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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Everyone,
I am a newbie to this forum, but desperation had me searching the internet for some solutions and I stumbled across this haven for Golden Retriever information. I am glad I did! Sorry if this is long.

The long and the short of my desperation is my 14 month old Golden, Smithy. We got him at 4 months old from a family (but we know nothing of how they kept him – sort of a rescue really). I have other dogs, all of whom are stable, well behaved dogs, as do my parents to whose house he visits regularly. Smithy has become more and more troubled as he has gotten older. As soon as he started to become difficult we started taking him to a socilaisation / obedience class once a week – to expose him to other people and dogs, as well as to give him some focus. Whilst he doesn’t love the class, he is generally well behaved. He is not aggressive towards other dogs or people, but is cautious sometimes and completely fine other times. He is clearly not 100% relaxed in the class, but I would say varies in the 50 – 80% range. Again I don’t think it’s the people or dogs, but environmental stimuli.

We have worked on his obedience and inside (or at the class) he is very good with sit / stay / come / wait / down / paw / up etc. In fact he took to the commands like a duck to water. We also got him a Kong and some puzzle toys which he has loved. So inside he is perfectly well behaved, no problems, no fearfulness – waggy tail, happy face etc. 100% focus in the house, 100% relaxed.

The problem – the increasing major issue for us is when out walking (past 4 months). Initially it was a major issue with pulling. We got a Gentle Leader and for about 3 weeks that worked well. But since then he is back to pulling constantly, which is almost unmanageable if only using his normal collar. I have since noticed that it may be the pulling is a result of fear. He sort of goes into a ‘zone’ when he is being walked. Almost unresponsive to commands – thought persistence has meant he will now listen to commands (without looking at us), and will take a treat (at first he wouldn’t take the treat outside). But he is still very reactive to environmental stimuli – construction sites, noises, flapping plastic, walking around corners etc. He is not reactive to the same noises inside at all. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. His reaction is to either baulk, try to turn away, tail between the legs or stare/look at everything. Again he is totally indifferent to my other dog(s) walking calming along next to him.

I am at a loss as to how to proceed with the problem. From what I have read there are many options and I understand a combination of them might work best, but I was hoping anyone with a similar story might be able to offer some advice. Sadly living in Bahrain we don’t have much in the way of vet support or behavioral therapists etc.

My plan (open to advice!):
- Counter conditioning - giving treats when he panics outside, he loves to be brushed so maybe I need to do this outside as well.
- Talking very short walks and build him up his confidence
- Tiring him out in the house first before walks (calm him down)
- Continue with the socialisation and obedience class
- Start target training

My resort after this (assuming no progress) would be to explore medication with a vet, which would allow us to more effectively apply the above techniques and wean him off thereafter. Mainly because my concern is the longer the behavior goes on the worse and more difficult it becomes to reverse.

Again, thank you for reading a newbie’s story and any advice would be greatly appreciated. Even if you tell me everything I am doing is wrong! He is a wonderful dog, and my only concern for him is that he is happy mentally and lives a stress-free life.

I look forward to participating in the forums.
Thanks
Beth
 

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Hello Everyone,
I am a newbie to this forum, but desperation had me searching the internet for some solutions and I stumbled across this haven for Golden Retriever information. I am glad I did! Sorry if this is long.

The long and the short of my desperation is my 14 month old Golden, Smithy. We got him at 4 months old from a family (but we know nothing of how they kept him – sort of a rescue really). I have other dogs, all of whom are stable, well behaved dogs, as do my parents to whose house he visits regularly. Smithy has become more and more troubled as he has gotten older. As soon as he started to become difficult we started taking him to a socilaisation / obedience class once a week – to expose him to other people and dogs, as well as to give him some focus. Whilst he doesn’t love the class, he is generally well behaved. He is not aggressive towards other dogs or people, but is cautious sometimes and completely fine other times. He is clearly not 100% relaxed in the class, but I would say varies in the 50 – 80% range. Again I don’t think it’s the people or dogs, but environmental stimuli.

We have worked on his obedience and inside (or at the class) he is very good with sit / stay / come / wait / down / paw / up etc. In fact he took to the commands like a duck to water. We also got him a Kong and some puzzle toys which he has loved. So inside he is perfectly well behaved, no problems, no fearfulness – waggy tail, happy face etc. 100% focus in the house, 100% relaxed.

The problem – the increasing major issue for us is when out walking (past 4 months). Initially it was a major issue with pulling. We got a Gentle Leader and for about 3 weeks that worked well. But since then he is back to pulling constantly, which is almost unmanageable if only using his normal collar. I have since noticed that it may be the pulling is a result of fear. He sort of goes into a ‘zone’ when he is being walked. Almost unresponsive to commands – thought persistence has meant he will now listen to commands (without looking at us), and will take a treat (at first he wouldn’t take the treat outside). But he is still very reactive to environmental stimuli – construction sites, noises, flapping plastic, walking around corners etc. He is not reactive to the same noises inside at all. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. His reaction is to either baulk, try to turn away, tail between the legs or stare/look at everything. Again he is totally indifferent to my other dog(s) walking calming along next to him.

I am at a loss as to how to proceed with the problem. From what I have read there are many options and I understand a combination of them might work best, but I was hoping anyone with a similar story might be able to offer some advice. Sadly living in Bahrain we don’t have much in the way of vet support or behavioral therapists etc.

My plan (open to advice!):
- Counter conditioning - giving treats when he panics outside, he loves to be brushed so maybe I need to do this outside as well.
- Talking very short walks and build him up his confidence
- Tiring him out in the house first before walks (calm him down)
- Continue with the socialisation and obedience class
- Start target training

My resort after this (assuming no progress) would be to explore medication with a vet, which would allow us to more effectively apply the above techniques and wean him off thereafter. Mainly because my concern is the longer the behavior goes on the worse and more difficult it becomes to reverse.

Again, thank you for reading a newbie’s story and any advice would be greatly appreciated. Even if you tell me everything I am doing is wrong! He is a wonderful dog, and my only concern for him is that he is happy mentally and lives a stress-free life.

I look forward to participating in the forums.
Thanks
Beth
Sounds like you are doing very well, and your plan is a good one. But remember it takes time and patience. Smithy's anxiety is likely caused by lack of socialization when he was younger. Suggest a front clip harness, it will give you more control while you are walking him, and take the pressure off his head and neck. He is not reacting in the house because he feels safe there, the longer he is outside the more his anxiety builds and the quicker he is to react.
Counter conditioning - when a dog is in 'panic' mode he can not think or learn anything, so counterconditioning must start before he reacts. Suggest taking him outside and sitting on the front step, for short periods, feed him some treats, as you watch the world go by. Perhaps work on some skills he knows as well. Keep the sessions short and happy and gradually move away from the front step. The goal is to help him feel better about just being outside.
At home, rehearse and reward the skills he does know, each time he 'gets it right' is a building block to confidence. Teaching new skills or simple tricks can help as well. Work on exposing him to unfamiliar objects and obstacles, even if he is not showing he is afraid of them it will help build his confidence, for example: if he afraid of a box outside, put a box on the floor, put a few treats around it, and let him investigate. Lay a chair on it side, put some treats on it or near it and let him check it out. If he doesn't like the sound of plastic, perhaps have someone play with a plastic bag in another room while you feed him treats, gradually decrease the distance. The goal is to gently challenge him and help create success - success builds confidence.
Short walks are good, but walk him by himself so you can focus on him. Work on his attention to you, you want him to automatically 'check in' with you on a frequent basis and it will help him feel more secure. If he is paying more attention to you he is less likely to notice things that worry him.
Walking without pulling - is one of the hardest skills for a dog to learn, it takes a lot of consistency and practice - so don't give up. If/when he pulls don't follow, stop in your tracks and encourage him back to you, then resuem walking. Practice when you have him by himself, you can even start in the house. Pay attention to him, talk to him,praise and reward when he is walking with you. Praise and reward when he looks at you. To start with, you can try holding at treat in the hand on the side you want him to walk on, and feed him the treat as he walks along with you.Repeat repeat. Showing him where you want him to be and rewarding him for being there. Once he understands then you can leave the treat in your pocket and reward occcassionally as he moves along with you. Remember to praise as well.
 

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Faux Wanda
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I am not sure if this would work for your dog but one of my rescues was as you are describing. I used to take her to the park for a bike ride. She loved to run along side the bike and we were going fast enough that she had to focus on the run. I let her set the pace and never took her for very long. After the run, I would walk her around the park with a vest on that said, "please don't pet me, I am working". When people would ask about her, I would enlist their help in socializing her. I would ask them to stand still and have a conversation with me and not focus on her at all, just let her approach them and sniff them. If she felt comfortable enough, I would let them give her a treat.
Treating a dog with fear issues is, in my opinion, difficult and time consuming. It takes lots of patience.

It sounds like you are on the right track. I like your plan. I will say that when mine was in "the zone" she would not even look at treats no matter how good they were, so if you can get your dog to eat treats then he probably isn't a really tough case.
Good luck with your plan. Hope it works out for you.
 

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Debra1952
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My Gabby was afraid of everything when she was out on a leash. So I walked to the corner of our court and sat down with her and we watched traffic pass us by. I would feed her treats at times. She was really apprehensive about cars so I would take her out and I would lean up against our car and just talk to her in a low tone, providing treats. I wanted her to associate out and cars as good things. She was such a mess thayt we had a home vet. We have since moved and have a local vet. Gabby now jumps into the car and is fine on walks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi,

Thank you all three of you for responding with your advice and stories.

We're going to be patience and given this a conciousness effort. I didn't take him for a walk last night, instead we played some fetch, did some initial target training and then walked out of the front door and back in several times over the course of the evening. He was fine, but excitable when leaving the house. Will keep up the routine until he is bored by leaving the house. Then we will walk for a few minutes and back, and so forth, until his confidence is up.

By the way - any tips for good treats that can be made at home or human food? We struggle to by pre-packages dog treats here, especially small ones for this kind of training. I have bought back several packets from the UK but will run out at some point!

Thanks again, your advice is much appreciated.

Beth
 

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New Mommy
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Great plan and great advice from others. Small bits of cheese is my super wazoo training treat. Your commitment to him is inspiring! Thank you and good luck.
 
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For training treats, I cut up all beef hot dogs that way I can make them as small or large as I want. Another good thing I use, my trainer calls puppy crack. I can get both Ellie and my old Bichon to do almost anything for it....it's called Pet Botanics Beef and Rice Dinner. It comes in a prepackaged tube of varying sizes. I cut bits off and make them the size I want to train with. It's only carried at Petsmart, so I order it online.

Good luck! Consistency is key! =)


Sent from Petguide.com Free App
 

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Yes, hot dogs, bits of cheese, any smelly type of sausage or liver wurst that can be cut into tiny bits. You can freeze the bits so they don't get so globby in your bag.

I really appreciate you spelling out your plan in this post. My 12 month old female has very similar issues and it sure helps to know that others are facing the same frustrations / challenges! I'll be anxious to hear your progress-- please share how Smithy is doing!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Hello! Thanks for asking Going for Gold!

Smithy is doing well, 1 step forward, 2 steps back ... haha.

He has been going to a socialisation class and an agililty class and I can now have him off the leash with other dogs and people. He is always in control. The kennels that run the classes also offer play days (doggy day care) and boarding. Since he always barks at the men who work there, I did enrol him frequently in the play days and also boarded him a couple times, usually with one of my other dogs. He is now much more confident with the men handling him and they are able to groom him, wash him and so forth. He will sometime still bark at them if I am holding him, but overall a massive improvement in his confidence at the kennels and in the classes. In fact he has become a little superstar at learning new things. Proud of him. Within the classes or at home I can present almost any obstacle and ask him to do do something and he will try without fail - water, boxes, chairs, cones, jumps etc. Shows no fear of anything in a controlled environment. He really has shown a 100% turnaround considering when i first took him he pulled, barked, tried to run away and wouldn't take any treats from me with other people there.

The problem of him pulling is still a work in progress. In classes before he would pull and was scared, now he is fine. He heels beautifully in class. Outside is another thing. There was definite improvement as he improved in class, he became more manageable to walk, but he is still tense. I assume he is also more aware, from his experience in class, that he is not walking in a way that I like. It's pretty hot now in Bahrain so walks are a bit difficult. But i do hope to make walking outside the focus once the weather gets better. I have also just started jogging with him for a few kilometres, hoping that if he is jogging he'll have to focus on that more. He is now almost 3 years old. One the scale of one to ten, he was probably a 9 or 10 in terms of anxiety / nervousness / pulling .... I think he is probably now a more manageable 5 or so. Hopefully we keep improving.

My main concern is regression. I do fear that any negative incident could set us back a lot so I am over protective of him to a certain extent.

Anway, such is life!
 
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