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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi Everyone! I need some help/advice please.
Bailey, my almost 3 year old girl, is EXTREMELY scared of bubbles (yes, bubbles!), kites and sails of any kind. Her first reaction is to run away and hide. If she can't run and hide she will start shaking uncontrollably and look away. It's so painful to watch!
I have been talking to and working with a dog trainer, but even he is at his wits end. She's not getting any better, we have been working on it for a year now. What he was trying to do is to get her over her fear by facing it. So I've been taking her on the lead every time we encounter a sail or kite so she can't run. Positive reinforcement (good girl!!) when she looks at it. She is so stressed, she wouldn't even eat a treat. But she is not getting any better. I feel so bad when I see her like that and all I want is to hug her and comfort her because she is shaking to badly and obviously very afraid. Now the trainer tells me not to do exactly that because I would reward her for that behavior?
What would you do???
Any tips, recommendations and your own experience with these issues are greatly appreciated. I am at a loss....
 

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Distance is the key....as far from the object as possible and have no reaction. Treat, treat treat, step closer, treat treat treat...if she is reacting, you are too close. The idea is to keep her in her safe zone. I disagree with flooding a dog who has a strong aversion to something. Perhaps she can watch kids playing with bubbles? in the car with kites outside? Like I said, if she is reacting, she is too close and let her get some distance. And then try to get closer. I had a horse that was afraid of green garbage cans and black mailboxes...go figure?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Susabelle!
She is reacting, as soon as she sees it. Whether we are 10m, 100m or 1km away from it...If she was in the car with a sail coming past outside, she will try and hide under the seat. I've tried desensitising her to the bubbles by just having the plastic tube sitting near her. As long as there are no bubbles she is fine... She gets into a state where she is so afraid, nothing will make her even look at it.
 

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Unfortunately you have received some very poor, really bad, advice from your 'trainer'. Strongly suggest checking out Fearfuldogs.com: website and Facebook page/group run by Debbie Jacobs. There you can find appropriate, professional help in learning how to help your pup.
 

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I agree with Charlie, I think you need to seek out another trainer or even better, a good behaviorist. Honestly I think you need to remember to be calm yourself when your dog is freaking out. Keeping your cool and being calm and not reacting to their meltdown is very important. I'm sorry you are dealing with this, it is always frustrating when our animals react in a way that completely puzzles us. There are some great books out there that can help you get inside pups head. Patricia McConnel is one of my favorites and here is a book that might help you recognize her stress before it becomes a meltdown.

Good Luck, maybe some others can point you towards a good trainer in your area that uses better techniques.
 

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The science shows you can't "reinforce" fear by comforting a nervous individual. It's just not possible (we can reinforce behaviors - NOT emotions).

Myth of reinforcing fear | Fearful Dogs

You Can’t Reinforce Fear; Dogs and Thunderstorms

Your efforts to help may have accidently made her worse (sensitization instead of desensitized). Sometimes a break and avoiding the scary things for a few weeks or months before trying a new training plan can help you get off to a better start.

We also need to be super creative and find things/ways to practice with distractions that are neutral or happy before going and working with the scary distractions - especially if distance is a struggle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks guys!
I live in a pretty remote are in Queensland, Australia, unfortunately the selection of dog trainers here is very slim! Bailey is my first dog, so I can't even draw from experience.
I have read the articles to the links SwimDog posted. It makes sense, and I am glad I can comfort her when she is stressed without thinking I might be doing the wrong thing.
We will give the 'scary things' a break and avoid them as much as possiile for a while I think, while I read up a bit more and hopefully come up with a new approach.
 
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