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My Dog is so afraid

(10 Posts)
Lougle Thu 11-Oct-12 17:25:41

I think it's personality, but it's a big issue. 10 mth Staff X.

Last week, walking down a path in semi-darkness - the sound of a car in the distance spooked him and he nearly sent me flying.

Yesterday evening, walking him along a back path, he stopped, sat down and refused to move, ears pinned back and head down, cowering. Why, you ask? Crickets! I had to show him the hedgerow with my torch to get him to move.

With dogs, he seems to take his lead from their behaviour. If they are very calm and sensible, he approaches with great caution, tail tucked right under his bum, sniff and dart away, then a bit closer, etc. But, if they are bouncy or chase him, he runs as fast as he can away, looking behind him with a high pitched yelp that is terrified.

Last week we were walking in a field. I saw a dog walker far ahead, and had my dog leaded. I thought 'oh they're a good distance away' and as my dog doesn't wander far (fear) I let him off. Mistake. One of the walker's Golden Retriever types came steaming down from the top end of the field to where we were, absolutely bouncing. Patch ran as fast as he could, yelping horrifically and looking at me as he did, obviously realising that he couldn't get to me without this other dog being near. His recall went to pot, because of this, and when he did return, he gave a warning snap at the other dog sad, who by this time had knocked my children over. The other owner then used her whistle, and her dog returned with perfect recall. Quite why she didn't think of that 5 minutes earlier, I have no idea.

I'm worried that his obvious fear of other dogs will mark him as a target, and he obviously doesn't know how to avert unwanted attention, so is giving the wrong signals by running away.

How do you address fear and anxiety in a dog?

EasyToEatTiger Thu 11-Oct-12 19:58:46

You don't want to reward him for being afraid. If you do, you are setting yourself up to become the owner of an aggressive dog. He warned the other dog by snapping at it, and by the sound of things the other dog responded. Have you been to training sessions at all? YOu may find it helpful to find a trainer and get some help for all of you with socialisation.

Lougle Thu 11-Oct-12 22:40:06

The other dog didn't respond at all to the warning snap. It wasn't a contact snap, it was an air-snap. I didn't reward him, I don't think. I simply re-leashed him, and walked in the other direction.

I've looked for training classes, but none of the ones in my area are part of the APDT, so I'm a bit wary of getting bad advice.

Lougle Fri 12-Oct-12 17:16:39

Well, I have spoken to a local dog training school today. They don't state that they are ADPT, but their methods are all positive reinforcement, etc., and I was really impressed when I overheard a telephone call where the woman was saying 'well how you treat your dog is something you have to decide, but you have to realise that here, we'll only ever be on the side of the dog, and all our methods are about encouraging a dog to want to do what you ask. If you want to treat your dog harshly, we're not for you, but if you want to encourage your dog to think you're the best thing since sliced bread, then we certainly are.'

She spent 2 hours talking to me today. I'll take the boy in to see her for an hour on Monday. She says she has several 'stooge dogs' who can be brought out for training.

EasyToEatTiger Fri 12-Oct-12 20:13:10

Fantastic news! Well done! Not everyone is a member of APDT, but it can be a helpful place to start. A lot of dog training depends on the trainer, not what organisations they belong to, and it can be a bit of trial and error finding someone who suits you. I met one highly respected behaviourist who told me to do exactly what I was doing, and couldn't charge me for that. Had I followed his advice on what to try next our dog would be long gone by now. There are people here who do understand an awful lot about dogs. I am in the foothills. Like with horses, people have their methods which work for them, and can argue horribly about who is right. Saying this, I think there is a general concencus that forcing things is not good.
We as owners are the primary cause of dog problems, and often a minor shift in our attitude and behaviour can bring great rewards.

Lougle Fri 12-Oct-12 21:09:40

I was quite surprised that what I perceive to be 'problems' (the warning snap) the trainer/beaviourist I was speaking to, perceived as 'appropriate doggy behaviour if another dog just won't leave them alone'.

I thought that my dog shouldn't have responded by snapping once he'd been chased and managed to get back to me. She said that he wasn't being aggressive, he was just saying 'for goodness sake, I told you I'm not interested, leave me ALONE.' I said 'but what if he had hurt her dog?' and she said that in that situation, it would be her fault for allowing her dog to bound up to mine from a distance.

But our aim is going to be to instill confidence in my dog, so that he is more confident around dogs and displays appropriate body language, etc. and isn't petrified of anything that moves.

She asked me to hand feed him in the garden, using a 'push-feed' technique. The aim being to get him to push against my hand to get to a handful of food, to build his confidence. He didn't find that challenging at all - more than willing to push my hand to reach the food.

ConeyIslandBaby Sun 14-Oct-12 11:20:55

Hi Lougle. I've got an uptight 3 year old JR. He's naturally highly strung and is wary of dogs he doesn't know. Here's a few things that worked for us.

I stopped going to places where we'd meet a lot of dogs we don't know and go for quieter walks, just to build up his confidence of being out and about without the stress of meeting other dogs.

Then, if you meet another dog on your walk, let your dog make the decision of how close he wants to get to it, i.e. if he wants to give it a wide birth, let him. Dogs naturally prefer not to approach each other head on and will semi-circle and come in from the side. I've been guilty in the past expecting my dog to just 'buck-up' and get on with it - it didn't help.

We make a massive fuss of our dog when he has a positive interaction with another dog, even if he just walks past one. Lots of positive praise for everything good.

Is your dog toy oriented? Giving my dog a job or a distraction really helped, ask him carry his ball or play fetch. Just took his mind off all the 'scary' stuff!

Have you got any friends with nice friendly non pushy dogs that you can walk with? Having 1 or 2 dog friends really helps build their confidence.

I agree with your trainer about your dog snapping. Mine does this sometimes (though very rarely now) when he feels under pressure, but its for show and he's just telling me/the other dog he's uncomfortable.

I read this which helps you read all those subtle signs your dog (and others) is giving out:

We now have a dog who doesn't run as fast as he can in the opposite direction when approached by another dog and walks are fun, not stressful and frustrating. Also really important that you are calm, relaxed and enjoying your walks as the sensitive little souls pick up on your vibes so much!! I talk to and encourage my dog constantly when we are out and about. I'm sure others think I'm nuts but who cares, we're happy (mad) grin!

Good luck!

Lougle Sun 14-Oct-12 11:38:23

Thank you, some great tips smile

Cuebill Sun 14-Oct-12 12:40:08

Lougle re your other post I am delighted you have found a behaviourist that encourages push dog - it is a superb way to help nervous dogs. Keep with it you will see results.

Lougle Sun 14-Oct-12 14:51:45

That's a great encouragement, Cuebill. I felt a bit paralysed because I couldn't find an APDT member within reasonable distance that I could afford. But, these people are local, reasonable (£40 for the first assessment, then £30 per hour after that) and seem absolutely willing to turn away trade if someone is not willing to use positive techniques.

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