Some advice on socializiation... - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-21-2008, 08:45 AM Thread Starter
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Some advice on socializiation...

I recently (a month ago today) adopted a Belgium Malinois puppy (long story but the shelter basically got a litter from a byb) and so far he's been amazing. He's mellow, laid back, and he's not off the wall. However, he's pretty skittish (cautious?) in new situations and it seems as if his initial instinct when confronted by something new is to bolt. Sometimes after a minute he'll return and investigate. At the moment I'm trying to get him used to going to and from new buildings and apartments.

For example two weeks ago I took him over to a friends house who has two Schnauzers to socialize him. He did NOT want to go through their front door and then sat down by my chair and did not interact with my friends or their dogs for a good hour (then he cautiously began sniffing around). Last night I brought him over again (his second trip there) and he still put on the brakes when we got to their door but this time he was up and around sniffing about their home in a matter of minutes. I was just wondering if anyone had tips on how to better socialize, build confidence and if you guys think his skittishness is a temperament issue or a lack of socialization issue. Thanks!

~Lee
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-21-2008, 11:04 AM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

I owned Belgians fro over 30 years, the coated varieties and will tell you that is not desired behavior. I don't know the age but would say it is a socialization issue. It is always harder to enter where other dogs live as they can fear being attacked. Try taking him to classes even if at first he just wants to watch. I also like to go to lumber/hardware stores. They don't mind pets but they have lots of new things. If he is nervous sit outside malls, grocery stores and just watch. Also walk by schools, pick a time when kids are out in the field and stay back if he is nervous. Then when his confidence is going up, invite people of all ages and sizes to pet him and offer treats. I offer teh people the treats and explain I am socializing apup, most will help. By the way keep the leash on so when he tries to bolt you are in control. I calmly walk toward the fear thing as they calm down to show there is nothing to fear, but never drag the dog to it. Good luck
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-21-2008, 11:31 AM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

This dog is the PERFECT candidate for clicker training!

At our training club, what we do with these types of dogs is actually mark and reward them for noticing/alerting to something. For example, say we have a dog in the class and we knock over some soda cans. The dog will stand up and look in that direction. Immediately at that moment we mark and reward him for noticing. The mark/reward when timed correctly seems to block the following unwanted behavior (barking at the cans, bolting, etc). It's like the dog goes "oh, so I can look at that and get rewarded for just standing here and not running over to investigate? Well, I can do that!" It's something the dog does naturally. Clicking and treating for it helps block an escalation of skittish behavior and builds the dog's confidence b/c it's so easy for him to earn that mark and reward.

I would clicker train in general, as well. MRL will come here and give you some good links I'm sure....
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-21-2008, 11:45 AM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

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Originally Posted By: LiesjeAt our training club, what we do with these types of dogs is actually mark and reward them for noticing/alerting to something. For example, say we have a dog in the class and we knock over some soda cans. The dog will stand up and look in that direction. Immediately at that moment we mark and reward him for noticing. The mark/reward when timed correctly seems to block the following unwanted behavior (barking at the cans, bolting, etc). It's like the dog goes "oh, so I can look at that and get rewarded for just standing here and not running over to investigate? Well, I can do that!" It's something the dog does naturally. Clicking and treating for it helps block an escalation of skittish behavior and builds the dog's confidence b/c it's so easy for him to earn that mark and reward.
That's basically an un-cued "Look at That!" from Leslie McDevitt's book Control Unleashed. It's even better if you can put it on cue. Rather than teaching dogs that they must ignore sights/sounds that worry them (which can stress them out further) they are allowed to check it out, and then they are rewarded for reorienting to the owner. It's a terrific technique for reactive dogs, or dogs that stress out under social pressure, such as at a trial.

The click happens as the dog is looking at the trigger, the reward happens when the dog looks back at you. Usually it's taught with a benign object initially before working up to using it in the presence of triggers, which of course would be at a distance and then gradually closer. If at first the dog won't look back at you, you can feed them while they're still looking at the trigger. As Lies said, it gives the dog a rule structure to follow when stressed, you've turned the presence of triggers into a game he can play with you.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-22-2008, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

He's a little over four and a half months old. I got him just a week before he hit four months. I do bring him to a puppy obedience class and he does fine. It's in an open area by a large field and I think he's comfortable there (its the field on campus that I take him to all the time, so he thinks its play time whenever we go).

I took him from building to building today on campus and he def. put the brakes on initially, but I coaxed him through and after the second door i started throwing his toy around and he got comfortable enough to chase after it. After that he was going with me to and from the buildings. Everytime we went to a new building I'd give him a treat and play with him a bit, with a lot of "good boys" thrown in. I will try and do the clicker training (I don't have access to a clicker but I will try verbal reinforcement). It does seem to me that he's just scared of new places/situations.

My other question is...if he doesn't go through the doorway or want to walk in a new place and coaxing and treats don't help, what should I do if I shouldn't drag him?

~Lee
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-22-2008, 10:26 PM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

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Originally Posted By: DoggieDocMy other question is...if he doesn't go through the doorway or want to walk in a new place and coaxing and treats don't help, what should I do if I shouldn't drag him?
We just learned this past weekend that our new girl Sasha (rescue, 10-12 months old, had her 2 weeks now) is very afraid of new people. So here's what I did today when we had people over for lure coursing.

I brought her out on leash and walked as close as she was willing to get to the people. As soon as she put backward pressure on the leash I stopped ... and just waited. It took her about a minute or two to relax enough so that we could take another step or two forward - and then she stopped.

Yes, it took me about 15 minutes to get her close to the people but since I wasn't forcing her she did it at HER pace.

You need to give them time to figure out for themselves that nothing 'bad' will happen.

And don't talk baby-talk to them - or try to comfort them. It just makes things worse. With Sasha I either didn't say a word to her (just kept talking to the people) or I told her in a very upbeat voice that she was being a sillly dog.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-22-2008, 10:34 PM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

My question for you is...where are the pictures? I have an adopted mal and he's the best. He does startle, especially when something falls from above or there is a loud noise. I try to remain upbeat and I can use a ball to get him almost anywhere so I keep using the ball to work with him and build his confidence.

Basic obedience is a great confidence builder as is lots of positive, reward-based training.

And I think clicker training is a great idea. One fun exercise is 101 things to do with a box. You can find that, and lots of other great articles on clicker training, at Karen Pryor's website: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/167

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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-23-2008, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I'm def gonna work him with clicker training. Once he hits 5/6 months I'm going to start him on agility as well. I hear dogs that are more submissive really can build confidence with agility or other similar courses.

Here's a shutterfly picture site I set up for him.

http://jackthemalinois.shutterfly.com/

~Lee
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-23-2008, 08:21 PM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

puppy classes and socialize, socialize and more socializing. also find a trainer.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 11-23-2008, 08:47 PM
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Re: Some advice on socializiation...

Jack is gorgeous. I am sending a link to the belgian chat and they will have more info too. Good luck

http://bbs.sitstay.com/postlist.php?...lgianShepherds
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