How to calm dog with new partner?
July 24, 2013 6:57 PM   Subscribe

I recently started dating someone who has a 4-year old dog (a female terrier mix.) Every time we make out, the dog growls. She's started jumping up on me too. We're not sure how to fix this. The dog has taken obedience classes and seems a bit anxious but otherwise well-behaved. But she's been interrupting activities and freaking out when we hug and/or kiss. Help!
posted by melodykramer to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the dog seem jealous and trying to butt in, because Beloved Owner is patting someone else? Or is she maybe defensive/agitated because she thinks maybe you're doing something terrible to Beloved Owner? (Those are the two motivations I've seen for dogs getting all uptight when humans are doing Special Human Things.)

My guesses would be to make sure the dog feels comfortable with you both, and that she understands that you're 1. part of the pack and 2. ranked above her. So both give her attention together in a nice grounding way with pats and scritches, and also you take her out for walks and do some basic obedience training with her when you do. (Sit, stay, heel - just basic stuff so that she gets used to the idea that you give her commands.)
posted by rmd1023 at 7:24 PM on July 24, 2013

My dachshund does the same thing. Does the dog have any bones etc that will keep it occupied for a few hours? My dog tries to go Protector on me if I'm making out with someone... unless she has a bone. Then I may as well be getting murdered for all she cares. :)
posted by Autumn at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2013

Have you thought about shutting the door, with her on the other side of it?
posted by Houstonian at 7:53 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

What does the dog's owner have to say about this?

I think it's their responsibility to take the lead on this issue and help both you and their dog through this.

I find it hard to believe this is the first time this is coming up in 4 years. How has the owner dealt with this in the past?
posted by jbenben at 8:27 PM on July 24, 2013

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: it's an animal. It's not a child. If it refuses to behave itself and is bothering you, ask its owner to throw it the hell out of the room and shut the door. Perhaps phrased more politely than I did, with the suggestion that group walkies may be in its near future once huggy time is over.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:12 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

The problem is not the dog, it’s the way humans are interacting with the dog. Check out Cesar Millan’s website for some good tips.

The thing is, there are no equals in the dog world. Every other dog (and person) is either higher ranking than you or lower. The dog is trying to show you her dominance. You have to establish that you are higher ranking than she is.

One trick: Alpha dog eats first. You and your partner should eat something in front of the dog before feeding her. This shows the dog that you are on a higher level than she is.

Cesar Millan will have more tips.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 11:08 PM on July 24, 2013

It's up to your sweetie, at least at the start, at least until the pooch accepts your authority, which it will, if and when your sweetie dictates that. Oh, except for the jumping up part -- that part is up to you. A stiff knee, sharp and immediate, any time any dog wants to play that game; they don't like it, they know the game is up, they'll learn fast.

Gawd. I sortof/kindof/somewhat played kissy-face grabby-butt with the woman who gave me Rusty, The Wonder Dog. And when we did our kissy-face grabby-butt and rolled around the bed and stuff, ol' Rusty went nutty -- here's *both* of her people not paying her any mind at all, and paying each other just all kinds of mind. We both told her to buzz off "Buzz off! Rusty! Clam up! Hey! SHUT! UP!" and she sortof did, though with tons of anxiety still. And she chewed through the telephone lines when we spoke on the phone even -- Rusty was one sharp pooch.

And Rusty would always sit on the passenger side of the pickup, but when I'd have a gal in the truck she'd get displaced -- it was clear that she was displaced because I told her to buzz off -- and while it was perfectly clear that she was getting demoted she wasn't very happy about it, and would passive-aggressively try to push the gal around by leaning all into her; while pretending to just be leaning she was pushing. But every woman who was around for a while, esp if it she a dog person, Rusty accepted no problem after an initial "Hey get outta my life" phase.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:45 PM on July 24, 2013

Why not just crate the dog when it does this or put it outside or in another room?
posted by empath at 12:05 AM on July 25, 2013

Best answer: TV dog trainer Victoria Stilwell answered a similar question this way:
"Get the dogs out of the room! When people are being intimate, there are odd sounds and movements that might freak the dog out. Dogs aren't sure what's going on and if the dog is protective to one person over the other, then it can give the dog a lot of stress. Put the dogs out of the room and close the door. You can allow the dogs back in later. Keeping the dogs away is the only solution.

Some dogs may also get very jealous even when a couple is just hugging or holding hands. If the dog is trying to jump up on you when you are holding hands, hugging, etc -- ignore the jumping/attention-seeking behavior, wait for three seconds of calm behavior and then reward the calm behavior with attention so the dog is getting rewarded for being calm around you when you are hugging, holding hands, etc."
(Brief video illustrating the ignore/reward solution.)
posted by taz at 12:51 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Victoria Stilwell's got the right tack with this. You really should use positive reinforcement.

Dominance theory and Caesar Milan have been pretty thoroughly disproven in human-adpated canis familiaris at this point. Those theories and training methods were based on a bunch of studies done on wolves in the 60s and 70s. Since then, work has shown that dogs and wolves do not have the same mental makeup and that treating dogs like they are wolves and have a distinct pack hierarchy and roles that do not change can be actively harmful to the dog's mental state and resulting behaviour. I mean, just imagine if aliens showed up and expected humans to act exactly like bonobos or chimpanzees. (And when we did start behaving like bonobos or chimpanzees -- because that's how we were treated -- we'd get branded as primitive and vicious.)
posted by SpecialK at 7:34 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have one dog that hates when we kiss as he thinks basically all kisses are for him, well that and he's super possessive of my husband. We distract them with treat filled kongs, and suddenly "Mummy & Daddy time" is something the dog looks forward too. If things get more serious then the door gets shut, with treats etc for the dogs. Making it a positive experience for the dog is easier than trying to boss it around as that will only make it think that something bad is going on. Heck using the positive reinforcement now a days once our clothes start coming off now a days the dogs run and sit by the door waiting to get treats.
posted by wwax at 10:40 AM on July 25, 2013

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