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  • 1.  Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-20-2022 03:12 PM
    I'm wondering if anyone else has similar experiences to what I keep seeing at my shelter. We often get dogs in who either have no problem meeting new people or they might be a little shy but warm up quickly. The problem is I have had multiple dogs like that after just a few days or a couple of weeks suddenly become extremely weary of new people and some even become aggressive to new people. By new people I mean aodpters or volunteers they don't see every day. These dogs are absolute angels with the staff that works with them but anyone else who comes in is the enemy. We've tried avoiding this by having lots of different people go back and interact with them but it doesn't seem to work. It's like they become so attached to a handful of people and everyone else is the enemy. So I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced this and if you have any other ideas for us to try to prevent it from happening?

    Thanks!
    #Behavior,TrainingandEnrichment

    ------------------------------
    Kaitlin Loberg
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Maddie's Fund Staff
    Posted 01-20-2022 03:45 PM
    Hi Kaitlyn,

    Interesting question. In my experience, there are multiple different reasons why this happens.  Many dogs are mildly fearful of new people - sometimes you can see the body language, other times it's really subtle and they appear to be ok with meeting new people, when in actuality they are nervous about it.   If we keep this dog in an environment that is stressful despite our best efforts (e.g. loud noises, no control, limited social contact),  stress often results in that small amount of fear growing.  And when they're scared enough, that fear can morph into defensive or aggressive behaiovr.

    I've found that treat buckets help a lot.  Put signs around the shelter explaining what they are and asking visitors to toss a few pieces of kibble or treats into the dog's kennel.  I'd also prioritize getting these dogs into foster care as soon as you identify that they're fearful or defensive.

    Sheila

    ------------------------------
    Sheila Segurson, DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Maddie's Fund
    9258608284
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-20-2022 09:47 PM
    Hello Kaitlin,

    Thanks so much for posting and asking this question! It is a good one!

    The first thing that comes to mind when I read this:

    "I keep seeing at my shelter. We often get dogs in who either have no problem meeting new people or they might be a little shy but warm up quickly"  is what are you defining as shy? For example, what is their body language and interactions with these people. Are they really ok with them? Many dogs will tolerate certain interactions with humans but may not necessarily like those interactions. Do they approach freely with wagging tail or is their tail tucked. Do they avoid eye contact or put their ears back and head down?

    Are they leaning away when a human reaches out to touch them. I suspect many of these dogs are not as "ok" as we think.

    The same here: "These dogs are absolute angels with the staff that works with them but anyone else who comes in is the enemy." Are we sure that they are ok or are they anxious and maybe a little shut down which makes them look ok? 

    This strategy: "We've tried avoiding this by having lots of different people go back and interact with them but it doesn't seem to work." Could be contributing to the behavior. If they are anxious or fearful and don't have an escape route and forced to interact on the human's and not the dog's terms we can actually sensitize the dogs rather than desensitize them to humans. Another alternative would be to find activities the dogs enjoy and have them participate in those activities with humans. This might be a game of fetch, a walk, or even quiet time in the office. 

    Can you identify anything in your daily observations that indicate a shift in these dogs? 

    What is your enrichment program? Training program? Often with these dogs we would "click for all 4 feet on the floor", practice targeting, teach them to station to a mat, and we have used the bucket protocol to help them associate people with good things. 


    ------------------------------
    Christine D. Calder DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Calder Veterinary Behavior Services
    www.caldervbs.com

    Veterinary Behaviorist
    Behavior Specialist, MPF
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-23-2022 06:29 AM
    What I mean by the dogs may start out a little shy is that they may void a new person for a minute or two but then tail wag/enjoy pets from them/etc. All what I would see as typical dog getting to know a new person things. Nothing to indicate that the dog is extremely uncomfortable or uneasy. We never force interaction on a dog that does not want to interact. We have definitely had actual fearful dogs who may shut down but I am not talking about those dogs. I am talking about the typical dogs we see that are either friendly with everyone right away or take a minute or two to get to know new people then are friendly with them. These are the dogs that I will walk into a visit in a neutral room and suddenly have the dog bark/growl/ or even lunge.

    When I say they are ok with staff I don't mean they're docile/shut down/easy to handle. I mean they are happy go lucky goofy dogs who run and play or chill in the office and are happy to see staff. 

    With any dogs that show fearful behavior we always provide hiding spaces and we have double sided housing so they are never trapped/cornered and they always have room to get away. These dogs I'm talking about don't show fearful behavior at all with the staff. I guess it's possible that their reactions to these new people could be fearful but how do I avoid that with visits? I never do visits where I bring someone back to see the dog in the kennel. I either leash the dog and bring them into a neutral room (meet and greet or conference room) or take them outside to one of the play yards. I tell visitors before we interact with the dogs that they don't know them so don't immediately go straight to them and get in their face. Let the dog come to them if they want to. Some of these dogs will come out right as soon as they see the new person and bark or growl. They are not being forced to interact with the person at all but it's possible that they are already fearful of them. But how do I avoid that?

    We try to find every dog's favorite thing and do it with them for at least an hour a day (plus other smaller breaks) especially if they are showing these signs of stranger dnager. Unfortunately we don't have a large staff and not a lot of animal training experience so we try to work on basic commands but not as much as I wish we could.

    ------------------------------
    Kaitlin Loberg
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-23-2022 11:11 AM
    Hello Kailin,

    Thanks for responding and clarifying!

    1. My first recommendation to you all is to familiarize yourself with body language. This will help you monitor the dogs for signs of early distress. Some dogs will approach, take food and interact in other ways but it doesn't necessarily mean they are completely comfortable.  Transitions into a room, people getting up, etc... can all trigger this kind of a response from a dog especially if they are already anxious. 
    2. Determine what each dog really likes. It may be a particular toy or treat. You can then use this to build relationships with new people. 
    3. Take video of these interactions. This will also help you determine what might be causing a shift in the dog's behavior. 
    4. Going for a walk may be an alternative way to meet new people or outside. What are you defining a neutral room? 
    5. Pattern Games like the 1-2-3 Game, LATTE, and Superbowls are great ways to work with these dogs during transitions. You can find lots of examples of these strategies online if you search for Controlled Unleashed Pattern Games. There are some recent webinars that have been presented as well that focus on using these in a shelter environment. 
    6. Have you all taken the Fear Free Shelter Certification program? It is free and will help with body language scoring and recognition. 
    7. There is also the Karen Pryor Academy Shelter Enrichment and Training course that may be helpful for you all.

    ------------------------------
    Christine D. Calder DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Calder Veterinary Behavior Services
    www.caldervbs.com

    Veterinary Behaviorist
    Behavior Specialist, MPF
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-23-2022 03:32 PM
    Kailin:
    Do you first classically condition the dogs to develop positive associations with the 'neutral' room before ever bringing a dog in to meet new people?  If not, that would be the first thing I'd do, and take plenty of reps to do it. The other thing to consider is whether these dogs are developing any negative associations with new people as a result of strangers being around them who are not trained in how to behavior properly around the dogs (e.g., janitorial staff at night, etc). Sometimes it only takes one bad experience.
    Rain


    --
    Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP  
    Fearful Dogs Specialist

    Would you consider a gift in your will? Information on Legacy Gifting
    A 501(c)(3) non profit, animal welfare charity specialized in anti-aversives education and training.  Our mission is to protect & elevate the lives of companion animals. We believe that, as animal welfare professionals, it is our duty to do our best to protect them, from the moment we have the capability. Visit our website for our complete vision statement.  
    Protect Them All www.ProtectThemAll.org   
     

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  • 7.  RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Posted 01-23-2022 08:43 PM
    Everyone,
    I want to let you know about The Fearful Dogs Project's program for shelters and rescues.  It is the non-pro version of the advanced canine fear abatement program for professional behaviorists/trainers etc.  The shelter/rescue version offers an advocacy level certification for non-behavior-pro shelter/rescue workers in addition to the professional level certification for pros.  Additionally, we are planning on re-offering the intensive distance learning, self-study group course again once there are enough people who intend to enroll at the same time.  Feel free to email me at Rain@CanineFearSolutions.com if you'd like to get on the list.  Or just email me for any reason!
    Best,
    Rain

    On Sun, Jan 23, 2022 at 3:31 PM r. jordan via Maddie's Pet Forum <Mail@maddiesfund.org> wrote:
    Kailin:Do you first classically condition the dogs to develop positive associations with the 'neutral' room before ever bringing a dog in to meet...

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    Jan 23, 2022 3:32 PM
    r. jordan
    Kailin:
    Do you first classically condition the dogs to develop positive associations with the 'neutral' room before ever bringing a dog in to meet new people?  If not, that would be the first thing I'd do, and take plenty of reps to do it. The other thing to consider is whether these dogs are developing any negative associations with new people as a result of strangers being around them who are not trained in how to behavior properly around the dogs (e.g., janitorial staff at night, etc). Sometimes it only takes one bad experience.
    Rain


    --
    Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP Fearful Dogs Specialist
    Would you consider a gift in your will? Information on Legacy GiftingA 501(c)(3) non profit, animal welfare charity specialized in anti-aversives education and training. Our mission is to protect & elevate the lives of companion animals. We believe that, as animal welfare professionals, it is our duty to do our best to protect them, from the moment we have the capability. Visit our website for our complete vision statement. Protect Them All www.ProtectThemAll.org

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email communication contains confidential information that is legally privileged. Any disclosure, copying, dissemination, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this email except its direct delivery to the intended recipient is strictly prohibited.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that your receipt of this email and/or any included attachments was not intended by the sender and that your possession, use, and/or sharing of this information is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by telephone at (831)239-9417 and destroy all copies of the email and any attachments.



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    --
    Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP
    Certified Canine Fear Abatement Expert instructor/mentor, The Fearful Dogs Project
    Principle, Canine Fear Solutions

    Would you consider a gift in your will? Information on Legacy Gifting
    A 501(c)(3) non profit, animal welfare charity specialized in anti-aversives education and training.  Our mission is to protect & elevate the lives of companion animals. We believe that, as animal welfare professionals, it is our duty to do our best to protect them, from the moment we have the capability. Visit our website for our complete vision statement.  
    Protect Them All www.ProtectThemAll.org   
     

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email communication contains confidential information that is legally privileged. Any disclosure, copying, dissemination, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this email except its direct delivery to the intended recipient is strictly prohibited.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that your receipt of this email and/or any included attachments was not intended by the sender and that your possession, use, and/or sharing of this information is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by telephone at (831)239-9417 and destroy all copies of the email and any attachments.

     



    Original Message:
    Sent: 1/23/2022 6:32:00 PM
    From: r. jordan
    Subject: RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Kailin:
    Do you first classically condition the dogs to develop positive associations with the 'neutral' room before ever bringing a dog in to meet new people?  If not, that would be the first thing I'd do, and take plenty of reps to do it. The other thing to consider is whether these dogs are developing any negative associations with new people as a result of strangers being around them who are not trained in how to behavior properly around the dogs (e.g., janitorial staff at night, etc). Sometimes it only takes one bad experience.
    Rain


    --
    Rain Jordan, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP  
    Fearful Dogs Specialist

    Would you consider a gift in your will? Information on Legacy Gifting
    A 501(c)(3) non profit, animal welfare charity specialized in anti-aversives education and training.  Our mission is to protect & elevate the lives of companion animals. We believe that, as animal welfare professionals, it is our duty to do our best to protect them, from the moment we have the capability. Visit our website for our complete vision statement.  
    Protect Them All www.ProtectThemAll.org   
     

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This email communication contains confidential information that is legally privileged. Any disclosure, copying, dissemination, distribution, or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents of this email except its direct delivery to the intended recipient is strictly prohibited.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that your receipt of this email and/or any included attachments was not intended by the sender and that your possession, use, and/or sharing of this information is prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by telephone at (831)239-9417 and destroy all copies of the email and any attachments.

     



    Original Message:
    Sent: 1/23/2022 9:29:00 AM
    From: Kaitlin Loberg
    Subject: RE: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    What I mean by the dogs may start out a little shy is that they may void a new person for a minute or two but then tail wag/enjoy pets from them/etc. All what I would see as typical dog getting to know a new person things. Nothing to indicate that the dog is extremely uncomfortable or uneasy. We never force interaction on a dog that does not want to interact. We have definitely had actual fearful dogs who may shut down but I am not talking about those dogs. I am talking about the typical dogs we see that are either friendly with everyone right away or take a minute or two to get to know new people then are friendly with them. These are the dogs that I will walk into a visit in a neutral room and suddenly have the dog bark/growl/ or even lunge.

    When I say they are ok with staff I don't mean they're docile/shut down/easy to handle. I mean they are happy go lucky goofy dogs who run and play or chill in the office and are happy to see staff. 

    With any dogs that show fearful behavior we always provide hiding spaces and we have double sided housing so they are never trapped/cornered and they always have room to get away. These dogs I'm talking about don't show fearful behavior at all with the staff. I guess it's possible that their reactions to these new people could be fearful but how do I avoid that with visits? I never do visits where I bring someone back to see the dog in the kennel. I either leash the dog and bring them into a neutral room (meet and greet or conference room) or take them outside to one of the play yards. I tell visitors before we interact with the dogs that they don't know them so don't immediately go straight to them and get in their face. Let the dog come to them if they want to. Some of these dogs will come out right as soon as they see the new person and bark or growl. They are not being forced to interact with the person at all but it's possible that they are already fearful of them. But how do I avoid that?

    We try to find every dog's favorite thing and do it with them for at least an hour a day (plus other smaller breaks) especially if they are showing these signs of stranger dnager. Unfortunately we don't have a large staff and not a lot of animal training experience so we try to work on basic commands but not as much as I wish we could.

    ------------------------------
    Kaitlin Loberg
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 01-20-2022 09:46 PM
    From: Christine Calder
    Subject: Dogs becoming fearful/aggressive to new people

    Hello Kaitlin,

    Thanks so much for posting and asking this question! It is a good one!

    The first thing that comes to mind when I read this:

    "I keep seeing at my shelter. We often get dogs in who either have no problem meeting new people or they might be a little shy but warm up quickly"  is what are you defining as shy? For example, what is their body language and interactions with these people. Are they really ok with them? Many dogs will tolerate certain interactions with humans but may not necessarily like those interactions. Do they approach freely with wagging tail or is their tail tucked. Do they avoid eye contact or put their ears back and head down?

    Are they leaning away when a human reaches out to touch them. I suspect many of these dogs are not as "ok" as we think.

    The same here: "These dogs are absolute angels with the staff that works with them but anyone else who comes in is the enemy." Are we sure that they are ok or are they anxious and maybe a little shut down which makes them look ok? 

    This strategy: "We've tried avoiding this by having lots of different people go back and interact with them but it doesn't seem to work." Could be contributing to the behavior. If they are anxious or fearful and don't have an escape route and forced to interact on the human's and not the dog's terms we can actually sensitize the dogs rather than desensitize them to humans. Another alternative would be to find activities the dogs enjoy and have them participate in those activities with humans. This might be a game of fetch, a walk, or even quiet time in the office. 

    Can you identify anything in your daily observations that indicate a shift in these dogs? 

    What is your enrichment program? Training program? Often with these dogs we would "click for all 4 feet on the floor", practice targeting, teach them to station to a mat, and we have used the bucket protocol to help them associate people with good things. 


    ------------------------------
    Christine D. Calder DVM
    Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
    Calder Veterinary Behavior Services
    www.caldervbs.com

    Veterinary Behaviorist
    Behavior Specialist, MPF