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Old 12-16-2009, 12:50 AM
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JPuckett1989 JPuckett1989 is offline
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Default Socialization Help

Hey yall I'm new here just wanted to say hey.

I've got a 16 almost 17 week old female Lab/Pit mix. Got her when she was 10 weeks old and we already got her house trained and a few of commands down pat, but I'm having problems with her and strangers. When I take her out and she see's somebody else she immediately perks her ears up and stops and stares at them until they are out of sight(assuming I allow her to stand there that long). On occasion she will growl at people. The first week I got her I took her to work and let people see her and hold,pet,touch her,etc and she seemed to do pretty well. I've had friends come over,and at thanksgiving I took her over to my parents house and my girlfriends grandparents house. She acts very shy around strangers. If they come down to pet her she backs away,her ears go back and her tail tucks under a little bit. I talked to my vet about it and all he told me was some puppies are like that,and to get her out as much as possible to meet new people.

Me and my girlfriend are doing our best,and this is her only real major problem is being so reserved with strangers. I was wondering if anybody could help me out. Thank you.
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Old 12-16-2009, 01:58 AM
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JPuckett1989 JPuckett1989 is offline
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sorry this is should be posted in the training section
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Old 12-16-2009, 05:58 AM
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Not all puppies are like that but it's not a big problem...yet. You certainly need to change the pup's view of strangers or else it could be a problem. As a pit bull lover the last thing we need is a bunch of people seeing a pit mix growling at them. So it's good you are addressing this problem now, before any damage is done and while it's still quite safe and easy to work with.

A few things can be done. I would try clicker training. This way you are able to mark the moment he looks at a stranger (even a glance) without growling and then reward him. I would then go stand in a park or a pet store during slower hours and don't stand in the middle of everyone but off to the side where you might not be noticed. Have your clicker in hand and a treat bag on your waist. Basically every time a person walks by and your dog looks at him click and then treat (BEFORE any growling happens). If someone sticks around in the area (say they are shopping for something near you) feel free to click for multiple glances at that same person. NEVER let anyone pet him without asking permission, you need to make sure your dog feels secure. if someone does want to pet say "He's really shy, you can give him a treat instead though" and hand them a treat to give the dog.

Later you will go out of your way to have people come up and give treats to the dog, but not until you've done some positive association from a distance with the clicking for looking at people. so bring him more into the center of the park. Sill avoid a very busy pet store, a smaller one (not petco or petsmart) might work better. And again have people give treats without touching. Continue clicking and treating for looking at people in a non-threatening manner.

Later you'd allow people to pet him while you give the dog treat after treat during the time they pet him. Do not allow them to hug the dog or squeeze his face or any of the other stupid things stranger feel the need to do to other peoples' dogs. When they leave stop giving treats. repeat for each visitor. The treats help the dog learn that people bring him good things. They also distract him from the person so he's thinking less about the scary guy touching him and more about how yummy these treats are. This also prevents his fear from escalating, you are not allowing him to focus on the fear and allow it to build up into a panic attack. Eventually you'll use less treats so that he can pay more attention to the people but not until he is comfortable with people (based on body language) for several of these sessions in public.

I'm sure some other people will chime in, so good luck!! please keep us updated on progress and how training sessions go.
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Old 12-16-2009, 08:00 AM
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There is a game that we've played with our dogs to help/prevent this issue. This site has it almost at the bottom of the page LevelBook It is called Monkey in the Middle. We've played it with as few as 2 people and me. The basic idea, though, is strangers have yummy food LOL! Also, make sure people are greeting her in a very non-threatening manner. Ask them to kneel down and not pet her on top of the head. People love to pat dogs on the head and some dogs have to learn to love (or tolerate LOL!) that. I've also found that teaching my dogs to DO something for people instead of wondering what the people are going to do to them helps them feel more confident. With Pedro, the touch cue has been awesome. I have them hold their hand palm out, fingers down and say "Touch Pedro." He loves to nose bump things so it is perfect. I think Buttons' thing will eventually be "Shake" because he doesn't get such a thrill from nose bumps.
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Old 12-16-2009, 10:06 AM
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Oh yes, teaching a dog to touch the palms of people's hand on command is a great idea as well Gena. First teach him to poke your hand then teach him to do it to family and friends and then strangers. That way he pictures people as an opportunity for reward! he sees them and thinks about what he can do with them to get a treat.
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Old 12-16-2009, 10:59 AM
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I agree with what has already been posted. What has worked very well for me, is never allowing anyone to approach the pup/dog. Instruct everyone as to how they can help you.

1) Have them turn slightly away and have them not look at your pup with no eye contact.
2) If you are close enough to the person, allow your pup to remain back, you approach the person and show your pup that you are touching them (shake hands, touch their arm etc) Also a good time to give the person the rewards that you want to use.
3) Have them roll a treat towards your pup and then they should move back a couple of steps.
4) As already stated it is very important that the reward is not rolled towards them or given when the pup is backing away, growling or barking. If you have to take the pup further from the person into the pups comfort zone, then do it. Don't force the pup to be approach or petted at this stage if they are not willing.

I have had some serverly fear aggressive or shy dogs in my classes, I never look at them, never make eye contact and certainly never approach them.......I have also never been bit.

I do toss them rewards for a positive response and it doens't take them long to decide that I am ok.

If done properly, you can turn a shy dog into a social butterfly that loves to greet people. As a side note, one of my dogs as a pup was fear aggressive of strangers, over time he learned to greet everyone. Now when meeting someone new, it only takes him about 10 secs ( or less) to decide if they are ok or not. And to this day I never force him to greet anyone, nor do I allow strangers to pet him until he makes the choice.
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Old 12-16-2009, 04:40 PM
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JPuckett1989 JPuckett1989 is offline
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Thanks guys for all the advice.

Maxy fortunately for me she's more lab than pitbull so most people who don't know breeds just see lab,and I also hardly ever tell anybody I don't know she's pitbull just because the ignorant ideas people have of the breed.

Eitherway most adults don't have a concern,I think they understand that she's just a puppy. However about a week or two ago there were some children outside when I was taking her out going to the pool in our complex and they asked if she bit and I said no she doesn't bite at all she's just shy...and then she starts growling at them,and even as small as she is she already has a pretty intimidating growl. So naturally,that freaked them out and they gave her wide girth and ran off.

This situation was probably the biggest thing that made me want to hammer down on this problem. I NEED to get rid of her fear of strangers before she's a 50-60 pound mass of muscle.

I'll start clicker training her,I got a clicker not too long ago just haven't started with it and we'll see how it goes. She loves her food! So I think the way to her heart is through her stomach.
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:19 PM
Maura Maura is offline
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I taught my dog to "say hello". This means go to the stranger and sit in front of the person. The person then would give a little treat and pat. I had to start with people he knew, of course, but I was able to transfer the cue to scary objects like tricycles and garbage cans. Using, "Hamish, say hello" cues the human that the dog is friendly and will come to them. This works great with children, but you'll want to ask the child to help you train your dog, and give them a treat. People love giving treats to dogs and being able to manipulate the treat helps keep them from giving the dog a bear hug. It also makes your dog less fearful of those little uncoordinated humans.
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