Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: East-central PA
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I've had similar issues with Trudy. Not exactly the same, but I think some of what I've experienced and been told might help. Although I don't think she's always fearful, she definitely gets overstimulated to the point of shutting down and being completely unable to focus. As you said: every branch, smell, truck, sometimes just a breeze! Trudy doesn't pull, but she lags behind. Our "walks" are pretty slow and torturous. In fact, I wear a fitbit that tracks my pace. When I take her on "walks" our pace is typically between 45 - 60 minutes per mile (to compare, on my own I typically walk - not run - at a pace of roughly 20 minutes per mile.) Typically, at some point on our walk, she will get so overstimulated that she completely shuts down. She stops wherever we are, and won't move for a while... just sits there looking around. It's moments like these that every person driving or sitting on their porch thinks they have a magical answer for me. "Is your dog broken?" "Is she lazy?" "You just need to show her who's the boss." It drives me insane.
My trainer and vet believe that, with increased exposure, she will grow out of this. I sure hope so. She just turned 8 months. The trainer has encouraged me to shift the way I think about our "walks." They aren't walks. They're "explorations." Just times for her to get out and get a bit more comfortable with the world. As someone already mentioned, consider finding a place to walk where you can just bring a small camping-type chair with you. When your dog starts getting too fearful, just let her take a break and pull herself together. My trainer encouraged us to sit, pet her, reassure her. When she's ready to go ahead, she'll let us know.
Trudy gets so overstimulated at times that food rewards are useless - she has no interest. But if it works for you, you might consider lightly coating a long stirring-type spoon with peanut butter and bringing it with you. Keep it by your side, where you want her to be. She'll lick the PB, which will distract her from other things, and hopefully keep her by your side. Bring the spoon up every once in a while (and increasingly) as she stays at your side. Apparently this is used in heel training (this is my first dog, so this is all new to me). I saw it work with some success with other dogs in our training classes. Keep your first time short, then increase duration and decrease spoon access gradually.
Like you, this has been a very long process. I haven't seen drastic improvement, but I have seen a bit. I also truly believe that if we hadn't kept taking her out she would have gotten worse. Good luck! I know how frustrating this can be.
Last edited by Sarah J; 10-05-2017 at 09:15 AM.