Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A New Observation.

Marge is, what I call, "door reactive."  If the doorbell rings, she goes into ready-mode and may or may not bark/growl.  When the door actually opens and she sees that it is someone she doesn't know (or is still fearful of, such as my father), the growling almost always begins.

Tonight, while I was out with a friend, I was informed that a neighbor stopped in - a neighbor Marge knows and is fond of.  While she didn't bark or growl, from what I heard, she did exhibit some blatant signs of fear and would not even go over to sniff.

At the same time, whenever I'm home seems to be the times that Marge is most likely to growl at my father, which has led to me scrambling to jackpot her as soon as she hears the door, before she enters that state of no return.  It works when she knows it's my dad, but I'm not sure how she'd react if she saw it was a total stranger standing in the doorway.

Any of these problems correct themselves when Marge meets the person OUTSIDE the door and proceeds to watch them go in. But that is something I've known for a long time, and have used it to me advantage.  Not too long ago I had a few people over who Marge warmed up to very quickly.  If she would have met them inside the house, maybe it wouldn't have been so quick.

What I'm realizing now is that my presence (or lack of presence) does change Marge's behavior.  I instill confidence in her in certain situations, but it seems she is also more reactive when I'm around at the same time.  (I use "reactive" in the most watered down meaning of the word, as a low fear growl is nothing in comparison to other dogs.)  I've toyed with the idea that this may be a guarding behavior, but I'm not sure.. I'm thinking it may be something I, specifically, am doing (or have done in the past so as to condition these types of behaviors unconsciously).

I do think that she'd probably initially growl at a brand new person regardless of if I was there or not, but either way, there is a definite difference in her level of "reactivity" and her level of "fear" when I am there.  Usually, when I'm around, it's a double edged sword - she WILL growl, her hackles MIGHT go up.. but after the affirms that the person is not a threat, she's usually almost perfect around them.

I'm trying to think of ways to combat this.  Marge does not suffer from separation anxiety, but she is considerably happier when I am around as opposed to some other people.

If only people knew what goes into rehabbing behavioral issues.  People think dog ownership is much more simplistic than it is.


Susan Cava Ruimy April 9, 2009 at 10:11 AM  

If only people knew is right! But I know one "person" who does - Marge. Keep up the good work, if it were easy the reward wouldn't taste so sweet! Hugs from NYC!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart April 9, 2009 at 3:17 PM  

It doesn't sound like a resource guarding thing to me, but you'd know better. With Lilly, it's very obvious if it's a fear reaction or a resource related one.

Keep plugging away at classical work around the door. We've also had some luck with teaching a default behavior, like moving away into another room, rather than having to face the person.

I think Patricia McConnell talks about the go to place method of strangers at the door in one of her books.

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