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I've noticed that Bianca seems really sensitive to certain tones of voice and being reprimanded. I am not sure what to do about this? She seems to keep her ears back a lot and her tail down. If I tell her "no" or "uh-uh" she will act very appeasing/submissive or even depressed/worried. I am wondering if she may have been trained using harsher methods than she needed and this may have caused it?

When she gets in the way if I am doing something, I sometimes will tell her to "go to your bed" or "go lay down" and she always slinks away as if I just yelled at her or something... I always feel bad when she does this because I am not trying to reprimand her, I just want her to get out of the way so I can tie my shoes or play with the cat or something without her right there trying to lick my hands and get in the way... She just seems really sensitive and I am not sure what to do to make her realize that she doesn't have to be so nervous or upset if I tell her not to do something? I am hoping to take an agility class to boost her confidence but I am not sure what else to do...
 

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Maybe you're right about previous training. But, how about when you tell her to to something and she slinks away, you follow her to where she gets out of the way, for example, and treat her and talk to her soothingly, showing how happy you are with her behavior. I think that after some time, she'l realize you're not the a$$ that was probably too harsh on her.

Keep your chin up. There's a good side to everything. She'll probably be alot easier to train because she'll feel your love more rather than fear your wrath, you know what I mean?

Hope this helps.
 

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overly sensitive -- certainly could be from previous methods that were too harsh for her. could be her nature. could be a response to vaccination. could be a tick disease.

How old is she and how long have you had her? How easily does she make eye contact?

ETA: I agree with MLR, immediate positive rewards for appropriate responses. I would be careful not to coddle or use too many words though, if that makes sense.
 

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I think some dogs are just like this.
Dante 99.9% of the time needs nothing more than an Uh-uh for a correction - and he's never been harshly treated
 

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I have to agree. I've had a couple of fosters that I just have to place my hands on my hips and they go into "shame" mode. Ilan has a tendancy to get upset if she hears people yelling on the TV. All of my dogs were trained using pos. reinforcement.
 

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Try changing your tone of voice and setting her up for success all of the time. Make everything into a game and speak in a high, happy voice. Become a treat dispenser. I've had several dogs who were sensitive and when I made these changes they really responded well.

For confidence building try this game: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/167
 

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One of the things I've found that helps with sensitive dogs is to use a voice that is a bit higher and sillier when you're asking them to do something. In order to do this, I use phrases like "silly girl, go lay down somewhere else" instead of just "go lay down" (which can often come out in a harsher tone than you want to a sensitive dog). If I use something like "silly girl" or "goofy dog" or "fluffbutt" (one of my favorites with the chows), it's hard to sound mean! My voice automatically goes up a bit and sounds happy.

I have a "school marm" voice that can sound very authoritative at times and when I got a sensitive dog I found that just my voice made her crumble. So I developed the silly voice more and it was a huge help. The dogs I have now aren't very sensitive for the most part and I can say "go lay down" without a problem, but I kind of like calling them silly names .. *LOL*.. I also make silly names out of their names, like calling Trick "Trickaroo" and Tazer "Tazerboo" and Khana "Khanabanana" and Dora "Adorable Doggie". It's just plain hard to sound harsh when you're using names like those.

Ahhh, the power of the voice!

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
 

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Discussion Starter #8
She is 4 1/2 and I've had her since the end of December.
I wonder if maybe this is why she didn't complete Schutzhund training at her last home? Maybe the training was too forceful for her temperament?
I sometimes will say "good girl!" (in a high pitched/happy voice) when she heads towards her bed after I tell her to go lay down because I feel bad that she is slinking away with her ears back. The only problem with that is that when she hears that she comes right back over to me, and then she is back in the way of whatever I was doing. :p
She seems to be sensitive to *positive* tones of voice as well. If I sound the least bit like I might be calling her or praising her she will rush over. I guess that is a good thing but sometimes I am trying to call one of my foster kittens or something and Bianca thinks I am praising her so she comes over and sits in the way and then the kitten won't come... I try to give her a lot of praise to try to get her to seem more confident instead of walking around with her ears down all the time but she still seems worried when I give her a command even though I praise her when she follows it. We're going to start a positive reinforcement based training class soon so hopefully that will help.
 

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I had a rescue dog like this and we did agility, obedience and two tricks classes. All of them helped a bunch but the tricks really, really made the difference. We taught tricks with clickers so it was a positive experience. If she is sensitive to negativity then she will aslo be able to tell when she makes people happy with tricks. His favorites were were "bang your dead" and hitting an easy button with his paw when i would ask "was that hard?" ! It gave him control over our emotions because he would always make us laugh!
 

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She needs time to figure you out. Keep up the positve training with sensitive dogs I don't do the high pitched talk, I use use a normal very soothing tone. The High pitch may have been used when she was a pup to stop the puppy gator biting.

She might repond to clicker training.

Val
 

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We have two rescue GSD's and one 12 yr old Border Collie/Aus cattle dog mix. Our female GSD - Sarah was 4 + years old when we got her and she apparently had been abused badly. Our Male GSD is young and exuberant and to correct him would send Sarah off with ears down, tail tucked, slink to hide in the corner. Anyone visit she would run and hide. We did not let her get away with hiding and would call her out to face her fear. We have had her 6 months and she is just now starting to display normal behavior. It took a lot of love, not rewarding the weakness but praise for basic normal good habits, and patience. To complicate her rehab. our 12 yr old is getting hard of hearing so we must talk louder to get her attention. Sarah is finally starting to act more normal but some dogs may have been conditioned to be submissive by prior owners and it takes a lot of love, positive reinforcement, and patience to bring them out of it. We aren't trainers, or rescue, just pack leaders who want normal balanced dogs to be happy, healthy and live out their lives where someone loves them. In short we are not professional's but we research as much as we can on behavior so we can be good balanced care givers for them. Seems to me that the walk is critical, they have to learn to respect you as leader before they will trust you. We have learned much from the Dog Whisperer but certainly not all. Patience... Bruce
 

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I had a rescue Aussie for 12 years... who had been beaten badly by a previous owner. Til the day she died if we raised our hand, or leaned over her while correcting she would have a panic attack... (something we were extremely careful not to do, but sometimes you do forget). For the first 6 months she was with me she couldn't handle any kind of negative correction. We needed to tell her in a positive way to do things... for example... instead of sending her to her bed... (away from me because she was "Bad") We would run over to where her bed was and pat it with a very positive "Come on!!" and treat her when she came to the bed and lay down. I'd suspect that your dog was punished by being sent to her bed, so feels that she's being punished, hence the slinking away from you. If she's like Misty was once a negative was perceived the brain clicks off and she goes into an avoidance mode.

She's probably also a sensitive dog to whom the negative corrections were a horror. Dogs are funny sometimes how they understand things. I trained one bitch who you could have hit upside the head and she'd just blink and grin, but if I said "SHAME" in a voice like I was disgusted would become 150% submissive... so I had to be careful with verbal, but not with physical corrections.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I have started (when I remember) just asking Bianca to lay down if I need her out of the way instead of to her bed, that way I can reward her for it and don't have to worry about her running back to me from her bed for the reward and thus being in the way again... I've noticed it I speak angrily she also gets very worried and lowers her head, flattens her ears back and puts her tail between her legs-- example the other day Bianca was standing in the kitchen and I accidentally dropped my lunch. I said "Oh dammit!" loudly in an angry voice and Bianca reacted just that way-- head down, tail down looked like she thought she was in big trouble. I felt really bad. I wasn't mad at HER, I was made for dropping something! I called her over and asked her to sit and then gave her a bunch of praise and petting...

My previous dog I believe was mistreated, when I rescued her she would cower if anyone held up a hand or spoke harshly. However once she realized she was not going to be mistreated she came out of her shell fairly quickly and totally recovered...
 

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Originally Posted By: Wisc.TigerShe needs time to figure you out. Keep up the positve training with sensitive dogs I don't do the high pitched talk, I use use a normal very soothing tone. The High pitch may have been used when she was a pup to stop the puppy gator biting.

She might repond to clicker training.

Val
Good points. She does need more time to figure you out.

That high pitch voice probably isn't communicating what you want it too, maybe for a couple of reasons.

I bet she would respond really well to the clicker.
 

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I think when I said "slightly higher and sillier voice" it may have been interpreted as a really high, exuberant tone. That wasn't what I meant at all.

What I've found with the sensitive dogs I've worked with is that even the slightest of tone changes can make a difference. You kind of have to try different tones to see. Lower tones, when using commands, often come across as authoritative (which can crush a sensitive dog). If you're praising in a low, calm voice it's different - when you're saying "go lay down" it can easily take on a more sharp sound.

Keeping my voice a bit higher (but not HIGH), keeping it light-hearted and slightly silly, but still commanding .. *L* .. oh, yeah, I'm making it REALLY easy to understand, aren't I? Basically whatever works. I find sensitive dogs much more difficult to deal with than tough dogs overall - it's so easy to mess up their confidence and so hard to bring it back.

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I have a kinda low voice so when I say high-pitched I mean for me, compared to my normal voice. She seems to like it when I praise her that way. At least, her ears usually go up for once and she wags her tail.
 

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A couple of ideas that should REALLY help:

1. Teach her a command "back up." I'd use an open underhand motion and when she takes a couple steps back, treat her, and so on. It's a great command to use when you need a bit of space. I don't know of many other people that use this, but I really like it.

2. Use distracting times like when you're playing with the cat or tying your shoes to build a ROCK-SOLID sit-stay or down-stay command! Have your dog go in a down stay while you play with the cat for a minute or 2. Then release her and treat her.

This way, you won't be scolding her, but since she's so sensitive that's not what she needs. She'll be succeeding by obeying these commands which should help build her confidence, and you'll have the space you need!

One other thing you could try if you want a longer play session with the cat is taking her for a nice long walk or jog beforehand. She'll be pooped and she won't care WHAT your doing with that ole' cat...she'll want to nap!

Good luck!

Christian
 

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My current SchH dog is just like this. I've raised him from a pup with very little correction. He is just naturally very sensitive.

I've had to adjust my handling to find the middle ground. For him, he doesn't need a firm tone, a neutral monotone voice is enough to stop an unwanted behavior. Any more than that and you'll get ears back and hurt feelings:)

I completely agree with the clicker being a great tool. If the dog understands the clicker, then when she hears the click she knows she's doing right and has no reason to feel pressured or like she may get a correction.

Dogs like this are definitely ones to skip training altogether if you feel grumpy or are having a bad day! Good luck, I've found it to be a good lesson in patience:)
 
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