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Jillian1104 12-18-2013 08:14 AM

9 month old afraid of PetSmart/PetCo!
Hello all--

I'm hoping that someone out there has some experience with the following situation and can offer some advice. (It's a bit long, sorry about that!)

My husband and I have a 9 month old female GS pup named Pierre. We adopted her at just 9 weeks old and she's been with us ever since. She is a well socialized dog and loves people and other animals (well, except for squirrels!). But lately, she has been SUPER afraid of PetSmart/PetCo.

For about 16 weeks in the summer, Pierre took puppy/intermediate training classes... and she did fantastic. Though I've heard various reports about PetSmart training, we had a wonderful experience with a trainer that truly did a fantastic job with our pup. In the past couple weeks, we decided to retake intermediate class because we've been finding that our pup is testing her boundaries to see what she can get away with. When looking through the posts here one day, I found someone who recommended that, during this stage, we re-enroll her in school. So for the last 3 weeks, we've been taking class (with a new trainer).

Last week, I took Pierre to puppy school and something strange happened. She walked nicely with me through the parking lot, all the way up to the store. And then she stopped dead in her tracks at the front doors, dropped to her belly, and decided she wasn't moving. At 70 lbs, there wasn't much I could do to force her. I tried coaxing her in with treats, calls, etc... but nothing worked. She finally got up to her feet, and with a little help from one of the PetSmart trainers, I was able to at least get her in the store. But then, she found the nearest corner and did the same. Cowering and generally freaking out. I tried coaxing her a bit, but didn't want to force her into anything that she didn't want to do.

When I was getting ready to call it a day and miss class, she started slowllllly walking towards the training block in school, so I let her get as far as she was able. We got about halfway to the back of the store and again, she cowered. Since we were running late to class (we're the only family in this retake class), the new trainer came out to look for us and found us in the main aisle, parked. She helped to coax Pierre and we were able to get her into the puppy ring, but did not get much training done. She was fine in the ring, but I spent most of my time talking to the trainer about what could possibly be causing this. After a good 20 or so minutes of normal Pierre, we finally started working on 'heel', but as soon as the trainer started walking with her, she freaked out again. So I had enough and told her that we were leaving.

It took us 20 minutes to get out of the store because she kept stopping and dropping. But, when we got home and she acted completely fine. Like nothing ever happened.

We've been watching her like a hawk the last few days, but she's been acting 100% normal. Last night, we took her to PetCo to see if it was that PetSmart store or a smell or random, etc or if she would act like this again.

Again, she went through the parking lot fine; she was even running towards the store, but stopped shy of the door again. Since we had 90 minutes or so to kill, we let her take her time and sniff her way through the store, but every couple minutes or so, she'd just be done-- shaking, etc.

We have an appointment with the vet next week, where I'll be talking to them about this issue, but wanted to see if anyone had ever experienced anything like this.

It's also important to note (I think) that just about all of her experiences at PetSmart/PetCo have been positive ones. The only issue we've ever had was the previous week when we were working on 'heel' at puppy school and the trainer tried the pinch collar. We've never used one before and Pierre didnt like it at all, so I made the trainer take it off of her almost immediately. Is it possible that that experience was bad enough that it has now scared her that much?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

middleofnowhere 12-18-2013 08:39 AM

One thing I'd be curious about is trying another type of store - home depot or lowes perhaps if they allow dogs where you are. I'm wondering if there is something they used on the floors in these places that causes her apprehension. Maybe they have changed their cleaning fluids? Or maybe it had been freshly cleaned just before you went?

Other than that, all I could say is just walk around the area that she's comfortable with, ask for crossing the threshold after all that, leave if she doesn't want to. Do this several different times.

That's all I got. That and try to stay matter of fact about the whole thing.

Blanketback 12-18-2013 10:53 AM

Maybe the pinch collar had something to do with it. Why did the trainer put one on her? That sounds very unusual for a PetSmart training class.

Jillian1104 12-18-2013 10:58 AM

We had a harness, but apparently it's one that's not super conducive to training. So she was showing us different options of harness, etc. I told her we didn't want the pinch, but she insisted because she uses them on her GSDs at home. I don't have anything against the pinch, provided the dog is not scared AND the owners know how and are comfortable with using them. But, it's not something that I am comfortable with using.

The trainer put it on her and walked a couple paces. The first pull, Pierre cried. I wanted to take it off, but the trainer told me that it was normal, that she would get used to it. As soon as I realized that she wasn't getting used to it, it was off of her immediately.

Blanketback 12-18-2013 11:09 AM

Huh. I was under the impression that PetSmart trainers would never ever use a prong collar. I wonder if part of Pierre's trouble now is that she picked up on the stress you had when you saw her in discomfort?

Jillian1104 12-18-2013 11:40 AM

If this posts twice, I apologize. It appears as though my first one didn't go through.

That's very possible that she picked up on my discomfort. Not sure. As far as the trainer using the prong, I think it had more to do with her own experience with her dogs than the PS guidance.

I'm hopeful that though she had problems last night at PetCo, she saw it as a positive experience where she received a reward (toy/bone), and the next time we'll have better luck.

Either way, I've put puppy school on hold and am researching other local training classes, and will try to work with her slowly until she feels comfortable again.

I just feel so bad for her!

Blanketback 12-18-2013 12:03 PM

Now I'm curious as to why the trainer used the prong. Was it to stop her from pulling on the leash? And if that's why, was she pulling to get to the other dogs, or was she avoiding something, or just not in a proper heel position? So many variables, lol!

Don't feel bad. It was just another day in the life, and some are better than others. Stuff happens. My pup cried when he first pulled on the prong too. They don't expect it, so they vocalize. In my case, my pup was choking himself on a flat collar and I didn't want him to hurt himself so I opted for the prong.

Jillian1104 12-18-2013 12:08 PM

It was a combination of the pulling and the proper heel position. We have an ongoing problem that she is good for my husband when he walks her, but when I walk her, she pulls. In my opinion she doesn't badly, but given the fact that she is going to be/is such a big dog and I probably couldn't hold onto her at a full run, we're trying different ways to nip it in the bud.

And yes, I know I shouldn't feel bad, but I still do! lol

Blanketback 12-18-2013 12:15 PM

Lots of people don't like the prong, but IMO you have to weigh the alternatives. If you can't walk the dog without pulling, which is better: a prong or being cooped up indoors? If the dog can pull itself out of your grasp, which is better: a prong or the dog rushing across the street? You get my drift...really, don't feel bad. Training the dog to walk on a loose leash and ignore distractions is ideal, but Rome wasn't built in a day, lol.

Jillian1104 12-18-2013 12:20 PM

Well that's certainly true! We will see. Another trainer recommended a different harness, which is more conducive to training. If she's that bent out of shape over the prong, then (right now) at least I dont think that's the solution. But we shall see.

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