Our expert says:
Dog Behaviour Expert
Hi Anne, what you describe is a little dog that is really fearful. Dogs exhibit what we call Calming Signals and one of these is the licking of lips which is what you describe above - this serves to calm her and she perceives it as an appeasement signal. Also remember that licking between dogs is normal as well and she is just doing too much. What I would suggest is the following:
1. You need to start this with you and the family and then visitors can do it.
2. When she licks, just pick her up gently, put her on the floor, or away from you and walk away or sit up in the chair, depending on where you are when it happens. dont talk to her, look at her or interact with her at all. If you talk to her, shout at her etc, she will just perceive this as attention and do it more. Attention to a dog is attention whether negative or positive. Rather just ignore her behaviour completely and when she has given up, call her to you, ask for a sit and give her a pat.
This is what is termed 'negative punishment', we are taking the dog away from what it want the most and this is very effective where dogs are concerned. This needs to happen each and every time she engages in the behaviour. Interestingly enough this will serve to build her confidence as you are showing, by your body language and actions that you are higher in the pack than she is. This in turn, will help her to feel more relaxed.
2. I would also suggest starting to build her confidence more. Start to take her for walks in new locations, go up and down everyday obstacles etc and praise her for being successful. With a dog you describe, you may find that in new locations she becomes very anxious. If this happends let me know and I will give you some tools to deal with this - dont force her to go somewhere she doesnt want to go.
3. I would also suggest that you read the article in my www.friendsofthedog.co.za site called House Rules. These are very simple to achieve and will serve to raise you higher in the combined human/canine hierarchy, thereby making her feel more secure. These are all for free. The article I mention is in the Dog Stuff section.
4. Finally, on the above site you find some articles in the Alternative section on the Tellington TTouch. This is a wonderful tool to help a dog lessen stress and simply bringing in a few of these will help her to relax.
Hope this helps and do let me know how you do. thks S
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