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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

Rosie has been going to the same day care for many months, since she was about 12 weeks old maybe? She's 9 months old now. She always gets picked up by the same person (who runs it). She would always go flying out the door with him at top speed, no hesitation whatsoever--literally couldn't get to him and the front door fast enough. The past 4 times she was picked up, she had what appeared to be an approach-avoidance conflict. She would start to go to him, barking, then pause 5 or 10 feet away from him before going any further, sometimes crouch and crawl slowly all the way over to him, belly to the ground, sometimes pee, require coaxing or for him to physically come over and take her by the collar in order to go with him. We're concerned about this, and maybe should have pulled her out immediately, but we kind of didn't want to jump to conclusions if it could have been just something that spooked her one time. When we asked him why he thought she was crouching, he said, "submission."

Disclaimer/acknowledgement: You may remember I'm the one who's not big on dominance correctives or Cesar Millan techniques, even for aggressive behavior--don't take it personally if you don't agree, just where I come from. I've read that some of those correctives can backfire and make the dog fearful and/or more aggressive.

Regardless, what do you think about her behavior? Would you assume she was frightened of him, or could it be something else? We can see her tail wagging once he gets her to the van where the other dogs are, it's when he rings the bell and comes in to get her that she seems freaked. I was leery of posting this on the internet since we haven't made a final decision about what we will do, but could use some advice.

Thanks, Sarah
 

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I wouldn't say crouching is always "submission". Often times it is fear based and more because they are uncertain. I have seen dogs do it in the past that just do it to do it.

I always advocate getting a trainer if you have behavioral concerns. You need someone to see what is actually happening. They may pick up on something due to their experience that you haven't.

Dogs cycle through fear stages for sometimes up to the 3rd year of life. It could be she's going through a stage, or it could be that she is truly not enjoying it..though it sounds like she is if she is happy once she gets to the van. It could be fear, or it could be the initial anxiety of her leaving her family.

That said, you could try some of these things.

Have him knock instead of ringing the doorbell

To ward of some anxiety mix-up your morning routine a bit.

Walk out to the van with her a few times.

If she is not cooperating and refuses to leave. Leash her. Give her whatever command you have for walking nicely on the leash and walk her out the door and hand her over.

I think having him come in and grab her collar or pick her up is a bad idea.

Have him come over at off times. That might be a cost to you, but it may work. Have him come in and play with her and leave. Repeat...shorten the visits and return to him just picking her up with the occasional drop by. This may reassure her that he is trusted and you won't be gone forever. Similar to how many people recommend crate training.

If you use treat training or clicker training you can slowly build in a command for her to go to him. That may take awhile but may be effective.

One last thing. Can you watch her on your computer. Many doggie daycare places have a camera at the facility and you can watch your dog play. Perhaps check in on her now and then and make sure she really is happy. One day I walked into the place I'd been using. It was mid-day and not a normal drop-off, pick-up time. The dogs were not being watched, they were out of control and the guy was sipping on some whiskey. That was just ridiculous!
 

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Sarah

You can try a few different things;

First, you lead her out to the Van and see if the problem is there.

Second. Ask the day care people of they are "Forcing the Dog Down". Forcing the dog is used with the more powerful, less sensitive breeds. It is used for control and submission. If they are forcing Rosie down, tell them to stop. This is too much pressure for a Vizsla,a nd they don't need it.

Third. No one should come into your home and grab your dog. You should have her on her leash and lead her out the door to the handler. A vizsla is very protective of their "house", they make great doorbells. Having someone in and physically dominate her is going to be confusing for her.
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My own personal opinion is that I would want to understand the change in behavior before I let it continue. I would also be asking the daycare people exactly how they are handling Rosie during the day, and if they are forcing her to submit. If they're unconfortable, or evasive, it's time to move on.


There is an issue here, and you should never be afraid to voice your concern. You are your dog's advocate. Always trust your instincts when it comes to your pets.
 

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I agree with Gunnr. Something had to happen that made her have a bad experience to all of a sudden be fearful of him. A lot of times once a dog has had a bad experience that's pretty much the end of that. That's the first thing I thought when I was reading your story. She may be wagging her tail to the dogs in the car, but she's definitely not wagging it to him anymore.
 

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Wow! Thanks guys. I really appreciate all the responses. As far as him coming in to get her, we thought that was weird, too. One time he asked me to bring her to him, but a couple of other times he came in himself to take her when she hesitated. The fact is, he/we never needed to do anything for all the months she'd been going to him (prior to this change about a week or so ago) because all he had to do was open the door and she'd go flying out of it at lightning speed to get to him. Vizslandobes, I think I wasn't technically correct, he doesn't ring the doorbell or knock, I think he just opens it.

Update: we did speak with him this morning and asked him about her behavior. He said that he doesn't use any correctives with her at daycare (which was reassuring) but he is "all alpha, all the time" (I think the gist of the rest of his explanation was that he sets limits through his nonverbals rather than correctives), and that she was in a "calm submissive" state. He said he thought that she felt the need to protect us because she thinks she is the alpha and has to protect us given our lack of limit-setting (pretty much Dog Whisperer). I agree with Gunnr, though, that we know what we are seeing; in my opinion, it isn't calm, and it isn't dominance, it's anxious submission. Maybe it's just from his body language, but I would think if that was the case, that she would have reacted to it before now (again, probably a good 6 months with him previously, no problems).

One thing I will say is that the behavior change started after she was spayed, so possibly that threw her off?
 

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Sarah

I believe I understand his statement about being "Alpha all the Time". It is however a contradiction. To be Alpha all the time actually infers that the person is not alpha at all, but is constantly battling for position , which is the role of a subordinate midpacker in hierarchy.
Alphas do not constantly have to prove themselves, nor do they always have to exert dominantion. In most pack type animals the actual alpha may have very little at all to do with the majority of the pack. They are the control and the other animals look to them for cues, not the other way around.

He may in fact not be correcting Rosie at all, but it is another dog, or group of dogs, he needs to be firmer with, and Rosie sees this, understands it, is just doing everything she can to not to draw attention to herself. Being spayed, and now lacking in hormones may be adding to her behavior.
He needs to understand that not all dogs need the over the top Alpha all the time. This is in fact bullying behavior, and isn't healthy in a pack dynamic.

I actually run into this issue at home. Gunnr requires a much firmer hand than Tika. Sometimes, in keeping Gunnr in line, Tika will become unsettled, possibly not being able to understand that the correction isn't for her, but for Gunnr, and she reacts to her surrounding. I have to go soothe her and let her know that she isn't in trouble.

Vizsla's can be very sensitive. I can wilt mine and make them roll onto their backs just by looking at them from a chair, never even getting up, speaking, or making physical contact. Going over the top with a Vizsla is almost always wrong.

Watch her, and observe her behavior. If it seems wrong, or gets worse, stop. She shouldn't be urinating and dragging her belly on the ground.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks Gunnr. That's a good point about her observing him w/ other dogs with whom he might be firmer. She's a very sensitive girl with a tendency toward anxiety (noises, seeing her own reflection in the mirror, separation, workmen who enter our home, people dancing on the TV, and--heaven forbid--men with lawn care equipment). She does seem more anxious with males than females who she doesn't know well, but with those she knows well, her response to their entering the home is an exuberant vizsla greeting with a lot of tail thumping, kisses and happy grinning. One thing that worries me is that she has shown some signs of mild fear aggression (e.g., growling at a guy who visits occasionally and has an extremely grating loud voice that I think scared her...his voice sets me on edge, it's so loud). That's why at this impressionable age, I want to work on her trusting males rather than perceiving them as threatening. I see that as essential to her not being at risk later in life for showing aggression stemming from fear/threat. We will keep an eye on her and look for the problem to resolve or else find a new playgroup/daycare for her.
 

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My wife believes that dogs appear more nervous around men because we move too fast, are louder, and are more unpredictable in our movement than a woman. I'm not sure I know exactly what that means. ;D
 

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Hey Gunnr,

That's funny! I think with vizslas, louder and bigger may be the key words. I've known dogs who had no perception of size, who just weren't visual at all, e.g., little male dogs who'd challenge other male dogs of any size. Rosie from the get-go would be more intimidated by larger humans and dogs than smaller ones. In general, she's much more visual than the dogs of other breeds we've had, which of course makes sense in terms of the characteristics selected for in this breed. She notices things like her own reflection and things on TV that other dogs we've had wouldn't pick up on (e.g., she'd react to a dog on the screen even with the sound muted). So my guess is she can tell guys are bigger as well as louder.

Sarah
 
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