Posts Tagged ‘socialization’

Just Because My Dog is Shy Doesn’t Mean He Was Mistreated

September 5, 2014
Pierson Rescue Dog

Pierson was nervous on his first day at his new home. He wasn’t quite sure yet what to think of me and my husband or Maya.

I was talking to someone about my dog Pierson the other day (when do I not talk about my dogs?), about how he was rescued and about how shy he can sometimes be around strangers. Their first reaction to his shyness was to say he had probably been mistreated by his prior family. My immediate response was to say this is not necessarily true and here’s why.

Pierson is wary and shy, but he is not fearful. He darts out of the way of a fast hand movement or if someone bends over him. But this is a natural reaction for many dogs. He doesn’t snap or growl in reaction. He simply takes a few steps back.

Dad Pierson Shake

Pierson was a bit shy around my dad at first. But he warmed up to him after a few treats.

Pierson is most likely part Border Collie and part Australian Shepherd. Both these breeds are very high alert dogs. They were bred to guard flocks and so they tend to be naturally wary of strange things, including strange people. Pierson tends to warm up to a person better if I or my husband is there and if the other person lets Pierson check them out first on his own terms.

I got Pierson when he was probably a year old so I have no idea how well he was socialized. He was very shy when we first got him. I have been doing my best to introduce him to new people and new things. And as such, he tends to warm up to new people much quicker than in the past. There are still occasions when he decides to be shy. Generally it is around small children since he doesn’t get the opportunity to be around children much.

Family Playing Hungry Hippos

Pierson looks on as my niece and nephew, my brother-in-law, and my husband play Hungry Hungry Hippos. He was wary of the little ones but not fearful. My sister has done a good job of teaching her kids how to approach dogs and to leave them alone if they don’t want to be bothered.

A dog very well could be shy due to mistreatment. If Pierson had been mistreated, however, I would expect his reaction to be a lot more severe. I’d expect tail tucking, ears going back, eyes dilating, growling, or cowering. He occasionally growls, but it is usually when a person tries to be too overly friendly with him. He’s not a Labrador. You can’t just go up to him and try to put your arms around him! (Actually one shouldn’t do this to any dog regardless of breed, but you get my point.)

I honestly don’t know whether Pierson had been purposely abandoned in the park I found him in or if he had wandered off from his family and found his own way to the park. I have no idea if he was loved or if he was unwanted. Either way, I very much doubt he was abused. For Pierson, I think the most likely explanation for his shyness is his breed mix. Lack of socialization is probably a factor too, but I think it is possible for certain dogs to have a shyness tendency regardless of proper socialization.

Do you have a shy dog? Why do you think he or she is shy? What do you tell people when they suggest your dog might have been mistreated?

Dog Training Follow-up with My New Dog Pierson

March 3, 2012

Pierson Outside Enjoying the Falling Snow

On January 10, 2012, we got a new dog. Pierson has been featured in many of my blog posts recently. There is the story of, “How We Got Our Dog Pierson“. Then there are several stories about some behavior issues we have been encountering. Dog training for Pierson has been super-easy and his behavior issues are relatively minor. The two month anniversary of Pierson being a part of our family is almost here. So here is a follow-up on how he has been doing.

Integration into the Family
Pierson and my other dog Maya get along great. They play together and sometimes even sleep together. Pierson loves affection. He enjoys praise and trains well with either treats or praise. He is attentive during training and eager to please.

Crate Training
Pierson hated the crate and busted out on the second night. On the third day he had a really bad bloody nose and had to be taken to the emergency vet. We never figured out what caused the bloody nose but I suspect it might have been caused by him using his nose to push open the crate. Since he has never once messed inside the house and sleeps through the night without trouble, I decided to skip crate training.

Basic Training
Pierson is very good at taking direction. He quickly learned which parts of the house are off-limits. He learned his name in less than 10 days, sit in 10 days, walk on a leash in 15 days, down in less than 30 days, and stay and come are almost mastered. Once he gets really good at those last two, I will start teaching him fetch and other tricks. He is also good about getting his nails clipped, teeth brushed, and hair combed.

Follow-up from article, “How to Keep Your Dog from Chewing” – Pierson has chewed up a library book, a rug, the leg of a wooden chair, a potted plant, and occasionally tried to chew the plastic dog food bowls. When I catch him chewing something he is not supposed to, I tell him no in a very firm voice, give him one of his toys, and praise him when he chews his own toy. I even purchased some Bitter Apple to spray on the kitchen rug and chair leg. These two methods are working very well. I am happy to say that it has been over a week since he has chewed something he is not supposed to.

Separation Anxiety
Follow-up from article, “Heading Off Separation Anxiety in My Dog” – Pierson’s separation anxiety seems to be under control. According to my roommates, he barks for a few moments after I leave, but settles down quickly. When I come home, I don’t find any evidence of nervous habits like chewing or scratching at the door. The only time he gets really upset is if I leave with Maya. So, I will need to work on that and occasionally leave with her to get him used to her coming and going, just like he has gotten used to it with the other household members.

Follow-up from article – “Socializing My New Dog” – Overall, this is going very well. Pierson’s nervousness around new people is less evident. He can still get frightened over unfamiliar loud noises, but he seems to handle it well. But he is showing aggression towards other male dogs. I discovered this when I was working on socialization at the dog park. Someone told me that it could be because I am keeping him on a leash. See, when dogs get scared their instincts are ‘fight or flight’. The theory is since Pierson is on a leash, flight is impossible so he resorts to fight-mode. But I can’t take him off a leash at the dog park until I know he will come when he is called. Plus, I don’t want to risk him attacking another dog. I am in touch with a professional dog trainer who is happy to help me with this issue.

The day before yesterday, a friend of mine and I took Pierson with us as we shopped in downtown Lawrence, KS. Pierson did very well. He was startled a few times by loud noises, but had no serious fear issues. He did very well when people wanted to pet him. He even did well in the few shops we visited which allowed Pierson to come in too. And he did well at an outdoor cafe while my friend and I ate lunch. It was a great day.

It may seem like Pierson has a lot of issues. But his issues are no different than most new pets. Pierson has learned a lot in the past couple of months. It is obvious that he is very intelligent. If you are training a new dog, remember that dogs learn at different paces just like people do. So long as you take the time and are consistent in training, your dog will learn his basic commands and boundaries just like Pierson has. Some behavior issues may take a little longer, but time and consistency will help with them too.

(note regarding above photo – Pierson is now an inside dog, but he still loves to be outside. I sometimes have to bribe him to be inside with the rest of the family.)