Nervous dog likes to terrorize other, more nervous dogs. Advice?
July 24, 2013 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My dog is generally nervous and submissive (and usually a delight). But sometimes she'll pick up on the fact that another dog is even more nervous and submissive than she is, and she'll basically bully it. I definitely try to cut off such behavior whenever it starts, but is there anything I can do to, basically, chill her out?
posted by malhouse to Pets & Animals (5 answers total)
That's dog stuff, it's natural and instinctive. Just assume that you're the pack leader over all and tell her knock it off.

Give her an instruction, like 'lay down' or 'sit' or 'drop it'. If you let her know that YOU'RE the boss, she won't feel the need to rush into a supervisory vacuum.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Has she been to a trainer or training classes? My little rescue was so much more confident after we went to training (just 6 weeks at a big box pet store, $100 total). They can also teach you commands for leaving another dog alone, etc.
posted by radioamy at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2013

Best answer: You might find a thunder shirt helpful - it's a compression vest for anxious pets - chills em right out.
posted by stenseng at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Train her when she's not all OMG MUST DOMINATE OTHER DOG so she hears you knows what you want from her when you calmly say "enough." Consistency is everything. Begin in a less charged environment - she's doing the feed-me dance, say "enough" until she chills and then reward her for it. She's all up in your grill when you're on metafilter, say "enough" until she chills and then reward her for it. Same thing, same tone, same reward, day in & day out.

Also other stuff a trainer will teach you but this approach is working with my yappy chihuahua puppy.
posted by headnsouth at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Good for you - definitely cut off her behavior, as typically these reactions become more frequent. Besides which, most dogs don't care to meet other strange dogs ... just like humans don't want to meet everyone on the street. Assume she doesn't want to meet another dog until you know she does.

There are two things we were taught to do with our reactive dog that have done wonders: (a) focus on achieving a more confidence, more calm dog all the time, so she doesn't feel the need to be reactive, and (b) train her to not react to *any* dogs.

There is a great way to train your do to just "chill" in any situation by following Dr. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. It seems weird -- but it totally works!! In addition, I recommend you take your dog to nosework training -- it is also very easy to incorporate into your daily household routine. For nervous dogs, the nosework is extremely relaxing and helps build self-confidence. Dogs find being asked to use their noses (their finest skill) a real reward ... and they appreciate humans asking they to do this.

For training her to be non-reactive towards any dog, Patricia McConnell's blog summarizes this training, and Grisha Stewart's BAT is a great method to follow that builds on standard operant conditioning with "functional rewards."
posted by apennington at 11:41 AM on July 25, 2013

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