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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
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Snapped: Too Cute Dogs!!

I've searched and read through the forum on issues with finding pet sitters and/or dog walkers. This is another long posting, but I appreciate the advice and/or opinions.

I've had two extremes with interviewing two different dog walking companies. I have had to fill out mounds of paperwork!!!

The first one just wanted my house keys to let a dog walker I'd never met into my house to walk my dog. They wanted to charge me for a "meet and greet" with the dog walker. I didn't hire them.

The second company was the opposite extreme. I met a young woman at the groomer who hugged and made over Sergio, and she gave me the card of the company she works for as a dog walker.

The owner of the company after several emails and phone messages, finally came to my house for a meet and greet this past Friday evening.

She said she wanted to see how Sergio did with greeting a stranger and wanted to meet him at home. Initially, she asked me to have high value treats like hot dogs. I opted for the Zuke's mini chicken treats. I've never given Sergio hot dogs.

The dog walking owner is not the same person as the young woman I met at the groomer. The dog walking owner knocks on my apartment door, and Sergio follows me to open the door.

What do you think happens? Horror of all horrors, Sergio sits down at my ankles as I greet her and I let her in.

Sergio then follows the two of us into the living room walking by my ankles. I give the dog walking service owner the bag of Zuke's treats.

Okay, so far so good, I'm thinking. Sergio seems well behaved. He's not barking, jumping, hiding, just sorta hanging by.

So we both sit down on the living room floor, and the woman puts a Zuke's treat in her hand. Sergio doesn't approach her. Uh-Oh!!! According to her, that's not good!!! Huge red flag for her of a dog with a life-long behavior problem.

Over the course of the next HOUR, this woman continues to put treats on the floor, put them in her hand, yada yada yada, while she talks to me about what it means to be a positive dog trainer. She has a law degree and spent two years getting her dog training certification.

In the course of an hour, Sergio gently takes each treat, and then backs himself up right back next to me!!

HUGE RED FLAG TO THIS WOMAN!!!

During the hour, this woman told me that she knew I didn't want to hear this, but my dog had issues that I would be dealing with for the rest of his life. His "problem" according to her was that he is just too cute!! Yep, he's so cute, that people will want to pet him. And one day, he is going to SNAP and bite someone!!

I guess he can appear on SNAPPED: Too cute fluffy dogs!!

I asked her why my dog did so well with the young woman at the groomer, who I wanted to pay to walk my dog? The young woman didn't give him any treats at all, just made over him like a little kid and scooped him up and hugged him. His tail was wagging and he didn't look at all like he wanted to BITE her.

The dog walking service owner said that the young woman dog walker was just getting started and didn't know what to look for in a dog about to bite.

She went on to lecture me about positive dog training, and how they use similar techniques to what we know about how children learn, that there was a crucial window of opportunity while puppies, and after that, the dog wasn't going to get any better.

She said my dog was like this by genetics, and also, because something was missing in his socialization as a puppy, not that he was abused.

I'm glad she didn't charge me for the hour. She said she's trying to figure out if the risk is worth it, the "risk" of Sergio snapping and biting someone if she sets up a walking service.

I was going to pay $75 a week, a month in advance, for 30 minutes of walking/playing each day between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. I really thought the socialization would be good for Sergio.

According to this woman, he needs A LOT of treats, like hot dogs, just to get the leash on him and out the door.

When she said goodbye to him, he was standing by the dining room table. She was wriggling her fingers at him, and still he wouldn't come to her.

HUGE RED FLAG FOR HER!

I asked her what she expected him to be doing. She said that a "normal" dog, would have gone to her for the treat, licked her face, jumped on her, shown some excitement, etc. And wriggly fingers near his face were supposed to be interesting enough for him to see what the wriggly fingers were all about and he should have gone to her.

I told her that I was waiting for a DVD and book in the mail from Amazon about calming signals, but that I really didn't think my dog would be the type to bite someone. What I found very upsetting is how CERTAIN she was that one day he would bite, and that I shouldn't allow children near him.

Okay, I know this post was long.

I'm at a complete loss about how to "help" my dog be more trusting of people. I'm just not buying into this treats for tricks theory. I've seen how well he responds to gentle, affectionate people, even strangers. And according to the book The Havanese by Diane Klumb and JoAnne Baldwin, many Havanese DO actually respond more to affection than treats.

Since Sergio is 2, maybe he's past the whole training with treats phase that works for puppies. Don't puppies eventually get the treats phased out, so that they are responding to the "command" like sit, stay, heel, without a treat? Isn't that the idea??

Advice needed.

Last edited by curly_DC; 04-09-2012 at 02:16 PM.
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 04:18 PM
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wow! I'm not sure what to say, since I am NO WAY an expert, BUT it sounds to me that Sergio was behaving VERY normally for a dog!! I would think the dogs she is talking about who lick her face and eat all the treats would be more the exception than the norm...? Maybe Sergio just didn't like HER! LOL

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 04:33 PM
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The more I hear about Sergio, the more I like him! He reminds me of Louis so much. I can't believe that woman. I would not have hired her. According to her, I guess there is no hope for mine either! Too bad Sergio and Louis can't hang out together!

Louis is also past the "puppy socialization" stage and he hates strangers. But who can blame him? I think it's wrong to think EVERY dog should come bounding into your arms. Louis likes quiet personalities who approach him gently. He wouldn't take a treat from the vet, but at the end of the visit, he did. For him, it takes 2 days of quality time to get to know someone. And even then, he's still a little jumpy with people's movements. I know for sure if I hired a walker, he would avoid the walker, and the person would probably spent a good 20 minutes getting a hold of him to even put the leash on. Then I can imagine Louis not budging on the leash. "No way I'm following this weird person" is what he would think.

What that woman should have done - because EVERY dog is different, not happy-go-lucky jumping beans - she should have just talked to you and ignored Sergio. Let him come to her on his terms. Then at the end of the visit, offer him a treat. If he doesn't take it, no big deal. I would have also came by for a second visit to say hi. But I guess that's not how those walking companies work. It takes a little bit to win over personalities like Sergio and Louis. BUT, once you've got their trust, they are THE BEST dogs in the world! I couldn't have asked for a better dog, and I was a self-proclaimed big-dog person.

Will you be going with another dog walking company or trying her again? I've gotten comments from MANY people how Louis will bite. I think he'd try to avoid the "threat" than bite first. When I took him to the vet, the vet tech seemed nervous, and said "he's giving me this look like he wants to bite." Maybe if he was really cornered he might, but by that point, any person with basic skills of reading dog body language should be able to gauge if the dog is stressed to the point of biting.

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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 06:13 PM
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Many of the dogs I show won't take treats, no matter how tempting, from a stranger. I'm glad about that, less likely to be given bad food. Occasionally, but not often, I'll have a professional handler show my dogs. I've learned they need to go live with them for a couple weeks prior to being shown to become completely bonded to them too and react to them the way they do to me. It is hard, but what needs to be done. I always tell myself they'll be home very soon, and they are.

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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 06:34 PM
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Looks to me as though Sergio has good taste in people. ;-)

I think he didn't like the woman who visited. Or, rather, at least, didn't quite trust her. Sounds as though she was lecturing you. Possibly it was partly the tone of voice, and partly body language, that kept Sergio away from this woman. Possibly also HER failure to use reasonable calming signals. (I hope you enjoy the material when it arrives, and the DVD is worth watching several times, to get a kind of intuitive understanding of those signals.)

I'm wondering how come she felt it necessary to go through her credentials - two years to get certified? That seems quite reasonable, but I think her listing her credentials is helpful to her clients. Still, two years isn't much time.

What bugged me most was her predictions, which didn't allow for variations in dogs; as others said, every dog is different. She seemed convinced Sergio hadn't been socialized, but his behavior, seems to me, was absolutely normal and reasonable, even for a socialized dog - especially if you keep in mind that Sergio quite clearly didn't TRUST her, at least. Maybe it's better stated in terms of trust, rather than like or dislike.

I'm interested, too, that the woman at the groomer's just picked Sergio up without a by-your-leave - and hugged him! Dogs usually don't enjoy being hugged, especially, without an introduction first. Some dogs do tolerate it well. It seems Sergio is one of those!

All in all, Michele, that's a fascinating story, and I'm glad you took the time to write it. I agree with all that Toki said, too.

I'll only add now that, not having been there myself, I can't really assess things very well. I can ONLY say I think Sergio's behaviors were perfectly normal, and NOT a sign of any kind of trouble.

Please do continue to post on how things go with Sergio. I think you have a good feel for people.

Mon, 9 Apr 2012 15:34:02 (PDT)

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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 07:20 PM
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I agree with Toki and Carol... Sergio's behavior with this woman was perfectly appropriate. SOMETHING about HER made him back off. I wonder whether part of the reason he didn't warm up to her was that, because SHE was lecturing you, maybe YOU started to give off vibes that you didn't care for her. (I would have agreed with BOTH you and Sergio!)

Kodi is about as well socialized as a dog can be. I have worked on it extensively from the day I got him, and the Kings worked on it extensively while he was still with them. I don't expect him to go leaping into the arms of every stranger who comes to our door... in fact, I am happy that he is our little "alarm dog" and lets me know when someone is on the property. He stops barking when I ask him to, and invite the person into the house, but he certainly doesn't leap into their arms. If they give him a few minutes he will warm up, and if I give them a treat, he will come to them. But then he would wander off, either to my side, or back into his crate. (Ooohhh, this woman would probably see that as EXTREMELY antisocial!)

OTOH, once he has met a person a couple of times, if they are friendly to him, he is a friend for life. We have been going through this renovation to our house for 9 months, with various workmen on and off the property almost daily. After his initial letting me know someone is there, he greats each of these people (all of whom are familiar by now) as friends.

I wonder if this dog walking service is planning to have a different person come to get him at different times, and that is why they re so concerned that he go to anyone, any time. (I don't know if I'd be happy with a bunch of strangers entering my house!) If it's just one person who will be walking him, perhaps you could arrange and pay for a few half hour meet and greets, first with you there, and then with you leaving so that the person can go in and interact with him on their own.

I suspect he'll be fine! After all, you aren't his original owner... he met you as an adult, has adjusted to you beautifully, and you haven't had to worry about him biting you!!!

As far as the walker who picked him up at the groomers, I, personally, wouldn't let someone who didn't already know Kodi VERY well pick him up. NOT because I think he might bite them, because I am quite sure he wouldn't But because he might struggle to get away and end up getting dropped and hurt. Unlike cats, dogs don't do well getting dropped from arm-level height. (and I don't think people should pick up cats they don't know well either!)

Also, it's just not something I think he should have to tolerate from strangers. Even at the vet's office they don't do this. They have the owner put the dog up on the table for examination. It's a REAL invasion of the dog's personal space.

Finally, as far as using treats for training is concerned, it isn't an age thing. If you were working with a 10 year old untrained dog, you'd probably need even MORE treats than when training a puppy. But treats are, for the most part, for training new and difficult behaviors. You want to fade treats for established, "expected" behaviors. For instance, no matter what the dog's age, you would probably use quite a few treats teaching them loose leash walking. However, once they have been successfully walking on a loose leash very reliably, you would fade and then totally stop giving treats for it. At that point, if they dog began to pull, (let's say they saw a squirrel run across the path) you would simply stop walking, stand still and wait for the dog to return to your side. (negative punishment... taking away the pleasure of moving forward)

So, you are right, you don't use treats forever, UNLESS you want to challenge your dog and keep them learning new behaviors.. Even then, the treats are for NEW behaviors, not established ones. (The only exception to this, for most people, is the recall in the open. This one is SO important, and it is SO easy for the dog to receive reinforcement for the wrong behavior in the environment itself, that it pays to keep putting "money in the bank" and giving food rewards for prompt recalls OFTEN)


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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 07:28 PM
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Arrow Dog-walking company owner's assessments; 1 of 4

Pardon me for doing this again; at great length! I'm trying to detect what I think didn't work very well in the meeting with this dog-walker. Please keep in mind that these are my personal views; others might have different ones, with different insights! This is bound to be so very long that I'll try to split it into four posts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curly_DC View Post
[snip]

The second company was the opposite extreme. I met a young woman at the groomer who hugged and made over Sergio, and she gave me the card of the company she works for as a dog walker.

The owner of the company after several emails and phone messages, finally came to my house for a meet and greet this past Friday evening.

She said she wanted to see how Sergio did with greeting a stranger and wanted to meet him at home. Initially, she asked me to have high value treats like hot dogs. I opted for the Zuke's mini chicken treats. I've never given Sergio hot dogs.
So far, this all sounds quite reasonable to me. After all, she, or one of her employees, would be walking Sergio. And choice of "high-value" treat is YOURS. I don't feed hot dogs, either!

Some questions: do they walk more than one dog at a time? Or are these walks with several dogs at once, with the same handler on all the dogs?

Choice of treat - and other aspects - might get tricky if this is a company that walks several dogs with one handler.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curly_DC View Post
The dog walking owner is not the same person as the young woman I met at the groomer. The dog walking owner knocks on my apartment door, and Sergio follows me to open the door.

What do you think happens? Horror of all horrors, Sergio sits down at my ankles as I greet her and I let her in.

Sergio then follows the two of us into the living room walking by my ankles. I give the dog walking service owner the bag of Zuke's treats.

Okay, so far so good, I'm thinking. Sergio seems well behaved. He's not barking, jumping, hiding, just sorta hanging by.
Very nice! Understanding your remark about "horrors" depends on your story and the way you tell it. I like your sense of humor, and think it's very appropriate here! Good boy, Sergio!

Part 2 of 4 to follow.

Mon, 9 Apr 2012 16:27:46 (PDT)

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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 07:40 PM
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Jasper would have done the exact same thing. He's shy around strangers too. He's getting better since I've been making an effort to socialize him more. My sister and her boyfriend came over last week and Jasper acted like his normal happy self, except that he completely ignored them. When they would call him he'd just kind of look at them and then run back to me all excited. After they had been there a couple of hours he let them pet him but was still a little standoffish. I can't imagine him running and jumping all over a stranger, he's just not that type of dog.
He's never shown ANY signs of aggression though. He's my 1 year old daughter's best friend.

I wouldn't worry too much about what she said. I'd definitely try to socialize Sergio more (which you are) just because it's a good thing to do.

My old dog Rocky is very friendly when strangers come over. He will come right up with his tail wagging and lay his head on your knee and be super sweet.....he also bit my son in the face once when Dylan tried to hug him (it wasn't very bad, scared us too death though). So just because your dog might be friendly with strangers is no guarantee that he won't bite.


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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 07:48 PM
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Arrow Dog-walking company owner's assessments; 2 of 4

Quote:
Originally Posted by curly_DC View Post
So we both sit down on the living room floor, and the woman puts a Zuke's treat in her hand. Sergio doesn't approach her. Uh-Oh!!! According to her, that's not good!!! Huge red flag for her of a dog with a life-long behavior problem.

Over the course of the next HOUR, this woman continues to put treats on the floor, put them in her hand, yada yada yada, while she talks to me about what it means to be a positive dog trainer. She has a law degree and spent two years getting her dog training certification.

In the course of an hour, Sergio gently takes each treat, and then backs himself up right back next to me!!

HUGE RED FLAG TO THIS WOMAN!!!
Well, the woman's response to Sergio does suggest the possibility that she's been in a profession - or been a student of - a discipline that may not match relationships with dogs very well. I think some people can be more flexible, but others might see in more rigid terms; possibly NOT in dog-terms.

Sergio started at a disadvantage here. Is it usual for you to have (stranger) visitors come in and sit on the FLOOR? That doesn't sound normal to me, and I think it's possible Sergio thought it was strange and unusual behavior on the visitor's part. Not yet to be trusted, till he figures things out.

I do, also, wonder why she talks more about herself than about Sergio. No questions to you about how Sergio behaves in different situations? It does seem reasonable to me that she should outline, or at least mention, her particular qualifications.

I'm responding with my feelings, this way: Sergio's greeting behavior at the door was magnificent. Lots of people would envy that to pieces! And I think if the woman had sat down in a chair or on a sofa, as you directed, and remained there for a time (with treats), it's possible she'd have received a different impression. I wonder why she felt she had to sit on the floor. Maybe she thought, "I'm supposed to get down to the dog's level." Doing that CAN work, but could easily make a smart dog suspicious, especially, in your house, if not all your guests come in and sit on the floor!

So, I think Sergio is taking in the entire environment, as good and smart dogs do. And again, I think with the woman saying bad things about Sergio, there was likely a certain tone in her voice - maybe a tone of reprimand to you. just maybe. Or, at least, warning. But - without any possible reason that I can personally detect!

I can only think MAYBE she thought if she was going to walk several dogs at a time, they should all be the kinds of dogs who fall all over every dog-oriented human, and will eat anything any time for treats, regardless of the situation (environment).

Part 3 of 4 to follow.
Mon, 9 Apr 2012 16:45:39 (PDT)

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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 04-09-2012, 08:03 PM
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Arrow Dog-walking company owner's assessments; 3 of 4

Quote:
Originally Posted by curly_DC View Post
During the hour, this woman told me that she knew I didn't want to hear this, but my dog had issues that I would be dealing with for the rest of his life. His "problem" according to her was that he is just too cute!! Yep, he's so cute, that people will want to pet him. And one day, he is going to SNAP and bite someone!!

I guess he can appear on SNAPPED: Too cute fluffy dogs!!
Well-managed dogs aren't put in situations (other than, say, with a vet, a vet tech or a groomer) where they'd be pressed far enough to snap and bite. And well-educated vets, techs and groomers will avoid provoking a bite. Usually, it only takes a short period of introduction before beginning a vet exam, to put a dog at least partly at ease.

I know my vets work to put dogs at ease, and teach all their staff the same techniques.

And I'm a little surprised that this woman equated a person WANTING to pet Sergio because he's cute, with you - or a dog-walker - ALLOWING the desired petting.

It is true that some people rush up without a by-your-leave and start petting, but an alert dog-walker would presumably arrest that kind of rude behavior, perhaps putting up a hand in traffic-cop style.

That said, I know there are truly difficult dogs; these are ones who may have had less-than-good genes, not been socialized well, or have suffered some trauma that predisposes them to bite, maybe even without warning. Since I've read about Sergio here, I have a very hard time even beginning to imagine him feeling so pressed that he'd bite - especially, not without a clear warning first - at least, a lip-curl and a growl.

Good boy, Sergio.

Part 4 of 4 to follow.

Mon, 9 Apr 2012 17:00:58 (PDT)

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