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fearful temperment vs. adolescent weirdness


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How would you differentiate a dog with serious shyness issues from one who was just experiencing an adolescent boy dog weirdness? Said dog is 6 months old, and had a sudden onset of "stranger danger" fear response starting about 6 or 7 weeks ago, barking and growling and hiding from strange people. He is fairly noise sensitive (in that he seems to notice every single one) but doesn;t seem to be afraid of anything but strange people.

 

Prior to that, I understand he was a happy and normal puppy whose previous owners (fairly knowledgeable dog people) said they socialized him well. None of the other puppies in his litter seem to be having these issues.

 

Initially, I suggested it was simply a phase, but we haven't seen any real improvement despite some gentle desensitization, and I would have thought he would have improved by now.

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I understand. There's been a couple of times where I've had dogs that I absolutely fell in love with, but knew that I wasn't meshing quite right with. It was so difficult to really start looking at what I needed to do. The first time was especially difficult, but I felt much better about it after I re-homed that dog and knew, as much as I missed that dog, that it was right -- for me and for the dog. And it's okay. Not every owner matches up with every dog. That doesn't mean there's anything "wrong" with that dog, or with that owner ... sometimes, it just doesn't work out. Many people go through it. I got a pup this year that I absolutely adored, and I started working her on stock, and it wasn't quite what I was after, and I don't think it was quite was she was after. I was really heartbroken to find her another home, but I did it ... and now she is doing awesome in an agility home! All of the photos the owner sends me ... you can see it on her face! She is so happy! And that makes me feel really good about the decision I made. And it's awesome that you have a breeder that is standing by the pups. That's very helpful.

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How would you differentiate a dog with serious shyness issues from one who was just experiencing an adolescent boy dog weirdness?

 

If it were my own dog and I was committed to keeping him, I probably would not try to differentiate at this point.

 

If DS/CC did not bring about improvement, I would try limiting exposure as much as possible, teach some CU games, and reintroduce strangers in the context of those games, keeping the dog far below threshold and take it very slow.

 

Twice I've written off adolescent fear as "just a phase" and been very wrong, so I tend to err now on the side of caution. If it really is "just a phase", limiting exposure and doing some extra training will not hurt anything. If it really is a temperament issue, the sooner the dog starts to learn some tools to handle being around strangers, the better.

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If counterconditioning is done right then it should solve the problem. If the dog was underexposed to strangers prior to the onset of this issue then it will take longer. Seek professional help. Avoid anyone who suggests you use harsh punishment oriented methods for this problem. It is not unusual for a dog to experience fear periods during adolescence. It is important to help him overcome his fear and learn how to handle situations for him to be a good pet however.

 

Desentization and counter conditioning can take some time to help him overcome his fears and it MUST be done every time the dog is exposed to the fear inducing situation.

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Got my dog at 2-ish, and stranger danger was a gigantic issue for him. BUT... even at that late age, counterconditioning worked. He now will often approach strangers happily, sort of expecting that they might (probably?) have a treat to give him. He's never going to be light-hearted or the life of the party, but he's good for my lifestyle.

 

So, if the owner intends to keep the dog, I can only say it's not hopeless.

 

Mary

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Jodi,

While I agree with you that sometimes the owner and dog don't match, especially in a working situation, I don't think extreme shyness falls under an owner-dog match situation, unless the owner simply doesn't have the desire or capability to work with such a dog. It's not as if the owner would be sending a dog back who simply isn't working out for the sport/activity of choice for the owner; rather the owner would be returning the dog for a behavioral/temperament issue, and I think those are separate things, at least to me (because in the former, the dog doesn't have a temperament issue, but just isn't suited for the activity, whereas with the latter the dog may not be suited for any activity--at least not without some serious intervention--*because of* personality issues).

 

To me, the question is whether the current owner wants to make the commitment to work with the dog to try to overcome the shyness/weirdness issue. If not, then the pup should certainly go back to the breeder.

 

J.

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Jodi,

While I agree with you that sometimes the owner and dog don't match, especially in a working situation, I don't think extreme shyness falls under an owner-dog match situation, unless the owner simply doesn't have the desire or capability to work with such a dog. It's not as if the owner would be sending a dog back who simply isn't working out for the sport/activity of choice for the owner; rather the owner would be returning the dog for a behavioral/temperament issue, and I think those are separate things, at least to me (because in the former, the dog doesn't have a temperament issue, but just isn't suited for the activity, whereas with the latter the dog may not be suited for any activity--at least not without some serious intervention--*because of* personality issues).

 

To me, the question is whether the current owner wants to make the commitment to work with the dog to try to overcome the shyness/weirdness issue. If not, then the pup should certainly go back to the breeder.

 

J.

 

Yes.

 

The question is if the owner is willing to take on a new 'project dog,' as opposed to the happy social dog he thought she was getting, and if he has enough of a problem that he would be a poor candidate for sports. With a rescue dog with an unknown background, or a known background that included knowledge of lack of socialization you could attribute it to that.

 

I would be interested in knowing if a dog is bred from healthy normal parents and was in fact socialized as a pup, and has never been mistreated, and he starts having this fear issue, is that a bad sign? Dogs of course are not robots or machinery and you can't put the component parts together and expects a totally predictable outcome. What I am worried about is if he is behaving this way having had a "quality puppyhood" and living with dog saavy people, is he going to have a harder time getting past it?

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While there is definitely a genetic basis for temperment, MUCH can be altered during early socialization and raising. IOW you can take a dog that would be shy and bring it out and you can take a dog that would be friendly and make it afraid. The temperment is very changable. Early socialization and temperment training should be a part of every pup's upbriging. Unfortunately too few people are aware of sources for good information and too few of those follow the advice.

 

To the OP, this is not to blame you. I admire you for sticking with your dog. My first dog as an adult was a real PITA!!!!! A lesson in what NOT to do. That was over 30 years ago and now there is much more info on how to help such pups become 'good canine citizens'. I kept my dog for over 17 years and learned more from him than from most of the dogs I've had over the years.

 

With the right techniques it IS possible to bring your dog around. The question is ARE YOU willing to put out the effort. Any dog requires effort to turn into a 'good dog' For some people the techniques come naturally for others they have to work at it. If you are looking for a good trainer/behaviourist in yor area, PM me and I'll see what I can do to help you find someone near you.

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Hmm. It doesn't sound like the OP raised the pup or owns the pup at all. She has stated that she has been helping the dog's actual owner with desensitization.

 

Sigh.

 

Actually I do. I posted in that way in an attempt to be very objective. I didn't raise the pup, he was placed with me at 4.5 months old.

 

Rather than adopt a rescue dog like I usually do I was looking for more of a clean slate with a solid temperament and structure. My last 3 dogs have been wonderful but have each had an issue that has prevented them from being active in sports for several years.

 

I'm confused and dismayed that what seemed like a great happy, normal pup has become so fearful with people and with a sudden onset, and now I need to decide if I already love him too much to send him back (where I know he will be cared for and loved) or just keep him and accept him for the project dog that he is likely to be.

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In that case, I'd look to the parents and the rest of the litter. Has this been an issue with the other pups, or the parents, or anywhere else in the line? The dogs I've seen who are extraordinarily fearful (and sometimes thus aggressive) all share a genetic predisposition within their lines. If it's there, you likely have a project dog. If it's not evident in any other dogs in the lines, I'd give it some more time and work.

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In that case, I'd look to the parents and the rest of the litter. Has this been an issue with the other pups, or the parents, or anywhere else in the line? The dogs I've seen who are extraordinarily fearful (and sometimes thus aggressive) all share a genetic predisposition within their lines. If it's there, you likely have a project dog. If it's not evident in any other dogs in the lines, I'd give it some more time and work.

 

No, as far as I know there's been no issues with any of the other pups and both parents are outgoing and social dogs. I don't know where every puppy is, but I have made friends with 2 people with littermates and they are doing well.

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Interesting, I can't offer any help but I do think it's interesting. Human babies at about 7 months old begin to develop stranger fear, some babies are naturally more outgoing and this is never really notice, other babies are more reserved and at about 7 months when the baby before hand had no issues with strangers will suddenly start rejecting strangers and become very uncomfortable with their presence. I know that puppies and babies are not the same thing, but I wonder if they go through a similar stage. It might not be as noticeable in outgoing puppies. Considering socialization has a certain period of optimum opportunity where they are more open to strangers I don't see why their wouldn't be a certain period where they become less open to strangers, such as human babies are. Human babies with the more reserved temperament will always be somewhat reserved, but with good experiences with strangers and people they can blossom into social butterflies who know how to deal with their stress. I'm sure that your dog will also be able to over come this with many good experiences with strangers as well, especially if he has someway to deal with his stress, such as an action associated with strangers, for people this action is typically smiling and greeting, people who do not have an action for meeting new people often remain uncomfortable because they don't know how to deal with their anxiety. So in my inexperienced and unprofessional opinion based on what I know about people, it sounds like a mixture of reserved temperament and adolescence.

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So he bounced around a bit? I re-read the thread, and I guess I'm not sure of his history. Let me see if I follow this. The breeder bred the pup. Did the breeder then sell the pup, and the pup was returned, and then the breeder gave the pup to you as a "rehome"? If that's the case, what was his first home like? Or did he just come directly from the breeder?

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Rather than adopt a rescue dog like I usually do I was looking for more of a clean slate with a solid temperament and structure. My last 3 dogs have been wonderful but have each had an issue that has prevented them from being active in sports for several years.

 

I'm confused and dismayed that what seemed like a great happy, normal pup has become so fearful with people and with a sudden onset, and now I need to decide if I already love him too much to send him back (where I know he will be cared for and loved) or just keep him and accept him for the project dog that he is likely to be.

 

I can really relate to your situation. When we adopted Dean, I was set on a happy, normal dog with a solid temperament. At first he was. He was so normal and it was such a joy. He was super energetic, super smart, and so eager to try and do anything.

 

Then, when he was about a year and a half old, the noise phobia began to manifest and when he was just over two, it really became full blown and that anxiety became more generalized. It was extremely disheartening to see this happen before my very eyes - especially knowing the dog he had been and the potential for all he could have done, and how severely debilitating it is for him.

 

In some ways helping him with his anxiety and noise phobia has been a lot more difficult than helping Speedy, who has a generally fearful temperament and was highly fearful of both people and dogs. I do sports with both of them, but I have to work harder and smarter than I do with a normal dog.

 

Only you can know what is right for you in your situation, but I've never regretted my decision to continue to train for sports with Dean. I've had to learn a lot of new ways to help him deal with certain things and sometimes I have to do what is best for him, rather than what I want, but when it all comes together, it is nothing short of amazing. I hate his condition for his sake, although with meds, supplements, and smart management, his anxiety gotten much better than I was led to believe it could get when this first cropped up.

 

One last thing - if you decide to keep the dog, you don't need to give up the hope of doing sports. There are so many ways to help a dog who fears people. You have the tools of DS/CC at your disposal, and you have the CU games. There are also supplements you might try. He might be a project dog, or he might just need some help for a while and he could end up being just fine.

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Sounds like this pup may have missed a critical stage in socialization. Before 4 mos is the optimum time to socialize a pup. Additionally bite inhibition needs to occure prior to 5 mos or it is all but impossible to teach reliably. If the siblings. parents are sociable it stands better for the pup to progress with CC/DS but it will take more work than if the pup had had better socialization at an earlier age.

 

Many a rescue with extreme fears has done quite well in agility and other sports that require few humans other than their owners to touch them.

 

As for noise sensitivity, I have found that often it does not show until 1 year or older. I have known dogs that at a year up to 2 you could fire a gun over with little reaction but later they developed full blown phobias of loud noises.

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As for noise sensitivity, I have found that often it does not show until 1 year or older. I have known dogs that at a year up to 2 you could fire a gun over with little reaction but later they developed full blown phobias of loud noises.

 

That's interesting. My older BC was seemingly OK with noises until he hit about 7 when suddenly he was terrified of thunder and fireworks.

 

When we moved to WA we learned that folks here are very big on small fireworks for the entire 4th of July week! They go off all over the neighborhood every evening, even the older couples in my neighborhood go out and fire off an armorys worth in the street with their grandkids and friends.

 

My poor dog was so stressed out the whole week my vet prescribed Valium to get through the week.

 

Its crazy.

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well, he's 6 months old. if you were me (or one of my bc friends) we'd all say- he's going thru puppy/or adolescence and give him a break from socializing, and keep him around reliable dogs and friends, and gradually bring him around society again. Never underestimate the random working brain of the young, intelligent, and hyper! Sometimes, its just too much- right now- and taking him/her out of situation for a bit and giving a break is all that is needed. :) And sometimes, desensitizing is too much training, especially if the pup may just need a break. And by too much training i mean: say his training schedule is agility, obedience, puppy socialization, walk on leashes, freeshaping, tricks, adding MORE training (desensitizing) is TOO much. I'd not diagnose fearful temperment until the dog is old enough to have a CONSISTENT temperment- and 6 months its still developing.

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