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  1. #1
    Young Dawg (Member)

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    Default Great Pyr wary of people, barking at visitors

    I recently rescued a three year old Great Pyr female. From what I know of her history she's always been out in the country, and for at least part of that she lived in a kennel outdoors with other dogs. In contrast I'm in the city, and she lives indoors. There are a couple of behavioural problems she's having.

    Firstly, she is very wary of people when on walks. She'll often shy away, and sometimes jump away, from people.

    Secondly, she barks at anyone that comes to the house. Shortly after she arrived I had a friend come over, and she barked and growled, though her body language was fear rather than aggression. I've since got her to accept someone by going for a walk first, but even then when he went out of the room and came back in, she barked at him. Today another friend just came to the door to say hi, and she barked a lot more assertively - I wouldn't say she was aggressive but it wasn't fear as before.

    So in the first case, probably all she needs is more time on walks (which she'll get anyway!), but I'm a little more worried about the second. What's the best way to desensitize a Pyrenees to visitors? Getting more people to come round is hard, and I'm aware of the possibility that she'll escalate the situation. I'm trying to find a behaviorist/trainer, but anything the good people of this site could suggest would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) nick's spirit's Avatar

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    Welcome Barkathon & thank you for rescuing this girl in need...and her name is?!!

    Livestock Guarding Dogs, especially ones that have lived outside in a kennel not having to socialize with people very much, I'm sure she is very wary of not only humans, but all the noises & scents & new surroundings...how long have you had this girl?
    You will have to be her advocate, ask people NOT to approach her, and very definitely not to look her in the eye, she just needs to get comfortable in her new situation.

    The best way to desensitize a Pyr is the same as you would any puppy...patiently, calmly and tasty rewards.
    I would not get more people to come to the house, rather one person who would be willing to help you work with her. the first thing you will have to do is get her attention on you to sit calmly when someone comes over. This may take several weeks with someone just walking up to the door & knocking...try to not get her too excited so that she can't/won't be calm. Then allow the person in, no eye contact again, no recognition of her at all from the person...except the tastiest treat in the whole world to her...given open hand, no eye contact...make the treats small & the only time she gets them is when someone comes into the house.
    She is going to be a work in progress for awhile, but she is young, and with your help, patience and care, she can be the best girl ever!
    Keep us informed on how she adjusts to her new life with you
    Nancy & Rudy

  3. #3
    Puppy (New Member)

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    My 5 month old part Anatolian Shepard part Great Pyrenees is very aggressive and has just recently jumped over our fence and has almost bitten our neighbors. He has also been growling and biting people while they are in our home. He is also is very skittish. I really need help because I don't want to give him away, can anyone please help me.

  4. #4
    Puppy (New Member)

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    Hi Nancy and Rudy,

    Does the treat come from "us" or the person coming into the home? We have a 9 month old girl and she is very protective of anyone coming to the door and in the home. Today our pest control lady came into the home and she was pretty suspicious of her the entire time. Appreciate any the advice.

    Sonny

  5. #5
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Rachel's Avatar

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    Barkathon, I have a Pyr who is wary/distrustful of strangers and has been since the get go (and I raised him within a home/domestic environmentwith loads of socialization towards both humans and animals). After he began having random aggression incidents towards both strangers and family, I took him to a behaviorist, and she told me that certain dogs within livestock breeds are genetically predisposed to be warier than others and that by pushing these dogs to interact with strangers, when they are biologically programmed not to trust them, can push them into becoming more aggressive. My pup was from a long line of working breeds, so he is one of those genetically inclined to be a "true" livestock guardian in nature even if not in practice, and seeing as your girl was an actual livestock guardian, I'd wager she is the same way.

    My advice (going from what the behaviorist has told me about my dog) is to focus less on getting your girl to accept strangers and focus more on allowing her safety from interactions with people she's uncomfortable with. By pushing our stranger-wary Pyrs to interact with people they have shown discomfort with (by shying away, backing away, darting away as if stung, etc), we are basically telling them "your lower level fear reaction was not enough to get the scary thing to listen. you must escalate to get it to go away", which is exactly what we don't want, because then the dog may feel pushed to growl/lunge/snarl/even bite, when that's the last thing they truly want to do.

    The shyness your Pyr is exhibiting around strangers is exactly how my Pyr was acting, and I thought at the time that more socialization was the answer, thinking that his was learned behavior (even though he was appropriately socialized) and not considering that it was in his nature and couldn't be changed. And by doing that, he felt the only way to be "safe" from what he deemed was a threat was to amp up his reactions time and time again, which led to him ultimately snapping/biting.

    In summary, I would err on the side of caution and listen to your girl. The best thing would be to provide your Pyr a "safe place" -- a room, a crate, a dog bed, etc -- that is hers. When she's in this place, nobody can talk to her, touch her, or even really look at her directly. She becomes invisible. That way, if she's uncomfortable with the visitor, she has somewhere to go to be essentially left alone. Alternatively, if she is so alert to the stranger that she's following them around the house and can't relax, I think the very best thing would be to keep her separated until you can see a behaviorist. Put her in a spare room, small bathroom, utility room, crate, etc. when a visitor is there with a stuffed toy like a Kong. It may sound now like an overreaction to keep her separated but with a dog her size, who has already shown anxiety, it would be safer for your visitors and especially her.

    I really hope this helps and keep us updated on her!!

  6. #6
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) nick's spirit's Avatar

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    SonnyG...if she will focus on you....you dole out the delicious treat, hopefully she is food motivated, and by tasty I mean the only one treat she gets when she is calmly focusing on you (chicken, hot dog...small bits...liver...again very small)

    If she is just "suspicious" and not aggressive & snarling...give that tasty treat to the person she is suspicious of...again, tell that person....no eye contact...give her the treat behind your back...let your girl take it ONLY if she feels comfortable.

    Rachel has been working very hard with her dog....try some of the ideas she has mentioned as well.

    Please let us know how things go with her & the family

  7. #7
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) nick's spirit's Avatar

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    Bbsamson...the best advise I can give you is to find a behaviorist to come into your home & work with you & your dog....at 5 months old this is not something to be taken lightly (I know you're not) but can be best helped by someone who is actually there, seeing the behavior & has the expertise to help work this behavior out....

    giving him away...you would have to disclose his past behavior....and that is not an easy dog to rehome....not sure where you live in Illinois, but hopefully you are close to some very good vets & assistance...

    I would also suggest if he is "skittish" he may have some insecurity issues (I am not a vet...I don't know..only guessing) if that is the case, I would try Rachels suggestion & give him a "safe" place for his sake as well as your visitors...

    please keep us informed on this....

  8. #8
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) Skippy's Avatar

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    Hi Sonny,

    Welcome to the forum. And so glad you are getting some answers. Should you become a participating memember, (we have some come ask a question to never return) It is best usually to start a new thread. You posted a question on a thread that was old and during a time that technical problems prevented anyone from answering anything.

    Nick's Spirit has given you some good advice. She's know more than I so it is sound. Your Pyr is only 9 months old and maybe starting into that teen-age phase of independent behavior. Or maybe the pest control person smelled off or was wearing something that your pyr did not recognize. My pyr recently growled at someone that she knew, but had seen her in a costume like that. And if Pa walked down the driveway carrying something she had never seen before, :ladder or big large things, she would bark and carry on.

    Please let us know how you and your pyr are doing. Welcome again.

  9. #9
    Old Dawg (Senior Member) SebastiansMom's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Skippy View Post
    Should you become a participating memember, (we have some come ask a question to never return) It is best usually to start a new thread. You posted a question on a thread that was old and during a time that technical problems prevented anyone from answering anything.
    Really? According to whom? Being that we have several old threads (Puppy weights, food recommendations, etc.) that consistently get added to by new members asking questions, I really don't see what the problem would be with new members adding questions here. Then again, I am not a moderator, but neither are you.

    Moving on.

    SonnyG,

    Nancy and Rachel have both given great advice. I just wanted to add that if you are concerned that your girl is at risk for developing aggressive behavior toward humans, the best course of action would be to seek the advice of a professional. I would start with a trip to the vet to discuss the behavior that concerns you, and talk about ruling out any suspected medical causes of the unwanted behaviors. Then, once it is established that it is a truly behavioral problem, see if there is a behavior specialist that the vet recommends to help you.

    Finding the right person to help can be a challenge. You want someone who is actually accredited by a professional organization, and you want someone who uses force-free techniques. This is important. The use of force in a dog who is anxious or fearful can make the dog much much worse.

    If a professional uses the term "dog psychology", do not hire them. It is commonly used by trainers who use the much outdated (and disproven) "dominance theory" to analyze and try to treat dogs. Pyrs and other LGDs do not believe in dominance theory.

    I hope this is helpful, and I hope you are able to make progress with your girl!

    Please keep us posted!
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