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Puppy with Super Low Confidence

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Hi everyone! Firstly I am very excited to be a new member on BC boards, such an awesome group of dog people! I rescued my first BC, Sully, this past summer and have been very pleased with his loving personality and extreme intelligence.

Here's my problem: He has always been a little sensitive to loud noises and 'large moving things' (if I were to carry a chair accross the room, bikes, etc). Recently we were on a popular walking trail by my house and a bicyclist decided to try and go between the dog and I, apparently not seeing the retractable lease. In order to prevent clothes-lining the guy, I dropped the leash and it made a large sound just as the idiot biker almost hit Sully. Sully took off, and the biker turned to "help" and chased the dog 1/2 mile down the trail. Ever since this incident Sully refuses to walk anywhere near the trail, Is terrified of moving bikes (he will get close to stationary bikes for hotdogs), and extremely fearful of people we encounter while walking. His original slight sensitivity to noise has escalated into intense fear of any new, loud noise including: trucks, busses, kids playing, new objects, and the list goes on.

I have tried treating when he willingly walks past scary things, talking him through and petting him in scary situations, ignoring the behavior and acting like nothing is wrong..... I'm at a loss, he seems to completely shut down. If he gets close to something scary for a treat and he hears any noise, he flees and seems to have a worse fear of the object. I have thought about trying to improve his confidence because his fears are so

widespread, and we are starting agility next week. However, he's doing great with obedience and will hopefully start earning legs in novice rally and obedience (he's only 11 months old!)

Sully's fear issues have caused it to become very diffcult to exercise him as much as I'd like to, unless we go somewhere completely seccluded (which is hard where I live). If anyone has advice on how to boost his confidence and work through some of his phobias, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

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Welcome to the Boards! Sorry to hear about Sully's issues.


When you talk about treating him, are you just treating or marking (with a clicker etc) before you treat?


Do you go to other places to train in OB work? Is he fine training out and about there?


In what situations is he really comfortable in? What's he like in you living room and he hears a loud noise on TV or something like that?

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I don't have a clicker, I've always just used a voice marker for the desired behavior followed by the treat. I have been thinking of making the switch, but am still on the fence.

We train at an indoor facility and he is usually fine there. He's afraid of certain dogs depending on the vibe he gets from them, and also afraid of the moving ring dividers. If he sees the ring dividers being moved in a certain location, he won't get too close to that particular place. (he makes very strong location associations).

Sully is most comfortable on a hiking trail, there he is confident and investigating everything and not in a hyper-sensitive way. He is fine with tv noises, but definately not with other household noises. Heaven forbid I accidently drop a dish in the sink! Or the day the dumptruck comes. Or If it's particularly windy and the windows make noises... If he hears something at home, he typically hides on the couch or in the bathroom.

Thanks for the questions! I feel like phobias are common in BCs and I'm thinking this is the perfect

place to go for tips!

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For noise fearful dogs is leaving the radio/tv on low for most of the day and turning it up a little every day a viable way to make your dog a little less fearful of loud noise?


I'd say it's unlikely for a couple of reasons. First, they know the difference between noise on TV and real life noise. For instance, Dean can hear fireworks and gunshots on TV, even if my husband has it going ridiculously loud, and Dean does not experience a noise phobic response, as he does when he hears the real thing - even if the real thing is actually quieter than the TV. He might be momentarily concerned, but he does not end up frozen, drooling, pupils dialated, shaking, and unable to function, as he does when he hears the real thing.


The other thing is that for a dog who experiences anxiety triggered by noise, being flooded with loud sounds can actually make the problem worse. White noise like a TV on low, or a fan, or something like that can be good to drown out noises that cause anxiety that might be in the background (I am able to have Dean at outdoor Agility classes and trials, for instance, because he can be in the car with music playing to mask the sound of the teeter slamming when it isn't his turn), but constant exposure to loud noise could very easily have the opposite effect.


Mary, you might find some good info that at www.fearfuldogs.com


There is also a yahoo group called shyk9s that has proven to be very helpful to me in working with fearful dogs, especially in the early going. There is a ton of experience with dogs like Sully on there, and you would likely get some good info. You can search that through yahoo groups, or I can PM you a link if you are interested in checking it out.

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I don't have much practical advice, but I do have a fearful dog. When he first came home, he was extremely fearful of a lot of things: bikes, noises, me throwing a SOCK across the room toward the laundry basket. (You would have thought I was throwing a spear at him!)


Over the 5.5 years I've had him, Buddy's fear reaction to all these things has decreased so dramatically that most people wouldn't know he was fearful anymore. Bikes are a breeze, strange people calling him over = happy dog.


It's hard to remember the early days, but I do know that I gave him a LOT of room to avoid things that scared him. I used to take him off the path and put him in a "sit" when a bike was approaching, then reward him afterwards (voice cue/treat) when he was calm. After a while, he started taking himself off the path when he saw a bike. Now, he's annoyed that I make him stop sniffing to get off the path, because bikes don't scare him at all.


With all his fear triggers, that was pretty much the method I used: great distance during exposures, decreasing as his comfort level increased. It seemed to work.


Mind you, Buddy was around 2 when I got him, and had moved from one environment into a completely different one. I don't know how much of his fear was his wiring, and how much was the environmental shake-up. But he's made great progress and is now a "normal" dog in most people's eyes.



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There is also a yahoo group called shyk9s that has proven to be very helpful to me in working with fearful dogs, especially in the early going. There is a ton of experience with dogs like Sully on there, and you would likely get some good info. You can search that through yahoo groups, or I can PM you a link if you are interested in checking it out.


I would like to look at the yahoo group - couldn't find it when I searched through the yahoo groups today, a link would be great!


Also, thanks for the encouragement mbc1963, it helps to hear success stories.

Control Unleashed is coming in the mail today!! Can't wait, I've heard nothing but good things about Leslie McDevitt.

Here's a pic of my boy so yall can see him in his element, jumping things.

post-12049-000046300 1299516982_thumb.jpg

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