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Reactive after adoption, not before

  • 1.  Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-23-2019 10:58 PM

    Hi, I adopted my Eskie back in April of this year from a rescue that partners with Petsmart so when I first met him he was surrounded by other rescues and other dogs in the store and seemed fine with that situation. I met his fosters who have their own resident dog and cat and he was well-behaved around them. The fosters even successfully took him to a dog park during the two weeks they had him. 

    After I adopted him and took him home, was things began to change. My neighbor’s Yorkie greeted him in the yard by barking and growling and he responded with similar behavior. About the same time, the other neighbors adopted basset pups who were trying to be friendly by attempting to sniff him from their side of the fence and he growled at them totally scaring them off. And when my mom took him for a walk once when I was out, he was charged by the neighbor’s dog who was on the loose, and though he did not got hurt, my mom got knocked down in the process and did get hurt.

    Not sure if those events were contributing factors or not, but he now he is reactive towards dogs we see when I’m walking him. He and the neighbor Yorkie still bark and growl at each other like Tasmanian devils when they see each other on opposite sides of the fence. I have been taking him to training classes but even there he requires a visual barrier when he gets disturbed by the other dogs. I have been using positive reinforcement with treats when he sees other dogs  but wonder if we will ever get to the point where no treats will be required.

    I just want to understand what went wrong and has anyone else experienced this with their rescues/fosters, and what have they done in response. I just hope that my parent’s and my subdued lives haven’t contributed to de socialization. I have thought of getting him a dog companion, but am afraid how he’d react during introductions.


  • 2.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 08:37 AM

    Sorry to hear about the incidents.

    All these events are connected and accumulative. 

    The first 3-4 weeks dogs go through an adoption imprint period ( many call it decompression which I think is misleading) in this period dogs attempt to establish bonds and a secure attachment relationship (SAR)- with one person or dog. 

    SAR is the strongest type of attachment. A Dog in this category feels he can depend on his parent or provider. He knows that person will be there when he needs support. He knows what to expect.

    • The secure dog usually plays well with people and other dogs his age. 
    • He may bark or whine when his caregiver leaves. He will usually settle down if a friendly person is there to comfort him. 
    • When caretaker pick him up from petcare, he is usually very happy to see them. 
    • He may have a hard time leaving pet-care, though. This can be confusing if the dog was upset when the parents left at the beginning of the day. It does not mean that the dog is not happy to see the caretaker.

    In your case the sequence of events acculturated and the dog shifted into a insecure attachment relationship were the dog stopped  relying on the caregiver and takes care of himself and others. 

    You’re dog has a trauma and does not trust you for his safety. 

    You are not alone many pet-parents end up in this situations, the dog becomes fear reactive ( fear aggression). In addition people may hire  an inexperienced trainer and make things worse. This is likely the case why most dogs being relinquished; they lost their secure attachment and use their breed traits to take care of themselves.  

    This can be addressed by resetting the relationship and starting from scratch. 

    1. Establish SAR

    2. Teach tasks, jobs and routines

    3. Generalize the routines

    4. Increase the stimulation 

    5. Work on the thresholds 

    6. Always offer appreciation for your dog’s achievements 

    I can help you with that remotely, I teach online classes and private sessions for rescues, behavior teams and fosters/adopters. 


  • 3.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 05:53 PM

    He stays at granny daycare so he’s relaxed and happy. He is very excited to see me when I come to pick him up. (The only time I’ve had a dog who greeted me with a howl.) We are working on activities and practicing training. Now if the weather stays cooler, I will take him out to different places but first want him to succeed in familiar neighborhood surroundings regularly.


  • 4.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 06:03 PM

    You want to become aware of the thresholds and before you take him out you have to get used to his signals. 

    Here some exercises 



  • 5.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 06:38 PM

    Thanks for the links. 

    I am also adjusting from my Sheltie who was so eager to please (no food required) to my Eskie who requires a lot more food motivation than I am used to.


  • 6.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 01:09 PM

    Please DO NOT express anger or disappointment at your new dog when he reacts angrily to another dog or pups. It's too soon for him to be this exposed to other dogs. He needs to spent a lot of calm quality time with you. It could take awhile. Speak to your veterinarian about him during a visit to the vet. Perhaps a low dose anti-anxiety medication might be helpful for him at this time. Be very calm and do not be reactive. 


  • 7.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-24-2019 05:44 PM

    I don’t get angry but do realize the futility in calling his name during those moments.

    There really is no way to avoid exposure to other dogs. In the back yard, we have neighboring dogs on either side, one who has growled at every dog I have ever had and even growls at humans. And my dog avoids doing his business in the yard. (I suspect he may have been a townhome or apartment dog). At least I have some more control when and where to go on walks. And during his group dog lessons.

    I started him on calming care probiotics to help him. The vets remedy was to give him tradazone, but only before fireworks or vet visits. Not crazy about drugging him except for extreme cases. I’ve tried pherenome  diffusers at home during storms (he pants a lot but not destructive), but as with all other past dogs, they seem to have little effect. Scented wax melters seem to be better or essential oil diffusers. 

    I was a bit surprised and pleased  today when he saw a familiar dog on a walk a block away and ignored him/her. I did do a u-turn to avoid any encounter as I didn’t know which direction they were heading. Same yesterday with unknown off leash border collie.



  • 8.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-25-2019 10:55 AM

    I forgot to say that beside getting angry DON'T use his name during interventions of his difficult behavior. He feels your "vibe", I trust you know that. He know you feel upset and disappointed in him. Try very diligently to feel positive about loving him and caring for him in a very positive way. This is a beginning for him to learn to trust you and then gain confidence to trust other dogs. He has to know you have his back even when you are calmly and lovingly gaining his trust while giving him opportunities to interact with other dogs.Take some  time for just the two of you for awhile, especially if you are away at work all day. Maybe watch some calming videos of quiet dogs or dogs being together cooperatively. Not wild playing, but just laying around together videos. THIS WILL TAKE TIME. If you are a young person you might be accustomed to things happening quickly. This learning for him will take time and probably months. BUT it will last both of you his whole beautiful life long. Know it. Read this again a few times. Go into each and every interaction with him calmly talking to him about what a great fellow his is.


  • 9.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-25-2019 11:36 AM

  • 10.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-25-2019 11:02 AM

    Good. So you have had a successful sighting with another leashed dog a block away. Tell him softly and calming how lovely that was for you and for him. It's a calm vibe that needs to be constant even if he becomes upset. In my town it's illegal to have an unleashed dog in public and I'm sorry you saw someone allowing their dog to be off leash. Try not to get anxious when you see that. If you can avoid the dog, do, but try very calmly to simply say to him (talk al lot to him like a loved child who is learning) that you will help and protect him the very best you can. Then move on. You are doing well with the calming smells at home, but take dog interaction slowly and one at a time and not too near eachother until he can get used to starting to feel more comfortable. Baby steps with your boy. I send you both calm love.


  • 11.  RE: Reactive after adoption, not before

    Posted 08-25-2019 11:38 AM

    Off leash walk is illegal here, too, I believe but it doesn’t stop many from doing it. Just like those who do not clean up after their dog. (Sigh)