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JMastiff18

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Hi!  I am hoping to get some advice for my 7 month old puppy, Cooper.  Cooper is the absolute sweetest dog I have ever had!  He loves everyone that comes into my house and loves to cuddle.  The only problem I have ever had with him is that he seems very scared of strangers outside of my home, pets mart, and the vet.  In all of these places, he shows no fear of strangers and goes up and greets people he has never seen before, letting them pet him with no problem.  

      When I take him on walks in my neighborhood, it's a very different story.  He growls when people approach us or if people notice us when we walk by their yards.  All of his hair stands up and I can tell this is not a playful growl but a fearful one.  I usually tell him to "leave it" and he will stop and walk by the person.  We did have one incident in which a neighbors child ran up to Cooper quickly from behind and he started growling, she pet him before I could stop her and he seemed okay with it, even started wagging his tail and stopped growling.  Then, when she came back to pet him a second time, he snapped at her (not biting but just snapping at the air).  Ever since this incident I am so upset about what I have done wrong with Cooper that he is this fearful of people outside and I want to fix it!  

      I had a well known trainer come to my house and he said that he thinks Cooper thinks of our house, the vet, and pets mart as his home and that he feels safe and comfortable in these controlled environments but outside he is scared because he doesn't feel like it is his home.  I've been working with Cooper since the trainer came and feel very confident I can prevent any further snapping incidents but I just wish I could do something to really make Cooper feel safe and comfortable instead of needing to be on alert to prevent further problems.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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treeNsea

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If you get any response to your inquiry, I'd sure like to hear it, too. It's not an easy subject, but it is also too easy to make your boy Cooper's habit become ingrained. In that case, the fear-aggression will only escalate. He needs confidence-building, but not molly cuddling (I have a hard time finding a middle ground). It's a fine line to walk, and it is so easy for the human owner to unwittingly make things worse. I speak from a few bad experiences (I've only had problems with dominant dogs; never submissive ones). A behavior specialist with experience with guarding breeds, whom by instinct tend to be wary of strangers, is in order. Good luck, and I commend you for taking action now while he is young and pliable. Thank you for reaching out to the Mastiff community. I don't see why his behavior can't be modified to fit in better with our stressful, human society. Try to avoid stressful situations when you start retraining him; and gradually work up to more stressful environments. If you see a probable fearful situation approaching, for instance, go out of your way to avoid it at first (as much as is humanly possible). They call that extinguishing the behavior. If you force a situation on your dog, you can also be inadvertently entrenching the fear of that situation in him. . . That's why I'd recommend a proven expert with a good track record for turning a bad situation around.

Maria Jensen

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Maria Jensen
treeNsea Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs & Mastiffs
http://www.treeNseaGreaterSwiss.com
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