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Discussion Starter #1
I've posted a couple times here in the past but I apologize for the inconsistency... I could just really use some advice again!

My boy just now turned 10 months old. I posted a few months back about the sudden onset of his fearfulness. He's gotten tremendously better... he makes quick friends with any dogs that he meets on his own turf, and is tolerant now of most dogs or people that allow him 10-15 minutes to observe them before trying to interact with him. But even then, he will very rarely participate in any play and will then run away with his hackles up or hide behind me if they try to play tag with him. I try to make sure that he gets to be the one to make the approach to new people or dogs so that he feels like it is on his terms.

With people, any child under the age of 10 can run up and grab him all over his face and he's in heaven. Same with anybody elderly, with a walker, or in a wheelchair. And he's always adored anybody he meets at our house. I don't expect him to ever be gungho about meeting strangers, I know that isn't in his nature. But I am terrified that his aversion to new people and dogs will start to manifest itself in aggression and I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to prevent that. So far the only time he's reacted that way was when we were walking downtown and an intoxicated man tried to approach him. He raised his hackles and growled, but settled after I corrected him and warned the man not to approach us. I guess my main concern is that he'll become more aggressive instead of more friendly as he moves through this phase.

Other than this issue, I swear he must be an angel. He does everything I ask, the first time, all the time. He's fantastic off leash, he responds to both hand signals and commands, he heels so close I worry about stepping on him, and he sticks in a stay like a rock laid by God himself. When he sees something coming up that he's not sure of I try to distract him with some training. It helps in the moment, but in the long run am I just preventing him from taking in and understanding the thing that he's nervous about?

I would really love to hear any suggestions or anything that I'm doing wrong, please help! At this point I just really hope that there is at least a little normalcy in his future, the way he is when he feels comfortable.
 

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Is the only time the one with the drunk? If yes, then I don't think you have a problem. Drunk was throwing off negativity that pup picked up on.


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That was the only time he's shown any aggression, other than barking at the door and the front gate when people come up. He's still afraid of certain strangers, but the main problem is the fear when he meets other dogs. Sometimes he'll walk past them perfectly fine, and others he'll strain against the leash to get away from a dog that hasn't even glanced at him.

I'm just not sure how to push him just the right amount to help him through this without traumatizing him. Should I keep up distracting him with training when he's nervous or is that going to backfire on me? I also bring along his brother (a little corgi/cattle dog) to situations I think he might have a hard time with, since it boosts his confidence. But I worry that in doing that, I'm preventing him from ever having to learn to go through situations on his own.

Today he did actually play with a new dog while at my barn, so I felt like that was a very positive step! He hadn't done that in months.
 

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He sounds like a great pup...I'm impressed that he will walk in a heel so well. My boy is 6 months and I'm still working on it (a lot-- lol)
Sounds to me that he felt threatened by a drunk "Good boy".Sometimes I think we need to react more to our dogs instinct. Especially if he's always so friendly I think they sense things about certain people. But as long as you can tell him "enough" and he'll settle down personally I wouldn't worry.


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Thank you! He has always seemed mature for his age, he's kind of a goody two shoes lol.

When it comes to his fear of meeting other dogs outside of our house, how should I help him with that without pushing him too much? When a new dog first approaches him he usually shakes and hides behind me or tries to run away, I feel terrible. It takes a long time and a very specific kind of personality in the other dog for him to decide he's okay with standing around them, but still definitely not touching them. I make sure not to console him when he's being that way, and sometimes I'll kind of pet and hold onto the other (friendly) dog and he'll come over and sniff it before retreating again.

Is this normal behavior for his age? I don't mind if he's just not the type to want to play with dogs he doesn't know, but I want to help him to not be so afraid. :(
 

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the dog is pretty much screaming at you that he is not comfortable and is choosing avoidance . One day this " But even then, he will very rarely participate in any play and will then run away with his hackles up or hide behind me if they try to play tag with him" will turn to his feeling pushed to the wall and he will retaliate and you will be there with a hot emotional mess of a dog fight .
He does not need to make friends with any other dog.
If the dog " is tolerant now of most dogs or people that allow him 10-15 minutes to observe them before trying to interact with him" - 10 to 15 minutes to meet with people then he is nervy . He is letting you know by hackling, hiding behind you, and now punching out with aggression , that he has gone beyond his comfort zone . "When a new dog first approaches him he usually shakes and hides behind me or tries to run away" . He needs to be calm and secure in the presence of other dogs and other people in the environment. Repeat in the environment . He does not need to get up close and interact with either another person or dog -- not at this point - if you feel there honestly was a behavioural shift. Maybe not .
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Do you have any advice on how to help him to be confident and secure when he is in an area where there are other dogs and people around him?
 

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Have you done any look at that training? I think this would be a FANTASTIC reason to use it.
 

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I have thought about that but I'm not really familiar with how to use it so I've been hesitant. But that's probably a great idea for him, I can see how it might help a lot. Sounds like I've got some research to do! Thank you :)
 

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Zoey, you are pretty much describing how my dog was at that age. I call it a 'soft' temperament. She is almost 4 now and she still avoids most dogs. She has never shown aggression and she will make friends with any dog she has decided to consider 'safe'. Once friends with them, she will initiate play and have a good time. But still, her first tendency is coolness towards other dogs. She was also shy with people, especially kids because they are loud and move in quirky ways. With much socialization she has become the friendly dog we want her to be. I hope your work with your boy continues to work for both of you.

Also: she did the hiding and hackling thing too. Hackles can mean many things but most often they just express anxiety.
 

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I would not describe the dog "soft" . Typically a soft dog freezes or shuts down when there is pressure . This could be a raised voice , not even aimed at the dog . Or a man with a very deep voice (natural) . Or asking for a behaviour , even something simple , and the dog becomes submissive , needs to be coaxed back , or can not do things repetitively .

The dog being described has a lot of fear avoidance , low thresholds .

The best thing that you can do is fair and consistent obedience . On lead . Having no out is a form of a little pressure . The dog is not the decider.

"he heels so close I worry about stepping on him, and he sticks in a stay like a rock laid by God himself" --- actually this is not obedience or biddability , this is part of the anxiety .

You need to be the educator, the control and the entertainment --- not other dogs in a game of doggy-tag which is predator and prey ! YOU.

Here is an approach which has been successful -- book playtraining your dog Playtraining Your Dog: Amazon.ca: Patricia Gail Burnham: Books
 

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I have thought about that but I'm not really familiar with how to use it so I've been hesitant. But that's probably a great idea for him, I can see how it might help a lot. Sounds like I've got some research to do! Thank you :)
I wish I had some links for you, but sadly I do not. I have had a lot of reactive dogs and I have trained even more reactive dogs and this is THEE best tool, IMO. I can try to break it down for you and give you a few examples.

The idea is to keep the dog far enough away from what it will react to (whether the reaction being lack of attention on you [fixating], barking, growling, lunging, or biting) so that it can calmly observe what normally makes it react, and you click/treat your dog for any behavior that is acceptable every time the dog LOOKS AT THAT.

I have a pit/gsd mix in a CGC class right now with reactivity. She will bark/growl/lunge at any dog near her and lunge at people happily. So when she is sitting at her seat in the training center, and glances at another dog without getting up, barking, carrying on, etc. she is clicked and treated. Every. Single. Time. You want to build up the positive association between the dog and what it's reacting to and draw the attention back to you at the same time.

Today while at work I was working with Frag on barking or running to the door when people walk in; something he never used to do and only developed because of the golden retriever office dog doing it. When he hears the doors start to open, he looks at the door and perks up. Before he has a chance to jump up or make any noise, I click and throw some treats at him, then call him over to me to lay down, sit, wait, etc. until people make it through the door because that isn't an acceptable behavior. One day of training this with him (who is non reactive to anything else except our front door being knocked on) and he is back to his old self. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks so much for the responses and advice!

Pooky44, I'm so glad to hear that your dog has still been able to adjust well enough with the same issues as a puppy. I hope I can get him to that place where he can feel comfortable instead of anxious around new dogs too!

Carmspack and Djetzel, that's all really good info that I definitely plan on putting to use with him... I'm taking a look at ordering that book now. He definitely doesn't "shut down"... even when he's afraid, he'll listen to me. The fear avoidance that you talked about seems spot on, and he does get afraid very easily if he's in an unfamiliar place.

We just got back from a walk, and (although I hadn't seen this post yet) I tried my best attempt at what I thought the "look at that" training might be (I wasn't quite right, but I tried :) ), at a little beach cove downtown. I took him there a month or so ago and couldn't get within 30 feet of the water. I brought his favorite treats but he's not terribly food motivated. So every time he looked over at the waves or took a step forward, I would do his favorite "play run" thing, where I run back and forth and kind of bat at him like another dog might. It got him really happy and loosened up, and before he knew it we were right at the water. He ran back at first and I let him, but then he came right back to investigate and even took some treats from me. I then went and stood on a rock about a foot out in the water and just let him think about it. After a minute or so he jumped onto the rock with me, then he couldn't get enough and started splashing around like crazy and had a great time!

I was worried that I was pushing it (and I probably was) but it seemed to really boost his confidence for the rest of the walk. He was really interested in everyone we walked past without showing stress, and he even tried to approach a couple dogs we passed, wagging his tail. I praised him like crazy every time and he just kept getting more full of himself, it was encouraging to see. The only negative was an extraordinarily mean Pomeranian at an outdoor cafe that went totally nuts when we went by; barking, growling, lunging at my poor Leo. While the owner did nothing at all to silence it. It is my biggest peeve when somebody thinks just because their dog is under 15 pounds that it can do whatever it wants and doesn't need to be trained. Leo backed away but we just walked off the curb a little bit, then did some sits and downs a little ways away to get his confidence back up but he still seemed a little shaken up. :/

It's the little moments like with the water that give me some home that he'll get a little braver as he ages. I'm excited to try the "look at that" tomorrow, I think it's something he'll respond well to. :)

I apologize for being so long winded, I just love this pup like crazy.
 
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