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Discussion Starter #1
Sugar is now six months. She got a rough start from her breeder who apparently didn't bother to socialize her and sold her off at 5 weeks. I received her as a gift complete with the socialization problems. Sugar is very uncomfortable and even terrified when confronted with an unfamiliar dog or new person. She panics around kids. I have done my best to try to desensitize her to these situations. She is doing somewhat better around other dogs, but her people skills are not happening. She will eventually get to tolerate a new person if she spends enough time around them.

I'm not too worried about her not wanting to be around strange dogs or people, but it seems her socialization has an unwanted side effect in that she doesn't want to play with people including myself. She acts like its taboo. She will play until she drops with the other dogs here now that they are familiar to her. She will follow me around and howl when separated, but she almost never plays. No fetch, no tug of war, no frisbies, nothing. She just sits there and watches with very little interaction.

At first I thought she was sick or not feeling well from growing pains or cutting her teeth to explain her lack of interest. But it's clear there's more going on here. The situation is very disappointing to me. If she is so distant during her prime puppy years, I can only believe that she is going to be an inert door stop when she gets older and that's not what I want for her or myself.

Sugar seems happiest when she is playing with dogs she knows. But her rat terrier playmates here are too small for her to play with safely since she tends to get a too rough for them. (They weigh 14 pounds and Sugar is now 60lbs and still growing.) As a result, we've been having to limit the play with them for everyone's safety. I would love to be Sugar's playmate since she can't really hurt me rough housing, but it isn't happening.

I'm stumped over what to do. I'm tempted to find her a new home with another dog closer to her own size to play with. The down side is that she is going to freak out big time being re-homed. I'm also not fond of the idea of just unloading a pet when a problem arises. I make it a policy to take care of a pet for life. But in this case, it may be best to give her up in favor of a more suitable environment for her needs. She needs a playmate and I would like a companion. I don't how to fix this.
 

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hi calipso...i don't think sugar is being "distant" and i'll bet she won't be an "inert doorstop" when she gets older either. when a puppy has been traumatized or neglected in puppyhood, they can have these lasting behavioral issues, and sometimes the only thing we can do is love them without condition (while setting good consistent limits, of course). sugar is also still very young, and i'm wondering if possibly because she was taken from her mom so early (5 weeks), her development has been delayed in some fundamental way with respect to trust. also, from her point of view, maybe playing is not what she is wanting from her person, or maybe she is just a dog who does not enjoy playing with people, or doesn't quite know how. maybe she is just very intelligent but kind of afraid of new and different things...and so watches and takes it all in. it's also possible that genetics has not been kind to her in the temperment stability department. i know you can get some great ideas from others here on how to get her to enjoy playing with you, if she's ever going to. but so far in her short life, you are the only stability she has ever known and she is, no doubt, devoted to you...and accepts you without condition. it sounds as though she came to you in a way you did not choose, and i commend you for taking on the responsibility of a dog with the socialization problems sugar has had. i wonder though if it isn't really more important for her to have a guardian than to have a playmate. and although you say that what you would like is a companion, it feels kinda like what you're REALLY saying is that you would like a companion who wants to do what you want her to want to do. the only way to "fix" this is to change your expectations. i hope you decide to do that, and i hope the reward to you is great. and if not, i truly do hope that you can find sugar a good, safe, new home.
 

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Calipso,
Honestly you don't FIX problems like this you make them better but she may never be 100% normal like your other dogs. I know she can be make much better with education on you part using proper techniques. You can not think in human terms with dogs like this. One thing you must not do is try to comfort her in a human way when she acts scared or shy. This action only "praises" her for her scared behavior. People that approach her much learn how to do it correctly and YOU must teach them first.

Here is where I would start. There is a technique for helping shy dogs get used to people by having strangers walk past her and toss small chunks of chicken or cheese in her direction as they pass. I saw this very technique used my Victoria Stillwell on "It's Me or The Dog" TV show on Animal Planet last night. It takes time and plenty of people then as she gets used to people passing her the people squat down sidways to her, no eye contact or voice and just toss a little food. Next they squat down and hold out their hand with the food she shold then approach and take the food from them. All this could take weeks or months of work.

Sarah Wilson Author, trainer, and wife of Brian Kilcommons can help too if you contact her on her message board. She can offer more details and may be able to e-mail you some written info on this method. She teaches this technique in her siminars.

http://familydog.yuku.com/directory OR http://www.familydoginc.com/index.html

I am sure with enough work Sugar can make much improvement over time. Forget the past it over and move forward with positive thoughts and energy. Work 100% on getting education on how to help Sugar improve. If you can find a new home and someone that will be dedicated to learning how to help her that may work too. If not you keep her and do the work. I know it is posssible to make her better than she is now.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I don't praise fear or other undesired behavior. I made it a point not to do that from day one. Sugar had other minor phobias like being scared of the trash cans. What I did there was to make her face them head on. She quickly learned within a few minutes there was nothing to fear and moved on. Minor quirks like that were easy to address.

What I've been doing with the people issue is opening her favorite treats in front of her so she knows I have them. I give them to guests in such a way that she knows the guest is holding a reward. She must approach the guest to get her treat. The goal is to get her to associate company with receiving treats instead of being a cause for fear. This works with older visitors, but she won't come near kids even if they were covered in steak sauce. I'm wondering if the breeder had kids that did something bad.

I'm hoping she'll at least be tolerant of new people eventually even if she decides to keep to herself. That's fine. But I don't understand why she is so reluctant to play even basic puppy games. I'm guessing that her fear issues have crippled her self-confidence which is what's causing the problem. I don't have any problems with trust with her that I can tell. I can look at her teeth, roll her over, pick her up, etc. with no problems. She is a velcro dog like most GSD and doesn't like to be separated from me.

One thing I have noticed is that her prey instinct is rather weak. She will chase squirrels and cats, but she usually waits for a cue before doing it. That might explain her lack of interest in things like balls and other toys. I used to drag a towel across the yard and she would chase it but lost interest once she had it. I had hoped the thrill of the chase would waken her dog instincts. But there is some hope. She's recently discovered deer and she will stalk and chase them. (They don't have their antlers yet so it's reasonably safe.) She is really fast and is an even match for deer in terms of speed. I was really surprised to see that. She's also figured out how to hide behind trees while stalking. (The deer are going to be a problem when they get their antlers in a few weeks.)

I guess she is not going to be a dog that enjoys toys. I'm still searching for some activity she and I can enjoy together. She does like to go for walks which are more of a contest of wills on the leash. She pulls like crazy. I'm large enough that she can't pull me, but other family members refuse to take her on a leash. We're still working on that. She used to hate going into new surroundings (you had to drag her at first) so initially the leash etiquette was not a high priority. It was more important to expose her to a wide array of experiences. Leash training would come later.

I still think she would benefit from a more emotionally stable playmate closer to her size, but I don't have space for another large dog which is why I was considering finding her a new home.
 
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