My dog is about a year old and is around 40 lbs. She goes to daycare Monday thru Friday and does well there, but sometimes I think she feels the need to defend herself or assert that I’m her owner when I come to pick her up. Other dogs will growl and nip at her and she does it back (sometimes in defense of another dog doing it first, or she does it when other dog gets to close to her face). She’s fine at dog parks and being around dogs when she’s off leash. But when we’re on a walk on a leash and another dog comes and walks next us that’s on a leash, that dog can’t greet her or she will growl and try to bite. I’m assuming she feels the need to defend herself since she’s on a leash and can’t run if she feels uncomfortable. The other dog is usually excited and gets right up to her face and this causes her to react in this negative way. However, it’s getting to the point where I have to shorten the leash, because she will growl if the get a foot or two away. Is there any way I can get her to be friendly to other dogs on a leash or is this just something I have to deal with by never meeting another dog in a leash on walks? ~Abigail
There are many dogs that doesn’t like when others jump around their faces, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you can desensitize your pup to be a little less reactive, but I still recommend you to ask the owner of the other dogs to keep their pup calm, as your dog is a bit sensitive/reactive, and in training.
Let’s start with the leash problem: have a bunch of treats on you while walking on the leash. When you see a dog coming towards you, ask your dog to sit and look at you. Give her a treat, and try to maintain her attention on you with talking nicely and giving her treats. At the same time, ask the owner of the other dog to keep the dog close to them to avoid any incident. If you feel like you can’t keep up your dog’s attention, walk away from the situation. She’ll get better day by day, the other dogs can come closer and closer. When you are confident in yourself and your dog, you can do this without making her sit, and keeping her eyes on you while walking past the other dog. Just never forget the treats… And if you lose your confidence, always walk out of the situation. Every negative experience can throw back the progress.
About the doggy daycare: you said she nips BACK. Why can other dogs nip at her at a doggy daycare? The professionals at the doggy daycare shouldn’t let it happen. When someone comes to pick their dog up, the excitement rises incredibly high, so the environment should be controlled enough to avoid accidents. When your dog greets you, other dogs shouldn’t go near her face. Of course it’s not good that she nips and growls, but you can’t stop it from a minute to another, so there should be someone to control the other dog in this situation, not to go too close to her, while you are training on desensitization.
What you wrote suggests that the cause of this “protecting” behavior is some sort of insecurity. Desensitization can solve a lot, but on the other hand, she has to feel that you are absolutely in control, and able to protect her from anything. I recommend you to get into some dog sport where you have to work together.