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Old 01-30-2013, 02:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Fearful dog

Hi! Could any of you suggest exercises to help me restore my dog's security in himself?
This is now a 9 month old GSD. He used to be very stable, very secure in himself, just very true to the breed. Something happened that he's changed. I had written before about an issue with a training session from **** where the trainer had applied some harsh corrections that his behavior didn't justify. (She had pinned him down and yanked hard on his prong collar for ignoring her - which was fine by me as I'm his handler!) After that session, it was back to square one, as he wouldn't obey me anymore.
I've been working on his obedience, keeping it light and fun, and he's been improving, I'm not yet at that 1st command obedience on the sit, down and recall we used to be at but we're getting there. I have been socializing him with trusted friends from the local AKC group and we meet with our dogs 2x a week, where we walk around alone for a bit and then join his friends and slowly introduce him to new people.
So maybe it's something that takes time and I just need to keep doing what I'm doing but Shadow will bark and act very frightened (tail tucked between his legs, ears down) with strangers. He was very anxious and frightened at the vet's but has also been the same way with visitors at home. So if anyone has any suggestions for things I should incorporate, please let me know!
Thanks!
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Old 01-30-2013, 06:14 AM   #2 (permalink)
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very odd that he was stable then changed. at his age now its obviously the way he's going to be. some do go through fear stages at that age, but usually those ones also show a fear stage earlier too.

does he tuck tail and try to get away from strangers? some will do that, some will show other warnings like growling and backing up, or run away. definitely conditioning him slowly will help, but it does take time. meeting people i would have them ignore him, no touch, no eye contact, etc. he may after a few minutes after he feels no threat go smell the stranger, and thats good, but still i would not let them touch him. i would go through a time with that process and see how he is, then maybe add food for the person to give him, still with no touching, eye contact etc. long process, but does work. to what degree his fear is, time will tell, you might always have to deal with somedegree of it. in the meantime i would continue with a good trainer and class as long as you feel he is progressing in that setting and its not to overwelming for him. to much to soon can set them back.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:01 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Phoebes View Post
(She had pinned him down and yanked hard on his prong collar for ignoring her - which was fine by me as I'm his handler!) After that session, it was back to square one, as he wouldn't obey me anymore.
How old was this dog when the trainer pinned him and corrected him harshly with a prong? Why did you think that was fine? I would have probably ended up in jail over that one, no one touches my dog, EVER.
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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unfortunately, alot of trainers look at gsd's and think they need harsh corrections because they classify them as dominant dogs, which is so wrong. i agree no one should be training like that. and the trainer that did that obviously did not evaluate your dog correctly which is very scarey.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I think the OP meant it was fine that her dog had ignored the trainer, not fine about the correction. At least that's how I took it.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:35 AM   #6 (permalink)
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You need to rebuild his trust in you. I would focus on bond building exercises such as exploring new places, hiking together and nose work is a great bond and confidence builder. Leave the corrections behind for now.

He received a harsh correction inappropriately and you allowed it so he needs to learn again that you are a team and he can trust you. I also disagree that this is who he is now. You can make good progress to rebuilding his confidence.
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Old 01-30-2013, 08:50 AM   #7 (permalink)
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i agree, doing such activities with him will help the trust and the bond. maybe join a tracking class. i can tell you it helped my fearful dog tremendously. built his confidence etc. it took some work, but now i can sit back and watch him do his thing, he loves it, and it gives me great pleasure to watch him be a confident dog in what he is doing. thats what you should do for now. any working activity helps the trust and bond, and also there is a degree of Obedience involved in activites as well.
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Old 01-31-2013, 01:52 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Hi thanks for the advice. The tracking class sounds awesome!

The overly harsh correction was last month and he was 7 1/2 months old. It was not fine by me. I dove in between the trainer and my dog so her assistant and her student pinned me back too. I was wanting to scream but my voice failed me. I fired the trainer and she lost 2 other clients and a prospective client visiting the class as well. What was fine by me is that he ignored her in the 1st place.

Debbiebrown is right. The trainer's justification is that my Shadow is a "natural alpha" and dominant and she couldn't let him get away with being disrespectful. I posted what Michael Ellis had to say on the subject on her Facebook wall, which is basically that 30 yrs ago when he didn't know any better he'd do harsh corrections on dominant dogs who dont want to cooperate, but now he knows that's very wrong. At least I got most of my money back.

Immediately I noticed the 1st command obedience went away but I didn't notice his anxiety with strangers right away. I suspected something when my brother visited after New Years. With my brother, he would bark nonstop while in his kennel but when I'd let him out he would go over and sniff him and invite him to play. He was the same when my uncle came by, so I didn't think of calling it anxiety because the barking was only while in the kennel. When he was out he was all play.

We had a plumber come in and he was barking anxiously. Then at the vet's 2 days ago he went in barking at the assistant. We got in the exam room and he just made himself as small as possible and hid behind me but was barking nonstop. The vet stepped out and I walked him in a circle and put the muzzle on him and the vet and the assistant came back in and sat on the floor and played with him.

I think you guys are onto something because he was definitely not using his nose at the vet's, who saw him for all his puppy shots.

With the AKC group with the other dogs and their humans he's been fine. He was nervous at first, walking with his tail tucked in but he's relaxed to it pretty much right away. He's barked only at new people who run in quickly but I haven't gotten a good look at his body language there, cuz I basically try to keep him heeling.
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Old 01-31-2013, 02:15 AM   #9 (permalink)
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debbiebrown- well, my best guess is the harsh treatment maybe caused it? or maybe it's that my brother, my uncle, the vet and his assistant are very tall, strong build guys. The evil trainer used to say that Shadow would have a very hard time accepting men (because he's a dominant boy) and my brother is the type who stands very tall and Shadow would interpret it as a challenge.

gsdraven - thank you. I'm staying up late reading up on nose work.
Thanks for your vote that this is something I can work to change. I want my stable confident boy back!
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:45 AM   #10 (permalink)
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i would definitely classify it as fear and being unsure., especially if certain people especially men trigger it., because they are big and have deep voices etc.

the nose work and tracking will build confidence and give him a job, its amazing how great it is for them, especially dogs that have these issues.

you can keep working with him on your own, building focus and trust, and or do private training for a while, but i would observe a new trainer first make sure your comfortable with their tecniques.

rough corrections are so out dated and do make the situation worse for FA dogs, there are so many other options.......

i am sure you are on the right track with the advice given.
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