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need advice about socialization

yvonnem
November 19th, 2004, 02:01 PM
Maple the mastiff puppy is 14 weeks old. He weighs 46 pounds!! He starts puppy classes this Saturday.

We take him everywhere and introduce him to all kinds of people. I cannot tell you the number of days he and I have stood in front of the grocery store so he could become accustomed to people.

The problem is this: whenever he finds himself in a new situation the hackles on his back go up -- all the way from his neck to his tail. When he is approached by a stranger he growls and shys away. If the stranger moves slowly and offers his hand and DOESN'T touch the top of Maple's head, Maple will eventually allow himself to be petted.

Yesterday he was perfectly fine with the receptionist at the vets but he growled at the vet herself.

Help! What do I do? I need some PRACTICAL suggestions!!!! The one day we were at the grocery store a little boy was trying to pet him and although Maple did not growl, he kept ducking the little boy's hand. Finally I poured some dog treats into the boy's hand and showed him how to feed the dog and everything was fine. BUT there's no way I can say to strangers who want to pet the dog "Here, take this food and let the dog eat out of your hand" -- most of them look at you as though you are crazy.

Maple is not food or toy possessive -- anyone can take his dish, play in his food, hand feed him, take his toys out of his mouth. Anyone can order him out of the way. He hasn't nipped us for about 3 weeks now. He hasn't peed in the house for almost 2 weeks.

We met some strange dogs in the park and he was friendly with them. It's just this business with people and I DON'T know how to deal with it.

To make matters worse, TheBoy doesn't see it as a problem because Maple lets us touch the top of his head and pull his ears and hold his mouth closed and all manner of indignities.

TheBoy will be taking Maple to classes so he can get trained too -- I'm considering asking the trainer to let everyone in class handle and work with Maple so he gets used to being ordered around by strangers.

Any suggestions????

mastifflover
November 19th, 2004, 02:11 PM
Mastiffs need a lot of socializing because this is a fear thing so I find slowly is best. When introducing always make him sit the be allowed to sniff the hand then try and pat if he is scared his hackles will go up and he will growl this is all fear. I have friends whose mastiffs are still very skittish of strangers some are real people dogs some perfer to be with their family and dont like strangers that much. Buddy prefers to be with me but there is certain people he has really taken a liking to but it is on his terms. He is a rescue so his issues with people are different than a puppy. I might suggest you log on and register at http://www.mastiffonline.com/ this is the best site with some great people that all own mastiffs and will have dealt with puppies a lot more than I have. I have not had a puppy in many years so dont have great answers for you but a lot of these people have 2 and 3 Mastiffs. There are breeders and rescuers and just plain Mastiff lovers who are always willing to help. P.S. They are picture freaks and will ask you to post a picture of your baby

Lucky Rescue
November 19th, 2004, 02:26 PM
I'm considering asking the trainer to let everyone in class handle and work with Maple so he gets used to being ordered around by strangers.

I'm sure mastifflover will correct me if I am wrong, but most guardian and molosser breeds are not amenable to being ordered around by strangers. It is not in their nature as they were bred to guard and not welcome strangers. The majority of them can be aloof or wary with strangers and some like the Fila or Akbash dog are very aggressive to strangers.

Your puppy sounds very fearful and this *can* be a genetic glitch. I would stop forcing him to allow strangers to pet him at this point. He needs to know that you will protect him, or he may feel he needs to protect himself.

If you were looking for a dog who will greet all strangers joyfully, I don't think this is it.

mastifflover
November 19th, 2004, 02:36 PM
I'm sure mastifflover will correct me if I am wrong, but most guardian and molosser breeds are not amenable to being ordered around by strangers. It is not in their nature as they were bred to guard and not welcome strangers. The majority of them can be aloof or wary with strangers and some like the Fila or Akbash dog are very aggressive to strangers.

No you are not wrong some start off more aloof and then become big happy goofs who will play with everyone some are more aloof and much more skittish with people especially stangers. They will not be aggressive normally they have to feel very threatened. They were bred as guard dogs but will corner someone and only attack when they or their owner or home is in danger. Luckily unlike the fila they are not aggressive. But they prefer to socialize with strangers on their own time line don't force it he will come around. Puppy class will help a lot but I have talked with some owners on the mastiff site and they have had pups that submissive pee. But you also have to remember that even though he is big he is still very young and you don't want to rush him.

tenderfoot
November 21st, 2004, 01:52 PM
He might be going through a strong fear period and his behavior is exaggerated, but that means you have to be extra aware about your response to his fears. Anything can imprint itself on him at this time and then you could have problems forever.
He is not obligated to like people petting his head, but it would be good for you to help him become desensitized to it. It is also not everyones right to pet him. He is naturally cautious, so you need to help him feel safe and you need to help keep others safe.
Having people offer their hands to him could be an invitation to bite if he were frightened enough. I would tell a new person to ignore him - do not try to pet for the first minute or so. I would shake the persons hand and greet them happily (showing him that you are in control and comfortable with that person), while he is doing a sit-stay (having a job can takes his mind off the person and on to you). Then I would have the person ask him to do something, i.e. shake or down (submissive gestures) and then reward him with happy praise and ignore him again. As you judge that he is comfortable - I would have the person squat down (an invitational, non-threatening posture) but still ignore him. Allow him to approach when he is ready, which could take a minute or two. If he shows any nervousness - give him another job and praise him for doing it. If he show any aggression correct it and make him down-stay - and ignore him again.
If someone were to pet him, Have them squat rather than lean over him and I would have them start under the chin or on the chest - this is less intimidating to him. Try not to have people PAT him. Stroking him is best - it's like momma licking him and brings out a calming brain wave.
If you can get him excited about a ball or toy, then you can have a new person offer it to him after he performs his command. I like this better than associating food with peoples hands, because some dogs can get grabby about it and it can scare people when the dog lunges at their fingers looking for a treat.
Taking time with each person allows you to better control the situation and create success. If someone comes up and he is overwhelmed, and then they move on that's the feeling he remembers, but if someone come up and stays long enough for him to stop feeling threatened and has a positive experience, then that's what he remembers and is more likely to associate new people with positive experiences. Always create success and plan on taking the time to do so. Do not set him up for failure, because the next time will be that much harder to get him over it.