Dog behavorists: Advice?

Well, I got this dog from the SPCA. She’s large, sweet shepard/collie mix with a shaggy coat and soulful eyes. I guess she’s gone through some hard times becase we’ve been having adjustment issues. Even though she’s 6, I had to crate train her, which was harrowing but successful (mind you, this is my first dog).

Now that’s she’s calmed down enough to eat, poop, and sleep in a fairly normal fashion, I’m trying to deal with her issues with men. All strange men scare her-- barking, tail between the legs, hiding if possible (somtimes behind me), but submissive if cornered. She won’t eat if anyone else feeds her, and she won’t go over to the food if there’s a strange man in the house, including my housemate. She just doesn’t dig him (barks when he gets home, sometimes at 2am, and every time she sees for the first time in the morning).

Is there any way I can help her become more comfortable with men? I don’t want to push her, but I do want her to get past her abuse and be able to trust somone besides me. Any advice? I’m going away in August and I want to get her used to eat from someone else before then at the very least,


I am not a dog behaviourist by training. I have, however, owned two dogs with this problem.

My experience is that you’ll never get her totally comfortable around men. And you need to consider the possiblity that you may have to put her down at some point, if she’s a danger to men. It doesn’t totally sound like it now, but even a submissive dog will bite when cornered.

First things first, take her to training. A lot of it. If this is your first dog, I’d advise you to plan to spend most of her life in various training. It will (hopefully) be fun, and it will help her with her confidence.

Secondly, be aware that men will probably never be her thing. If you’re straight, have lots of male friends or, as is your current case, have male roomies you may have problems. I don’t know exactly how to solve this. The first dog we had with this issue was a large male Belgian Sheepdog looking pound puppy. He had to be put down due to his problems with men. That was really hard on me, as he was my dog and I was ten. But, in hindsight, it was totally the right move.

The other dog is far more of a success story. The good news? He’s still with my mom and dad at ~14 years old, and they’ve had him for ~10 years. He’s a toy poodle. He’s a love. The bad news? Even after ten years of living with my father, he still won’t come to my dad when dad calls for him unless my mother orders him to. He won’t sit next to my dad, as he will with women. He tends to avoid male visitors.

What we did? Mostly, had males over in a non threatening way. Don’t let your roommate “sneak up” on her (when possible, I know that when he comes home he could be effectively sneaking up on her). Don’t let him tower over her, or really look her in the eye. These are dominance behaviors in the doggie world, and will probably just cause more “scared” behaviours.

There are other people on the boards who will give you much better advice, but a trainer/behaviorist in your area is really the way to go. It’s kind of like a doctor, in that it helps to have some one around who knows what they are doing AND can see the dog and moniter progress.

Good luck! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your baby turns out like our poodle.

We also had a rescue dog afraid of men, Rubystreak, also a Shepherd mix. We didn’t have too many problems, obviously, since we’re lesbians, but it was a little bumpy at first. When we first got her, the only males she could tolerate were my elderly father-in-law and adolescent nephew-in-law, and she did grow to love our wonderful, wonderful vet. Other than those guys – nada. Hated any other male on sight. [Hated kids, too, but that was less of a problem]. The first and most logical thing was to eliminate her contact with men unless it was necessary – we asked any men that would come to the house to simply leave her alone and let her come to them if she was so inclined. It took a long time, but eventually she started approaching my wife’s brothers to be petted, and would go about her business taking no notice of them. IMO, it worked because we didn’t force it on her; and, instead, we let her become accoustomed to them being in her space. Once she realised they weren’t a threat, she warmed up slowly but surely. I think your pooch will settle down as time goes by and she begins to see that your roomie is benign, and more than that, someone to go to for food and treats and such. The methods you’ve been implementing [no shouting, no roughhousing] will go a long way.

However. If times does go on and she still doesn’t warm up to him [and your roomie is a permanent fixture and not someone who will be moving in a few months], you may have to reconsider if she’s the right pet for you. The ASPCA would take her back if you explained the situation, as disappointing as that would be for both you and her.

I second the notion of a behaviorist, and also have her checked out by her vet. A very mild sedative may help her calm down, at least for the short-term.

And remember: bacon can work wonders. :smiley:

Bacon, freeze dried liver, brisket. Really, yummy food is a miracle worker for many dogs.

You’ve already received good advice and might well receive more.
I just wanted to add that I had a mastiff that we got at ten weeks of age, and he had a thing about men. This behavior settled a bit but never completely disappeared, from birth to death at age ten and a half.
This situation was fairly managable. We did two six weeks sessions of obedience. We have lots of friendly male neighbors who helped him learn that guys can be okay. We handled things in a matter-of-fact manner.
He was never aggressive or fearful: he was suspicious and watchful. Obviously he already had guarding instincts, and he just did not trust males, from about age ten and up, that he did not know.
We take a lot of vacations and housesitters always had to come over a couple times before (we usually, but not always, used female sitters.) Getting him to take a walk was sometimes difficult. One thing that helped was that the sitter would borrow a jacket or sweater of mine.

Our new dog Kricket is also from a shelter and very submissive to me (I’m a big guy). She’s just shy of a year old. She is getting much better.

She had a tough first few months we guess.

Anyway, I do try to be pretty ‘matter-o-fact’ around her. I can’t treat her with kid gloves or this is not going to go away. She is getting better, as she learns that I am not going to hit or hurt her. She does treat me like the leader of the pack, which is OK. But, she sometimes still cowers if I direct all my attention to her. It’s hard to explain.

We have the two best dogs in the WORLD and I dare anyone to challenge that!

It’s something isn’t it?

I had a real, real rough day yesterday. Failed a plumbing inspection. It’s a big deal. I nearly started crying. I’m a 44 year old 6’4" 210lb guy. And I guess it just sort of pushed me over the edge.

I’ve got a hell of a weekend ahead of me. But these girls, these dogs, could still make me smile and lift my spirits. :slight_smile:

First, I have establish the fact that there is absolutely no way I’m giving this dog back to the pound. I would feel like I was betraying the trust of a sweet, fragile creature who has allowed me to be her best friend. I love her to pieces and couldn’t give her away. Also, she has never shown the slightest tendency to bite, she loves kids under 10 and any woman, and my cats trust her already. She’s 100% bark, and I think she’s more warning me than she is threatening the man in question. She expects me to protect her, not the other way around, which is hilarious considering her size.

She doesn’t hate my housemate, she just doesn’t trust him. When he comes home, she’s usually on the couch. She’ll bark, but she won’t get off her couch, which is her “safe place,” I guess. She allows him to pet her and exposes her belly to him (she’s very much a submissive type). She won’t eat if she can see him, but paradoxically, she will take treats from him. When she goes to the vet, she doesn’t bark at all and is perfectly fine with the male vet touching her. She’s only barky and expressive at home. It’s a territory thing, maybe? She doesn’t chase my cats in the house, but any animal that comes into the yard, she is off like a shot (comes back if I call her though, every time, and will STAY if I tell her to).

I will have to look into training courses soon. I’m just wondering what I can do in my home to make her like my housemate and allow him to feed and walk her. She already likes my boyfriend and will lay in his lap and eat in front of him. I think that’s only b/c he sleeps in my bed, which is her other “safe place” (she sleeps under it). I don’t know; this dog is a weirdo.

I reposted your OP because I think these things are important.

Could you get a male friend to just sit on the floor for a bit. Stick him right in front of the TV with some dog treats (and a beer or two). A different position. Something new to the dog.

Most dogs I have seen will investigate something new. If your friend can then show the dog that he won’t hurt it, will pet it, it may help.

Dogs are curious.

Your dog has bonded with you. You rescued her. She does not want to give that up.

Problem is, you need to instill her trust in others.

Our Kricket, a Lab Border Collie mix is getting over the problem with me. (I’m a big guy) and I have found, that if I have something in my hands, she is more fearful. She must have been beaten as a puppy. (I have a few words for that asshole, at least).

Have a male friend carry fun stuff for the dog. Toys, treats, whatever. Sadly, a can of pop can look threatening to an abused dog.

She sounds like a good girl, and you gave her a whole new life.

enipla: I’m positive my dog was beaten. She was surrendered to the SPCA by her former owner who got another dog and the new dog was beating up my dog. She had bites all over her body. Her surrender form stated that she lived with 4 men and a child, that she was afraid of men and overly protective of the child. Makes you wonder what life was like in that house, eh? I’ve seen her with children-- she whines until she’s allowed to go to the kid, and then she stands right next to him, pressed up against him. It’s really cute, actually. A toddler once pulled her ear pretty hard and she had no reaction. A true child-loving puppy she is.

When a tall man approaches her, she barks, and then sits down with her front legs apart and bows her head all the way down. I guess it’s a sort of cowering. She looks at the man from the tops of her eyes, tail between her legs. It’s terrible. My boyfriend once kicked a rock near her and she flipped out and ran away from him. Some days I think I should call her former owner and tell him what a monster he is for hurting this sweet, gentle doggie.

That said, I know she can get over it because she mostly accepts my boyfriend now. Maybe it’ll just take time.

Maybe Ellenfair will come in here; I’ve always admired her knowledge about dog training and agreed with her answers.

I’d like to add to the advice you’ve already been given that you might want to consider one-on-one training sessions with a good trainer. I tried both group classes and one-on-one sessions with a previous dog that was fearful of men. It was only after 2 individual lessons that we started to work out the problem. Group obedience classes, when done well, are great for dogs with no big behavioral problems. Your dog does not fall into that category right now. I think you dog’s behavior is pretty common, but it’s also pretty complicated to figure out and “fix.” The fix involves redirecting attention when your dog is excited and using the yummiest treats in the world and a variety of guys distributing them. Again, it sounds simple, but when you actually try to do these things with out a trainer’s guidance, you might find all sorts of other behaviors popping up and all sorts of new questions. In addition to that, individual sessions will provide a better chance that the cues you’re giving your dog that cause problems will be identified.

(Believe me, whether you realize it or not, you’re contributing to this problem. Dogs are amazing at picking up body language. I was contributing to my dog’s problem because I was anticipating that she’d bark and growl at any man she saw. This made me tense up. She paired my body language in those situations with the thought that “this man is a threat and I will defend against him!” After I started working with her and controlling my body language, she stopped seeing all men as threats.)

Also, since you’ve got a collie/shepherd mix you need to keep her physically AND mentally active. She’s likely one smart puppy, so she needs probably a half hour to an hour of exercise or so a day coupled with puzzle toys like kongs. You can freeze yogurt/peanut butter/cheese in kongs and there’s nothing wrong with giving her meals in a kong or busy ball. She needs to be put to work more than most dogs if she’s smart and active.

For some reason, my dog does not like to play. Could be because she’s a bit overweight, but she gets tired out easily and lays down when we play outside. I tried the Kong and she loses interest after about 10 minutes (she hasn’t figured out the bit about biting it). Fetch is not happening, and she won’t touch the meaty bone I got her. The only objects she shows any proprietary interest in are the empty cat food cans. She takes them to her couch and licks them clean. I don’t give them to her-- she goes in the recycling.
Maybe she’s just a lazybutt slacker like me…

She’s probably never learned. Neither had my dog. Sometimes they have to be taught how to play. Just like kids who come from problemmatic environments, dogs that have not been well-socialized as puppies lack certain skills other dogs posses in spades. Playing can be one of those missing skills.

In our case, the trainer worked with us to find a game she was even a little interested in. She was very food motivated, so peanut butter (her fav!!!) in the kong was good; so was tuna. But, because she was very attached to me, most of the games had to be structured like this: she’d do something like chase a tube with food in it when I threw it, she’d bring it back to me, I’d praise her & then I’d open it and give her a piece of food, repeat. Or, I’d take her to an empty tennis court (she was a hound, so it had to be fenced in) and throw pieces of kibble & training treats for her to chase & eat. I’d alternate that with sit, stay, up and down commands, too. It was mind & body workout for her!

It took a LONG time to get her to play, and an even longer time to work through, semi-successfully, her other problems. Her fear of men was pretty much successfully erradicated, as long as I didn’t pass any tension down the lead to her.

Whatever you decide to do, good luck with her. It’s very hard to live with & love an animal that has serious problems, but you two will have a stronger bond after tackling this. It’ll be a lot easier if you get some in-person help, in my opinion, though.

FYI, this is the kind of thing I used to when having her fetch a toy:

You can make a slit in one of the caps so that when you squeeze it, you can get a piece of food out. You’re dog shouldn’t be able to get food out by herself though.

Sears stores used to carry things like this for storing nuts & bolts. I think I’ve seen them in WalMart, too.