Hello all! I've been lurking for about a week and finally feel brave enough to jump in and ask a few questions. I have plenty!
We brought home our chocolate lab Hazel two weeks ago from our local shelter. Her shelter paperwork says she is between 12 - 14 months old. She's been to our vet and been given a clean bill of health. We have fallen completely in love with her already.
Having come from a shelter, we have no idea about her past. She is extremely sweet, hasn't had any accidents in the house, hasn't chewed anything but her new toys, and has been a dream with our four young children. She knows basic commands like sit and come and is very calm in the house -- she is a well mannered girl!
While she seems completely comfortable with our family, she doesn't love it when the door bell rings, which is OFTEN since we live in a busy suburban neighborhood with our kids' friends always coming and going. When there is a knock, she barks loudly and runs to the door. When it's a child or woman, she greets them with tail wagging interest and sniffs. The only visitors that seem to make her nervous are men. She has growled at my father, my father in law, and the father of a neighbor child. She even growled at my husband on the first day or two he came home from work (this seems to have passed though.. and he's a postal carrier.. maybe it was the uniform :suspious. Once a male visitor comes into the house, she will relax after a few minutes. It doesn't seem 'aggressive' to me as much as 'nervous'. Do you think that could be accurate and may pass as she settles in or should we be concerned about this behavior? Is there anything we should be doing to help her relax or correct her when male visitors arrive?
This is really fodder for another post, but for the purpose of additional information, the only other time she seems nervous to me is when we go for walks and we encounter barking dogs (which is just about every third house). She will bark, whine, jump and pull the lead. I have been putting her into a sit (which she will usually stay in despite whining and crying a little) until she relaxes a bit and then we carry on. But as soon as we approach the next house with a barking dog, she is upset again. I would have thought that her stay in the shelter would have desensitized her to barking dogs, but apparently not! I'd really like to enjoy walks with her but I hate that she seems so uncomfortable and nervous in our neighborhood full of dogs (several of which run at us off leash.. GRRR!). I have been trying to help her relax by putting her into a sit and petting and reassuring her which does seem to calm her for the moment. Is this the right thing to be doing?
Sorry.. that really is two questions isn't it. This is our very first dog so we are quite inexperienced. I had a dog as a child, but that was a loooongg time ago. :embarrass:
Welcome to the forum to you and Sweet Hazel! She's a cutie in your signature.
Milly used to be jumpy on walks, it's all unknown and unfamiliar and a bit scary. It could be that Hazel never got walks before she was adopted by you (which I have to say is a fantastic thing you have done!!) The same thing with strange men, she may have had a bad experience prior to living with you that could be causing this reaction... she's not acting on the growling which is a good thing.. to me (this is my opinion only) I would assume she is just a bit uncomfortable when men stop by
Do you have access to an obedience club? There is a chocolate lab at our obedience club that had all the same problems (plus more!!) that Hazel has who's name is Charlie Brown. He's a 3yo rescue so the issues he had been experiencing for a really long time... he was very skittish and nervous around ALL people and every dog when he started obedience, so much so that he couldn't go within arms reach of another dog without growling and bearing teeth. 6 months later you wouldn't know it was the same dog! He initiates play and is happy to greet all strangers.
Socialisation in a controlled environment like an obedience club will be invaluable for you and really assist Hazel with her development into adulthood ... which takes up to 2 - 3 years with a Labrador.
Also, I wouldn't be soothing Hazel on the walks when she acts up around the homes with dogs. I would be ignoring it if at all possible, you don't want a positive reaction from you reinforcing Hazel's behaviours on your walks.
It sounds like Hazel may have missed out on a lot of socialization in her previous living situation. I wouldn't correct her or soothe her when men come to the house or when dogs bark while on walks. What I would do is pair these experiences with something extremely pleasurable for Hazel, such as some really yummy treats or her very favorite toy.
My theory is she's probably being abused by a male in her past. From what you're describing, she's acting the same way as my Aunt's Great Dane when she adopted her.
My Aunt adopted her dog only about 2 weeks before I went to visit her. She was ok around my Aunt & her female friends but was extremely timid around me. Every time I called her or when we came home, she would go into my Aunts room & hide. I tried everything. Feeding her treats as soon as we came home, feeding her at dinner time, EVERYTHING. No matter what I did, I still wasn't able to win that dogs total confidence in the time I was there. The silly thing was, she would walk perfectly around the back yard on a leash with me as if she had been show trained (& I still think she was at some stage) but as soon as I let her off the leash, she would run from me & wouldn't come to me when I called her. I think if I could have had about another 2 weeks with her, I might have won her over but I ran out of time before I had to come home.
Your girl has that same scared look in her eyes as this one. I wish we could know what they're thinking. I would try getting the males in your family to feed & walk her for a while in the hope they can gain her trust.
As for the problem with other dogs, that might have come from the shelter if she had an aggressive dog around her. Without knowing the backgrounds of the dogs we adopt, all we can do is speculate, treat the dog accordingly & hope we can gain their full trust.
Thanks for giving her a good home. Here's a pic of my Aunt's dog for comparison. Very similar eye expression.
I was thinking along the same lines. If you have some male people you know will be coming to the door so you can put a small bag of her kibble outside for them to pick up and bring in with them, then they can reward her for her good behavior -- for instance, as soon as they come in if they know how to command her to "sit" or "down", they could do each of those commands several times, rewarding her with some of her food (from her next meal).It sounds like Hazel may have missed out on a lot of socialization in her previous living situation. I wouldn't correct her or soothe her when men come to the house or when dogs bark while on walks. What I would do is pair these experiences with something extremely pleasurable for Hazel, such as some really yummy treats...
Puff was the runt of her 7 littermates (half their size) and unable to compete for food at the nipple. So the breeders 2 daughters (7 & 11) handfed her. Puff's always been attracted to kids and especially young girls. But she often barks at strange men.
When Puff and I go on our early morning walks in the nature preserve, we frequently passed near a homeless vet (Ron Trussheim) in a sleeping bag. Puff barked and barked at him every time. So I went over and gave Ron a few kibbles to feed Puff and showed him how to give commands she was familiar with. It wasn't long until they became fast friends. Puff is delighted to see him and runs over to give him a quick face lick, then back to me and then over to Ron again.
BTW, obedience classes will be helpful (if you have a good instructor -- but not all are good).
In order to tell the good from the not as good trainers and also to help with training at home, I recommend Jean Donaldson's "Culture Clash", about $12 (new + S&H) from Amazon and far cheaper used.
Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]
Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
One thing that is really important is that YOU not get concerned at all when you have Hazel around things (men, other dogs, etc) that seem to concern her. You must be very confident. You are her leader and she is looking to you for her cues. Often, people start to go down a slippery slope with their dogs because they see a situation that caused a reaction in their dog in the past, so they start to worry about it happening again. The dog may cue off that worry. An obedience club or classes are a great suggestion. I have been taking my dog for 2 years and I have never stopped learning.
<br /><br />Grand River Run Genaration "Miles" CGC RN, RL1, RL2, RA, CW-SR, C-OB1, RL1X, RL3, RE
I agree that she was probably abuse by a man. Have a male friend come over and give them some treats. Have them sit down and tell them to ignore her and not to make direct eye contact. By doing this the man will be telling her that he is no threat to her. Eventually her curious nature will get the better of her and she will have to investigate. When she comes over have the man offer her a small treat and talking to her in soothing tones. At first tell him not to pet her and eventually when he does only on the side of the body and the chest not the head.
Fear of men is so common, even when there has been no abuse, simply because men *tend* to be taller and have deeper voices. Tall or stocky women can evoke the same response. Small children can evoke fear in dogs who have not been around them due to the fact that their eyes are larger in proportion to the rest of their face than in adults and older children, and because of their tendency to freeze and stare, both threatening behaviors in canine communication. My Lucy came from a shelter, and was fearful of parked motorcycles, statues, garbage cans, landscaping boulders, and banners flapping in the wind. I have strong doubts that she was abused by any of those things.
That's not to say that some dogs are not abused by men. Of course it happens, but it's easy to assume abuse when it could simply be a lack of exposure early in the dog's life.
Also, some dogs are simply more sensitive to verbal and visual cues than others, so that a raised voice or a raised hand can cause them to run and hide or bark in fear. These things do not automatically indicate that the dog in question has been yelled at or hit.
Thank you all for your insights! We don't have a lot of random men coming to the door (which is a good thing, I guess) and come to think of it, as a mom at home alone during the day with four little ones.. I don't mind her telling a male stranger at the door that he is on her radar, you know?
That said, we're going to take a beginning obedience class in September. I think it will be helpful to see how she reacts to the other dogs. Also, as several of you mentioned, I need to build *my* confidence as her handler. I'm not afraid when the doorbell rings, but I am nervous about her reaction which she probably reads like a book.
great choice on the obedience class - you'll both gain confidence around other dogs AND it's a great way of bonding with Hazel. Please keep us updated with pictures and stories of young Hazel - she sure is a beauty!Originally Posted by LovnHazel