Scared of my 5 month lab puppy

Discussion in 'Labrador behaviour' started by Outi Lehtinen, Aug 23, 2020.

  1. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Has anyone experienced this? We have a black boisterous female lab puppy and I am now officcially scared of her attacks.

    I have read Pippa's books, the site and this forum from cover to cover and it has helped me cope with her behaviour and my anxiety around the issue. She gets very easily excited around new environments, people, animals, sounds, everything. We have come to the point where we cant do much anything with the puppy but coach her in our house or yard and take short walks on a leash in the park next to our house. When she was smaller we were able to go out and about with her and socialise her, so I don't think that's the problem. She is very clever and kind and learns things easily. Normal puppy things like gnawing at us on the couch and jumping on two feet against the table, but takes commands really well. We cant throw ball, give squeaky toys or play rough at all because we have a 10 year old child and all of the above is to much for her. We have consulted a professional and have been given really good advice on how to avoid over excitement with positive reinforcement.

    What is really stressing me out is that I cant practically take her out of the house because I'm scared of the jumping on leash. The bigger she gets the worse it has become. She doesn't only jump, but bites really hard too. Mainly hands and upper body. Our son cannot be around when taking her out on walks. My husband is a bit more successful with keeping her calm but he usually takes her out in the mornings, so maybe that's the thing.


    Today I visited my dad in the countryside and thought it would be safe, because there are not much stimuli. Boy was I wrong. She found a puddle to jump on and after I lured her off, she attacked me hard. Bit my hand, arm, really hard, squeezed her teeth around it and wouldn't let go. Thia lasted for a gruelling minute or two. My hand was bleeding like crazy. I felt attacked by a savage dog, I didn't feel like I was involved in rough puppy play. I had to let her bite my arm so that I could drag her to the nearest tree and tie her to it. I then left her there for a while for a breather and after that was able to calm her down a bit by asking her to sit and give treats. I immediately wanted to leave and avoid further excitable experiences, because I felt so scared and violated.

    Am I overreacting for not wanting to get out of the house with her and avoiding these situations? I cant help bit think that I shouldn't have to go through this much ordeal trying to raise a labrador? We cant stop taking her out because she needs the exercise and socialisation. We don't want to just leave her at home every time we go visit someone.

    The attacks happen almost every day and every time feels like a longer and tougher attack. I know this is also normal before it stops altogether, but I'm reaching my threshold. I am also worried about our son, who we cant leave alone with her, for obvious reasons.
     
  2. Sarah Barker

    Sarah Barker Registered Users

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    I’m really sorry you are going through this. I can empathise a little as I felt the same way about our female puppy and had similar experiences. However our pup was 10-12 weeks and therefore smaller and less strong. Like you, we took advice from a trainer who essentially said due to over stimulation. I don’t know the answer for you and can only suggest consulting the trainer again.
     
  3. DizzyDaisy

    DizzyDaisy Registered Users

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    Oh my I can relate!
    My female black lab is now coming up to 22 months old, but she was just like your little monster at 5 months old. She’s still boisterous and a troublemaker at times but thankfully the wild beast attacks are well in the past. I had a number of incidents with her that left me bloody and bruised. For a while the attacks were daily. I was afraid of her. Walking her was scary at times. So you are not alone in this. I felt exactly as you do - overwhelmed and worried - to the point where I considered rehoming her. It gets better. She will grow out of it, but it may take another 2/3 months to get past the worst.
    What worked for me was trying to keep everything “underwhelming”. No excited rough play, no playing tug games, shorter walks. More mental games than physical. Where we live off leash walking isn't really an option, and the dog parks available are not the greatest, so it was hard getting her some good off leash play to burn that extra energy. I started taking her to doggie daycare for 1/2 day visits. This helped her (fun play) and me (a break)!
    I will say that while the worst of this behavior stopped around the 7/8 month mark, she did continue to jump/bite and rough play if she got too over threshold/excited up until she was past a year old. Luckily we were in full winter gear when this was happening, but a number of coats did get ripped!
    I think we were blessed with pups who have zero impulse control! Training with this in mind, may help as well.
     
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  4. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Thank you DizzyDaisy for sharing your experience!

    Positive reinforcement has helped for many issues, but with this I also need new pair of nerves since I get anxious and my heart starts beating fast when I see some signals I think are linked to this behaviour. She has to sense that and the vicious cycle is ready!

    I have only taken her out in the past few days with my husband as support. I'm glad he's able to be more chilled with the problem because otherwise it would get even worse with underexcercise. I try to engage in peaceful games in the yard instead (sniffing for kebble, a little tug of war).

    She's an absolute angel most of the time and thinking about rehoming her breaks my heart but I have seriously thought about it in the worse moments of despair. But right now I need to take baby steps and try to focus on the positives, before I can even think about stepping out of the gate wit her.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2020
  5. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    The trainer also instructed we should avoid her to succeed in pulling towards an interesting dog or a person. Instead, before we get too close, she should ask permission by sitting and be given clear instructions whether to go by or greet. Easier said than done, but I understand this could help her with the frustration of having to respond to every exciting impulse. There are a lot of friendly dogs in the neighbourhood but it can be a bit too much to greet all of them whenever they go by!
     
  6. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Just to give an update: the almost 6 month old lab is now a lot calmer, possibly also due to some tummy problems and a lack of energy. We have still experienced some over excitement and frustration when walking on a leash, but hardly any teeth now. I'm still anxious about walking her alone in a busy environment with lots or puddles, loud noises, dogs and people but am taking baby steps with her! No longer in despair, in the end she's such a lovely dog in a peaceful environment :)
     
  7. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Month later: I am successfully taking her out to walks but right now she's severely acting out to my husband, which she didn't do before! She is sneaking behind and leaping towards him biting. Now we are taking short walks in a slow pace, to avoid building up excitement/frustration. I also try to avoid interacting with other dogs too much because that really seems to set her off. With me she sometimes jumps and chews the leash, but calms down when I ask her to sit for a while and then continue giving her commands and treats moving forwards. Hope this is also a passing phase! Now that she's 27 weeks she might also be closer to maturing and wanting independence.

    We try to enforce her attention towards us while we are on walks, otherwise she would be bouncing around after every impulse (cars, puddles, leaves, people, dogs, sudden noises). Tomorrow we are taking her out with a car to a private forest with a fence so we can let her off leash and give her an opportunity to sniff around without worrying that we will bump into other dogs. We also have to try to enforce the recall, because she has started to develop selective hearing towards it.

    How do you meet other dogs in a leash? Our dog becomes very bouncy and playful and it usually ends up in tangled leashes and overexcitement. For some dog owners it seems to be a bit hard to understand we don't want to do that all the time because it usually ends up her jumping on us during the rest of the walk.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 12, 2020
  8. sarah@forumHQ

    sarah@forumHQ Moderator

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    Hi Outi,

    I'm glad to hear that you and your girl are making progress together. The puppy and teenage stages can be very gruelling!

    Promoting punishment-based training techniques is against our forum guidelines. We'd like to be able to keep this thread up so that you can keep reaching out for support and sharing your progress, so I have removed the references to punishment so that everything else can stay. You can read more about why we disagree with punishing dogs here.

    It's hard to say exactly why your puppy is snapping at your husband. She might be trying to engage him in play, or she might be getting over excited by something else, and then displacing her reaction onto him instead. If you can afford to let a force-free trainer or behaviorist see them together, they might be best placed to identify what's going on.

    Finally, you can shape her reaction to other dogs on the leash by rewarding her for an alternative behavior, like looking at you. You need to start at a distance she where she's still under that over-excitability threshold, and then verrry gradually move closer, always stopping and creating more distance again is she starts to get over excited. If she's clicker trained you can click the appearance of another dog, and then give her a really delicious reward. Eventually, when she sees another dog, she will look straight to you for her treat. In the meantime, give other dog walkers a really wide berth by crossing the road or taking a detour around them.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on :)
     
  9. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Thanks Sarah, and I apologise for the references to punishment! Just to clarify, I am pro positive reinforcement and I think my husband is too, but sometimes it gets a little scary and it's hard to control one's reactions when caught off guard.

    We have met with a force-free trainer earlier, and I think this was quite eye-opening to us both. We have also been practicing this contact thing with a training group, but it's sometimes hard to control the environment when you also need to give the dog some exercise and can't be stuck in one place (it's illegal to let the dog loose in Finland, and our yard is not fenced so the only possibility is to take her out on a leash walk).

    The snapping thing was quite bad with me a few weeks back (hence the first post). Now she's redirecting it more towards my husband on walks so it seems that she's going through the same phase with him now. I think most of it is pure excitement because she sometimes does the same at home for our 10 year old son, who is obviously more loud and playful in the house. When we say sit or lay down it's usually quite easy to settle her down now. Couple of months ago we would have to move ourselves (or her) to another room to let her calm down properly in these situations, because she was so out of contro. But still we wouldn't dream of letting our son at home alone with the dog, unfortunately. Also he can't take her on walks, for obvious reasons.

    I think we need to continue keeping distance to other dogs to avoid over excitement. It is sometimes very hard because people (and dogs) are so keen on saying hi to our cute puppy!
     
  10. sarah@forumHQ

    sarah@forumHQ Moderator

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    I think lots of us here can empathize with how difficult it is to control other people's behavior around our dogs while we're trying to train them!

    Here in the UK dogs sometimes wear bright yellow vests and have yellow leads with 'nervous dog' written on them. It's a clear message to give them space - I'm not sure if there's an equivalent in Finland?

    (Just to be clear, I'm not trying to suggest your dog is nervous rather than excited - I think the vests and lead just say nervous because it's an easy concept for people to understand!)
     
  11. Outi Lehtinen

    Outi Lehtinen Registered Users

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    Thanks, I like the idea of a vest. I haven't seen that on a dog here but I think that could be a good thing!

    I think the word nervous describes our dog very well. Sometimes it's more over-excitement and sometimes there is more nervousness or even fear. Even though she pulls to greet people and dogs I can tell that she is sometimes quite nervous, licking their hands and ears flat, bum down. Especially if she's stroked a bit rough around the head, like men often do, she gets over-agitated.

    We had some guests overnight when she was 3-4 months old and I swear she was afraid of one of the guests, he was loud and a bit rough towards her, like some "dog people" tend to be to show they are in control of the situation. She jumped on him a lot, didn't bite him or anything but acted quite crazy after interacting with him, zooming around biting us instead when we tried to calm her down. That's when I realized that although she may seem very sociable and active around new people, she still needs a lot of space and calm behaviour to feel relaxed around them. She relaxes best with people who ignore her a bit and don't have a need to make a fuss about how cute and silly she is bouncing around with tail wagging.
     

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