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Fearful BC Pup Barking at the World

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My little Marley girl is going on six months and is a sweetheart. I've been taking her to doggie day care once a week to interact with other dogs and people and she always gets a great report card. Plays great with the other dogs, makes friends and is very sweet to all the employees she interacts with. Still, when she's on a leash outside the entire world seems to scare her. she jumps at noises and barks at almost everyone. After walking about 20 minutes she relaxes a bit and stops barking and lunging at pedestrians (I take her to outdoor malls to socialize her with the busy world). At that point, she will only go crazy barking if large groups of people begin inundating the space around her. I've been focusing on socializing her since she was all done with her beginner puppy shots. But it seems I was too late because all this fear set in in the interim. these people on the sidewalk that she's barking at aren't even approaching her to be sociable -- they're minding their own business. I brought to an outdoor, dog-friendly restaurant and she barked and lunged at everyone to the point I left.

 

When I see the onset of this behavior, I tug quickly at her leash to pull her focus away from the scary stuff around her and get her attention. This has helped a bit. Walking with her, she is always at my side on a short leash so I can better gage her attitude toward everything and see how she's carrying herself.

 

Trying to distract her with food and trying to make it a pleasant experience does not help because she has no interest in even chicken when she's outdoors in scary places.

 

When she's extra scared it goes so far as accidentally urinating on the spot. It's so sad to watch and I'm doing what I can to help her, but I feel like I'm not doing enough because it's not stopping. On an upbeat note, she enjoys the doggie camp experience so much that she actually wags her tail and is so happy every time we visit Petsmart (walk-by for socialization and being around people) and go by the doggie camp.

 

Is this fear and barking something that will go away as I continue to socialize her and she matures? Any stories/advice would be appreciated.

 

Thanks, Kim

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"After walking about 20 minutes she relaxes a bit and stops barking and lunging at pedestrians (I take her to outdoor malls to socialize her with the busy world)."

 

She might have stopped because she is overwhelmed and shutting down. 20 minutes is a very long training period for a young dog in a stressful situation.

 

"At that point, she will only go crazy barking if large groups of people begin inundating the space around her."

 

Then she should not be in those situations. You don't have enough control over them. I would not use busy outdoor malls to socialize a dog like this.

 

"When I see the onset of this behavior, I tug quickly at her leash to pull her focus away from the scary stuff around her and get her attention. This has helped a bit. Walking with her, she is always at my side on a short leash so I can better gage her attitude toward everything and see how she's carrying herself."

 

By tug do you mean a leash pop? Are you correcting her?

 

A tight/short leash can make her think you are tense and worried. Careful about that.

 

Never, ever correct a dog that is reacting out of fear. Never do anything that can be misinterpreted as a correction. Always stay calm and happy.

 

"Trying to distract her with food and trying to make it a pleasant experience does not help because she has no interest in even chicken when she's outdoors in scary places."

 

Then she is in way over her head in a situation that is much too stressful for her. Some treats are better than others. I save chicken liver, cheese, etc for jackpot treats. However, if a dog won't take chicken it's telling you something.

 

You don't distract a dog like her with food. You reward her with food for looking at what scares her. In a happy voice you would say, "Look at that!" Give her food and praise when she does. If she does not eat the food, she is way too close to whatever it is that scares her.

 

"When she's extra scared it goes so far as accidentally urinating on the spot."

 

Another sign she is being put in situations that are way over her head. If she is panicking she can't learn.

 

"It's so sad to watch and I'm doing what I can to help her, but I feel like I'm not doing enough because it's not stopping."

 

It's not that you aren't doing enough. You just aren't doing things quite right.

 

"On an upbeat note, she enjoys the doggie camp experience so much that she actually wags her tail and is so happy every time we visit Petsmart (walk-by for socialization and being around people) and go by the doggie camp."

 

Great. Socialize her in a place she feels comfortable. Start at that location and work on building her trust in you. Practice the look at that game in Petsmart.

 

"Is this fear and barking something that will go away as I continue to socialize her and she matures? Any stories/advice would be appreciated."

 

If she trusts you. Earn her trust. Don't put her in over her head and don't let people near her unless she wants them near her.

 

www.dogstardaily.com

 

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/

 

http://suzanneclothier.com/

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She's also smack-dab in the middle of the second fear period. I would be careful to keep her under threshold as much as you possibly can, because flooding her right now will bake in that fear response. In practical terms, that means to find a place that's consistently 100 feet or more away from scary spots or potential scary new situations, where she's still able to focus and take treats but should be able to see and maybe hear the crowd. As she gets comfortable playing 'look at that' as Liz suggested, you can close some distance. Keep your sessions pretty short, and turn around and walk away as soon as she gives you signs of being uncomfortable.

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My experience is quite limited so I'd trust others suggestions over mine, to be sure. Having said that...

 

I just wanted to share my experience with the "look at that" game. My 20 month old recently started getting spooked by things in his environment (things he didn't used to get nervous about, actually) and I decided to try the "look at that" game as a way of managing his fear. I think it actually did us some harm. He started becoming more nervous, more quickly and from further away... we were losing ground. So I went back to what worked for us in puppyhood, which was similar but with a subtle difference. Think of it as the "look at that" game, but on the dog's terms. Basically, I'll wait until he chooses to look at the thing that is making him nervous. I do not prompt him to do so. Once he does look at the scary thing I wait for him to look back up at me and reward him for returning his focus to me. I'm not saying you should do it this way... the "look at that" game is highly recommended and has worked for many people. I just wanted to share my own recent experience with it.

 

As other have said, you need to make sure your Marley girl is "under threshold" in order for either variation of this training method to work. She needs to be far enough away that she won't go into a panic when she does look at what is making her uncomfortable. Like Liz said, you have a great place to start! If she enjoys being at the pet store, work from there and build up. It's actually a relief to read that there's a public space she's excited and happy to be in, that's a huge plus for you two!

 

By the way, I love the updated profile picture of Marley. She really is a beautiful dog, such a stunning profile!

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Liz, it doesn't matter the atmosphere she's in, she's scared and barking at passersby. Taking her for a walk at night, she passes people ten feet away and barks at them. When I tug on her leash it's not a correction and it's not a choke chain. It's pulling her attention away from what she's fixating on and onto me because she'll typically look up at me when I do that. The two times she has urinated she was at Petsmart. I took her for a bath. Being in the check-in room with one other dog and two people had her cowering in the corner peeing. She can be at the beach off leash with 50 people and 25 other dogs and she's FINE. People can pet her, she plays with all the dogs, she's happy. You put her on a leash and she's barking at the person across the street. If she's playing ball at the school or dog park she's A Okay. She pays little attention to everyone passing by. It takes her a total of ten minutes to warm up to anyone and be the sweetest dog to them, but going for a walk and forget it. I figured being at a busy place would help get through to her that, "Wow, nothing is happening to me and no one is bothering me."

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If she is barking at people ten feet away then move farther away until she is not barking. If you need to move 300 ft away until she is not barking then that is where you start training. You need to get her to the distance she is not reacting then start rewarding.

 

Pulling her leash tight and yanking on her neck isn't helping. It doesn't matter that it isn't a choke chain. When she starts barking turn around and walk away from the people. Don't tug the leash, that is going to frustrate her more and all you are doing is controlling her physically not mentally. You want her to look at you because she chose to not because you physically made her.

 

Going to busy places and flooding her with the things that scare her is clearly not working (think about if you were scared of spiders and someone put you in a small room with 100 of them, would that make you less scared? And if someone offered you pie would that make you feel any better in that room?). Get her under threshold and then you can work her mind. You want to change the way her mind reacts to things that scare her in a slow controlled manner.

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I don't pull her leash tight and yank it, Waffles. I tug it gently to get her attention and change her mindset and it typically works. It seems everyone is telling me to keep her away from the scary world instead of showing her the world is good and no one is out to get her.

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I would not recommend tugging on the leash of a leash reactive dog. I stand by my original post.

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I don't pull her leash tight and yank it, Waffles. I tug it gently to get her attention and change her mindset and it typically works. It seems everyone is telling me to keep her away from the scary world instead of showing her the world is good and no one is out to get her.

 

You just need to keep her from being so scared that she can't hear you. Show her the world is good from a distance, and let that distance creep down until she's in the midst of it enjoying herself. Right now she's overcome with fear, literally wetting herself. Desensitization for people with phobias works the same way, you have to stay at a level where you're not in a full panic attack.

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I don't pull her leash tight and yank it, Waffles. I tug it gently to get her attention and change her mindset and it typically works. It seems everyone is telling me to keep her away from the scary world instead of showing her the world is good and no one is out to get her.

You want to take her far enough away so that you can teach her. Imagine trying to teach a kid a lesson while he is in a full on temper tantrum. How much progress do you expect to make with a kid in that moment? Wouldn't you want to wait until the kid as calmed down and then talk to him and teach him whatever it is you were trying to convey? It is the same thing with dogs- if she is barking he head off then how do you expect to reach her mind when she clearly isn't thinking straight. We aren't telling you to keep her locked in your house. Just trying to help you better understand how to help her. I would suggest going on YouTube and looking for videos to help you visualize what we are talking about. You can also search "reactive leash dog " and probably find some good videos.

 

 

I can't figure out how to get videos in the post using the iPad!

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I don't pull her leash tight and yank it, Waffles. I tug it gently to get her attention and change her mindset and it typically works. It seems everyone is telling me to keep her away from the scary world instead of showing her the world is good and no one is out to get her.

Again, think of my analogy. If someone threw 100 spiders at you and said "spiders are great! See! they're not out to get you!" Would you care one bit what they are saying? Start desensitizing slow and at a distance and then move closer as you see progress.

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The above advice is to properly counter-condition your dog, and I agree it is the standard/best training method for reactivity. A technique called "flooding therapy" is not counter-conditioning. Flooding is a strategy sometimes used to modify human behavior, but rarely for animals. It is only used by highly qualified trainers, and for certain dogs if/when numerous other procedures have already failed. Too many unintended consequences are involved.

 

Read this link, and it will caution against any form of flooding. Flooding Link . It will look familiar to you. You are doing a version of it now. Tugging the leash, while you are in the process of flooding, puts your existing method into what the linked paper refers to as "false flooding". It's not the proper use of any good training method.

 

Read-up on desensitization (aka counter-conditioning), and very best wishes. -- TEC

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I also agree to back off just a bit. Find her comfort level. She is not ready for yours.

Listen to her.

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It seems everyone is telling me to keep her away from the scary world instead of showing her the world is good and no one is out to get her.

 

No, they are telling you that you are pushing her too fast. With fearful dogs, they need to set the pace or their fears can become worse rather than diminished. Sometimes that pace feels positively glacial, but patience and persistence are essential. Trying to speed things up can make the process much longer. The dog sets the pace here.

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^^This.

 

If you push her too fast, you're seriously risking cementing the fear into her personality forever. I know that's not what you ant to do, so please heed the very helpful advice you're getting.

 

Best wishes.

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Working with a fearful dog can be frustrating. The things you're asking her to do seem pretty reasonable. But she's frightened and these things are not reasonable to her. If she's frightened at 10 feet, move 20 feet back. Still scared, move further back. Once you find the distance she is comfortable with that is the distance you need to work from. And when you move closer, move very slowly or there will be setbacks.

 

I have a fearful dog. It's taken me over a year to get to the point where I can walk her in my quiet neighborhood. Ninety percent of the time walking her in town would be terrifying. So she does not go...yet. Someday. She goes to agility class and she has her agility "Aunties". She's happy there. Will I ever be able to trial with her? Maybe. Maybe not.

 

I made some mistakes with her early on and we have paid for them. Me through frustration & guilt and her through increased fear. When I realized what I was doing, that she wasn't being stubborn, that she was afraid, I promised her that from then on we would move at her pace. And it's really paid off. Now when I walk all three of my dogs in my neighborhood and we see a friend that two of my dogs love, she is very interested in watching them get petted. She's happy to hang back a bit but that's ok. She's happy. This is miles from where we were a year ago.

 

Work slowly and carefully with your dog. Small steps. The smallest step forward is still a step forward.

 

Good luck.

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No, they are telling you that you are pushing her too fast. With fearful dogs, they need to set the pace or their fears can become worse rather than diminished. Sometimes that pace feels positively glacial, but patience and persistence are essential. Trying to speed things up can make the process much longer. The dog sets the pace here.

 

 

This. If she's barking and lunging, she's in over her head. I think the spider analogy used above is very apt: if someone kept throwing spiders at me saying, "No, look, they're really not hurting you at all," I would not become less fearful of spiders. It would simply overwhelm me with the objects of my fear and my reaction would be pretty darned hysterical. :P

 

You cannot set her threshold. You have to let the dog set her own. If she's barking at 30 feet, back up to 50. If she's barking at 50, back up to 100. I know you are trying to be reasonable and thoughtful in everything you do, but she's showing you that what you're asking is simply too much for her mindset at this age.

 

My girl, Gael, went through a rather long period of being scared of people. She didn't bark, but she'd whip around and hid behind my legs and hit the end of her leash trying to pull away, and if someone accidentally cornered her, she'd growl. I had to just go slow. Take time. Let her follow her own timetable. She was over 2 years old before she settled down and now at age 4, she loves almost everyone. But I could not rush the process.

 

If your girl is scared and barking, she's not learning. Bottom line. The brain is not taking in anything good and she could be building on her fear - because the scary thing never stops being scary.

 

Take time. Increase distances. Don't take her places that push her over threshold. Being on leash in a busy place is not showing her that it's okay. It just triggers her fears.

 

If the leash is the trigger point, then as others have said, you need to start exposing her from farther away from the scary situations. Find the distance at which she is calm and gradually, slowly, over days and weeks, start bringing her closer. The minute she barks and lunges - you've gone too far for her as she stands at this time. She'll be different 6 months from now and 6 months after that. It just takes time and patience.

 

It looks like you've got some good links above. I hope they will be of help to you. :)

 

~ Gloria

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I seem to be doing things wrong and, of course, that is not my intention. There's absolutely nothing that has happened to her that could have set in a level of fear that needs to be tip-toed around, so I'm probably best off to get some professional help to determine the basis for her fear and help her overcome it. Thank you all for your help.

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I have my own nervous dog. I got her when she was 10 months old I've had her for about 6 months now. When I first got her she didn't want to be around people at all. I took her to a local walking track with lots of green space and walked out in a field until she wasn't nervous about the people walking around. She was on her long line and we played ball and I gave her treats when people were approaching. She began to associate people walking in our direction with a good thing and now she will actually approach people, thought she still doesn't like it if they move too quickly or stare directly at her.

 

When you are socializing her the amount of people around doesn't matter. It would probably be better if you go somewhere with less people, a quiet neighborhood or something and start working there. For socialization to work it has to be a good experience, if she's nervous then she's just learning to be more afraid.

 

Have you seen her interacting with people at her doggie daycare? I am familiar with a doggie daycare that even if the dogs are really nervous and not doing well the employees still have to send good reports home because money is the bottom line. I'm not saying that this is what's happening with your place, but if you haven't ever watched her interact I would suggest staying one day and watching her play and see how she does. After my experience I learned to watch my dog interact with everyone at boarding and daycare places.

 

I would recommend these books:

On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Rugaas, Turid The Cautious Canine-How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears by McConnell Ph.D., Patricia B. Help for Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears by Wilde, Nicole

The links are to the amazon versions. All of these books are very understandable and they helped a lot when I was working on socializing Tess.

 

If you are looking for professional help you can go to http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/default.aspx and find trainers in your area, just make sure that you are comfortable with any trainers that you talk to and that they use positive reinforcement methods to work with a fearful dog.

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Thank you, Tess's girl. She loves the people and other dogs at doggie camp. She's always happy when I take her there, so I have no reservations about the treatment she's getting. Thanks for the recommendations on material to look into. I appreciate it

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I seem to be doing things wrong and, of course, that is not my intention. There's absolutely nothing that has happened to her that could have set in a level of fear that needs to be tip-toed around, so I'm probably best off to get some professional help to determine the basis for her fear and help her overcome it. Thank you all for your help.

 

Getting some outside help sounds like a great idea! I have found just getting the perspective of someone not so close to the situation can be very helpful. Without seeing your girl, I have no idea if this is a normal fear phase or more temperament based. I had an extremely fearful dog who was that way from the day I met him at 7 weeks. He made huge gains in confidence but remained very reserved his whole life. He was still a great dog, my favorite as a matter of fact. Since Marley has times where she is friendly and relaxed, I think there is a lot of hope that this may be a phase that can be worked through with positive methods and lots of patience. She is lucky to have such a caring and committed owner. Good luck!

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There's absolutely nothing that has happened to her that could have set in a level of fear that needs to be tip-toed around

 

To a large extent, temperament is hard-wired, so please don't beat yourself up. I think you've gotten some great advice, and if you take it slowly at her pace, you'll be gratified to see how she gradually blossoms.

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There's absolutely nothing that has happened to her that could have set in a level of fear that needs to be tip-toed around

 

Unfortunately, it's all too often the case that nothing ever happened to make the dog fearful. It's just the way it is.

 

She may, as others have said, be in a normal developmental fear period, which, with proper handling (i.e. not forcing her into situations she's fearful of, but instead keeping her under threshold and rewarding her), fade away in time.

 

Or she may have a genetic predisposition to being fearful. You work with both in the same way, but the former is most likely a short term condition, while the latter will likely take much more time and patience on your part to help her through.

 

I agree it's probably a good idea to seek the help of a qualified trainer or behaviorist. Ask some questions before starting with someone. Be sure they have experience working with fearful dogs, that they use only positive reinforcement, and that they don't use flooding techniques.

 

Having a reactive dog, I know how hard it can be to keep the dog under threshold and to desperately want to speed the process up. The thing is, you just can't speed it up. It has to go at the dog's own pace or you won't succeed.

 

Think of it as an object lesson for you in learning patience and compassion for your dog. It's a great example of the adage that you have to work with the dog you have, not the dog you wish you had. ;)

 

You have Marley, not some other dog. Right now she needs you to work with her.

 

Best wishes.

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