Second fear phase...Tips? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 02:51 AM Thread Starter
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Second fear phase...Tips?

Hello everyone,
Dean is 20 weeks old now, and has reached the second fear phase.
He started getting his back teeth come in a couple weeks ago, and it seems to have started around that time.
We have done a lot of socialization, going around people, new experiences, new things (shopping carts, walking on different things, hats, masks, ect. ect. ect.)

The other day he was nervous about the mower (It was off, and sitting in the yard) He has seen my mom use it, from inside the house and out (Not close of course), He was nervous about the garbage bags on the curb, and the lady across the street dragging her can (Garbage can, not her butt lol) out, and then he used his big boy bark at some guy crossing to our side of the street in front of our house while we were in the yard. He had seen people walk by maybe 30 minutes before, and had no problems with them. We live right across the street from a gas station, so we get a fair amount of traffic and people.

There is also a part of a trail in the woods that he gets super cautious about. I don't know why, but every time we get to that part of the trail, he sticks close to my side, keeps checking behind us and in front of us. But then we turn onto another branch of the trail and he goes back to being a puppy and checking everything out. But for that 50 foot stretch he is on alert.

He went to the vet yesterday and did fine though. No fear at all (Except when we came upon the office cat, and scared the cat making him jump, making Dean jump, because we didn't see him until he jumped, but then he was like oh heck yes, a new friend lol) We have 3 cats, so he thinks all cats are friends I guess lol

So anyways, the reason for my post is to ask for some tips and tricks to get him through this and back to his usual take everything in stride. In other words, I don't want to screw up by doing something or not doing something.

Thanks you guys <3 <3 <3
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 03:41 AM
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Try to avoid things that scare him. lay low and have fun training inside your house. Just went through this a few weeks ago.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 08:03 AM
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Hang out in quiet places. Let your pup retreat and rethink, even bark a little. Reward behavior you like and not skittish behavior, so no treats or petting when he acts nervous. But you sure can tell him everything is OK and you have his back if he seems unsure. The more you act like nothing is a big deal, the more he can take his lead from you.

And don't be a dummy like I did and introduce something big. My trainer tried to introduce rag work to my pup and even though he and our bite work helper did everything right, it weirder out my gal and it took a very long time for her to stop thinking that they had completely lost their minds.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 08:12 AM
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Love the picture!


With Katsu, I tried to not over do it. When I first got her and she was finally vaccinated we went to a PetSmart where she saw a SUPER suspicious wet floor sign. She growled, hackles raised and barked a couple times. I slowly lead her over to it (me walking a head intentionally) saying "let's check it out" and touched the sign myself. She came running up to inspect it herself and after that was fine.


I agree with the don't pet/treat when the dog is showing fear.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 10:30 AM
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Definitely let him chill during a period like this. The whole topic of fear periods and if they really exist or are they just signs of a dog with less than stellar nerves is an ongoing debate. Nevertheless what does matter is some lines seem to have them and it important not to flood them when they are going through it. You can have a "one incident episode" during the time a dog is acting this way and it can turn into a permanent dislike.

Some dogs never spook, some spook and recover immediately, some are just spooky period.

If something spooks him, just adopt the "nothing is nothing" attitude. Don't soothe as that is rewarding the fear..but if he conquers the object by investigating it and gets over it, or if he walks past all neutral like, praise is warranted.

My dog had a BRIEF period, he was nearing a year I think, where he spooked on brightly colored objects..a group of flowers, a particularly bright fire hydrant. He spooked, but still had to go check it out, than he was fine. After reflecting on it I remembered it started when I was walking him through a nursery and he sniffed a brightly colored flowering bush. I think a strong smell or maybe something that pricked him on the bush caught him off guard. He did a slight yelp and one of those springs where all 4 paws are off the ground. Ah ha...we dealt with it by doing a focused heel past objects that were deadly (like...flowers). He got over it and just doesn't even react to brightly colored short objects anymore. I use a leave it command if he is going to sniff a flower bed or something. There is no reason he NEEDS to smell the roses, so I just choose to avoid that trigger again lol
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys.
He is usually fearless. If he would startle at anything he recovered quickly. But now he is spooking at things he never would have looked twice at, and stuff he has seen before lol I have heard it can happen with teething, and he had a rough time when his back teeth broke through. Diarrhea, slept most of the day, ect.

With my bulldog I did a ton of socialization. I made her meet everyone, and every dog, and took her places where there were crowds and crowds of people (Parades, fireworks, ect.) And she had some really bad fear aggression issues that I am pretty sure I caused by forcing her to do all that. I am afraid of having Dean turn out the same way. So I am worried I am doing too much or not enough. It's stressful lol
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 03:34 PM
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Griff went through a brief fear stage a few weeks ago. Lasted about a week or so. I didn't change anything and laughed it off and told him, "It's OK!" or "Check it out!", No babying, no comforting. A tree stump that he 'grew up' with startled him. So I told him to "Check it out!" and he was OK. If you don't make it a big deal, it won't be one.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 05:46 PM
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I actually think it is a smart thing to be a bit cautious about new things. They are starting to realize that they can indeed get hurt and boogey men do exist. If they get startled and take a few steps back, that is perfectly normal and intelligent. If they then move forward to investigate and recover well, all is good. If they want to run, well, you have some work ahead of you. Just take it slowly and be patient if you have to desensitize. If you dog is engaged in fun and games when you are out and about, that mind set can help default to curiosity rather than fear.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-13-2018, 06:15 PM
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As someone whose hobbies are dogs and photography, that's a beautiful picture of a handsome dog. I won't comment on the fear period because forum members have already made excellent posts and advice.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-14-2018, 01:48 AM
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If you haven't already I would begin with target training.
Target training will make it easier to build confidence within the puppy when approaching new objects/those that spook him.
Using the engagement of the puppy and while target training you will be able to train a positive association for them.

Check this
for an explanation and how to train the behavior. (8:35)

Also, great capture - I love the lighting & shadows!
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Last edited by Opsoclonus; 09-14-2018 at 02:07 AM. Reason: @8:35 youtube link
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