Sudden onset nervousness in 11mth old pup(16 Posts)
I socialised him so well, and continue to do so but much less actively I guess. We live rurally but see other dogs most days.
He's always been utterly friendly and outgoing and now suddenly he is wary and even alarm barked at a child bouncing a ball this evening (we were in an unfamiliar place, following a training class so maybe a bit tense anyway).
He's had a few dogs have a bit of a go at him, but not really more than you might expect a very large, boisterous puppy to receive! He just seems to be terribly jumpy now and reactive and suspicious.
Can I resolve this with just active socialisation? I could start to get him meeting loads of friendly dogs and take him to towns to see lots of people. TIA.
Isn't it around this point they can go through the "fear period".
I think that the best advice is to not re-in force the fear.
I'm trying not to, but I feel I need to be more active. Don't want to overwhelm him though.
If he hasn't had one already it will be his second fear period. It shouldn't last for more than around 3 weeks and you'll need to keep him under threshold and protected from potentially scary or upsetting experiences while he's going through it.
Basically just try to keep him away from potential bad experiences and if he does become upset or scared of anything, regardless of whether it's something that would ordinarily be scary or dangerous, you need to step in and remove him from the situation without making a fuss or over-fussing him, iyswim.
If anything I would say you need to be slightly less active for a couple of weeks, walk him where he feels safe and comfortable and continue mixing him with dogs and people he's already comfortable with and happy around. Save new or novel experiences for when he's worked his way through it.
If he's no better by around three weeks' time or seems to be getting much worse, especially if he's becoming more reactive, that would be the time to take behavioural advice.
The socialisation window closes at about 14 wks and is about so much more than getting them used to ther dogs.
It is about making EVERY new person, surface, sound, and occurance a positive experience.
You need to get some help from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers to help work through your dog's fears.
Do you not think it could be a fear period then Lilcamper? I haven't experienced a clear second fp in all of my dogs, but two of my boys have seemed to go through one and I do believe they are more prevalent/obvious in males - perhaps something to do with testosterone? I just kept life simple and unchallenging for a couple of weeks and they btoh worked through it no problem.
I would second help from an APDT or APBC registered professional if he doesn't settle down, but would give him a break and see if he relaxes and works his way through it first.
Ah - cross posted!
I was wondering if I'd managed to miss some new research debunking fear periods for a minute there.
Thanks very much. Glad I got this advice as I was planning on doing tho opposite! It really is a pro unannounced change, very odd
When I said socialised him, I meant with everything. I took him everywhere, we did country shows, trains, cities, children, busy roads, suburban parks, everything I could think of. It was no mean feat when he was still being carried and is a large breed and I had a 2 year old with me! I understood the socialisation window to close at around 14 weeks but ongoing habituation is stil necessary - sorry I wasn't clear.
Thanks, I'll keep him quiet for a week or so, just mixing with friends in familiar places.
I fact, when I think about it, his environmental confidence hasn't dipped at all. It's just social confidence. Seems to be very much dogs, plus strangers who are over familiar. I should stop people being too 'in your face' with him when they see him on walks.
Sorry, it makes me feel a bit defensive as I dedicated myself to socialising him as a baby pup - every day through the winter I dragged him and my toddler out somewhere for an 'experience'! Made sure it wasn't too much either.
This wasn't supposed to happen!
His breeder also did masses with them, including taking them with her one at a time in her jacket on every dog was she did!
Sounds like you did everything right when he was a pup. It is most probably a fear period and given time and space he'll come through it.
It's really frustrating you make a huge effort do all the socialisation etc and things still seem to go pear shaped. I've been there too and it does make you feel defensive, as it's so easy for other people to judge when your dog reacts out on walks etc.
Fingers crossed he'll be fine in a couple of weeks, but if not, do get an APBC appointment asap, as the sooner you get help to sort it out the better the results will be.
Moose gives good advice. Don't beat yourself up and if it doesn't pass, don't stick your head in the sand. I think it's great that the importance of socialisation is being recognised but it is also leading to a bit of a risky attitude that all behaviour is the "fault" of an owner. I don't agree with this. Good handling can get you a long long way but dogs also have their own temperament and tolerance levels.
Thanks so much for your advice and support.
Yes, he is definitely sensitive by nature. From today I've started putting his lead on when other dogs/people are heading our way. It seems to relax him by tsking the decision out of his hands. I keep the lead loose and allow him to meet the dog/person if he wants to but otherwise we keep walking.
Also lots of walks and meet ups with his and my friends to help keep it positive. I'll keep you posted how we get on.
Good luck. Sounds like you're handling it well, as long as you keep it calm and matter of fact and keep his lead loose it should be fine.
If he does seem a bit worried when another dog is passing, don't hesitate to put yourself between him and it, it sends him the message that there's nothing to worry about and you're taking care of things so he doesn't need to worry and helps him to relax and know he can trust you to take care of him.
A good way of doing this is to teach him a decent 'wait'. Get him to wait behind you, then you block the dog with your body and say hello to it while he decides whether or not he wants to. Then it's up to you, depending on his and the other dog's body language and behaviour, whether or not you release him to approach the other dog or not. Often, seeing you interact positively with the other dog is all they need to find their confidence and do the same, but it has the advantage of you being able to weed out particularly pushy or bad mannered dogs that you feel may stress your boy out.
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