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 Newbie with some husky disposition questions

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Cheri
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PostSubject: Newbie with some husky disposition questions   Fri Nov 21, 2014 5:09 am

Hello guys and gals.  At the end of July, this little lady showed up in my yard:








My vet thought she looked like a woolly husky and estimated her to be about 6-8 years old.   Under all that hair in the top picture, she actually is wearing a nylon collar that was so dingy, I'm pretty sure it had never been taken off.  Where I live, it is not uncommon for dogs to be dumped, so after some checking lost dog postings and asking around, I decided to give her a bath and a name.  

After unsuccessfully bathing and attempting to comb her, her hair was still so matted in places that I had to take her to a professional groomer who unfortunately, said she had no choice but to completely shave her.  $95 later, she looked like a foofoo dog that belonged in the city with a rhinestone collar.  Luckily, as I said, it was the end of July, so she's had time to grow her hair out some, her skin issues are resolved and she prances around like the happiest little ball of energy around.  Definitely a much different dog than the one that showed up in my yard that day.

Coming as an adult and never having had any experience with a husky, I have been researching things about the breed as we experience a couple of "issues".   One issue is with bath time.  Every time I have bathed her (and there have been several times because she had a yeast infection on her skin from the severe matting that required several medicated baths for a few weeks) she immediately shakes like crazy, making that bath super duper fun for everyone involved.  lol   Is that a common husky trait, or was she just never bathed before she got here and maybe doesn't quite understand or like what's happening?  I know all dogs are different with different personalities, but I want to make sure I accomodate her the best I can to make this be the best home and experiences she's ever had.  Obviously keeping water out of her ears is important, as well as the undercoat needing to be dry to prevent possible skin issues, but is there any other reason/issue with bathing her I don't know about?  My lab hates bath time too, but she just sulks.  Lacey, on the other hand, immediately shakes off the water, then the shampoo, then the rinse water all over me and the bathroom.  She gets in my pond up to her knees on her own without issue, so I know she's not afraid of water.  

Secondly, she is kind of aggressive towards food.  From feeding time to getting a rawhide bone and treats out of places she knows are put out of way from her, to getting into the trash for wrappers or whatever.  I do feed her away from the other dogs and cats and she's fed high quality food at a regular time in quiet conditions, but she acts like it is her first meal in a month and eats it very quickly and protectively.  She blocks me with her body, hunkers down, lays her ears back and if I get really close to her, she growls at me.  This is the only time she's been aggressive at all (she's fine around the other dogs and cats when not eating) and it does kind of concern me.  From what I've read on the forum, it sounds pretty common and I'm sure all dogs are capable of it, it is just kind of worrisome when you have a dog that comes as an adult that you don't really "know" that well, including any history.  That's not a huge problem and I'm sure with more time, training and patience, we'll get past it, but I was just curious if huskies are worse about it than other breeds or if the "always hungry and ready to eat and willing to be hateful about it" is more specific to them.  lol  As a side note, when she showed up, she was not starving or underweight in any way, so it's not like she was a starving stray when she came along and as a matter of fact, she wouldn't touch the dog food I put out for her at first.  It was as if she only wanted "people food" or something.  

That leads me into my last question.  Are huskies more prone to be very territorial/protective in general?  Lacey is an outside dog with garage privileges and though she will bark like crazy, she is fine and backs off once I come out to meet the mailman, UPS or FedEx guys.  However, if I'm busy working and don't get out there right away, she barks at them very loudly and confrontationally and ACTS like she's going to attack, though she never has.  She barely backs down/away from them, either, when they stop their vehicle and get out and walk toward the house.  Those bright blue eyes give her a scary enough look the way it is without her acting like a mean attack dog.  These are guys that are here on a very regular basis, so it's not like it's an unusual occurence.  They've even pet her and been nice to her in front of me and she's leary, but fine, never showing any aggression.  She actually acts more timid and shy with me out there.  That is the one thing that REALLY bothers me about her.  I don't want her to bite someone and open a can of worms.  I always tell her calmly "It's ok, girl" when I go out to meet these guys and she's immediately fine, but she's a totally different dog when she's out there by herself.  My other dog will sometimes bark, sometimes not, but shows no aggression, so it's not really a "pack" mentality.  I want to train Lacey to at least be cool (barking is fine, but not acting like she's going to attack them) with the regular visitors at least, but I'm not sure how to do that if she's not acting that way when I'm out there so I can reprimand her.  All of these guys are on edge around her (I've even told the mail man to just honk and I'll stop working to come out and meet him so he doesn't have to deal with her) and I hate that and want to try to get a solution figured out.  It's been almost four months since she arrived and she's pretty well behaved in all other situations except for this one, obviously the most troubling one.  I really don't think she would bite anyone and I've told them to let me know if she ever does anything more than bark kind of ferociously, like growling, nipping or baring teeth and so far none have reported that.  Recently, my regular UPS driver has been on vacation a lot and I know she's really freaked out the temp drivers, so much so that one driver just left the packages sitting out in my drive because I was in the middle of something and couldn't get out there before Lacey scared him away.  He actually delivered some boxes the other day, parking his truck as close to the door as possible in case he had to make a quick getaway from her and I caught him and he asked me about her and I tried to explain that she was still kinda new and still learning and that I THOUGHT she was ok, but not 100% sure, but nothing reported beyond the fierce barking.  She even walked up to him and got into the truck a bit and smelled him and his hand and acted much more timid while I was out there.  I don't want to tie her up and she LOOOVES being outdoors, even though I try to keep her in the garage when it's really cold (because her hair is still short) and when I am expecting a delivery, but at some point, I want her to just learn to mellow out a bit.  She's a smart dog, always ready to play, especially chase (loves being play chased so she can run in big circles and chase things that run like squirrels, chickens, rabbits, field mice, etc.).  My bf drives up and hangs around her and she doesn't bark much or at all and thinks he's great, so it doesn't seem to be a "I don't like men" thing.

Thank you in advance for this great site and I apologize for the length of all this, but I just wanted to give all the details to help with the thoughts/feedback/suggestions.  Smile
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MattV
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PostSubject: Re: Newbie with some husky disposition questions   Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:41 am

First, thanks for giving her a home. It sounds like she wandered into the right place..

I am by no means a dog expert, nor one on huskies, but what you're describing sounds like a dog that was out for a while, or had a fairly lousy home, or both. A lot of adjustments are just going to take time for her to feel secure about where she is, where her next meal will come from and no one trying to take it from her.

In my experience, huskies are not particularly territorial. Some of what you're describing sounds like the excitement ours display when someone new, or a known friend shows up. Both of ours grrr and whine and make other noises when they get excited. Some people do find it disconcerting at first.

Its likely she needs to get used to meeting new people. It wouldn't surprise me if she's been poorly socialized.

Keep at it, be patient, watch for aggression.
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amymeme
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PostSubject: Re: Newbie with some husky disposition questions   Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:03 am

Wow - she is beautiful. As one who has a wooley husky, my first advice is - keep up on the grooming, so you never have large mats. If you can't get a little snarl combed out, cut it out before it becomes a big snarl.

The food issue. I would start hand feeding her. Just little bits of kibble, piece by piece, in the palm of your hand and let her nibble it off of your outstretched hand. Lots of petting as you do this, however she likes it (Ami loves to have his ears gently stroked and pulled.) Also, do you feed once a day or divided meals? I found that feeding Ami 2 meals and a "midnight snack" also helped with scarfing his meals.

The bath thing...I have had Ami a little over a year, now, got him at 1 year old from a shelter. I have not successfully done a whole body wet bath at one time. He shakes, he wriggles, he turns, he squirms, he does figure 8's, climbs through my legs, he shakes and twists...I've settled for spot cleaning with either a wash cloth or using a foam waterless shampoo. So, good luck with that. I do not think this is specific to the breed, rather his individual personality and history. Son's husky mix gets baths all the time - he is one stinky dog. Will say that DIL is good with bathing Archer, son...well, son gets more bath than dog.

If you haven't come across this site, good info on grooming:
http://mikulov.org/Rescues/happy/woolly.htm

The barking...is it full out bark like a lab barks or is it more woo-woos, grrs and funny noises? When we first got Ami, husband thought he was growling when he approached but is just the husky "Hi, how are you, I've missed you, you're the love of my life" (huskies are whores, they love everybody as if they were the most important person in the world:lol: ) Many people mistake these vocalizations for growling and intimidation, they are not. My son's husky mix on the other hand, truly barks. We finally got a bark collar for him as animal control came out a few times at his house in response to a neighbor's complaint and my husband was ready to ban Archer from our house due to the barking/squealing. The bark collar worked really well, stopped his barking and seemed to make him calmer also. After maybe a week, maybe less, even without the collar he rarely barks. BUT, this was when tethered, not loose and in response to visitors so may not be applicable.

I think I would begin an intensive socialization process. Take her places with you, let her meet all sorts of people. Walk her in places where she gets to meet people. Maybe give the UPS guy and the mailman some treats to give her - work on having her sit for treats and they can do this too. You could start by coming out to the truck, make her sit and let the driver give the treat...

I have had 2 huskies in my life plus son's mix. I have not found them to be territorial, Ami not the bit, my female long ago was a little more reserved with strangers and they found her scary because of her mask but she really was ok with people coming to the house, just curious.

Hope this helps - others on here will certainly have different perspectives (I know people are able to bathe huskies, just not me lol! Yet. Working on that...
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Cheri
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PostSubject: Re: Newbie with some husky disposition questions   Fri Nov 21, 2014 1:32 pm

Thanks for your response, guys.

Matt, my feeling has also been that she was tied up, left in a backyard, or just kept around the house ignored, as a decoration.  Her coat was so gross when she came, that after you petted her, your hand would have a greasy type film on it and she acted like she'd never seen a dog bed before, instead, opting to lay down on the concrete or out in the yard.  Once I showed her what it was and let her know it was ok to use it, she's caught right on and enjoys both her beds outside and in the garage.

As far as the growling and stuff goes, yes, she makes her little "husky" type noises at me when she wants to play or can't wait for me to finish getting the food bowls together, but her demeanor with the delivery guys is full out, "Do NOT come near this house!".   She walks towards them and their vehicles, showing no fear as she barks like she means business.  There is no playful tone to it at all.  She's not even much of a barker or noise maker any other time, including when she's out at night with my great pyrenese who barks at coyotes and boogie men or whatever else she sees/smells in the night.

Amymeme, thanks for your post, also.  I already have a great pyrenese that came along as a matted furball of a puppy, so after 11 years of dealing with her, I was a tiny bit saddened to get another high maintenance dog.  Luckily, I do have the tools to keep up with it and I'm enjoying the minimal grooming currently required as her hair grows out.  Aside from when we take walks and she ventures out into the weeds to collect stick tites and other debris in the baby fine fluff she has going on right now, she seems to be a kind of clean dog, which definitely helps.  My GP lays out in the yard, digs out places to lay in dirt, wades into tall weeds and just in general, doesn't care about keeping her white coat clean at all, so that makes her grooming a bit more labor intensive.

I have hand fed her kibble and treats and she does fine with them, sometimes, like most dogs, having to be reminded that treats are to be taken "nice", so the treat giver doesn't lose a fingertip(s).  She just becomes a totally different dog when it comes to mealtime.  I've decided I'm going to just sit there holding the bowl and maybe even pour the food into my hand, letting her eat it out of it in the bowl to accustom her to me being right there as she eats.  I do think part of it is that she thinks she needs more food than she actually gets, even though she's not skinny by any means, just has a healthy appetite and is always ready to eat.  That excitement I believe, makes her covet the food when she does get it.

As far as the barking goes, like I said, she's really a rather quiet dog until one of the delivery guys shows up, then it sounds like she's about to attack an intruder in the night, even though it's daylight and they come at least usually 1-2x a week on average.  She just sounds straight on mean.  When I'm out there, she will kind of hang around me talking to them, but definitely doesn't run up looking for a treat or a pet or anything. Just more leary than anything.  The funny thing is that a couple of months ago, I had to call my neighbor because their cows got out and were in my yard and when that guy showed up, ALL of my dogs loved him like no other.  It was like they just KNEW he was an animal lover and so they were happy and frolicky around him.  I don't suspect any of my delivery guys are big animal lovers, and the dogs sense that, so they just tolerate them showing up and in Lacey's case, she wants them to leave and is more vocal about it.  Not sure how you fix that.  I hate to ask these guys (some of whom are just temp guys that don't know me, my dogs or anything about the situation other than here is a house with a delivery and a mean looking little husky that acts like she might attack me) to carry treats, get out and act like they are best friends with her, etc.  I work from home out in the country and don't have anywhere overly close I can take her that allows dogs to interact with people.  Aside from the delivery guys, my visitors are almost nil, which I prefer.  lol   When the vet showed up that day to help me send my 14 1/2 year old dalmation mix to a better place and check out Lacey (It's like the universe knew Justin's time was coming to and end and sent Lacey to bring some new life to the place), she was a happy, non-confrontational little dog.  I think I just have a dog that has a sense about people and possibly I should start a reality show involving dates and my dog's approval of them.  lol  The girls will come to my house and potential suitors pull up and depending on how Lacey acts towards them, the girl will know if he's a nice guy or not.  lol  

I actually do have a shock collar I got a few years ago when I first got chickens to teach my dogs to mind me if they were too far away for me to call back, but they ended up being fine right away, despite my parents telling me they chased theirs the couple of times they'd dog sat for me.  I hate to go that route though, if I can avoid it.  I just want to her understand already, that guys driving big loud trucks in daylight are to be tolerated, while slinky guys who crouch behind trees in the night should be the ones that get the mean dog treatment.  That's never happened, but you know what I'm saying.  These guys pose no threat whatsoever and are not going to be going away, so she just needs to understand that and be tolerable.  I'm not even asking her to be friendly, just not so confrontational.  Barking to let me know someone is here, especially when the other dogs do it, so I'm sure it's just part of the "pack" mentality is fine, but she just goes beyond that.
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amymeme
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PostSubject: Re: Newbie with some husky disposition questions   Fri Nov 21, 2014 2:13 pm

Cheri wrote:
I work from home out in the country and don't have anywhere overly close I can take her that allows dogs to interact with people.  Aside from the delivery guys, my visitors are almost nil, which I prefer.  lol  


lol! We know that tune, here...the original anti-socials we are!

Ami has only once not taken to someone and it was a demented (for real) man hollering at me for walking my dog in front of his house. Then he just sat with his ears out sideways and pressed himself into me for protection. So maybe your dog is picking up on their discomfort. Again, I would try to at least go out to the truck when you see/hear it coming, make her sit and then, even if it's just you, treat her so that she has a joyful experience.
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