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Dog acting tough then afraid of dogs

September 26th, 2011, 08:51 PM
When I walk Meeka she will bark "aggressively" and her neck hair goes up when we approach another dog, but when we get close her tail goes between her legs and she acts as if she is afraid of the dog. It doesn't matter if the dog is bigger or smaller, male or female. I walk her to school when I take my daughter and she has become used to the two or three dogs we see daily, as well as the neighbour dogs next door.
We have only had her 6 weeks (she is approx 2-4 years old) so I don't know if she was ever attacked by another dog or not. I am not sure if I should scold her (that doesn't seem right since I don't know her background) or stop and talk to her to soothe her if she is stressed (I don't want to encourage the behaviour). Other than this she is pretty good on a leash.
Any thoughts would be helpful.

September 27th, 2011, 07:47 AM
Raised hackles can be a sign of apprehension, which it seems to be in Meeka's case. In my expericence it actually is rarely a sign of aggression and much more fear or surprise, even pleased excitement.

You are correct not to scold or coddle however I think she does need reassurance. She is being what is called "reactive." There is a book out which has received many, many awards and good recommendations on dealing with reactive dogs. It's called "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt. It's aimed at competitive sports dogs but I have it and I think you will find the "games" it presents will help both you and Meeka.

A trick Meeka and you need to learn is for Meeka to focus on you and trust in you. Right now she is acting like "OMG, dog! I have to face another DOG." She is forgetting you are there too and she needs to know you are capable of deciding that, no, that dog is not a threat and I'm here to make sure. The "Look at That" game helped me immensely. I say "who-zat-dog?" I do suggest that you need to be alone with Meeka and not focusing on your child as you walk to school for the first many times you practise this.

September 28th, 2011, 12:29 PM
Thank you for the advice. I will try your "who's-zat-dog" game. When we do see other dogs familliar to us I will say "Is that Daisy? Want to go see Daisy" and she acts calmly. I will try it with strange dogs we pass now too. Thank you.

September 28th, 2011, 04:01 PM
I strongly suggest you get the book. Beg, borrow or steal. Failing that I will try to explain a bit more how the game works. First, you let Meeka know that it is OK for her to see that dog. When she looks at it, click and treat. To get the treat she is necessarily looking right at you as you give it to her by hand. Pretty soon you subtly morph the timing of the reward into when she looks at you, not at the dog. This is how you get her to acknowledge that you are there and you are more important, more fun, more reassuring than that other dog. Most dogs quickly catch on and will look quickly but deliberately at the other dog. See Mom? I saw that dog and then I looked at you. I get a treat, right? Right. :)

If Daisy is a dog you wish to socialize with, then fine, go see Daisy. The point, however, is not to visit the other dog as much as to reassure your dog that you've got her back. The point is for Meeka to focus on you.