Christmas Party Stress....

Tricks, obedience, behavior, and more.
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medic16
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Christmas Party Stress....

Postby medic16 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:20 pm

Hello all -

I have a 2 (almost 3) year old pittie, Roxy. She is very friendly, I've never had an issue with her biting a human or another dog, but she does get very scared & anxious. She tends to jump up and investigate every sound. When she meets someone she is usually very timid and might move away if they make any sudden movement with their hands. She seems to be worse with men. She is very awkward with new people who walk into the yard or house, which I guess is expected for the resident dog to be more protective on her own property. When she gets nervous or anxious she will bark or growl, but hides behind me or runs into another room. Dog people are usually fairly patient and understanding. She is well socialized, gets along great with other dogs. She has been a dog park regular since I got her and I have never had an issue. If it was a yorkie with the same behavior it wouldn't be an issue, but because of the stigma the second roxy gets scared so does everyone else in the room.

My concern is that my entire family comes over for christmas and none of them have ever met her. They are all old school thick headed italians. So now we have multiple trigger factors at one time. Strangers, half of them men, in her house, all at once. My aunt has a little dog too and Roxy has never been around little dogs. So needless to say I am very anxious about the occasion. One thing I do not want to do is isolate her from the rest of the house. I don't think its fair and with all the people in the house she will just go crazy the entire time. She is a good dog and I want my family to realize that (you kind of have to "sell" these people on that) but I feel she will not be in the best enviornment for her good behavior to shine. I don't really know what to do. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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jamielvsaustin
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Re: Christmas Party Stress....

Postby jamielvsaustin » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:48 pm

I know you think it wouldn't be fair to separate her from the rest of the festivities but in all actuality it sounds like it's be better for her. I think you already know the situation is going to be uncomfortable for her, and added to that your family that has to be sold on how great she is in addition the stress you're already feeling (she picks up on that I'm sure)...it sounds like a really bad position to put her in. Could you do some sort of vigorous training/playing/exercising before every comes over so she's more tired than normal?

If it were me and I was really insistent on not separating her I'd try it out. Let her be out and about when the first couple of people are there...maybe on a leash attached to you so that you can always have eyes on her...and then if you see her getting close to her threshold-put her up with a frozen kong or some sort of tasty treat...maybe try again later after every one is there and things sort of settle down.

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creiter
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Re: Christmas Party Stress....

Postby creiter » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:52 pm

Check out my thread in regards to this but with Thanksgiving... it is an account of my experience with Duke around all of my family who had never met him before. He was a rescue and so has misgivings about strangers, similar to your pooch. Learn from my mistakes and from what worked wonders :) Definitely don't just let your dog be out and hope things go well, have a strategy in mind to make it a positive training experience for her (leash + treats + slowly moving closer to new people is what I did with Duke, and it was a great opportunity to rewire him into thinking strangers aren't so scary). Just set her up to succeed! Even if that means keeping her separate for the majority of the time.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=155756

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MarMar
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Re: Christmas Party Stress....

Postby MarMar » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:38 pm

I agree, I think you should not discount the idea of separating her. This could easily be a recipe for disaster (even if the worst disaster is that she gets very very afraid and has negative associations with your family). My pittie likes people, but he gets easily overstimulated, and my GSD mix gets very anxious with strangers in her house, until she's used to them. Neither of them has ever been aggressive to a person on our property but I don't take chances, and if I have big groups of people over, they go away. They each have a "room" (Becky has her own room and Marlo has my bedroom) and in their room they have crates. If I was having a party with many people, I would a) Do as jamie suggests and make sure she's tired; b) make sure there's a safe spot in your house she's comfortable in; c) have kongs stuffed with delicious things (no dinner in a bowl for her!) and d) make sure she cannot see the people and block her hearing as much as possible, by playing Through A Dog's Ear, or classical music, really loudly. Perhaps also a thundershirt or tight tshirt would help her.

If you've got lots of party obligations, I'd probably leave it at that. If you do want to have her meet people, it would be trickier. I definitely wouldn't do it if you're not around to supervise. Does she know any tricks? That can be a fun way to show her off to people without having them fawn all over her (I often do this with my dogs if we're approached by kids). Another thing you could do is some classical conditioning. While you're with her, feed continuously when a strange person is in her sight (one at a time) and then stop the food when they leave. It can be risky to have another person try to feed her if she's really nervous, because a dog can be tempted by food to get closer than they're comfortable with and then panic when the treat is gone and they're right next to a scary person. Don't be afraid to ask people to ignore her, and if they won't, take her away. Don't push her and don't risk it. If you have a "bad feeling about it", then just stop. Maybe you can introduce them one on one in a less stressful environment later.

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medic16
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Re: Christmas Party Stress....

Postby medic16 » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:13 pm

Thank you all for your advice. My plan so far is to take Roxy on a run/hike in the AM to get all that energy out. I will leave her in my room (where her crate is) while everyone is arriving and getting settled. I have put together some CDs with very similar playlists to the 'Through A Dog's Ear' collection (which I never even knew existed, so thank you!). Hopefully that will keep her relaxed.

The problem with my family is that most of them already have that inaccurate, preconceived notion about pits. As a matter of fact, my mother was just on the phone before and brought up Roxy in conversation. She then proceeded to tell her friend "Yeah we don't like pit bulls....I know.....You gotta watch out for that locking jaw......I haven't seen Roxy's mean side yet." At that point I just get too frustrated to even say anything nice, so I just keep my mouth shut. The poor dog has not shown one second of even questionable behavior in front of my mother and she still doesn't believe its a nice dog. So needless to say, if this goes wrong, we have taken 10 steps back instead of any steps forward. I'm going to hear "I told you so" for the rest of my life.

Moving right along....the dog will have to go out at some point. I will make sure that everyone is okay with it (I do have a 2 young cousins, one autistic with tourette's and one has ADHD and other socially issues) and I will bring her down on a leash. I'll let her outside to do her business and if anyone wants to meet her they can come outside and hang with us. It seems sometimes that her demeanor towards people is somewhat unpredictable. Yes she is scared of men, but then she meets one of my male friends and is completely relaxed and falls asleep on his lap. She is usually okay with females, but one of my females friends she always growls at. They are both good energy, not scared or nervous, so I really don't understand it.

It seems a little late in the game for it, but after the holidays I am going to spend the money on some one on one classes for Myself & Roxy with a trainer. We did go to beginner obedience school, and that helped a lot, but in distracting situations I might as well have taken the money I spent on class and set it on fire.

Creiter, I read your posting about what happened on Thanksgiving and Roxy sounds A LOT like Duke. My strategy will be very similar, so thank you for sharing your experience. I too over analyze my dogs behavior, because one tiny misstep for a pit bull is a huge deal for anyone that already doesn't believe in them. It seems like a constant struggle.

Thanks again for all the advice, what a huge help! :clap


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