Mini American Eskimo with fear aggression

Posted by minieskie
Jan 4, 2011
I have a 10 month old Mini American Eskimo named Vinnie. Vinnie is a high spirited, loveable companion that is extremely fearful of people outside my immediate family.

Vinnie was neutered at 6 months, attends doggie daycare 3 days a week, and has been to several obiedence classes (he was the only dog), which didn't concern me because he attends daycare and does very well.

Vinnie's main problem is human interaction. He barks excessively and sometimes growls (mostly at men) at those entering my house, on a walk, and even those he can see blocks away. When guests enter the house, his tail and head both go down although he is still wagging his tail.

When guests try to approach him, I tell them not to and to let him approach them. In 5-10 minutes he usually calms down and is dropping a ball for someone to throw for him.

I believe he is more fearful than aggressive. I just want some tips/exercises on what I can do to help calm him down so having company over to our houseand going for a walk are enjoyable for us both.


Posted by KOPCaroline
Jan 4, 2011
Hey Amy,

Fear response to people can be very trying, but with persistance it can be overcome too!

Good job on telling your visitors to let Vinnie approach them, not the other way around. You never want him to feel cornered, this will only lead to a more aggressive response of his anxiety. Also great moves on puppy class/daycare! You are definitely helping him out with socialization as a pup!

His fear could be the consequence of a bad interaction with a person (maybe a man, if that is who he seems most fearful of) when he was still with his mom or very young. Desensitizing Vinnie and counter-conditioning him to new people might be a drawn out process, but since hes still young, I'd tend to think you'll see progress pretty quickly.

When you take him on walks and he notices someone in the distance and starts to show fearful behaviour, try giving him a command or making a loud noise to distract him and have him focus on you. Give him a treat if he responds to the command first off; if you have to startle him with a loud noise to get his attention, follow it with a command and then give him a treat. Praise him as long as his attention is on you, not the person in the distance. Once the person is gone, start walking again and let Vinnie pay attention to the fun world around him

When people are close by on your walks, treat them like you do guests at your home. If they approach Vinnie, ask them to wait until he calms down. Most other people understand dogs have behaviours that need sorting out in public, my own dog used to be too excited by people approaching, so I asked them to wait for him to calm down before petting him, saying we were working on his public etiquette. If you explain Vinnie's situation, in that he needs to get used to them being there for a few minutes, most people will respond well.

You can help expidite the situation: when someone approaches, say hello to them, or greet them in a calm, happy tone of voice. Try not to babytalk Vinnie if he is reacting in a fearful manner, babytalk only establishes unwanted behaviour to dogs as an ok response. Instead, sternly say "enough", then ignore him. If he reacts calmly, praise him heaps, saying what a good boy he is. ALWAYS reward his calm behaviour, you want to reinforce this!

See if your friends can schedule to intersect your walks, so that you can get happy dialogue going from a distance, and so they know how to act with Vinnie, it could help him get used to the situation. You need to keep exposing him to other people, so dont hesitate to take him on walks. Remember to keep your own attitude calm, if you get anxious, Vinnie will feed off it.

Other members who have had anxious dogs might have some specific tricks/hints that helped them, I hope Vinnie learns to see people as a fun time, and I"m sure with time he will!