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Old 12-27-2012, 08:42 PM
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Question Barking in dogs' + people's faces...Why?

Am wondering what people think about this behavior from Bella. We adopted Bella about two months ago. I don't know a LOT about how she was cared for previously, but we think she was abused (a bit, not severely), and not well socialized with dogs and people.

When we are out and about, or at the dog park, if she's feeling shy or insecure usually she just avoids the dog or person in question, and over the past weeks, she's improved immensely. When I introduce her to people, she warms up pretty quickly now and seems to enjoy being petted, etc.

Sometimes however, she gets right in people's or dogs' faces and barks intensely. With the dogs, I think often it's her way of inviting them to play. IF the dog responds playfully, she plays back. But sometimes the dog gets its ruff up, and then she gets fiercer and louder. Today she was barking at a man. She went right up to him and barked and barked. She was not snarling or snapping, just barking and seeming agitated. He was very nice and knelt down, and I formally introduced them and then she calmed down and let him pet her.

My questions to the experienced folks out there, especially with rescue dogs: How would you interpret this behavior? I know she is insecure but she does seem to be making lots of headway in that department. So, what does the barking mean? How should I handle it? And, is there a way to train her out of it? I am concerned that someday she's going to meet an aggressive dog who doesn't like it. At least with people I can verbally explain her background, etc. But I would like it to go away eventually.

Thanks for any help you can offer.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:27 PM
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Without seeing her, my guess would be that she's saying "I'M A LITTLE NERVOUS ABOUT THIS ENCOUNTER, JUST FYI."

It's probably too much energy added to insecurity, and she's taking it out vocally. My guess would be that it improves if she learns more appropriate ways to show her nervousness and to learn that she doesn't need to be nervous.

For example, you could set up friendly strangers who stop petting and look away when she's barking and only pet her (still looking away to help ease her nervousness) when she quiets down.

You can't "train" other people's unfriendly dogs, so I'd prevent those encounters for now. If she barks from excessive nervousness and other dogs respond with nervousness or aggression, that'll just teach her that her nervousness is justified. You need to teach her that it's unnecessary.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:07 PM
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Is this happening on leash - off leash or both? A dog's body language says a lot about how they are feeling in a situation. What is her body language telling you? When she approaches a dog or person, what is her tail position -relaxed, up, down, tucked? Rear legs under her, like she may flee? Front end balanced, braced, or even a little forward? Ears - back or forward?
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:18 PM
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My GF has a GSD mix whose very submissive and is the bottom in the pack. When we introduced Bear into this pack, he would run up to Bear and bark bark bark right into his ear. Bear would cower and look at him like, "***, dude." Then he'd give a play bow. He would also rush Bear and slam him in the neck with his nose and bark bark bark anytime Bear played with the leader of the pack.

In summary, I think it's a confidence issue. She's not quite sure how to interact with these new experiences, so she barks.

I hope this made sense.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charliethree View Post
Is this happening on leash - off leash or both? A dog's body language says a lot about how they are feeling in a situation. What is her body language telling you? When she approaches a dog or person, what is her tail position -relaxed, up, down, tucked? Rear legs under her, like she may flee? Front end balanced, braced, or even a little forward? Ears - back or forward?
Both on- and off-leash, but I see it most often off-leash, at the DP. She doesn't look relaxed... I'm pretty sure her legs are under her like she's ready to run at any second. She sometimes has a bit of foam around her mouth too. She's not like this ALL the time, it's sporadic and I think has to do with the dog or person she's in front of. She also doesn't do it EVERY time we're at the DP, just sometimes.
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Old 12-28-2012, 12:04 AM
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Legs tucked (ready to run) and foaming at the mouth when barking are signs of fear related stress. Keep in mind that stress builds (accumulates) before the dog shows outward signs and it also makes them more quick and likely to 'react' to certain stimuli. Barking at something for a fearful dog (her back legs braced to run and in all likelihood, tail down or tucked under are signs she is afraid) is an attempt to make that thing go away, to create space. If she is barking at a person or dog and it doesn't move away or offer a calming signal (play posture or turning away is a calming signal) it increases her anxiety and the intensity of her bark. It could be that the dog park is 'too much' for her on some days. Whether it is too much going on all at once - too many dogs and/or people (some dogs just get overwhelmed in large play groups) or the style of play that she doesn't understand or like, or a certain dog 'type' that triggers her, or consider that possibly she has been there too long (for her) and she is too stressed over all (even overexcitement is stressful for a dog).
She has only been with you a couple of months, there is a lot going on in her world that is new and possibly concerning (stressful) for her, she may need more time to understand that life is great!
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Old 12-28-2012, 03:20 PM
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Its hard to tell because I haven't seen it but honestly I would guess that she is barking because it works. She is confused or insecure and wants some kind of attention or play or security, and barking has been seeming to work. When my dogs bark at me (which they do especially when we are getting into really high energy training in agility or working on things using pure shaping which can be frustrating) I turn my back and ignore them. I tend to think that dogs do the behaviors that work to get them whatever they want.
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Old 01-10-2013, 12:03 AM
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Question

Bella is till doing a lot of barking and I'm still unsure how to manage it. I think she's figured out that the behavior is unwanted but still wants to do it. Today she barked at several unfamiliar dogs at the dog park, and at a boy (about 10) with whom she'd been friendly a few mixtures earlier. My daughter got some video footage of her in action. If any of the you have the time and inclination to look at it and let me know what you think about her demeanor, body posture, etc., I'd really appreciate it. I don't think it's genuine aggression--i think its insecurity--but I just don't know what is going on. Today she spent most of her time at the park on leash by my side. Any input is welcomed!




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Old 01-10-2013, 06:53 AM
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In both of those, the barking looks like her attempt to initiate play. It doesn't look particularly nervous, but it's not exactly graceful dog communication, so it's not working that well for her. The corgi in the first video, for example, found it annoying and told her so.

I don't see as much insecurity as I expected, but she certainly isn't a very confident communicator either.

I think these situations might be a little out of her social abilities for now. Anything that's creating barking jags is probably a situation you should try to avoid until her confidence is higher. A couple of barks here and there are fine, but any time you see her bleeding off all her excess stress by barking, it's probably a situation that's going to make the problem worse, rather than better, since repetition of a habit helps ingrain the habit.
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Old 01-10-2013, 07:35 AM
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I saw her just wanting to play, no nervous actions i saw from her.
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