Dog suddenly hates dog walker
April 12, 2016 12:29 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I have had Sally, a 7 year-old rescue for about two months now (Requisite picture). About a month ago we wanted her to be able to get a little more activity, so we hired a dog walker. He's been great - he clearly loves her, and she seemed to like him as well. There were no problems at all until last Thursday, when she suddenly wouldn't go outside with him anymore, and snapped at him when he tried to leash her up.

Since then, she hasn't let him walk her Monday or today. She doesn't act like this with us at all - isn't always super excited about going inside, especially in the rain, but never snaps or acts aggressive at all. She's generally very sweet, but also pretty anxious - barks at noises in the hallway, occasionally barks at people in the apartment building; we're working with a trainer on all of these things.

Obviously, a visit to the vet is in order, but what the hell could be happening here? We're all at a loss as to what could suddenly bring this behavior on.
posted by Ragged Richard to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It may not be the dog walker that she's objecting to. The longer she lives with you, the more attached she becomes. Anxious dogs are often prone to separation anxiety and she may be responding to being separated from what she now understands is her "pack." Can you take her out yourself and meet the dog walker at a specified place, then continue the walk together. Do this a couple times. Hopefully these "pack walks" will let her know that the dog walker is part of the pack and she need not consider walk time a threat to her new stability.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:39 PM on April 12, 2016 [21 favorites]

Yes, my understanding from involvement with rescues is that separation anxiety often surfaces a few weeks to a few months in, as the dog starts to feel genuinely settled and attached to his/her new home and peoples.

(What a cutie!)
posted by praemunire at 12:41 PM on April 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

What a doll. But she's acting like a dog that had a very unpleasant experience with your walker, not just one who is feeling separation anxiety. Personally I'd change dog walkers. I'd also double check with the next one on their approach to dog discipline. Make sure it is positive reinforcement and nothing but. That will work wonders with any dog -- and I speak from experience as a person whose inner heart is owned by our rescue Aussie (see my profile photo), who was badly abused before we got him.
posted by bearwife at 12:51 PM on April 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

What WalkerWestridge and paremunire say are very true and not uncommon. To see if she has a general aversion now to leaving the house with other people, or just your dog walker, you could test it by having some other new faces come over and try to take her out. If it is only the dog walker that she has a problem with, then that will be become apparent.
posted by incolorinred at 1:03 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

What a doll. But she's acting like a dog that had a very unpleasant experience with your walker, not just one who is feeling separation anxiety.

I agree, but just wanted to point out that it may not be due to anything that the dog walker did. She may have been frightened by something that happened on their last “good” walk, anything from a loud noise to a plastic bag blowing down the street, and might now associate that with the dog walker. If you like the guy and don’t think her aversion is his fault, maybe ask him to spend the time indoors playing with her and giving her treats for a few days. It won’t be as much exercise as a walk, but maybe he can work back up to the leash.
posted by Kriesa at 1:04 PM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

Does this happen only when the dog walker gets close to the dog? Any chance he has a new cologne/etc. or has been walking a new dog before yours, and your dog is reacting to a smell?
posted by cogitron at 1:05 PM on April 12, 2016

Came to make the "pack walks" suggestion. We've gone through this process and it worked pretty well. On the first "pack walk," the walker suggested that we invite (pay for) a trainer they work with to come along, too. We thought that was an odd suggestion, but it was great--the trainer had a kind of rapport with troubled dogs that we all envied, and our dog very quickly showed the trainer a great deal of respect. Trainer didn't use any negative reinforcement at all--we wouldn't have allowed it, but she insisted that wasn't her training style. We got the impression that the group atmosphere put our pup at ease with everyone involved, and then she could associate the walker with nice trainer and nice parents and that was that.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:07 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Full disclosure: I'm a dog walker who works with "difficult cases".
This sounds a lot like guarding behaviour, with a side of anxiety.
You won't necessarily see it yourself, because it's your home.
It's primarily directed at outsiders.
The triggers can be external ( a family loss,a heated argument, a recent dinner party with lots of guests..), or internal ( low-level pain from an infection, recovering from an injury, extra energy..).
It's almost never the dog-walker doing something to the dog. It can however, be an issue with one of the owners not being comfortable with the personality of the walker.
By all means switch walkers if you suspect something, but I think your first impulse of "to the vet" will be more forthcoming with info.
Good luck, and a definite sweetie!!
posted by whowearsthepants at 1:11 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree, but just wanted to point out that it may not be due to anything that the dog walker did

Very true. The reason I'd shift dog walkers isn't that I think your walker is a brute, but because it's important your walker is tuned in enough to your dog to see that an experience scared her. By contrast, our walker, who is my friend and a paragon among people, is so simpatico with our dog that she has been a major force in making him less dog aggressive -- she sees what will make him tense even before he does, and is right there giving him the best possible experience (tiny bits of mozzarella cheese from a cheese stick) before it appears.

I think you need to really treat your choice of walker the way you'd treat your choice of babysitter, in short. You need someone who truly gets your dog.
posted by bearwife at 1:28 PM on April 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hey, I'm a dog walker in Queens, which I mention only because your profile indicates you're in Brooklyn. My (possibly incorrect) recollection is that it was raining in NYC Friday, Monday and earlier today. If this was the first time your pup saw your walker in rain gear, that might have something to do with it.
posted by qnarf at 2:01 PM on April 12, 2016 [15 favorites]

Seconding qnarf's suggestion that maybe it was something the walker was wearing.

My pup barked and barked last week at one of my friends who she'd previously adored the first time they met. We figured out that my dog was upset by my friend's sunglasses and was also possibly a little on edge that day due to some nearby construction. My dog also hates hats, deeply resents overcoats, and finds bicycle helmets deeply suspicious.

My dog also got pretty upset when a neighbor's friend stopped by over the weekend -- come to find out the friend had an 18 mo old male pitt mix who was unfixed. The neighbor's friend was probably a walking cloud of pheromones, like Pigpen from Peanuts.

So yeah, possibly the clothing item, possibly the scent of another dog, or possibly circumstantial reasons as others have suggested. Of course, you've got to go with your gut on whether you like and trust the walker and want to try again.
posted by mochapickle at 2:15 PM on April 12, 2016 [8 favorites]

I wonder how your perfect princess of a dog is with your walker if he doesn't try to walk her. That is, is she anxious right when he shows up (then yes maybe something changed about his appearance or smell) or just when he tries to put her on her leash (in which case there is something about the walk itself, not the walker)?

Poor sweetie - couldn't you just quit your job and stay home with her? (A little projection there; that's my dream scenario right now for me and my dogs.)
posted by mulcahy at 6:35 PM on April 13, 2016

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