Conditioning is definitely required and helpful. Some things are natural and genetic such as drive but that doesn't mean you can't do things to optimize and make your dog the best it can be. A dog born with weak nerves and low fight or defense drive can still be conditioned to not care about loud noises or bangs, etc. if it's been exposed to those things all its life.
Exposure is everything. The key is to provide enough exposure to well, expose the puppy to the new experience and learn to get over the fear or uncertainty by himself/herself but also to not overdo it and create a fear imprint.
Just remember this rule, end on a good note. I learned this from Cesar Millan. I don't worship the man but certain things when it comes to fears and conditioning he's very good at.
When I first got my puppy, I exposed her to all kinds of stuff. She was about 7.5 weeks old and I turned on my music loud with 15" subwoofer (not directly at her but just at the volume I listen at). I remember distinctly she was unsure but not afraid and was continually sniffing the subwoofer. After day 2, I tried playing jarring music like dubstep and heavy rock and roll and she didn't even seem to notice.
next, she was afraid of the loud vacuum cleaner. She would run to her cage or hide behind my legs. But being that we vacuum almost every day or every other day, she no longer fears it. It took her only a few times before she started to chase it around.
Next, I wanted to condition her to not fear a RC car so I can have her chase it. I wasn't sure because she was young and it was a gamble being that RC cars cost lots of money. I bought a small test car for about $50 and she was hesitant and would jump around and bark at the car. I started without moving the car or turning it on. You want to start SLOW. First have her smell it. Then touch it yourself and pat it and hit it, flip it over. Let her smell it again. Then forget about it. Leave it there. Now it went from a new weird object to something that just remains in the room. She will get used to it. Then what I did was I turned it on and slowly moved the car. She was scared at first but after a day she started chasing it and barking at it.
At 4 mo, I was able to sell that car and get a real RC car that costs $1000 that runs well on grass and even though it's bigger than her, she will chase it and its good exercise.
I think the most important thing is to introduce her properly. You never want to throw the dog into the deep end. Don't shock the dog. once the dog can smell and you can see it is okay with the PRESENCE of it (whatever it may be). Do it 3 times and move on to slowly animating the object. (if it's something that moves, such as my RC car). Make sure you praise but end on a positive note where he or she learns that nothing bad happened. Treats can't hurt. And stay calm yourself, present a calm relaxed energy and demonstrate to the dog that it isn't harmful or fearful by touching it yourself.
My puppy freaked out when she first met 2 big siberian huskies on the other side of the fence. I went in by myself and interacted with the dogs to demonstrate that it is okay. She faired better after that. So leading by example is very crucial.
How easy or fast the dog is conditioned depends on their temperament but I'd say for me it's one of the easier things to do. Conditioned her to a bike today, this large metal thing that moves around fast. She ran behind my legs at first, being that she had no idea what this thing that approached was. Then i made her smell it and patted the bicycle, gave her praise, sat on it, had her come close to me and smell it, etc. No problem. Took about 2 minutes.
I have another conditioning coming up and that's a stun gun. I ordered one on ebay not as a toy or a self defense tool (cause they're lousy at that) but for dog deterrents. They're extremely loud and shocking. the electrical sound is terrifying even to humans. i ordered it to carry around on walks so if a stray dog or an aggressive off leash dog comes towards my puppy, I switch it on and scare the dog off. Obviously this would be moot if my own puppy was scared of the noise cause then my puppy would freak out and try to run away AND associate this loud terrifying noise with the other dog. So conditioning her to this noise and sight by turning it on randomly (starting slowly from far away) will allow her to not mind it. thus only affecting the other dog in case a situation like that arises.
Last edited by pancake; 01-17-2013 at 05:19 AM.