Last week I went to a follow-up Home Dog Training session in Flowery Branch with a current client and his Italian Greyhound, Princess.  My client rescued Princess about four months ago and was told that she is currently about eighteen months old.  We were working on general obedience and family socialization.  Everything was going great for our first two lessons.  About three weeks ago, my client’s brother, sister-in-law, and three children came down to visit for the summer.  This changed the complete dynamic of a relatively calm home to one of constant action, noise, and general craziness.  My client told me that Princess is now hiding in the corner and nipping anyone that approaches her. 

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common issues with our clients who have adopted rescue dogs.  When this situation of fear and aggression appears, most people do nothing, assuming that it will just pass and everything will be fine soon.  Unfortunately, this lack of action normally aggravates the situation from an easily resolved problem to one that can become dangerous for the dog and the family members.  I applauded my client for quickly pointing the problem out to me and told him that the issues could quickly be corrected.

I asked my client to remember the situation when he first brought Princess home.  She was nervous and very timid about her surroundings.  We worked on passive socialization, focus, and bond building.  He kept the home environment relatively calm and only had his Italian Greyhound in rooms with him and his calm family members.  He let Princess exit her shell and become comfortable with her surroundings and family members.  When friends came over, he and his family members always had Princess in a situation where she kept focus on them and then they would allow her to engage with the friends in a passive and controlled manner.

This activity allowed Princess to understand that she was now in a safe, controlled, and consistent environment.  He and his family members had clearly shown Princess that “they had her back” and that they never put her in a situation of direct confrontation and fear.  They had reestablished her pack and defined her safe territory.

This was all great until Princess’s world was turned upside down wheb the “out-of-town family” arrived.  The consistency of the environment had been shattered.  The excited play of the kids caused some sense of aggression and danger with Princess.  He and his family were more engaged with the brother and less focused on Princess.  Every action that we had established to build Princess’s sense of safety, belonging, and bond had been blown apart.

I told my client that the answer and the actions that must be taken are very similar to the steps we engaged earlier to build her initial feeling of safety.  I suggested the following:

  • Tell the brother and his family to initially disengage in any direct interaction with Princess.
  • Always have Princess with a current family member when she is around the brother’s family.
  • Keep the adrenaline level in the house to a minimum.
  • Have a leash on Princess so that the current family member can direct her back to them if she begins to get a little agitated. This will help re-establish the appropriate point of focus.
  • Allow Princess to approach the brother’s family members on her own terms. Have them toss a few of her favorite treats on the ground near them for her to enjoy.
  • Only allow the brother’s family members to pet Princess if she first asks for it with a nudge of their hand. Never pet her by placing their hand above her head.  They should bring their hand below her head and pat her on her chest.
  • Have his family practice obedience commands such as sit, come, and walk with the brother’s family members present. Slowly switch off so that the brother’s family members are also working with her on the exercises.

My client quickly understood what we were trying to accomplish.  He needed to show Princess that his brother and his family were accepted and safe.  This had to be done slowly where Princess felt safe and he still had the ability to maintain her focus and maintain their bond.  In order to be successful, the process could not be rushed.  With consistency and focus, Princess would naturally come to the conclusion that “the new animals” are just fine.

Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Flowery Branch Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Flowery Branch Georgia.