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Thread: An Insecure Ridgeback... Help?

  1. #1
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    Default An Insecure Ridgeback... Help?

    Hey forum! I'm new here but certainly looking forward to getting involved. Firstly, I need your help!

    Stats
    Dog’s name: Jeanie
    Born: January 2009
    Breed: Rhodesian Ridgeback (Father 100% pure. Mother 75%).

    About Jeanie:
    • Extremely affectionate and sweet natured dog to family and friends.
    • Can generally be trusted off lead. Comes when called, unless there is something too enticing (i.e. rabbit etc).
    • Not easily bribed with food.
    • Most favourite activity is to retrieve a football when kicked/thrown.
    • Knows how to sit, drop and shake. Also waits for the command: “Chow” before eating.
    • She sleeps inside the living room at night. She is toilet trained.
    • Generally interacts with other dogs well... Mainly dogs she has become accustomed too.

    The “but’s”
    She is nervous/timid dog, at times - neurotic. Something that I thought would get better with age is actually getting worse. As she is now a 30kg+ muscular dog I need to be able to trust her when I’m not around. There are some behavioural problems that need to be addressed.

    I took her to a dog training school for one class and the operator of the class diagnosed her behaviour as coming from being insecure. He quickly introduced himself to her and she was fine with him.

    It’s not “dog” people I’m concerned about; it’s the non-dog people that do not know how to treat dogs. I need to be able to trust her with people that want nothing to do with her, and for her to be okay with that and leave them alone. I’ll list some of the behavioural problems I’d like to address:

    • She is terrified of the vacuum cleaner, the BBQ cover, the air-conditioning vent and even the dark! I could list many more. She hates being alone too (I think that’s called separation anxiety?).
    • She can “herd” guests. Nip/snap at their ankles (without making contact). It’s rude and frightens guests. This she has done around me, and I’ve quickly disciplined her. It happens less now.
    • She barked constantly at one of my brothers’ friends whenever he would come over during Christmas (when being house-sat at my parents).
    • The main issue was when my parents were minding her over Christmas 2010-2011 whilst I was in Perth. When everyone was over for Christmas lunch, my Uncle “play-fought” with my brother very suddenly. Jeanie (having a great affection for my brother) jumped to his defence and bit my uncle on the leg. She didn’t draw blood, but did leave tooth marks. Following this incident, she immediately knew she did wrong and went into a submissive posture. My brother gave her a big whack and put her out the back immediately. However, Jeanie never stopped acting funny with my uncle following that. She would growl and bark whenever she would see him.

    I've always avoided "play-fighting" with friends around her because she does want to protect me...

    The hardest thing for me, as the owner, is that I wasn’t there for the above incidents. Was she out-of-sorts being at an unfamiliar place for too long without me? I don’t know. I need to be able to leave her at my parent’s house at times. That was part of my decision making when deciding to get her.

    I give Jeanie a lot of my time. I take her on long walks/runs almost daily. We go to the beach at times, and also to dog parks. That’s the other thing, her insecurities really come out when she is around unfamiliar dogs.

    What do I do? My sister recommended anxiety pills for her? Do I find a dog psychologist?
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  2. #2
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    BigCraz; Whilst not a dog behaviourist (yet!!), it sounds significantly to me like anxiety/ fear issues and it is extremely hard to diagnose despite all the fabulous information you have provided. I doubt very much that this is something caused by your lifestyle with her, it is likely to be genetic, then there will be lifestyle factors which impact. I hope that makes sense.
    In Australia there are a few breeds (my Dobes being one, Ridgies being another) which are being plagued by nervous, almost neurotic temperaments. I'm not saying she's badly bred, just that nervous Ridgies (and others) are becomming somehting I see more and more.... it is genetic somehow.
    But that does not mean all is lost! I would absolutely recommend getting in touch with a dog behaviourist (I can help with that if you're in Vic) and getting some advice/ strategies to help Jeanie.

    She's a lovely looking dog... I'm a bit partial to Ridgies :-)

  3. #3

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    Great advise & just remember what ever you need to do to fix it will take alot of time & comitment. A good behavouist I beleive is the only real choose you have but I have seen some great results with simalar dogs but it did not happen overnight.
    Good luck, lovely dog by the way.
    Dogs make everyday life enjoyable...........

  4. #4
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    bigcraz

    Your ridgeback is still very young.

    All training needs to be generalised ie done in as many different places as possible. If you want to leave your dog with other people, you need to practice that in advance. And make sure the other people know how to manage your dog, and your dog will respond when they give her commands, ie generalise her training with the people you want her to listen too as well.

    I could not leave my dog with my mother or my brother - because she ignores both of them. My brother has some training methods I think would be very bad for my dog too. I would rather board my dog than leave her with people that I haven't had enough opportunity to practice dog training with.

    One dog class is not enough. I go every week, twice a week and I practice with my dog, every day...

    If you know she herds guests - you need to keep her on lead when guests are around so she cannot "rehearse" bad behaviour. You need to train the behaviour you do want when she's around guests eg - sitting quietly on her mat in the corner. If she can't do this, or you can't train it, consider crate training her - and keeping her in a crate when you have guests.

    Following this incident, she immediately knew she did wrong and went into a submissive posture. My brother gave her a big whack and put her out the back immediately.
    The submissive posture is not a sign the dog "knows they did wrong". It's more likely a sign the dog knows someone is angry with her, it's a "please don't hurt me" gesture, and your brother broke doggy law by giving her a whack anyway. She will not connect the whack with punishment for the bite. She clearly connects it with the uncle eg he's around, I get hurt. This is called "fall out" from using physical punishment. And if she was traumatised by it, she will remember she doesn't like uncle for a very very long time.

    If you need to leave her at your parent's place - you need to practice that, go stay there with your dog, and train your parents how to manage her, and make sure she listens to your parents, and definitely crate train her (google crate training - it's not as simple as shoving the dog in a cage and leaving her there). Get your parents to do all the things that need doing with your dog, while you supervise but you don't do it for them. If you need to do stuff for them, then they can't look after your dog safely.

    A doggy valium may help but not without training your parents and your brother first.

  5. #5
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    What do I do? My sister recommended anxiety pills for her? Do I find a dog psychologist?
    I wouldn't give her pills unless she is assessed by veterinarian behaviourist. Giving pills is the easiest thing to do. I would recommend finding a good therapist who will work with you and your family step by step. It is a lengthy an expensive process, however. You need to practise and be patient and above all, you (or whoever) need to stop punishing (smacking).

    I took her to a dog training school for one class and the operator of the class diagnosed her behaviour as coming from being insecure. He quickly introduced himself to her and she was fine with him.
    While training is advisable, obedience is NOT the same as therapy and desensitation.

    • She is terrified of the vacuum cleaner, the BBQ cover, the air-conditioning vent and even the dark! I could list many more. She hates being alone too (I think that’s called separation anxiety?).
    Exactly what I'm talking about - she needs to be SLOWLY desensitised and re-introduced to objects/things that cause her fear/reactions. I believe there are foods that no dog can't resist, maybe for a start practice at meal time when she's hungry. Instead of dog cookie, give her real meat, chese or something yummy. It's NOT about bribing, it's about reinforceing desired behavior. You can practice desensitation to sounds (of vacuum cleaner) by playing a recorded CD, first very quietly, then louder and louder and award her calm behavior. No point for explaining here and writing, your therapist will slowly guide you through as it is more complicated than it seems when you read something. An experienced therapist will see and acknowledge her signs and body language and act acordingly. They will also have to point certain things to you regarding this and teach you further.

    • She can “herd” guests. Nip/snap at their ankles (without making contact). It’s rude and frightens guests. This she has done around me, and I’ve quickly disciplined her. It happens less now.
    Disciplining will not build her confidence. My dog used to do it. I tougth her to go to her mat and stay, and I also taugth her Yes and No cues. She's not doing it any longer. I also asked guests to slowly introduce themselves to her when they arrive.

    My brother gave her a big whack and put her out the back immediately.
    Again, big NO-NO. As much as she can connect a smack with her biting, she can connect smack with a person and start behaving worse. As she obviously did.

    However, Jeanie never stopped acting funny with my uncle following that. She would growl and bark whenever she would see him.
    Respect and you shall be respected. Animal is always right.

  6. #6
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    As the owner of an incredibly difficult (fear aggressive) and insecure/timid dog, I feel for you. It is frustrating to not be able to share every aspect of your life with the dog if you are constantly worrying about her being nervy/running away/biting someone/fighting with another dog. Luckily my dog is 100% great with other dogs, but people are another story.

    With her nervousness, I can only recommend you get a behaviourist now. She is a large breed and still very much in her puppyhood so the learning phase is not yet over. If left any longer, it will get worse over time so it is better to act now. Seek out someone who is experienced with timid and fearful dogs, and MAKE SURE they have references or testimonials!

    A huge part of Carl's rehabilitation since his abuse has been slow and gradual desensitization. I expose him to new situations a lot (and he does take up most of my time/social life, but I knew what I was getting myself into) and repitition is key with dogs like this. If she doesn't respond very well to food, try motivating her with the football. By now she will associate it with fun and positivity.

    Also, some dogs just don't take well to certain people. For me, if Carl reacts badly to someone even after a long introduction process (usually takes 10-15 meetings before he will allow someone to touch him), I generally know they aren't such a 'good' person. I always trust his instincts. It's interesting, some of my friends he doesn't like at all are the ones who are vapid or backstabbing, and I know to limit how much time I spend with them. Who says dogs aren't useful?


    like a rolling thunder chasing the wind...

  7. #7
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    I am shocked by the amount of quality advice the post has received. I didn't expect it. Thank you all!!!

    In reference to "disciplining", I don't smack. I'm say "No" firmly and put her somewhere (i.e. outside) and ignore her for a while. I do come from a dog-friendly family, so my parents and siblings are quite familiar with dogs (specifically ridgies). I also understand my brother smacking her, seeing as she bit/attacked my uncle. I know he was doing what he thought best, given the severity of the incident. In hindsight I understand now why she can't tolerate my uncle anymore. The poor thing must be so confused! Everyone that saw it said it was like she was protecting my brother.

    Villain & Flirtt - I found what you had to say about this sort of behaviour increasing due to genetics to be very interesting, thanks :-) I'm on the Gold Coast, so if you know of any good behavioural people up here, I'm all ears!

    Also, thanks to Hyacinth & Fedra for such detailed and insightful advice! I really really appreciate it. It's obvious you guys have a fair bit of knowledge and experience. I understand a behaviourist may be expensive, but if it gets results I don't mind investing in a better future for both myself and my pet :-)

    And Sierra, I couldn't agree with you more RE dogs picking up on things which we don't. It's amazing! I've recently read that dogs can now detect some cancers in patients...

  8. #8
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    bigcraz

    You might want to get your uncle around to feed Jeanie loads of treats. Eg roast chicken chopped into little pieces. Depending how Jeanie reacts to him being around, if she will take roast chicken (or other yummy treat - my dog goes nuts for promite on toast), when uncle is around. If she won't take treats when he is in the same room, start with giving her treats in the next room - or at a distance where she will accept them and then gradually work closer. Have him throw some treats for her, and build up to hand feeding her. Have your brother "feed" your uncle in front of Jeanie or maybe the other way about ie feed Jeanie in front of your uncle. This might take more than one session.

    If you want to get a behaviourist in - to teach you how to manage the anxiety and how to train your family same, I recommend sending an email to Steve Courtney of K9 Pro and ask him to recommend someone in your area. I also think he's coming up to Brisbane soon and his 1 day seminar is excellent.

    K9 Pro Upcoming Dog Training Workshops and seminars
    Contact Details K9 Pro, The K9 Professionals
    Last edited by Hyacinth; 01-29-2011 at 02:04 PM. Reason: Sometimes what I write and what I mean - are not the same. Edit for clarity.

  9. #9
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    Apologies for tardy response... I've been wracking my brain for days because I think I should know a behaviorist in the Gold Coast area..... But my brain won't cooperate! That said, I, too, highly recommend Steve Courtney at K9Pro. You can leave him a message here in his subforum, or check his website, K9 Pro The K9 Professionals; Dog Training and Behaviour Site He is taking a family holiday this week, I think, but back the following one....

    On the genetic issue; I am not familiar enough with Ridgie lines in Aus, but I'll give you a Dobe example if what I mean. Here in Aus, particularly in the show lines, the vast majority of Dobes are now prone to being a bit nervous, anxious and all too often, a bit skittish. The working lines are not perfect, but better in general. Anyways, this temperament 'problem', if you like, can fairly straightforwardly be traced back to one dog (yup, 1!!!) who seems to crop up 99% of the time in all the show pedigrees. In his day, this dog was a big conformation winner, thus bred from heavily and it would seem his dominant genes are holding true in generation after generation. Unreal! I'm not warning people off Dobes (or Ridgies
    btw).... The Dobe fraternity are importing to try to dilute the genes, but it'll take a while. Even my Villain has this dog in his pedigree, and while he is of the kind of temperament I could comfortably recommend to most people, I can still see anxieties here and there.... So I've adapted and focussed my training with that in mind.

    Most of the Ridgies I come in contact with either at obedience, behavior consults, kennels, or occasionally at shows and obedience trials seem also to be a little on the nervy side, and, though not having asked directly, I am thinking it is probably an underlying genetic influence, too.

    But like I said, you take the dog you have, you get to know his/her strengths or weaknesses and you adjust training and daily life in accordance.

    Do let us know how you get on!!
    Last edited by Villain & Flirtt; 01-29-2011 at 07:01 AM. Reason: Typos (as usual) :-(

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