The Administrator from the Great White North, eh?
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Northern British Columbia
Puppies will go through fear stages - though if your Bison has always acted this way, then being insecure is part of his core personality. Overcoming this behaviour will take a lot of time and comitment and constant training.
Have you done classes with Bison? That would be my first step. I would socialize the be-jezus out of him too! But work him up GRADUALLY to new situations and people, keeping him in his comfort zone, rewarding him heavily for not reacting, keeping the sessions short at first to not over-stimulate him, gradually working him up to more.
In some areas they have classes for reactive/fearful dogs, where they can teach you specific techniques to work with. As of now, the more he can engage in the barking/hiding behaviour, the more that behaviour repertoire will get ingrained in his systme. So your challenge is to give him new behaviours, and build his confidence.
If Bison was my dog, some of the strategies I would use with him:
-Build his confidence. Set him up to succeed. Make him believe he is the BEST, most WONDERFUL dog in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD!!
-Always have yummy treats on me. Start building a foundation of focusing on ME, and IGNORING everything else around him. When he looks at me he get a treat. When I call him and he comes he gets a treat. If he wants something, he has to look at me and he gets a treat. Gradually expect him to hold the eye-contact longer and longer (like one second at first - build up slowly).
-I would take him EVERYWHERE, but not push him past his confort zone. Crowds and people scare him? Go to a mall, park at one end of the parking lot. Get him out. Play, do obedience excercises, let him sniff and explore, watch the cars and people from a distance, get lots of treats. Bison is fine with all that? End on a good note and go home. Next time, park a bit closer to the mall. Repeat. If he gets overstimulated and reacts, start again further away, stay at that distance a bit, move forward gradually.
-Try the above strategy in a lot of different locations.
-Play the "look at that" game. Rewarding him for looking at stuff that makes him nervous, but looking only! No barking, no reaction! Good boy!! Associates new stuff and looking at you as being a good thing = looking at you new behaviour that replaces barking/hiding.
-Don't force interactions on him. Instruct people to ignore him, to not look at him. Let Bison initial interactions at his own pace.
-Did I mention classes? Does WONDERS for a young dog's self-confidence! And it is fun, too!!! Other activities like agility and tracking are also great confidence boosters!
-If you know someone with a calm, confident older dog, see if you can arrange walks and visits with this dog and Bison. Young dogs can gain a ton of confidence by following the example set by an older dog that they respect and get along with.
Good luck with Bison!!! Supervise him and engage him in activities when outside in the yard to keep him from barking. Don't make him think that he is all alone in dealing with all the scary stuff in the big bad world. Show him that mom and dad will always be there with him to give him support.
It will take time, but the effort is worth it!
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Keeta BH, OB1, TR1, AD
Rottweiler/Hairy Dog mix?? 2004-2015