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Old 07-22-2008, 11:02 PM
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Default Way too shy with strangers...

I thought Dance was getting better with strangers, but apparently not. If anyone looks at her out in public she'll put her tail between her legs instantly and growl at them with huge, very frightened eyes. And sometimes she lets out a high pitched, squealy alarm bark. If she's extremely scared, she'll even hang herself at the end of her leash and then hide behind me. She's been very shy since I got her, and I did socialize her to the best of my ability. She went absolutely anywhere and everywhere with me, and I made sure she didn't run into any bad experiences.

I tell people to please not make a lot of eye contact, don't touch her, and don't talk to her too much as all of those things make her very nervous. The problem comes in that the general public (and not-so-dog smart relatives) doesn't understand why you shouldn't stare at a nervous dog, and their first reaction is to stare directly at her and talk to her in a high pitched baby voice, and then reach out to pet her... after I politely asked them to let her get to know them first. If people follow my 'rules' she will warm up to them eventually (depending on the person, eventually can be anywhere from an hour to three days). I've tried for a year to get her used to people by taking treats out with me and giving some to the people to give to her. She'll take the food, but backs away really quickly. Now because that isn't working, I have people telling me to just force her to let the people touch her by dragging her into them. I don't like that idea, and I think it'll probably just turn her into a fear biter.

At our last show in February, she was wonderful the first day and didn't cower at the judge at all. In fact, she wagged her tail and gave him her classic goofy grin when he went over her. The second day though, she flattened herself on the ground. I thought she'd be disqualified, but I guess because she was still a puppy he forgave her.

I know she'll never love strangers, but she needs to at least tolerate them... and perhaps even like them a little bit. I know she has the potential as she is hit and miss - some days she's incredible with people, and others she's as I described above. I wish people could see the Dance I know and love. Instead they just see a public nuisance. I just lack the knowledge of how to get her over this, and I can't find a trainer in my area who's techniques I agree with as far as this behaviour. So, any help would be greatly appreciated and I hope my post makes sense. If not, please let me know.
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Old 07-22-2008, 11:29 PM
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I wish I had advice, I really do. I just have to say, though, that Pit is exactly the same.

I hired a behaviorist and basically all I got out of it was what I'm already doing. Bringing treats with me, getting people to give them to him. But like I said, he does the same and just grabs then back off immediately.

I have taken a step back from that and have had a little progress. I now drop treats as strangers are near, before he starts reacting in any way. He still postures at people when they're in the distance, but doesn't cower or react if I keep up with it. But then that's on a good day.. Again, like Dance, some days we're back to square one, other days he's a gem.

It's confusing and frustrating.. I hope you all the best. Hope someone else has some more helpful input.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:46 PM
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My dog is shy too, but not quite THAT shy. She loves food so much that simply having strangers give her treats has been working for us. She'll approach people on her own with her tail low and sniff them. Still nervous, but curious.

I wouldn't force a dog to be near people if he was terrified of them. I would just let him observe from afar, moving closer when he seems to be comfortable. Sometimes you have to take it VERY VERY VERY VERY slow, lol. Another reason I wouldn't keep putting my dog near people if he were terrified is I wouldn't want him to feel he has to act out with aggression to protect himself.
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Old 07-23-2008, 01:25 PM
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Guys, is this a Toller thing or did the two of you just have REALLY bad luck with shyness?
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Old 07-23-2008, 01:31 PM
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Every other toller I've met (except one) has been wonderful with people. I have no idea what went wrong here. I'm not going to sit around and make excuses, but I'm almost certain if I had done the things I did with Pit with any other puppy, it would be a well-rounded dog.

I'm curious what Pit's littermates are like.
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Old 07-23-2008, 01:35 PM
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That sucks. ((((((((HUGS)))))))))
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Old 07-23-2008, 02:30 PM
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I have a two year old sheltie that is very similar. She was timid when I bought her. I know shelties can be reserved but she hasn't warmed up to strangers at all.

When we went to obedience, it took weeks before she would let the assistant trainers touch her. I could tell her to "go say hi" and she would move a bit forward and touch the pant leg. I rewarded that and moved her back near me before she could react.

Breezey can takes ages before she'll approach someone. This week we were sitting beside the trainer at agility and she sniffed at the girl's shirt on her own. Luckily the trainer just glanced at her and calmly said hello to my dog.
Breezey didn't bark. I was so happy.
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Old 07-23-2008, 04:18 PM
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Thanks everyone. I guess I'll just have to keep persevering and hopefully someday she'll get better.


Quote:
Originally Posted by noludoru View Post
Guys, is this a Toller thing or did the two of you just have REALLY bad luck with shyness?
I find it to be about 50/50, unfortunately. It never used to be that way up until pretty recently. I think the problem is that breeders are foolishly passing off shyness as being reserved. Tollers are supposed to be reserved, but nowadays dogs with shy temperaments are being bred just because they look pretty and people think they can get away with it. I read an article in a magazine not that long ago about the problem... I'll have to see if I can find it online. It's really unfortunate.

For the longest time I felt like a complete failure - I tried so hard to do everything just right and have the most well-rounded dog I could. Then I talked to other Toller people and another breeder, and they all assured me that it wasn't my fault. I hope it wasn't, anyway. Keira's turning out extremely well and I've done all the same things with her as I did Dance..
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Old 07-23-2008, 04:42 PM
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Normally, I'm all about desensitizing for fearful dogs but if you've been trying without a whole lot of success, there is another way.

Have you heard of CAT? Constructional Aggression Treatment - I hate the word Aggression in there because it works wonderfully well with fearful dogs, in many circumstances better and faster than desensitizing.

It's essentially Negative Reinforcement - the trigger is removed when the behaviour is something we want. Eg. Person approaches Dance (not totally breaking threshold), if Dance offers a growl, person remains in place, when Dance offers anything positive...even just a head turn in place of the growl, the person moves away for about 15 seconds. This sequence is repeated until Dance excepts the stranger.

This is an over simplified version of what CAT is all about but I use it with great success on many of my DA/HA and fear cases.

Here's a link to a video of the trainers seminar taught by Dr. Ruiz who developed the technique -
http://www.behaviorlogic.com/index.html
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Old 07-23-2008, 05:56 PM
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That just might work - thank you! Now I just have to find some willing people to do this with and see what happens.
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