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So someone suggested that I muzzle my 6 month old GSD in public to let people touch her, she is fearful of strangers and barks and growls at them and sometimes will sniff their hand and go up to them but than backs off and barks and growls again. Not too long ago, when she was cornered she snapped at a teenager.
I got her May 01. The very first time I met her she barked at me like crazy (like what she does to new strangers) and she cowered down and went on the other end of the leash after i got her in the car she was fine when she was away from the person i got her from.
Now what this person suggested was I muzzle her in a public place and tell people to say hi to her and pet her just for a moment and do that with many people. They saw it somewhere, and i tried looking it up but couldnt find out from what source they got this idea from.
However, I think this is a really bad approach being a fearful dog.. Perhaps it would set her back more or distrust me and i dont want to put her in a situation that will hurt her in any way.
But maybe I am the wrong one?
 

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I think your instincts are good.

A better approach would be to take her places and let her observe from afar. Gradually move in closer, depending on your dog's comfort level. Do not let strangers approach. On the contrary, make sure they ignore your dog. Maybe ask some friends to meet you, and throw her a treat in passing.

Take her out often, read her signals, adjust accordingly. Best of luck to you.
 

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But maybe I am the wrong one?
No, you're not. :) Forcing her into situations where she's uncomfortable at best, or even actually fearful, is only going to destroy any trust you've built so far. It's not going to help her "get over" it.

Is there anything you're afraid of - spiders, snakes, etc.? Would it help you get over your fear if a trusted friend or family member forced you into a room full of them? How would you feel about that family member or friend afterwards?

Sunflower's approach is much better.
 

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I think that is a terrible approach. Imagine you are terrified and your only means of defense is tied up.

Look up LAT (Look At That) and BAT. These are behavior modifications techniques that work within the dogs threshhold. You need to change the way she views people without further terrorizing her.
 

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If you don't have experience rehabbing a fearful dog I would highly recommend finding a trainer who uses BAT, LAT, positive reinforcement and counter conditioning. I would also join this group--they are phenomenal!!!!!!!!!! shy-k9s : shy-k9s
 

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Agree with all advice given. A fearful dog doesn't need to be shut down. She needs to be able to watch from afar and join in on her own terms. She never needs to be approached. She needs to be allowed to approach. She needs to be treated when she shows trust, and never threatened. And threatened means in dog language, not human language.

Study up on dog calming signals, and implement BAT/LAT, and don't hesitate to start *private* obedience classes. I waited too late to start OB with my most challenging rescue. Now I'm facing an entitled dog. I did too good a job, lol! But seriously BAT/LAT and OB from the get go.


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+1 to what everybody else said.

Some good books on the topic include Ali Brown's Scaredy Dog, Nicole Wilde's Help for Your Fearful Dog, and Debbie Jacobs's Guide to Living With a Fearful Dog. I think Emily Larlham (kikopup) might have a new DVD out on fearful dogs too, but if I'm not just hallucinating that, I haven't seen it yet.
 

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However, I think this is a really bad approach being a fearful dog.. Perhaps it would set her back more or distrust me and i dont want to put her in a situation that will hurt her in any way.
But maybe I am the wrong one?
I guess another way of looking at it is... maybe it would teach her that people really aren't that bad?? And she'd get over her fears quicker or at least she may become a little more trusting of people?? You could get her exposed to more situations and people in a safe positive manner?

I don't know...
 

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You can relax with a muzzle and know the dog simply can't damage any one. I used one some times. It does also have an affect on some dogs where they won't be so excitable. You can bring the dog to highly poplated areas and desensitize it to people. Also nobody wants to pet a muzzled dog which saves you telling people not to pet it. It is no cure but it can help a dog develop if used with other training and socialization. It can also be good for a human aggressive dog when you have visitors over. Too often the dog becomes the center of attention for the wrong reasons.
 

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You can relax with a muzzle and know the dog simply can't damage any one.
That was my thought too.. And when we're relaxed and less stressed the dog is the same..

I see lots of people walking there dogs with muzzles on in my area.. And I guess the one good thing is... the dogs are getting out and about, not isolated to the back yard..

I think people need to be more open minded to the different training techniques.. You can't discredit something you've never used or tried!
 

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I personally wouldn't do it. I've tried flooding techniques before on a soft, fearful GSD and it did not work at all, but that is assuming this dog is really fearful. Some dogs exhibit behaviors I see people label as "fear aggression" when really it's a young dog that needs more confidence in himself and more confidence in his leader and doesn't need flooding techniques but a few well-timed corrections to interrupt inappropriate behavior and then work on learning to relax and play or interact more with the handler (often it's the handler that needs this more than the dog).
 

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I personally wouldn't do it either.

Many moons ago, I had a fear nipper..I would tell people to put the dog on the big IGNORE, no staring, no touching, he is invisible. If you use treats, have the person drop them on the ground, with again, the dog being 'invisible'.

I never forced him to meet anyone, let him make his own decisions to approach, sometimes he would and everything would be fine, other times he chose to just 'be'.

I also agree with Lies, being a young dog it may also be a lack of confidence/the unknown.
 

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I don't think anyone said anything about flooding the dog..
 

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You can relax with a muzzle and know the dog simply can't damage any one.
This isn't true. A muzzled dog can still muzzle punch someone pretty hard.

Also (and this doesn't apply to the OP's dog, at least not based on what's been said here, but I'll just throw it out here for someone who might stumble on the thread later), occasionally I'll see people put a muzzle on a dog-aggressive dog and let it run wild in an off-leash area. The dog's still dog-aggressive, so sometimes they pick fights with other dogs that they then lose catastrophically because they're muzzled.

Muzzles are useful and they do help in the right situations, but they shouldn't lull an owner into complacency.
 

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While I cannot say one way or another about the Muzzle one confidence building technique you can try is playing tug with her and letting her win. This will help build her confidence in a positive fun way. It seems so simple but it definitely works. If it is a confidence issue it will help.

Otherwise I completely agree to work within her thresholds and do it with friends who will listen to what you ask them to do. Strangers can be completely oblivious and "know more" than you do about what your dog needs. Read your dog and let your dog tell you when they are ready to be approached by a stranger or a friend you are working with, do not force the issue because it WILL make it worse and could possibly damage the trust she could or does have for you currently.
 

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I see lots of people walking there dogs with muzzles on in my area.. And I guess the one good thing is... the dogs are getting out and about, not isolated to the back yard.
Walkiing a dog with a muzzle is one thing, what the OP was talking about was muzzling the dog and then forcing her to submit to being petted by strangers. I don't see how that's at all helpful for getting over her fear of people.

If she's kept at a distance that she's comfortable with and gradually counter-conditioned and desensitized to the presence of people, she really shouldn't need a muzzle because she won't be close enough to anyone to do them harm. But the issue isn't the muzzle per se, it's being forced to interact with people in spite of her fear, which is basically flooding.
 

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But they are interacting with people along the way.. Or at least that's what I've observed..

We've also had fear aggressive dogs in for training with muzzles on.. and eventually they've been worked out of them.. These people are also getting the proper guidance.. So it is possible.. Is it for every dog, of course not.. But it can work if it's done properly..
 

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The muzzle isn't what concerns me, it's using flooding as the technique (and I've seen dogs where a muzzle makes no difference anyway, their reaction is "flight", not "fight" so they tuck and and run sometimes soiling on themselves or injuring themselves trying to get out a door/window). In my experience, it just has not worked. Putting a muzzle on a dog to keep it safe while training...sure!
 

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All I'm saying is it can work.. And in some of the dogs they actually learned that life, people and other dogs aren't that scary!
 

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I can see what Leesa is saying. I think it would depend on the dog and the core issue but it does make sense. Make them face the fear, within reason, to understand there is nothing to fear.
 
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