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Old 01-02-2013, 04:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Fearful Dob, injured, pain, now worse social issues-COMPLICATED!

I'm really looking for help and ideas. My female dob Bonita A2, has always been fearful in character. We've worked a lot on the related issues (barking, stress, anxiety) from when we got her from a responsible breeder at 2 1/2 months. We have two other older dogs and she gets along fine with them. From the beginning we socialized Bonita with walks in town, play with other dogs in a park, always lots of exercise, discipline, and had several disappointing individual trainers from age 8 months, plus socialization and discipline group class when she was 18 months old. Bonita made some progress in outdoor settings, did really well in the discipline class with other dogs (better if there weren't too many dogs), but was always really stressed whenever anyone entered our home.
Then the real problems came. She tore the ACL ligament which required surgery, then two very serious infections, then surgery again. She was confined and isolated from the world for 5 months, in severe pain for much of that time, and after the second surgery, the rehabilitation process began, which we followed religiously including hydro-therapy. The only other dogs or people Bonita saw during this period were at the Vet, and there were many, many visits. Nobody came inside our home during this period in order to avoid undue stress or possible re-injury.
Now it is 5 months after the second surgery. She still limps and obviously has some pain, but has re-built much of the lost muscle, thanks to the hydro-therapy, and the vet says it is important at this stage that she "be a dog', sniff, and have some gentle play with other dogs.
Problems begin with the introduction to other dogs and people, which started two months ago. She's fine if they are 20-25 yards away, although there is some initial barking, but this distance seems to be her warning and we respect that. We keep her on loose leash, walk in a controlled area, and gradually get closer, and this is progressing fairly well. She has growled at a few dogs or people if they get too close too soon, and again we respect that and patiently work on improvement.
We've noticed an increase in the growling and this concerns us. Recently, while at a hydro-therapy session, she growled at the Vet whom she has seen many times. This surprised us. Its possible he approached her too quickly, but he was disappointed as well as we were. We need help in how to manage this.
Last evening we had friends over for brunch and the afternoon. Bonita has met this couple before, they are dog lovers and aware of her issues, but nobody has come inside like this for 7 months. We met outdoors, then came inside. Bonita barked as expected, and actually calmed down in about 15 minutes, and she got treats for good behavior, but she would periodically bark. We kept a distance of say 4 feet and occasionally she would attempt to sniff the couple's hand, but we were unsure of her behavior so tried to maintain the distance. Then while laying down, she started to growl towards them and this I have to say, alarmed us. Maybe she wanted them to go home (so did we by that point) but we really didn't know how to handle it. I know better than to pat or caress her, and the growl wasn't vicious, but we are seeing more of this, and certainly don't want it to escalate. How should we handle this? We know she has pain and discomfort, and probably always will due to the significant arthritis that she has in the knee joint. However, she is a young, super affectionate, loyal doberman, who gets along beautifully with our other dogs, loves us enormously, and the only issues we have are managing her fearfulness, providing situations wherein she can gain confidence in how to behalf, but this new growling has us a bit concerned. I should add that we've been working lately with a trainer and clicker technique, plus she will re-start the group socialization and discipline class in a few weeks. I work with her daily on obedience and she's super.
So, any and all suggestions and comments about how to help Bonita gain confidence in herself and us, deal with her pain which isn't gonna disappear, and growl only in appropriate situations of warning. Not at our friends or strangers!
Didn't mean to go on so long, but it is indeed a complicated situation. Looking for advice and ideas. Many Thanks! And Happy New Year to all!!
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Old 01-02-2013, 06:43 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:54 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Your poor pup So far as the pain, I think you need to be talking to your vet.

Behaviorally, the book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt might be of good help to you, and there might even be Control Unleashed classes in your area. Also, you might consult a Board Certified Veterinary Behavioralist, if there is one in your area, who can help you with both issues at once. At a guess, the pain might be what contributes to the social issue (in addition to the isolation when she had to be kept quiet in recovery), which might be why she even growled at her regular vet.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:57 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you both for your comments. I checked the Veterinary Behavioralist, but no luck in finding someone in France on the list. Bonita is such a dear, and we are trying everything to help her with her issues. Today, we had her outside in a large open park that we frequent, and she had a grand time. We walked a bit on leash for a warm-up, passed a house with a fenced dog some distance away, but she can see the dog, she got excited, but we maintained a loose leash and with the clicker and treats, attempted to diminish the excitement. Then, we went to the open field and played ball with her on a very long leash. I am happy to report that we encountered a calm man with his older dog, both of which we knew before Bonita's injuries. Bonita definitely got excited, and fearful, but in a brief time, she approached the other dog and wanted to play. It was a positive experience! We also saw people from a safe distance, she went on alert, but returned her attention to us...another good thing! We hope to repeat this same good experience daily.
There is a definite difference with people entering our house...any suggestions on how to better manage this? Please, need advice...Thanks
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Old 01-02-2013, 03:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I'm sorry, I totally didn't notice that you were in France

I think work with a clicker, and keeping her under threshold (not out of her mind excited) as you've done is fantastic.

You could teach her a "go to your place" for when people enter the house. If she feels she's guarding the door (perhaps), simply remove that option. Reward her for being in her place and calm when people arrive, and then allow her to come and greet people on her own terms once they've taken off their coats and been seated, that kind of thing.
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Old 01-02-2013, 04:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Given that you're in France, I don't know if you will find a veterinary behaviorist. I second Ginger's recommendation of the book, "Control Unleashed," by Leslie McDevitt. If you are already using clicker methods with your trainer, both of you can read through the book and start using the techniques/games. Another thing you might want to look into is Grisha Stewart's "Behavioral Adjustment Therapy (BAT)." I believe she has a book out on BAT now that you can order.

When it comes to interaction in the home, can you set her up with a safe space that she can retreat to, like a crate or a room, where she will not be disturbed or have to interact if she doesn't want to? Sometimes the best solution is prevention/management.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:34 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Thank you GingerGunlock. I've ordered the book "Control Unleashed". Although I've read a lot of books during Bonita's confinement the past 7 months, I hadn't come across this one. I'm pleased to try anything and everything to help my wonderful dob have a better life. Thanks so much.
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Old 01-03-2013, 11:44 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I've ordered the book that you and Ginger recommended, "Control Unleashed". Next on my list of reading material to order will be the BAT book so suggested.
All three of our dogs have their own individual special place. Now that Bonita can be more in contact with people, we've found that dealing first with her issues when someone arrives at the door is the best solution. The other two dogs are no problem, older, and very social. We've definitely learned that Bonita needs space between herself and people or dogs at first, then she can approach them slowly if she so desires. I think we are going to try having her stay a distance away from the front door, in/on a nice cushion, but so that she can see who is entering the front door. I don't think she will charge up to anyone. We'll try sit/stay, and go from there. We know a person who will help us with this training, ie enter, leave, re-enter and try this out periodically and see how it goes.
Meanwhile, we're getting Bonita out everyday now. I am so happy to report that today she was absolutely fantastic! We encountered some people with dogs that we knew last year before her setbacks, and after the explanation, they worked with us, staying a distance with their dog, then approaching gradually. Bonita acted like a nice inquisitive dog! Curious, on alert, sniffing, caution, but no barking or lunging or growling. We were so thrilled. We are going to take her daily to the same open field, so that she builds confidence in that it is a nice place, and that she can deal gradually with whatever presents itself. Today, she encountered from a distance 6 dogs, and up close 4 and 3 people. We are so over-the-top happy with her progress!!
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:03 PM   #9 (permalink)
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diego_is_his_name_o is just really nicediego_is_his_name_o is just really nicediego_is_his_name_o is just really nicediego_is_his_name_o is just really nicediego_is_his_name_o is just really nice
i also had a doberman named bonita and she was the same exact way. she actually got more social as she got older. good luck w/ her. i know she is beautiful just like ours was
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Old 01-08-2013, 01:29 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Où habitez-vous en France ? Pauvre minette, mais je pense que si elle était sociable avant, il faudra juste de la patience et SURTOUT la confronter à nouveau petit à petit à ce qui l'effraie pour l'instant. Je pense que la douleur, le stress et l'isolement l'ont amenée à se protéger du monde extérieur ( elle se sent faible, instinct de survie ! ). Si elle était sociable avant il n'y a aucune raison que cela ne redevienne pas comme avant Ménagez la bien pour la douleur, mais activez la pour la sociabilisation !

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