13th March 2012, 03:53 AM
Prince deadly afraid of other dogs!
We got this wonderful dog from a very respectable breeder in New Jersey. He's 15 months old, and we got him 2 months ago. He used to be a show dog for this breeder, but he is a little too shy for these kinds of events. He's wonderful with us, playful, your typical Cavalier. He's a little scared of strangers, but will become friendly after a short hesitation.
The biggest problem with him is that he's deadly afraid of other dogs. Even other Cavaliers! Even Cavalier puppies! We live in Manhattan so it's really hard to avoid dogs on the streets, he'll just try to run for his life every time a dog comes towards him. He gets curious after we pass dogs (he'll want to "follow them" from behind), but if a dog runs towards him, he acts as if he'll have a heart attack!
One time at a dog park, he was cornered by a small dog, and before I could get to him, he kind of attacked the other dog (it was the only and the most aggressive behavior I saw from him) - but whomever I tell this story tells me that this is the most normal response that he can give, as he's cornered and has no room to run.
Any advice? I don't really need him to be very very social, but it would be nice if he just didn't try to run away ever time a dog passes by.
Here's a picture of him sleeping.
13th March 2012, 05:18 AM
Welcome and thanks for posting us a picture!
Poor fellow for feeling so worried. I also have to say -- breeders sometimes can seem very honest and actually be... less than forthcoming. I cannot imagine how Prince was ever a show dog if he is that fearful and also, aggressive (a dog that is simply fearful would never have attacked a dog even if 'cornered' by a friendly dog-- people advising this are not really understanding dog behaviour). Shyness like this would immediately disqualify him in the ring -- a good breeder would generally only home a dog with this potentially difficult issue by clearly flagging it and offering a lot of guidance. Such problems do not appear out of nowhere. I would tend to suspect at least on this limited evidence she was trying to get rid of a problematical dog and downplaying his problems. I just can't imagine another scenario of how she would not have known this behaviour would immediately be a problem for you.
Intensely dog shy and semi-human shy dogs can be very challenging and this is absolutely not the breed standard. And you DO actually want him to be social! -- dogs are intensely social animals and to not have the chance to regularly meet and play with other dogs removes a major part of any dog's life, reducing it down to a narrow range of daily experience. People cannot replace the special richness dogs get from mixing with other dogs and they even make particular dog friends that they especially like seeing, like people do . This is a very limited life for a dog, so I know you will want to improve things so you both can go out and have fun!
On the issue itself -- this isn;t something you can easily address on your own and can make for a very frustrating life with a dog unless you get help. I am sure you are very attached by now to Prince and returning him is not an option. I would at the very least start by informing the breeder of these problems -- any good breeder will be alarmed and supportive. I would frankly be asking for a discount back too as you are now burdened with the cost of addressing this. You will need professional help from a trainer if he can even ONCE be triggered to be so aggressive that he actually went for another dog -- this likely indicates he is hovering at the edge of a real dividing line behaviourally (between fear, and fear aggression, which often follows) and must be quickly and kindly/gently worked on (never punished!) or it can and typically will, accelerate in a younger dog. You do not want life with a dog you cannot ever socialise with other dogs.
I would look for a CPDT certified trainer in your area -- you can get a list at CPDT.org but I can immediately recommend an excellent trainer in New Jersey:
Eric is a really good trainer with a great reputation. He can evaluate Prince and assess what exactly his issues are and how to manage them and start to train him so that he can hopefully move on to be a happy normal dog around other dogs. I would guess you can, in working with a great trainer, quickly begin to get a handle on this in a mix of a group dog class and home training. Eric will help to work out if what you saw was an actual attack or more an annoyance response -- but regardless, it was a major overreaction and a sign of a lot of fear and anxiety that needs help.
Check out this first testimonial:
Please let us know how you get on!
(PS -- I did breed rescue for many years and encountered a few dogs with these kinds of issues, and also work closely with some excellent trainers, have done numerous behavioural/training workshops including two with Dr Ian Dunbar, and an aggressive dog seminar so do have some sense of what it means when you are seeing what you are seeing and what you will want to do. ).
In memory: Lucy
Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com
13th March 2012, 11:15 AM
I can't improve on Karlin's advice, but just wanted to say I can appreciate your concerns. I had my second Cavalier, Meg, when she was 3 years old; she had always lived with her breeder, who was a friend of mine, but because her breeder had 8 Cavaliers and worked full time, they had a large garden to run in, and Meg was born rather shy, she never got taken out much, never met many other dogs, and was bottom of the pecking order. The breeder was aware of her problems and asked me to have her so that she could have a more normal life away from the crowd. She was petrified of the world, and especially of any breed of dog except Cavaliers. Walking down the street, she would see a dog in the far distance and go into panic mode. Fortunately, after 6 months of this I had to go away for a conference and leave her with a friend, otherwise I think murder might have been committed - you feel so frustrated when nothing you can do stops the frantic effort to turn and run!
I can't remember now what exactly I did to help her (this was 20 years ago) - I think it was a mix of learning to trust me to take care of her, and starting to obedience train her, so that she had something she could be good at and praised for doing, which built up her confidence. Then, when she was more focused on enjoying working, I introduced her to a weekly training class where she was by far the smallest dog - this was South Africa, where Rottweilers, Dobermanns and German Shepherds predominated! She was the star of the class, and because she was enjoying what she was doing, she learned to put up with the big dogs.
Hope you can get some help with Prince - it is possible to deal with this problem.
Kate, Oliver and Aled
23rd March 2012, 04:54 PM
Thank you both.. Will let you know how it turns out.