Stranger danger!

Posted by RainbowDogMom
Jan 20, 2012
We adopted Loopy Lulu from a rescue shelter about a year and a half ago, she's a Boxer/Whippet mix. (full of energy) All of a sudden, a few months ago, she started acting funny around strangers. She growls and lifts her lip, even when I make the introductions and have the new person make her sit and give her a treat. When I take her to the vet they have me muzzle her before they give her a check up because they are afraid she's going to bite them. This is a new problem since she was always happy to meet new people before a few months ago. We're not sure what's making her act this way now and we want to get it fixed before someone gets hurt. Any advise would be very welcome!
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jan 21, 2012
Hey RainbowDogMom

Congrats on the new adoption! I think its a common issue to see behavioural changes, even up to months after bringing a dog home, in shelter animals. We don't have any idea of their history or how they coped with going to and staying in a shelter environment. So try not to be too disheartened with these issues.

I would work slowly and repetitiously with your Lulu to introduce and spend time around strangers in calm, controlled environments. With the vet - take her just for random trips, and have her just sit in the waiting for a bit, then only getting pats and treats from the nurses and staff. Most clinics are happy to help out with these sort of trips - theyre very keen to help shy dogs recover, especially because it makes their job easier in the future!

Have friends Lulu isn't so familiar with come around for coffee and catch ups. Any guest coming over should just ignore her - don't approach her or even say anything to her. Let her get comfortable with new people in the room, and she will eventually come over to say hello. Only then should your guests acknowledge her, with a simple, quick hello and a pat if she's ok with it.

All interactions should be as much on Lulu's terms as possible - let her get comfortable in environments with strangers, and always speak to her in calm tones - alway reassure her with positive words and praise. This sort of "training" should help a lot.

It may be worth enrolling in a puppy or socialization course so that Lulu can have fun interacting with other dogs and their owners. The exciting play time should help her relax a bit - though it may be a bit rocky at first. Its just a thought, though

Just remember to take things slowly and calmly - it may take a bit of time for Lulu to recover fully, but if youre patient and loving, which I'm sure you are! - I know you'll see results Please keep us updated, and we'll keep working on ideas and advice for you!
Posted by RainbowDogMom
Jan 27, 2012
Thank you for your response. But I have another question...She was fine for the first 6 months after we brought her home (she was a fostered dog) then she started with this behavior, she even growls at the vet techs when they are trying to give her treats. Should they not give her the treat when she's acting like this? And when we go to the vet and sit in the waiting room she's all excited until someone approches us. I just don't want to make her worse while trying to make her better.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Jan 28, 2012
Hi again,

It seems wierd, but I've heard of a few shelter dogs having trouble like this after theyve been in a new home for a while. I think it may be that they get comfortable in a new life, and then start to exhibit anxiety related problems especially with stimuli outside of their new home. It may be part territorial, part fear. But it is a common scenario.

At the vet, its probabaly best not to give her a treat until she's calm. Not barking or growling, just sitting quietly, even if she's still nervous. You dont want to reward fearful, acting out behaviour. I'd say keep taking her and have people just approach in the waiting room again and again until she starts to calm down with their approach. Then start walking into a room and just sitting. Break the whole process down into steps and keep repeating them until she responds better and better. I hope that makes sense
Posted by RainbowDogMom
Jan 30, 2012
Yes that does make sense. I'll have to ask a few brave souls who would be willing to put themseves on the line to help Lulu not react that way to strangers.
I was thinking that she's just being very protective of us since she finally found her forever home. Thanks for the help
Posted by KOPCaroline
Feb 2, 2012
It may be partially that she is being protective of her new safe place, which definitely includes you as owners! But yes, same principles apply

Good luck, please let us know how things are going!