New Member, New Puppy, A Few Issues

Posted by dtismv
Feb 22, 2012
Hi Everyone,
I am new to the forum and happy to have found you all! I have adopted Ruby, a 4-5 month old female Manchester Terrier mix from the shelter. She was in the shelter about 6 days after being picked up as a stray, so we really know nothing about her past. I live with my husband and 2 daughters, ages 9 and 7. Ruby has been home about 10 days now. She is affectionate, playful, and sweet with all our family members. However I have been getting concerned about a couple of issues, which I'll mention in order in which they have emerged.
1) leash pulling: on around day 3 or so of coming home she started pulling on the leash on walks, frequently in the direction of the house -- back towards the house when we walk away and towards the house at walk's end as we head home. She's only 16 pounds but STRONG as heck, lol! We're trying to use the technique of stopping and not proceeding when she pulls, and she's catching on and getting a bit better, but she's stubborn, especially when returning home from a walk! That last block on our way home is killer, stopping due to pulling every few steps!
2) Minor thing perhaps but she next began snatching up her training reward treats so enthusiastically that sometimes her little needle sharp puppy teeth scratch or puncture us. She also is a bit mouthy when playing - not nearly as bad as some puppies I've known but it freaks my older daughter out a bit. We're working on discouraging this behavior during play but any thoughts on how to teach her to take her reward treats in a more gentle manner?
3) Since about day 5 or so she's been starting to exhibit some aggression in the form of barking at neighbors and passersby, people and dogs, especially men. It seems to me like a combination of protecting what she has come to see as her territory and family, and fear, as when friendly neighbors approach to make friends she often shakes and urinates. Sadly I think we made matters worse on about day 7 when we walked in to the house without realize our housecleaners were there, and man and a woman. Ruby went nuts barking and semi-lunging. I let her off her lead and encouraged the cleaning man to speak to her in a friendly tone and gave him a treat to give her. She urinated, sniffed at the treat but refused it, all while still barking like crazy -- she was just so wound up at that point.

At any rate I am hoping to nip this behavior in the bud so to speak as we want a nice friendly neighborly dog who will be as sweet to others, especially as sweet with other kids as she is with ours! We began on around day 5 to implement some of the techniques we've read about to teach Ruby she is not the "alpha dog." We started with going through doorways first and eating first, and making her sit and wait before we give her her food. We've done some hand feeding as well. (My older daughter got discouraged with hand feeding though, again because Ruby gobbles so eagerly her teeth completely unintentionally get us sometimes) As her barking at neighbors etc escalated a bit, we started working on this harder and started teaching her her basic commands a bit more formally, mainly "sit" and "come" so far. We've also worked hard at socializing her - taking her out to a lot of different public situations - walking around our block, parks, walking to school in the morning, but trying to make sure she's enough on the sidelines to not feel too threatened and giving her a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement when she is behaving well. We make her sit and try to keep her focus on us when she starts barking at human or doggy passersby and this seems to be starting to help some. She's met two very gentle neighborhood dogs so far with great results. And of course we're house training through all of this as well -- crate training with fairly decent results so far.

So, whew, Day 11 begins, and I'm exhausted! Any advice on any of this whether our approach is on the right track or if you have ANY other suggestions any advice would be most welcome!

Thank you so much,
Posted by KOPCaroline
Feb 23, 2012
Hi DTis,

Congrats on bringing Ruby home! As I'm sure you've figured out, shelter dogs come with a bit of history that we can make no guesses to - so they often have quirks that need sorting out to the best of our ability at home

I'll give you my general advice on the three main problems you outlined and hope it helps at least a little!

1. Leash pulling

Its a really common issue with a lot of dogs, and it really does just come down to patience and perserverance. What you've described with the stopping and waiting is pretty much exactly what I would recommend. So in my opinon you're doing great! I know its frustrating, but if you keep on about it repetitively, you should get results.

You should also try to train Ruby up on "heel" - theres a section for this in the STDT book. Its a great tool to have at your command.

Lastly, you may want to look into a Halti or gentle leader head collar for walks - this lets you control your dog more, and discourages pulling better than a normal lead, but all without hurting the dog or putting any discomfort on her. I've heard people swear by them!

2. Snatching food/treats.

Again, some dogs are just snatchy with food treats. You can try giving some sort of command while hand feeding/giving treats (gentle, easy, etc - pick a word ) and giving the treat very slowly. If she lunges or darts to get it, say "no", back up, and try again. This sort of training can be a bit confusing to some dogs, but you can try it and see if she gets it.

Otherwise, some owners just have to give treats indirectly - you can still be giving it from your hand, but have a treat bowl or some object you can put treats on (or just the floor/ground) instead of actually putting it near Ruby's mouth. This is kind of what you end up having to do with some dogs who are just chronic snappy eaters.

I'm hoping other members have more experience with this and can share their advice for this problem

3. Barking at people/dogs.

Again, what you've described with both socializing Ruby heaps and having her sit when she starts barking is dead on! Great job! Distracting your dog when she gets going at something/someone is key - having her focus on you and ignore whatever she was barking at will help desensitize her to whatever the stimulus was, and in time you should see definite changes. You said she's already showing improvement, so I would keep doing what you're doing

It may be a problem from her history as a stray - perhaps she was physically hurt or yelled at by a man, and this is why she tenses up with men more now? We'll likely never know, but you're doing amazingly with the technique you've already started

I hope you continue to see results and changes - remember you've only had Ruby about 2 weeks, its going to take time to get past all these hurdles! Just try to be patient, and repetitive as much as possible - dogs learn quickly with set routines

Keep us updated please! And good luck!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Feb 23, 2012
Hi dtismv,

Thank you for adopting a dog from shelter. As Caroline said it is true that dogs from shelters can have some unknown history but Ruby's issues seem to be the ones most of puppies have. In fact, Ruby has come out of her shell more quickly than most of shelter dogs that I have fostered so I don't want you and other people treat her as a specially needy pup. No need for pitty on her, please.

Everything is new to her so she needs time to adjust. It usually takes a couple of weeks to see real personality of adopted dogs.

Considering that, I think Ruby is doing great! You are doing awesome too! As Caroline said, what you are doing to correct her behaviors is exactly what I would do too.

1) Pulling - you will just need to be patient. When she pulls say "too fast!" and stop or even turn around and walk back a few steps. She will follow you but she would not pull in that direction. Say "good girl" and turn around and walk to the direction. Repeat this as many times as needed. So, the first few days you will only go a couple of blocks since you are going back and forth.

Since she only pulls to the direction of the house, she might not feel secured to walk away from home and so eager to get back home. If that is the case, make walks short but many times a day, only the same route until she gets more comfortable with the neighborhood.

2) Snatching food/treats - put a treat in a closed fist in front of her and tell her "gentle". If she starts biting, move your hand away. Release the food/treats only when she uses her tongue to open your fist. She will soon learn that the treat won't get released as long as she uses her teeth to open it. Once she learns what "gentle" means, you can bring a treat towards her mouth saying "gentle". Or, try to give treats on your open hand, rather than by fingers.

3) Protective barking - Again, you just need to be patient. When she barks at neighbors, call her name and get her focus at you. When she calms down give her a praise and treat. Ask your neighbors not to approach her, instead let her approach to neighbors, who would offer her a treat. One good manner that you can teach Ruby is to "sit" when meeting a new person. Then, tell her to "go say hi" and let her greet the person. You can practice this with everybody she would meet.

I think nothing is more important than socializing for puppies as young as possible. It will pay off greatly later on. Good luck

Another 2 cents from me. In order to prevent her from getting food or resouce guarding aggression, practice "give and take" with toys or rawhides. Teach her to "Drop it" and take a toy or rawhide away and give it back to her in a few seconds. This way, she will learn to trust you, as well as "good things always come from you". Good luck
Posted by dtismv
Feb 23, 2012
Hi everyone,

My daughter and I happily read your posts: thanks so much for your encouragement and advice! We were having quite a good morning with Ruby yesterday: we had a fairly long walk and did fairly well with human and dog passersby, asking Ruby to move aside and sit and focus on us while people passed, and in one case greeting a new dog, which thankfully went very well.

Unfortunately I think we had a slight setback in the afternoon. When lounging in the sun in our back yard, with no lead, a contractor who works for us let himself in to pick something up and Ruby ran up to him barking before I could catch her, totally out of my control. Luckily he acted pretty calm and unfazed, but when he turned to leave she lunged after him snapping at his heels: not making any contact, but making a big show. I felt so bad - if I'd had her on the lead I could have controlled the situation much better. Ah, well, I know its a process, so we're just trying to keep on doing our best.

Meanwhile, I find it encouraging that Ruby has been great from Day 1 about letting anyone in the family take food, toys, rawhides, etc from her, and was just thinking we should start formally teaching "leave/drop it" as you suggest. She is very very good with my girls thank goodness. She also appears to be super smart and a bit stubborn, so I understand though that we're just going to have to be careful that we all enforce our position above her in the hierarchy

Thanks again for your encouraging words and we'll certainly keep you updated!
Posted by dtismv
Feb 23, 2012
Oh and thanks so much for the point about letting her approach strangers rather than other way around: I hadn't really thought about it, but we have often done it the other way around, so this will be something for us to be more intentional about.
Thank you!!!