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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Merciel
there's no cure for a fearful dog. There's improvement, but you never finish the journey. You never get a "normal" dog.
http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/obedience-rally/284106-long-road-fearful-dog.html


I really like your thread and the work you've done with your dog but I don't agree with this opening statement. It might be your experience with this one fearful dog but it cannot be taken as a rule.

I've worked with a few fearful dogs with one in particular and I think now nobody would label her fearful. She never soiled herself and had a more of a fear for objects and noises and had aggression towards people.

She also wanted to catch people who she didn't like so she was an outgoing kind of crazy when out in the open. Any ways she did really come around to being a nice balanced dog with a great respect of people and a high tolerance for noises and strange objects, bin bags, umbrellas, lawnmower etc.

She is a bulmastiff cross with a lot of power and thankfully now is totally under control. I never spent a penny on her but did put a lot of work into her and tried a lot of different techniques until I found what works. In the end I think she just grew up and adjusted to her environment.
 

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I think there's a difference in prognosis depending on why your dog is fearful, and how severe its problems are.

Genetically stable dogs can be worked through fear caused by specific bad experiences.

Genetically iffy dogs can become stable if thoroughly socialized and given lots of confidence-building work.

Genetically fearful, undersocialized dogs with prior neglect/abuse (i.e., Pongu) -- as much as I wish otherwise, I don't believe he'll ever be "normal." For him and dogs like him, I don't think there is a cure. Improvement, yes. But not a cure.
 

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There are some great threads here on fearful dogs. I started one recently, siting an article using ecollars as proofing of safety obedience, to cure 36 reactive dogs(100% success rate). I agree with OP, to a point. I believe there are dogs that cannot be "cured," but I also believe that number is a lot less than people believe or are told.

What I wonder is how anyone can without a doubt say it IS the genetics. I have seen people with Fearful dogs be told by one trainer, the dog is hopeless and should be put down, or that is just how it will have to live it's life, in fear, with the owner managing the environment, because "it's genetics are bad." I've seen that same "hopeless-blame-it -on-the-genetics-dog" be "cured" using methods the original trainer wouldn't or didn't consider. So, how do you know? The original trainer might say, "well, obviously it had stable genetics enough to be cured, it just took longer than I thought and some other methods. BUT there are dogs that aren't able to be cured." So who's right? And how can you tell? It seems so subjective to me. No one does genetic testing on the temperament of a dog. Usually they repeat what a trainer said, "well, it's the genetics." But without testing every method out there(CORRECTLY)....how do you know? Maybe the more PC thing is, "we haven't found a method yet to help the dog get over it's fear." Lol, I honestly don't know. But I think a lot of people, mostly trainers (most owners are just eager to have a diagnosis and won't question it), jump to "the genetics" before REALLY exploring every possible way of training/helping the dog. But because THEIR method isn't working, the towel is thrown in, and the genetics are blamed, with no solution.

I've just seen and read about too many dogs that were deemed "hopeless-genetic-basketcases," cured, when they were originally told(sometimes by several trainers) there was no way. SO while I def believe there are dogs out there that cannot be helped...I believe it is a quick and easy excuse for a trainer to use when their methods aren't working.

Link below to the article/thread I started. The article is informative, and the comments, especially by Lou Castle, are enlightening.

http://www.germanshepherds.com/forum/training-theory-methods/284186-fascinating-e-collar-training-article-review.html
 

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...

What I wonder is how anyone can without a doubt say it IS the genetics.

...
Echo was fearful/shy/fear bitter wannabe.

I've always felt his problem was genetics ... his sire was an absolute basket case and Echo exhibited timid/shy/fearful traits at 6 weeks of age.

Thank goodness when he was 9 months old my sister figured out what the problem was and guided me on what to do to help him. With hundreds of hours of hard work he over came his problems, sometimes people wouldn't believe me when I told them that my outgoing boy had had serious temperament problems when he was younger.

He was one of my favorite dogs of all time, I loved him to death, but as much as I loved him I hope I never have another dog like him.
 

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I think it's also important to define what constitutes a "cure."

I can (and do) take Pongu to a crowded farmer's market full of people of all kinds, strollers, other dogs (some great, some ill-behaved), street musicians, food vendor trucks, etc., and as long as I'm with him, he can tolerate it. People who don't know dogs well are often impressed by how "good" and "calm" he is (he's really not, but a lot of people are unskilled at reading dogs).

In his everyday normal life Pongu is no longer seriously impaired. He can walk through the crowds and clamor of the city without (usually) panicking. He doesn't bolt at the sound of city buses' hydraulic lifts anymore. He doesn't try to bite people out of fear. He can get his nails clipped at the groomer's without evacuating his anal glands.

But he's still easily frightened, he still gets overwhelmed at trials sometimes, he still jumps when he hears loud noises or unexpected sudden movements. He'll always be flighty and spooky. He will never be the kind of stable, bombproof dog you could take to an outdoor rock concert or trust to hang out calmly with unfamiliar kids at a street fair. He'll never compete in flyball or Schutzhund; I doubt he'd even be able to tolerate the training.

So when I say he'll never be "cured," what I mean is that he is never going to be as inherently stable or reliable as a dog who is free of those genetic faults. Pongu is capable of living a (semi-)normal, happy pet dog life; at this point, if you didn't know his backstory, you might just think he was a shy, undersocialized ordinary dog. He's come that far. He's even capable of competing at a regional level in the specific sport(s) he can do. This is more than most dogs accomplish.

But it's all a house of cards. Put him under any real pressure and he collapses. He always will. I can make him stronger, but I can't make him strong.
 

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My Golden was shy/scared when I found her, and I would say she was cured and it didn't take years although it did take work and time. She went from jumping at noises, scared of raised hands/voices and of many "unusual" things and hiding behind me if a stranger wanted to pet her; to a very stable, outgoing, confident therapy dog I could take anywhere without having to worry/watch, and about the most tolerant dog I've known. I'm not saying it happened spontaneously-/ I worked quite a lot with her to get her past the fears but once she was over then she was truly over them and did a total turn around. No jumping at loud noises, loved strangers, fine with weird/new things, wagged her tail if you raised a hand near her, etc...
She was a stray so I don't know her history but my guess was she had a good genetic/base temperament and I thought because she overcame her fears so quickly that possibly she was socialized as a puppy but maybe went to a bad home after that/was mistreated later. This is all speculation by how she behaved and how things went, since I rescued her at about a year and a half old so I don't know the history.
 
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