferences are sometimes catastrophic. Petting a dog on the head or hugging him around the neck are likewise viewed as threatening or challenging gestures.
Height From the Ground and Body Position
Being high up and/or on top of another dog is a way that signals dominance. A dominant, in-charge individual will rise up to his fullest height and may literally take the high ground when approaching and signaling his seniority to a more inferior creature. On reaching the other dog, he may rest his head or a paw on the other dog's back. Mild mannered acceptance of such challenges from above will be viewed as concession and submission.
When people tower over a dog, lie on him, or rest a hand on him, the message is similar. The response, however, depends on the relationship between the person and the dog. A dominant dog may repel such a challenge to his rank while a submissive dog may squat and urinate. The message is opposite if a person lies on the floor next to a dog, allows the dog to sit next to him on a couch, or permits the dog to sit on his lap. In these instances, the sent and received is one of social equalization or deference on your part. With respect to lap sitters, an easy way to remember the social implications of such placement is to consider the rhetorical question, "In this situation, who is the king and who is the throne?"
Fearful dogs are less afraid of people who are sitting down - because they feel less threatened. Sitting down on the floor can cause an anxious dog to approach you whereas previously he would not have done so. If you stand up, the dog may back away. If you drop to one knee, the dog may approach once more. So powerful is the effect of your position relative to the dog that you can yo-yo him into an exact place in a room by altering your height from the ground.
While floor-sitting may not be a problem with mild-mannered dogs, more dominant dogs may take advantage of the situation and send a strong signal of their authority – particularly if the person is doing something displeasing to the dog, like petting him the wrong way or for too long. The positional effect is even more pronounced when it involves children because they start out at a hierarchical disadvantage..
The Use of a Marker
Everywhere you read about Dog Training you’ll see that
TIMING & CONSISTENCY are mentioned.
TIMING is referring to the timing of your MARKER.
A MARKER is a sound that let’s your dog know they just did the right thing and a reward is coming.
CONSISTENCY means you use the same word/sound/command/hand signal and that your Rules are always the same.
Animal trainers for years have used a MARKER, be it a whistle or a word for Dolphins, Whales, Bears, Elephants or Lions.
I am sure most of you have heard of Clicker Training which is becoming more and more popular with dog owners and trainers, but the Clicker still falls into the MARKER Category.
It is still a sound that let’s your dog know they just did the right thing and a reward is coming.
However, after 25 years of teaching people how to train their dogs, I know that having that CLICKER to hand at all times, just does not happen. You said Sit, your dog did and now you are patting your pockets trying to find the Clicker, the moment for Marking has past and thus the opportunity to confirm your dog just did the right thing.
What you always have to hand is your VOICE, as a marker is a sound, you could just as easily use your voice over a Clicker or Whistle.
So what sound do you make……………………..
As it’s natural to say YES, when something is right, YES would be the obvious choice for us humans, but we want that sound to be just for our dogs, so they know each time they hear it, it was solely directed at them.
So I suggest we say “YESSSSSSS”, unless of course you go around saying YESSSSSS, to others, which in this day and age is unlikely, with all our slang of Yep’s, and OK’s.
YESSSS also falls into how dogs understand sounds, the Y is a little high squeaky in tone, therefore Praise/Play sound, the nice long SSSSSSS, makes it very different from YES.
Try it say “YES” now say “YESSSSSS”.
Timing of this MARKER is very important, you need to issue it the very second you get the correct behaviour.
The better you are at MARKING the faster your dog learns behaviours.
I must add here I do love clicker training, BUT, only for those handler’s/owner’s who are proficient and confident and know to have that Clicker handy and are great at timing its use. A skill, that comes with time and practice.
Most dogs and puppies are hesitant or fearful when introduced to new situations and new places. This is a normal reaction - part of their survival instinct! Our job as dog owner is to teach them that new places can be fun, or at least tolerable.
The first place you should visit after bringing the puppy home is a veterinarian of your choice. This is also a good time to start a POSITIVE relationship with the veterinarian, his/her staff, and the office overall.
Find a small treat that doesn't upset puppy's stomach. These treats will ONLY be available to your puppy when encountering a fearful situation. Give a couple treats to the veterinarian, the technician, or people there, to give to your puppy. He gets the treats when he approaches the person, but NOT when he hides, and NOT as a lure to get him out of hiding. As puppy realizes treats come from all the people at the vet's, he will become happy and eager to return.
If your dog continues to be fearful and hesitant in subsequent visits, continue bringing treats and have ONLY the staff give them ( NONE from you!). While you are there the dog gets no attention from you!
Never, EVER stroke your dog or try to calm him down. Instead, he will only get a treat or petting or both, when he acts less fearful and approaches.
Fearful puppies may also try to howl, or to climb on at their owner in seeming desperation of the situation. This should not be allowed or praised! Don’t give your dog any attention for doing this! Ignore this, or turn away, or stand up.
ANY time your puppy dog goes to a new and potentially scary place, BE PREPARED!! These places can include: veterinarian, groomer, boarding kennel, pet store, friend's house, railway station, airport, beach, park with other dogs, etc.
Always have your dog ON LEASH! No leash = No control! Have your special treats always handy, and give them to people to give to your dog appropriately.
The above instructions are valid for adult dogs as well.
The fear of noises
Many dogs are afraid of noise - such as loud music, thunderstorms, firecrackers or construction sounds. Many fear-related problems can be successfully resolved. If left untreated, your dog's fearful behaviour will probably get worse. When a dog becomes frightened, he tries to reduce his fear. He may try to escape to a place where the noise is less intense.
The owner's attitude can influence the severity of the fear. So, if owners themselves are nervous during storms, noise phobias in their dogs may occur more often.
How is fearful behaviour treated?
Create A Safe Place:
Try to create a safe place for your dog to go to when he hears the noises that frighten him.
Notice where he goes when he’s frightened, and give him access to that place. If he’s trying to get under your bed, give him access to your bedroom. Encourage him to go there when you’re home and the noise occurs. Feed him in that location and associate other "good things" happening to him there.
A TV or radio playing can help to distract him from noisy sounds when you are not at home.
Distract Your Dog:
This method works best when your dog is just beginning to get anxious. Get his attention and distract him from behaving fearfully. Play with him fetch or practice some commands that he knows. Give him a lot of praise and treats for paying attention to you. If you can’t keep his attention and he begins acting afraid, stop the process. If you continue, you may inadvertently reinforce his fearful behaviour.
Alternative therapies with Bach-Flower-Essences have been used with success. ‘Rescue Remedy’ takes effect within an hour of administration, and should be given before the fear-producing situation.
Try to behave normally, as if you don’t notice his fearfulness!
Behavioural Animal Training - BAT
BAT uses functional and bonus rewards, combined with clicker training and systematic desensitization to help dogs make better choices in an error-free way.
The things that you find obnoxious or scary (barking & lunging, for example) serve a purpose for the dog. That is the idea behind what behaviour researchers call Functional Analysis. Imagine you hated your high-stress job but loved the pay. It leaves you exhausted and panting, but you enjoy the reward at the end of it. Given the chance to earn your same great pay check by doing something easier that you liked more, wouldn’t you do it?
BAT is similar to a method used with humans, called Functional Communication Training. Students learn to communicate their needs instead of using aggression or other problem behaviour. Sound familiar?
Functional Communication Training used with children with developmental disabilities, is one of the inspirations for BAT, along with the best parts of clicker training, systematic desensitization, Constructional Aggression Treatment, the Two-Reward method, Treat & Retreat, click and retreat by Alexandra Kurland, and more. Functional rewards can fall into the quadrant of positive reinforcement (like ‘real life rewards’) and negative reinforcement (like relief from social contact). The upcoming book on BAT goes into that in more detail.
Functional rewards are not just for aggression or fear, but eliminating distress that leads to reactivity (including frustration, anger, and fear) is the main thrust of BAT. BAT uses Differential Reinforcement of Alternate behaviours (DRA) with environmental rewards: the ones the dog is already working to get. BAT also uses ‘Bonus Rewards’ when necessary for motivation – food, toys, etc. The key to BAT working quickly is low stress, never leaving the dog in the ‘deep end of the pool’ or punishing them for incorrect choices.
First, here’s why I’m calling it BAT. The goal is a well-adjusted dog and behaviour is all we’re really trying to adjust. When you’re done, you have the same trigger as before, and the same consequence, but a new behaviour. The core idea that I love from Functional Analysis is the idea of using the reward that the dog is working to earn to reinforce a new, more ‘appropriate’ replacement behaviour. So if the dog is already getting paid for barking at the postman by having him leave, the new set-up is to pay the dog for calm behaviour by having a pseudo-postman leave as a consequence for good behaviour.
With the Antecedent -> Behaviour -> Consequence model, you have something like: Antecedent -> Behaviour 1 -> Consequence being replaced by Antecedent -> Behaviour 2 -> Consequence (Think of ‘antecedent’ as a cue or something that signals the behaviour is about to be paid for.) So Postman arrives -> Barking -> Postman leaves is replaced by Postman arrives -> dog turns away -> Postman leaves I love that part. It means that the environment itself, which created the problem, will now start rewarding your dog.
You will need to have several friends practice being the postman before it works for real. The bigger picture of BAT is that it includes real-world positive reinforcement, too: Mom comes home -> jumping -> petting/attention is replaced by Mom comes home -> sitting -> petting/attention Not that that’s new, but I love that the BAT model fits in with what we already do! The behaviour is what we adjust, within the environment that provides the antecedent and consequence. That’s why I’ve called it Behaviour Adjustment Training. Now to get that behaviour change, we have to make sure that either Behaviour 1 -> Consequence is a chain that gets broken, as we do when we ignore jumping, or we work on more errorless learning. What I mean by that is that we start with an antecedent that is different enough from the usual antecedent that the dog doesn’t do the naughty Behaviour 1.
It gradually morphs over time until the picture becomes Antecedent -> Behaviour 2 -> Consequence, as we wanted. Postman really, really far away -> dog turns away -> Postman leaves … Postman really far away -> dog turns away -> Postman leaves …and so on, until we have Postman arrives -> dog turns away -> Postman leaves
In that example, the dog is still getting rid of the postman. With reactivity to strangers or other dogs, the idea is that the dog learns that it’s safe to approach. Curiosity can blossom, which then leads to trust and sociability. For example, my dog who was afraid of people now leans in for petting from strangers, because he learned that he could just walk away when he felt a little nervous.
Here is the BAT protocol for aggression or fear in its simplest form.
1. Expose: Start sub-threshold and remain below the dog’s threshold as you increase stimulus intensity a little (e.g. student dog moves closer to stooge (a.k.a. helper/decoy/actor), stooge moves closer, or both). If dog is getting worse instead of better, abort.
2. Wait for or manufacture acceptable alternative behaviour in a non-aversive way. Be sure to take very small behaviours, like blinks or head turns. Waiting is preferred, whenever possible.
3. Mark using a verbal Yes or a clicker.
4. Functional Reward: Decrease stimulus intensity (but not to zero). ex. Student gets to walk 20 feet away, but stooge remains in view.
5. (optional) Give a treat or toy as a Bonus Reward (best to use on Walks, not usually necessary or desired for set-ups).
This need not be a big, long set-up. It can just be a single repetition, in the middle of doing something else, like TTouch ground work or passing by a gardener in front of her home. Whenever the dog is in a slightly stressful situation and they do a nice appropriate signal (instead of aggression) you could mark with “Yes” and retreat with them as the reward. What’s very cool about BAT for reactivity is that the dog starts to actually become friendly to the decoy, even though all they wanted, at the beginning, was more distance. It’s as if they now have the locus of control and the world makes sense again. Their peaceful choices are controlling their environment, and having an internal Locus of Control feels good!
Unlike counter-conditioning, which assumes that emotions drive behaviour, BAT acknowledges the theory that behaviour and its consequences can also drive emotions. I think both are probably true, so I use both CC/DS and BAT, in combination or in different circumstances. Key points to remember when doing BAT for aggression or fear:
• Above all, stay sub-threshold. Take frequent breaks, especially when the dog asks for them.
• If the dog becomes agitated (breathing heavier, looks like he might have an outburst), interrupt the dog or counter-command (give the cue for an easy incompatible behaviour) and then decrease the stimulus intensity (for example, walk away from the decoy or have them go away, whichever is least reinforcing). If the dog has an outburst and you just stand there, you’re wasting time, because he’s more sensitive to the stimulus for your next trials, and the rate of reinforcement goes way down. Barking/lunging is also hard on everybody else’s stress level, including the stooge and the student dog’s owner.
• Shape for a nice big set of clear cut-off signals. Don’t go for variety too soon. The student dog (or horse or goat or person or whatever) should experience rapid success. You can repeat this later to look for variety. Replacement behaviours include: blinking, jaw loosening (being able to pant again), looking away, turning away, ground sniffing, air sniffing, tail carriage getting looser.
• Reinforce calmly gathering information with allowing the dog to continue doing so, or with quiet praise.
• I really like having the student dog able to move, rather than being tethered, and able to walk away from the situation (safely leashed or behind a barrier, but not tethered to a wall). If the student requests a break by checking out, she gets one. Dogs should have control of their exposure to the trigger during the session (your job is often just to keep them from getting so close that they go over threshold).
• For most dogs, especially fearful dogs, I prefer for them to retreat from the Scary Monster as their reward when they’ve done an acceptable alternative behaviour, versus only having the monster leave. Fear is the emotion of ‘get me out of here!’ so it makes more sense to me that the student dog gets to leave versus chasing off the bad guy. You do need to have trials where the stooge approaches and retreats, but I think the bigger reward for a fearful dog is being able to leave. So even if the stooge approaches the student dog, the student dog still walks away as the reward, simultaneously or just after the other dog leaves. Even dogs who are offensively aggressive (angry, territorial, whatever you want to call it) benefit from learning how to just walk away. Lateral/tangential retreats work well for them, at first.
• If the student dog barks on retreat, continue to retreat, but remember that next time you’ll need to tone down the stimulus (a bit farther away, less motion or whatever).
• It is totally reasonable to pre-train some of these behaviours via clicker training without the decoy there.
• What about regular walks between BAT sessions? Any time you encounter triggers that will hold still (dogs behind fences, people out gardening, etc.), you can do BAT by approaching and retreating based on the dog’s behaviour.
• On walks where you don’t control the triggers, follow the steps on BAT Handout PDF Document by Grisha Stewart. The core of BAT is simply that you use environmental rewards when you can, to change A -> B1 -> C to A -> B2 ->C. When you can’t use environmental rewards, at least give the dog a chance to earn reward somehow, even by just looking at the trigger!
• You don’t need to do a marathon session to complete switchover (where you can tell trust has built and the dog is seeking social contact), although you can.
• The first session of BAT may take a long time to switchover (the point where the dog wants to be near the stooge versus only leaving), the second will take less time, and so on. Eventually it’s like the real world, with no time to switchover. That’s how you know the dog has been rehabilitated (assuming it’s a generalized response). If you don’t get to switchover in the first session, that’s fine. Just try to end each session with some down-time, hanging out at whatever distance feels comfortable to the dog. You can use the same stooge again and work up to socializing with them, unless that’s not safe.
• Remember that we’re teaching new skills to negotiate with the Scary Monster, so the first several times that you do this will take more time than, say, counter-conditioning, or simply parallel walking. But as I said before, the time-to-switchover shrinks rapidly. And now the dog has a new set of skills.
• This involves some negative reinforcement, because ‘relief’ is the treat. While I would never apply pain in order to remove it, this kind of negative reinforcement is very natural, and done right, need not be too aversive, and we need not apply anything aversive to the dog in order to take it away as a reward. In many cases, their own species is the unwanted stimulus and in most cases, they are walking themselves up to the approach line. They will be exposed to other dogs all the time anyway. They are already learning behaviours anyway. We are just teaching them different behaviours, using their natural environment.
• The marker signal of “yes” becomes a classically conditioned safety cue for the dog, because it has signalled the end of a trial and a retreat.