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Young BC who is very scared of people

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Few monts ago, I got a young BC (she is now 9 months old). When I saw her for the first time, with her past owners, she didn't seem like a agressive dog, or a fearfull one.

It turned out she is very scared of people. She pees when someone comes to our house, get upset when the door bell is ringing, barks at any stranger who looks at her, etc. She is with me for 3 months and she keeps getting better. At first, she was hiding in my room and she never aproched people, but now she comes to the room where all people are and looks at them. She doesn't get calm, but at least she has the courage to come and be there with them. She doesn't want to take treats nor eat anything while someone is in the house. I tried to give her treats when someone comes, but she doesn't even sniff them, all her attention is now on the strangers in our house. When there are less then 4 people, after a while, she sometimes lays down and closes her eyes. She barks when people come and when they make any sudden moves, like stand up, raise their hand, suddenly turn around..

The other problem is when we are outside in the park. She is very curious of people, she follows them and sniffs their feet, but only when they are walking and not paying attention at her. She is always aware of any people in her view range. At first, she didn't want to play with me or the dogs, or to listen to my command, she didnt even hear my voice when there were people around. Now she is a bit more relaxed, but she is still aware of everyone. She isn't scared as much of the dog owners. As I said, she follows people and sniffs them, untill they turn around, stop or talk to her, then she gets bristeled and starts barking and she doesn't stop when I tell her so nor if I yell "no". I usually stay calm when something like that happens, but some people get scared and start yelling at her or running away. She never tried to bite someone, even when they were yelling at me and at her, standing between us or raising their hand. So I think that she isn't that kind of an agressive dog, but she is a very scared one.

Please help me somehow! I don't have an idea what to do. I tried to stop the behaviour but she doesn't listen, I tried to give her treats when she is around people, but she doesn't take them! I am desperate. I really love her and she loves me. She had same problems with my familly, but it is fine now. She feels comfortable around them. We don't have meny good dog trainers here, many of them have bad methods, and I don't want to get her scared even more. Any suggestion would be fine... :(

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There is a DVD set called TACT by Emma Parsons that you might find extremely helpful. TACT is a program to help dogs who are afraid of people become more confident.


The thing I really like about the TACT DVD's is that they are very, very user friendly and super easy to follow. You would have no trouble taking your dog through the program and, based on what you describe, it would do a lot of good.


It is a bit of an investment, but it would probably be well worth your while.


You can find info by googling "TACT dog" and you can read the website for more info. I recommend going there, not amazon. It is on amazon, but it is double the price.


Another thing that I highly recommend is checking out the shy k9's yahoo group. There is quite a lot of knowledge there and it is my go-to place when I have a question about a fearful dog.


I wish you all the best.

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I think you're right to steer clear of harsh methods with her. If she has a treat or a toy she really likes, you might be able to reward her when the scary thing is outside of her "bubble," which at this point is probably quite large. She may never be a dog to allow strangers to approach and pet her, but with patience, you can make a lot of progress. Do your best to radiate confidence that she can feed off of. I have a female who at age 10 still doesn't let strange people touch her, but she will drop a frisbee at their feet in hopes of initiating a game.


Best wishes, and please keep us posted.

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  • 1 month later...

Just to let you know,

We have found an exellent trainer and she is making progress! She is great with my family (but onlu the ones that I live with) and she barks at people less. We are making more friends every week, so I hope that she will be good in near future.

Thank you again! :)

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Cerka, that's great news! I'm just curious, what worked for your girl? You said she wouldn't take treats around people and was very distracted with them in her environment. I'm just wondering what gave you two your breakthrough!


Either way, congrats on the progress and keep up the good work!! :)

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Well I dont know what it was exactly, but we were meeting a lot of new people, who were nice to her. We push her a bit, she gets pet even if doesnt want to, I dont let her hide behind me, etc. I try to meet with as many strangers as I can and I am always happy. I make her to make contact with people we meet, even if it means she unconsciously touches his/hers leg. We are also going to walks alone, without other dogs. She plays with dogs in the park but they are not with us all the way. The women who is helping me with her (who is a very good agility trainer), told me that she might feel insecure without presence of other dogs, because she wasnt socialized in the right way (she was always with her mom and brother). So I am still trying to bond with her in the way she will think that I am her "role model", not other dogs. I dont know if all that makes sense, but it works. :)

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It's nice to hear that she is making good progress.


We had a very "shy" youngster. He was comfortable with myself and my daughter, but it took a while for him to warm up to my husband. He also had problems with strangers, and even people he met on a regular basis but who were not members of the family.


What worked best for him was to initially tell people to totally ignore him (of course, we also tried to avoid sudden movements and noises, too). That allowed him to creep up and sniff, being able to be close without having to react to any movements or approaches on their part. Then I asked people to drop treats, always to the side or behind them so that he did not have to approach them from the front. No talk, no unneeded movements, just dropping the treats and continuing to ignore him.


Once I realized that he knew certain people well enough through multiple contacts, and saw that he was not offering to be friendly but was comfortable being nearby and picking up the treats (even anticipating them and looking for them), I had him on leash and would sometimes hand the leash to the person, and I would walk off (usually to the rest room, or some other nearby place where I would be out of his sight and shut off from him). At that point, I would return to find him usually sitting on the person's feet, leaning on his/her leg, and willing to take any treats that were offered. It was an "any port in a storm" situation - if I wasn't there, this person that he knew somewhat, was the next best haven.


That was our breakthrough situation and, after that, even though he never was an outgoing or overly friendly dog, he could be quiet, comfortable, not on guard or reactive dog around strangers and/or groups. It took a while but providing reasonable and frequent social situations with dog-savvy people worked for us by letting him proceed at his own pace to a certain point, and then insisting that he take the next step when I felt he was ready even though he didn't offer it on his own. His demeanor let me know he was far enough along that I could attempt another step, and it was.


Very best wishes!


PS - These dogs can be very noise and motion sensitive that it can make it easy for some to be rather "cautious" about strangers (and children, and other potentially scary objects).

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Just to be clear, I dont push her when she is scared. I, like Sue R told, tell people to ignore her, even if she is barking and after she gets calm, i push her a bit, just to touch them, or I tell them to pet her, but they still dont make eye contact nor talk to her. After some time she is relaxed in their presence, but she still reacts when they make sudden moves. Even if it is not permanent, she gets a bit familiar with people. She is now coming to see who came to our house. At first she hides in my room, but after some time she peeks into the living room. I sometimes close the door to my room, so she has to stay in the hallway (which is not separated of the livingroom by the door). She has a place to hide, but she is closer to people. After some time, she comes to the living room and sniffs around. She still keeps the distance, but she is in the room with them. As they are ignoring her, she comes closer (she really needs time to do this). When we are sitting by the table, she lays by my chair, listens to our talk and follows every move they make. So, if I see that she has got relaxed enough, I tell them to pet her without looking at her. Even if we do all that, she is still scared when they stan up, but she is following them, not running away. So I assume that is better than hiding.



I'm not sure that I would force a dog to interact with people, if it doesn't want to interact with people.


I would turn this into a targetting game with the person being the target (you would need to shape this). Then, it becomes the dog's choice to play the game (nose touch a person).

As a matter of fact, we are playing some kind of a game! :D We "hunt" people. When I tell her, she runs towards them and jumps and them and pulls their clothes. Of course, she stops when I tell her so. That way she initiates a game with people and if they want to play, which is almost always the case, she plays with them. But this is very difficult to do with people she is not familiar with, because she starts barking at them and doesnt let them touch her. So we practice this only with my members of household. She is now addicted to playing with us :D

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