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Nicole_11

Scared of going for walks

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Hi Everyone,

 

I just joined these forums to see if I can get some advice.

 

I have a 10 month old border collie. Sadly, I’m his third owner. I got him when he was about 4 months. He’s been mostly great.

 

However, he has a mortal fear of being walked on the streets, particularly of the sound and presence of cars. His fear is far worse when he is on leash (he pulls back, twists himself, tries to escape down people’s driveways and crawl under parked cars). If there are no cars nearby, he will just continue to try and turn around and pull back towards home. If a car comes along, he engages in the above behaviours.

 

If he is off leash (not on the streets, but in parks or walking trails, which are usually surrounded by roads) he is confident and happy even if he can hear cars. If he’s on lead in these areas, he’s very tense.

 

When I first started taking him to my local park, he cowered in a corner. Now, he runs around like he owns the place. It didn’t take long for him to gain confidence there. Walking on leash has never improved, though.

 

I don’t know if his past owners did anything to traumatize him or just inadvertently encouraged his fear. While I’ve owned him, he did improve after a while in that he wasn’t twisting and trying to run away on lead. However, he was pulling forward very badly and ripping my arm out of its socket. I was trying to fix this with positive reinforcement, but my boyfriend’s parents took him for a walk one day and apparently they got stuck into him and hit him on the nose and growled etc. when he pulled (which I am quite angry about). Ever since then, he’s walked on more of a loose lead but he has resorted back to fearful behaviours. However, I don’t think he ever got over his fear; I think pulling was just a new technique to get away from the roads/cars really fast.

 

I have tried offering treats as we walk, but he’s too anxious to eat.

 

I have tried ignoring him when he flips out and continuing to walk, and as soon as he walks forward again, praising him with a ‘good boy!’. By the end of the walk, this seems to help a little, but he’s always tense.

 

I have tried walking him consecutive days in a row but he never improves (if anything, he starts to not want to leave the house at all – I have to coax him out the door).

 

I’ve tried sitting at the top of my driveway with him but he doesn’t calm down no matter how long we’re there, no matter how few cars go past.

 

I don’t want him to be anxious. I’d love to be able to take him for walks that he enjoys. He goes out every day (by car) to the park, beach, or dog obedience club, but I’d love to be able to just go for a short walk in the mornings, too. Even my front yard is a scary place – the trip up my driveway to my car makes him anxious.

 

I’d love any advice. Can’t afford a behaviourist at this stage, so willing to try whatever I can myself.

 

Sorry for the long post!

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do you have a friend with a dog that is confident/happy to walk? perhaps walking with another dog might help allay his fears. one of my dogs did not know how to behave on a leash (I got him when he was 2.5 yrs. old!) and was a royal pain to try to walk. granted, he didn't have any fear issues, he's just a goober, but when I walked him with the other 2 dogs, he caught on pretty quick.

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Great idea! I will see if I can get someone to tag along this weekend. Now that I think back, his confidence at the park only started to increase when he met other dogs there. Thank you :)

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Welcome! As Lisa pointed out (and you already realized even though you didn't know it), dogs can really pick up and learn from other dogs. Lisa's idea is an excellent one.

 

Does he have other issues with the leash, like problems when you put it on in the house? If so, you might want to let him drag a leash around when you are there to supervise him. It sounds to me like his fears on leash could have been natural at first but maybe made much, much worse by bad training/handling on the part of previous owners (as in the case of your boyfriend's parents).

 

There are lots of good topics on these boards and you might also try using the "search" function to see if you can locate ones that might help you.

 

Very best wishes!

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I don't have any real specifics to offer, but a generality I picked up after living with my fearful dog: when I pushed him to his reactive zone, it was too late, and he left the point of being able to hear me or learn from me. If I could keep him under threshold, he could learn. I had to learn to completely slow myself down and lower my expectations for the dog; progress came over the course of months and years, not hours and days.

 

Sounds like your dog immediately goes from calm to over threshold when the leash goes on. It might be a matter of taking it waaay back: getting him to a point where he can see the leash in your hand, then being able to tolerate it being clipped to him, then just stepping outside the door and back in, then eventually sitting in the driveway with the leash on, etc. etc.. (Maybe he can't get used to sitting in the driveway with his leash on because he is already over threshold the entire time.) For my guy, I often found it was "one step forward two steps back," as well: a small, unpredictable event (a bike zooming by, or a man leaning over him suddenly) could set him back, and I'd have to bring him slowly forward again.

 

Here is an article about threshold by a trainer who helped me A LOT in my early days with Buddy:

 

http://suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/understanding-thresholds-its-more-under-or-over

 

Good luck!

 

Mary

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Hi there,

 

I also went through this with my pup and tried all those same things. We live in the city and she originally found everything to be scary - especially new people, but she has really come around with time. In fact, I joined this forum back in the Summer looking for the same insights.

 

For Nellie, the reward that holds the most value is other dogs. She is also a rescue and missed key socialization time with humans, but was very well socialized with dogs. If we were walking down the street and a person was walking by, she would freeze and try to pull back inside. Now, if that person was walking a dog, she would wag her tail and run right up to them, so we learned the value of dogs pretty quickly. She, on the other hand, learned the word "doggie" very quickly. Now, when we are walking and I see her starting to get anxious I just say "Let's go find doggies" and she instantly snaps out of it and gets a renewed sense of energy. It is the weirdest thing - almost like magic. She is slowly but surely gaining confidence and is becoming more comfortable on walks around the hood.

 

Also, are you using a harness? We saw a huge difference when we started using one on walks.

 

It will take time and patience (and some frustration), but you can get there.

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Nicole, my 6-month-old border collie does the same thing on lead, but with people and not cars. I recently hired a behaviorist to help with this problem. I've only met with her once so far, but she started me with getting my pup a Thunder Shirt and Comfort Zone. A Thunder Shirt mimics the swaddling of a baby to make them feel secure. Comfort Zone is a spray or plug in airwick type deal that produces the smell of pheromone (in their mommy's milk) that helps to assuage fears and comfort them.

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