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Old 04-08-2014, 02:16 PM
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Default Working with a nervous dog

So Fergus seems to be going through a major fear period (though he could also just be wired that way but I'm going to work on the assumption that it's a fear period since he's prime age for that and his previous owners didn't mention any issues) and I want to do everything I can to work him through this.

He startles easily at bigger sounds and crashes though he recovers very fast and doesn't seem to hold onto any major nervousness after it's done. The vacuum barely bothered him, the first time I was blow drying my hair he was hesitant but the second time he came over and nosed it. He doesn't mind cars, or anything nature wise so far, even louder noises outside don't seem to bother him that much.

But people he's nervous around. When people pass he shies away and then stares (sometimes does low woofing) and will duck and avoid if they come near him. He will though take food even when he's pretty stressed, especially if the people continue to ignore him.

When he first met my dad he wouldn't go near him until I had him sit on the couch with a handful of treats and told him just to open his hand if Fergus came near. Within maybe 30 seconds Fergus was eating the food out of his hands and 30 seconds later was on his lap kissing him and initiating play. So he comes out of it fast if it's approached right it seems.

Having another confident dog around him when he's in a stressful situation also seems to help. When I had him at work for the Wellness clinic it was crazy so I had Didgie out with him and that got his tail up and him taking food pretty well.

I have an idea about how to go about this and work with it but wanted any suggestions from people on Chaz. Kaylee was a very nervy dog, especially when she was younger and I just kinda dragged her everywhere and gave her treats with no real plan of attack.

So basically, suggestions? Tips? Tricks? Things that has worked for you and hasn't?
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Old 04-08-2014, 04:27 PM
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Pip has a lot of stranger danger. He probably always will, but one thing that has helped him considerably is going to the off leash dog park regularly. I think because in that context he is totally in control of whether he chooses to approach someone or not.
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Old 04-08-2014, 05:29 PM
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Personally, I just never worry about it and don't make things a big deal. Make sure they get a lot of exposure to all sorts of things and see that I treat them as normal occurances.

She still spooks sometimes with weird things but she recovers fast.

I do not generally let people pet her and have her initiate any contact with people/other dogs. If she does the initiating, things go much smoother.
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Old 04-08-2014, 06:44 PM
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I bring Limit to IPO club and let him run rampant while we are setting up the field. They're all dog savvy and ignore him unless approached openly and he asks for pets. He has shown SO MUCH change from doing that once a week. We also go to agility class, which I think is such a huge confidence booster, and I've seen huge changes directly related to that as well.

I play the food/touch and toy game too. Oh that thing/person/object scares you? If you touch it, you'll get TREATS. So for people he started with shoes, worked to knees, and then to hands. Once he would touch hands, I would treat, and then offer a treat to person, who would treat for touching their hand. Then they ask for a behavior, usually sit because he's super confident in that one, and he gets rewarded. Once they're interacting, he's usually solid. This has had an unfortunate side effect...he will randomly jump on people if he is initially nervous and then decides they're ok...kind of like, LOOK I WAS SCARED BUT NOW WE'RE FRIENDS. He also does this with objects. Like this huge metal grid at work he was scared of at first, he then was ON IT. lol But I think he's just unique...

He's tug crazy, so I also will tug him into people, the people do not react, touch, otherwise interact with him. But, it's really helped him ignore ignore ignore when we're engaged together. I started slow, passing people, being nearer, and now we just brush into them lightly. Sometimes I ask him to tug right in the center of a group of people who are all otherwise engaged (usually talking). The one time he stopped to look around, no one was paying attention to him, so he re-engaged and he hasn't paid attention since.

I also walk him around the university campus I work at. I work at the vet med center so people aren't usually OHHH DOG, and/or know appropriate behavior for approaching. But honestly I usually block him and let him just do his own thing. He really values his space when he's nervous so I never ask him to tolerate others coming into him, only him going up to others. The result is a few times we've had dogs/people rush up to us and he's immediately turned to engage with me - like, this is the game right?
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Old 04-08-2014, 07:25 PM
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Abrams spooks easily to new things (sea foam, for instance). He also recovers quickly, and once he "knows" something, it doesn't bother him anymore. Biggest thing with him is to not pressure him and let him investigate on his own terms. Keep things upbeat and happy and reward any interest in the Scary Thing.

He doesn't have any issues with people, just new objects, but I imagine I'd handle it much the same way. Look At That is also great, especially for him, because his default is to bark at things. He likes being able to look and get treats shoved at him, and I like him not barking and refocusing on me after a look!
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Old 04-08-2014, 07:34 PM
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During Kili's major fear/distraction phase we would just sit and watch the world go by. In the worst of it she was too distracted to walk nicely on leash (all that work on leash manners for nothing!) so I often drove her places and we would find a place to sit and just watch. Sometimes even just in our own front yard. I'd reward her for any focus or interaction on me, or just generally calm behaviour (as opposed to being constantly on alert). If someone walked past us and she showed a positive reaction I'd give her a treat. And of course having her visit with people and just letting her approach them on her own time.

Honestly, she tends to get a little flighty any time she is slightly overwhelmed. When we first started being able to walk a lot again this spring, just being around more traffic made her distracted and nervous enough that she would want to go up to people, but then would duck and hide if they tried to pet her. I just took her out more and more and let her check things out at her own pace.
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Old 04-09-2014, 12:38 PM
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Thanks everyone for the ideas!

I took him to a bike path today where there weren't a ton of people but a couple. We had maybe four or five pass us and he didn't care that much at all. He watched and wasn't 100% confident but took food fine, did tricks and all that jazz. So I do think exposure and treats will do a world of good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sassafras View Post
Pip has a lot of stranger danger. He probably always will, but one thing that has helped him considerably is going to the off leash dog park regularly. I think because in that context he is totally in control of whether he chooses to approach someone or not.
That's a good point. I know Kaylee was helped by the dog park (and the fact that most people had food there so she was able to guilt most of them into giving it to her)

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Originally Posted by *blackrose View Post
Look At That is also great, especially for him, because his default is to bark at things. He likes being able to look and get treats shoved at him, and I like him not barking and refocusing on me after a look!
Thanks for reminding me about LAT! I don't know why I forgot about it!
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Old 04-09-2014, 02:19 PM
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I like this article: http://www.lolabuland.com/2011/10/27...-the-myths-ii/

I like that Trkman says to acknowledge the fear and not to push it. Just reintroduce quite a bit later when the dog is calm and happy.
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Old 04-13-2014, 06:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurelin View Post
Personally, I just never worry about it and don't make things a big deal. Make sure they get a lot of exposure to all sorts of things and see that I treat them as normal occurances.

She still spooks sometimes with weird things but she recovers fast.

I do not generally let people pet her and have her initiate any contact with people/other dogs. If she does the initiating, things go much smoother.
Pretty much this. I would not make a big deal of it. Just keep taking him places but don't try to do anything to get him to interact with strangers - so no trying to get strangers to "make friends" through talking to him, feeding him or trying to pet him. Strangers should just be there and nothing to worry about. Hands off, no pressure exposure can allow him to gain confidence while not making him feel even more weird about things.
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Old 04-22-2014, 05:16 PM
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Just wanted to update this and say Fergus is doing really well!

I haven't been able to get out with him as much as I would like but the times I have he's done pretty good. I took him today to a dog boutique place and he was spooked when we first got in there but more than willing to take food from me and a few minutes later a women came over that worked there to ask if he could have treats and he took them from her with no hesitation. After he figured out that she made food appear he kept sitting for her and then started going up to sniff anyone that walked by and in a few cases initiated contact with them.

People have been great about not petting him so he's not felt pressured which is going well. I'm looking forward to all the chaz people coming around so he can get exposed to more people in the house!

I really think the key to this will really be: FOOD! Really seems like once he figures out food might happen he's all over it.

So I'm hoping more exposure will help and having Traveler/Didgie come with him and act like everything is cool seems to help a lot too.
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