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Fearful puppy

(17 Posts)
Howdoesjuliancope Fri 10-Jun-11 15:48:09

We picked up our puppy last Monday, at 9 weeks old.

We are all in love with her but she is very nervous - this wasn't evident when we visited the breeder (several times). I know she was around people and children, reared in the breeder's home. The breeder feels it is normal settling in behaviour that will pass with patience, and she is very experienced with the breed.

She has gotten better every day, but still cowers when my husband goes near her and the worst thing is that she growls at anyone who comes near her unless she is in my arms.

Only one person, confident around dogs, ignored the growl and went on to stroke her and she seemed to relax and accepted a stroke; everyone else understandably backed off. If I am holding her she will endure a stroke, and has been fine having her injection with the vet (he thought she was lovely).

I spoke to a behaviourist on the phone and she said we could improve things with training but that she would probably always be wary around strangers and that we should give her back to the breeder now if we thought we couldn't handle it.

So - we love her already and are willing to put in any amount of effort but I am a novice dog owner and frightened that I could end up with an aggressive dog, and would really be grateful for any advice or experience.

I am hoping everyone will say it is normal for such early days, but the behaviourist's dire warnings have upset me and I want to do the right thing.

misschenko Fri 10-Jun-11 15:58:19

I'm a novice dog owner as well so all I can say is what I'd do - which is give her back to the breeder. Everything I've read (and experienced with my own puppy) says that very young puppies are confident and friendly and want to explore everything, definitely not fearful. There's a window of about 3-4 months to get the puppy used to everything before they go onto the stage of being scared of unfamiliar things. So if she's already fearful it'll be hard to socialise her and things could get worse.

Emmery2010 Fri 10-Jun-11 16:16:54

Hi
when i got my dog she was not a puppy but had been badly abused and was scared of everything.
now after two years she is totally reformed and expecting her own pups.
all i did was make everything seem like it was great. so i would put her in situations that scared her like making loud noise but at the same time i would be smiling and encouraging her and praising her when she perked up. if you feed into her behavior it will get worse but if ignore the scared behavior and praise the normal it should work as it did with me.
with the growling do what the other person did and just keep petting. encourage new ppl into the home and make her face it. dont molly coddle it when its cowering or acting scared because it will associate this with getting attention and do it more.
i really hope this is a helps xxxx

Happymm Fri 10-Jun-11 16:18:51

What breed is she and how old?

Am a novice too-8days and counting with ours! She's a 9wk old lab and a happy placid confident girlie. But she was nervous around my DH for a while (he's 6ft 4 though) He spent a lot of time with her, lying down next to her and letting her snuffle him, lick his hair etc which has helped enormously. And we have taken her out loads carrying her; school run, bus route, watching kids play in the park, high street etc etc.

However, I agree with Misschenko in that everything that I have read suggests that a puppy should be understandably cautious and a wee bit nervous at first in new situations, but as long as secure in owners arms for confidence, should approach things calmly. And that yes, a frightened dog can be aggressive through fear.

There are some very experienced folk on here-try a shout out for minimu, valhalla or midori and am sure they'll help.

Keep going and good luck smile

Spamspamspam Fri 10-Jun-11 16:22:52

I am certainly no behaviourist or trainer but I would have thought that she is plenty young enough to learn not to be fearful and you still have a good window of opportunity to socialise her and make everyday things in life just normal.

Our pup was quite nervous when she came to us 5 weeks ago but blimey it was all so different for her, she had just away from her litter, her home and her family, what a lot for such a little thing adjust to. The wind terrified her, a loud crash terrified her, other dogs approaching would make her sit down between my feet and shiver, noises in the street sent her hightailing back to the house. Visitors would be shied away from and she spent many moments crawling back to me for re-assurance.

I did what Emmery did and just acted normal around all these situations, praised her when she was being confident, didn't react to her fears at all.

Confidence in her now is amazing, everyone's her friend grin in fact she is a bit full on with everyone now...still doesn't like the wind but she is not terrified by it.

misschenko Fri 10-Jun-11 16:33:22

What breed is she? Maybe some breeds are more nervous as puppies. My only experience is with a lab and from the moment we brought him home at 8 wks he was very confident, exploring everything and slobbering over complete strangers, but maybe that's just a lab thing.

Spamspamspam Fri 10-Jun-11 16:38:54

And I wouldn't pick her up with people trying to approach her, I would just leave her be and let visitors come in and ignore her, let her take it at her speed for introductions etc.

My pup used to back away from certain people, she had a big problem with my mums partner we think because he had a bald head! She also had a big issue with a guy who had a beard and one day she absolutely cowered behind me when my husband came in the kichen and was growling at him. Turns out she had never seen him in shorts grin grin he got it straight away and said to her "it's me, it's me" and she suddenly went rushing up to him all cuddles and smiles - it was quite funny!

DooinMeCleanin Fri 10-Jun-11 16:39:16

It is normal for puppies to be fearful. Some are, some aren't. Whippy was a fearful puppy and is still very 'submissive' around people and other dogs, as much as she utterly adores them and is not wary, she has is just not over confident and not bouncy.

Everytime your pup meets a stranger, or DH goes near her, get them to give her a really tasty treat. She'll soon learn that people = good things and will be dying to meet new people.

Get a new behaviourialist/trainer. one is APDT registered.

DooinMeCleanin Fri 10-Jun-11 16:40:56

Oh make sure she meets lots and lots of new people. Carry her everywhere she will be allowed - I used to oush out Whippy out in dd2's old buggy, before she had her jabs. She'd do the school runs with me and walks with Devil Dog.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 10-Jun-11 16:42:50

If she's getting better every day, I'd persist. Can you get your confident friend round some more?

We got our current dog when he was 9 months old from the breeder - he was wary. The first day he mostly sat in his crate scrutinizing us, then when he was out he skittered away from us, growled when DD or I approached (DH was the one who'd got him from the breeder so initially the dog attached to him). But this passed really soon - the dog is a really lovely, laid-back unaggressive chap. He just was in a strange environment with strange people and none of his family, I reckon it would have been odd if he hadn't been wary.

Spamspamspam Fri 10-Jun-11 16:46:37

Yes agree with Dooin I took and take my puppy absolutely everywhere either in my arms or when she could go on lead. We did bin lorries, cows, horses, puppy classes, walks in parks near kid's playground, tennis club, bowls green, football matches, had puppies come to the house, other dogs come to the house, daughter's friends, out in the car for short bursts, chickens, school gate, cyclists, runners, motability vehicles, the pub, train station, up busy roads, the vets, petsathome. If it rains I take her out, I keep taking her out in the wind so hopefully she will get used to it. I have put brollies up, had the kids on the trampoline, have deliberately let metal tins crash onto the kitchen floor, have been outside and rattled the letter box - everything I could think of I did and acted completely normal when she was scared.

Happymm Fri 10-Jun-11 16:59:50

I take my puppy out in the basket under the stroller so she gets loads of new experiences and praise her like mad at every opportunity. Yesterday she had a bout 50 school kids trying to pat her head at the same time and managed well bless her. Wasn't prepared for such a magnet effectgrin

Just10moreMinutes Fri 10-Jun-11 17:10:17

I am also a novice dog owner (my pup is now 5 months-ish). I think I'd get a dog trainer/behaviourist round for a one-to-one if you can. I know it can be pricey but it will be money well spent if it gets puppy on the right track (and he/she should be able to reassure you that you aren't going to end up with a vicious dog).

Like Dooin I'd be encouraging your DH (and anyone else that comes into the house) to give her high value food treats (such as tiny pieces of cooked chicken) if she approaches them. If your pup is very fearful your DH could even just walk past and drop a treat to start with (building up to touching and treating).

Our pup is on the more fearful end of the spectrum but using food treats to create positive associations with stuff (such a loud traffic) has worked very well.

The good news is your pup is like a sponge in terms of learning about the world at her age so I think there is plenty of scope for teaching her people are great!

GrimmaTheNome Fri 10-Jun-11 17:24:50

It probably woudn't harm if your DH could do all the feeding for a few days, if you usually do it.

My dog seemed to cotton on very quickly that I was the main foodgiver!

Howdoesjuliancope Fri 10-Jun-11 20:57:14

Thank you so much for the support and advice - what a great forum.

I don't think any of us could seriously consider giving her back at this point - we will do everything we can to help her and she is definitely improving every day.

I had the behaviourist out this evening but the daft dog slept throughout the appointment - she gave a little growl and then flopped into her bed to sleep, but even that is an improvement because until today she hasn't slept properly during the day and has appeared to be on high alert permanently. She woke up as the lady was leaving and ate a treat dropped from her hand, and then a treat from her hand, but scuttled off immediately afterwards and didn't want her to touch her.

I do feel jealous of those of you with bouncy confident pups and it is a shame that our first dog owning experience looks to be a challenging one but I am sure we will get there. No doubt I will be on a lot with many more questions!

Emmery2010 Fri 10-Jun-11 21:08:13

you will find that when she is bigger and more confident you are so proud of the dog and yourself for helping it along. i love when people who knew holly when first got her compliment me on how well she is doing. so i think it will be totally worth it for you
good luck xxxxx

Happymm Fri 10-Jun-11 21:14:59

Maybe some of her problem is due to being overtired? When we got our pup I really hadn't anticipated how much she needed to sleep or how much help I would have to give her to do so. So at first, she also was a bit wired-typical overtired toddler syndrome grin

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