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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hi Everyone,

Out of nowhere, my boy Pluto has become really afraid of men and new places/situations. He used to love EVERYONE and really loved exploring, so really this is all very sudden (and kind of frustrating :confused:). I noticed it when my roommate had a friend over about a week ago, and Pluto was acting unusually strange. Pluto would not approach him, and would back away and bark/growl. Even with men in our neighborhood that he's met and played with before, he has recently become very skittish about them. He does not fear anyone in my family, nor my boyfriend, nor my male housemate.

The other day, the cable guy came over to hook up a few things in my home, so even though the cable guy was friendly and put out his hand to sniff, Pluto sniffed him, backed away and started barking... to associate the cable guy's presence with something good, I gave him a beef bone to chew on in the same room that the cable guy was in. Was I right in doing that, or is that being forceful?

The other day I took him out on a walk in my neighborhood, a few blocks further than we usually go, and his back leg was shaking the entire time. To be fair, it is a little bit noisier/more city-like down that way... What do I do in those situations? Should I just keep walking, and try to get him to heel and focus on me? Or do I turn around and try again another day? What if he becomes so afraid to the point of not listening to me? I don't want to make things worse, and I honestly don't know which would be the better course of action.

Should I be worried about the way he is acting, or can I chalk this up to a fear period that we have to get through? I've had him since he was a baby, and he has not been abused or anything of that nature. I've made a point to socialize him well since I've had him, and took him to as many new places as I could. He is nearing 8 months old, and had a full vet exam a couple weeks ago and checked out fine.

Have any of you guys gone through this when raising your puppies? If so, what did you do to help them conquer their fears? Any advise would be much appreciated!
 

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Kristy
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9,916 Posts
I know there are people on the forum with more experience with this, hopefully someone will jump in. You are right to take this seriously. Even if you socialized him a lot as a younger puppy, the work needs to continue as he is maturing. Hopefully if you act calm and don't make a big deal about his fear, (no babying and confirming that he should be worried) you can work through it slowly with extremely high value treats. Don't push him on anything.

Until someone responds on this, try using the search feature up at the top of the page. If you put in some of the key words it should pull up old threads discussing this topic and you will hopefully get some useful suggestions there.
 

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Tracer, Rumor & Cady
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10,683 Posts
If the cable guy was just quietly working...and your dog was willing to laydown and chew...then it was not a bad idea...if he was not able to relax and chew...then I might have been more inclined to stay in the other room and do some simple obed exercises/tricks to help him work through it..
Another idea for the future is to have scary people gently toss bits of yummy food 5-6' (or more) away from them so the dog can go and nibble...then look toward them and they toss again..keep the pressure low with the goal being not to try to lure him closer to "scaryman", but to get him to see strangers as a source of good things....

For the walk...if he was that freaked out (trembling)...I would have aborted the walk in exchange for sitting or simply standing where he could listen/smell/observe...someplace where he was able to do simple obed exercises below threshold. When he was able to work and ideally play a bit, then add movement (walking) back into the picture...
For heavens sake be sure he is on a collar that fits really well...a panicked dog can thrash and back out of a collar very, very fast...
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for your suggestion, nolefan.

So what I'm gathering from this research (I searched "afraid of men"), I will just have to give treats to men we encounter, try to get Pluto to approach them... and if he doesn't, just have the man gently toss the treat near him? I guess I'll be needing more treats than usual on our walks! I've already somewhat been doing that whenever my housemate's friends come over (have him hand Pluto food/treats), but the other night when Pluto went over to sniff the guy on his own terms (the guy was laying down on the floor), the guy told him no and got up suddenly, therefore spooking Pluto even more :( I guess I will need to communicate with that guy what to do and what not to do around Pluto, and tell him to leave the corrections up to me. Pluto also tried grabbing headphones from him, so the guy told him NO and started chasing him (when he should have just called him over, loved him, then asked him to drop it... which Pluto does well). Sigh. I wish EVERYONE was trained on how to handle puppies/dogs, but I guess I'm just going to have to train that guy myself, and any other stranger that pops by for a visit.

I guess what I'd also like to know is what do I do when he becomes afraid on our walks? Do I turn around? Do I keep going to get him familiar and just ignore his leg shaking? This is all new; he LOVED going to new places and sniffing around and meeting people. My, how things have changed so quickly.

Most of the research about being afraid of men brought up older posts... and most posts were about rescues (if I recall correctly), and since my boy isn't a rescue, I would like to know if this phase is "normal". I guess I'm wondering if this is a fear period... or something much worse because it does seem like an extreme and dramatic change.

And I guess I'm looking for posts of people being successful with their pups and getting passed the fear... but haven't found any :uhoh: I most definitely need encouragement at this point, because it's frustrating and nerve-wracking. I miss my friendly little guy who I had to try and stop from jumping on/greeting everyone at every corner!
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Hi LibertyMe, thanks for replying.

He was able to lay down and relax and chew with the cable guy working quietly, so I guess that it was okay, and hopefully helped a bit.

When we did go on our walk and he was trembling, I found a bench for us to relax on. At first, he was sitting on the ground, then he climbed the bench to sit next to me and kind of lean on me, and was pretty much trembling for half the time (I didn't say or do anything to try and comfort him, but rather said things like "Oh, isn't that cool!"). The crazy part is we had been to and hung out at that courtyard before, so I thought it would calm him, but it didn't work out as well as I had hoped, so we just ended up leaving. Maybe he was a little too spooked out to begin with, I don't know. Previously whenever I tried to sit outside/somewhere new, he would get mad at me for not letting him explore! It is not fun watching him tremble in fear like that.

My boyfriend also took him to a store that we had walked to (right down the street) a bunch of times before, and he was trembling in there also :( Maybe because there were men in there, I don't know.

And yes, his collar is perfectly fitted, but maybe I should look into a harness just in case. He doesn't usually thrash around, he'll back up and won't pull on the leash, or he'll just sit down trembling beside me...

Sigh. This really bugs.
 

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Tracer, Rumor & Cady
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10,683 Posts
Bummer about the house-guest putting so much pressure on him... some folks are a bit clueless...:-(
Might be worth just putting him on leash attached to you when guests arrive...???

Maybe just sitting on your front steps..someplace really familiar and chewing a bone or getting out his favorite toy..if he will eat/play and not tremble...then move down the street a bit and see how it goes...
Use his reaction to dictate whether or not you push to walk any further...
You can drive someplace quite then get out and walk play around the car... etc...

His health is good I assume...no painful hips/elbows....
 

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Kodasmomma
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1,482 Posts
My girl Koda just went through something similar to this at about 9 months. There is a fear stage from 8-14 months that they go through so it definitely can be related to that.

Developmental Stages - see second fear stage.

You are good to notice this and plan to attack it now. Our girl was leery of people on our walks, not with us as much as our dog walker. First of all you need to be confident when walking him. He has to know that you are okay with the situation as they read you very easily. If you are uneasy, he will pick up on that.

Second, don't force anything but don't baby him either. If he is scared, act like it is no big deal. If you baby him he will think it is right to be afraid and the behaviour will continue. You definitely need to train your roommates friend to not act that way with Pluto. Startling him like that will set him back.

Do as LibertyMe said, treats being tossed his way from the people he is afraid of is the best strategy.

As for the walk, avoid the part of the walk he is afraid of. Keep him confident, walk where he is comfortable and feels safe.

Keep doing what you are doing, if you have specific questions feel free to ask!

Koda has already been 10x better just by impelmenting these things.
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
He did check out at the vet a few weeks ago, but I suppose this was before all the fear began because the vet is male, and I doubt that right now he would allow the vet to run a full exam on him. Pluto has sprained his right front leg before at daycare, and his joints have been checked twice since then by 2 different vets, so I don't think any joint pain is the case, and I haven't seen any signs of him being in pain (he was limping very noticeably when he sprained it, and whenever he accidentally played too rough and hurt it further he did whine). Really, really hoping it isn't any joint pain...
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
http://www.goldenretrieverforum.com/members/18144-baumgartml16.htmlThanks, baumgartml16. Glad to know that you have been successful with Koda! Pluto is generally pretty confident about walks within our gated community and within a couple blocks of our place, but I guess when we get further into the city is when he gets a little skittish. Perhaps I will work on getting a block closer and closer with him until he is comfortable and confident to go the whole route... He is also perfectly fine walking in my boyfriend's neighborhood, but I suppose there is a lot less action going on there.

He is perfectly fine with women and adores them - he will do his usual greet and sometimes give them smiles... but with men he was been backing away, and sometimes barking.

When guests are over, I will try and be in the room with them or try to keep him on leash, with plenty treats in hand. Now I hope that we encounter more men when we're out so that we can get this straightened out. I know it could potentially be a long process, but I am a little bit impatient :[
 

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Wyatt Earp
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3,595 Posts
My Wyatt was the biggest scardy cat ever at that age. He would practically jump on my head if a car backfired, or a huge loud truck came by. Plastic bags blowing in the wind.....look out that's a ghost:p: And men with ball caps on. Skateboards, strollers, bikes......so pretty much everything. I just made sure these things were on our walk every day. Over and over and over.....I even gave a kid a few bucks to just skateborad in front of our house with Wyatt out front:D It's all about socialization. Before you know it the fear starts to disappear.
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for the encouragement :) Glad to know that it is something Pluto can overcome. I am going to begin with all your advice, starting today! Hoping to nip this in the butt sooner rather than later as I don't want any fear aggressive tendencies to arise.
 

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Registered
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3,515 Posts
When you go on these walks make sure to clear your mind. If you have nay tension at all it will travel down that leash and encourge Pluto to be scared. As you are walking and something new comes along pass it like it is nothing and praise Pluto like crazy. Oh your such a good dog make your voice happy but not too high pitched.

My APBT Vendetta does not care for men. She tries to hide from them. I do not push it with her. I have tried finding men to help me and after so many weeks they dont have time for us anymore. She is good with my son and a few people I train with.
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Hi GeneralV,

Yes, I do try to stay calm on our walks, and for the most part I am. Once in a while I let a little bit of frustration leak through, but I'm doing my best to contain it.

To update, I took Pluto to 2 different pet stores last night (one he had only been to twice, the other being Petsmart, which he is familiar with) and he did pretty well. He approached a man with a dog at the first store, and at Petsmart he tried to say hello to mostly everybody (he was extra startled by noises, however). I had a little girl feed him treats, as well as her mother and father, and then he wanted to leave with them :doh: So we're working on it! I am trying to distinguish what is similar between the males that he was afraid of, but I can't exactly put my finger on it. It may be that their voices are relatively deeper than the males he's been around? Or they walk heavier? I'm not sure, but we're going to get this situation straightened out soon, hopefully.
 

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Apollo & Knightley's mum!
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279 Posts
This could definitely be a fear period from the sound of it. Fear periods are usually started out by a small event - like you described with the headphones - that we may have thought was quite innocuous by for some reason for the dog started them into this stage where they are unable to conquer their fear. A dog can get through that age quite successfully without going into a fear period, or they may just have an initiating event. Fear periods can last for a couple of days, or months. Sue Ailsby's Leading The Dance is good for treating fear periods as it lets the dog know that you are their leader and will protect them if necessary - they do not need to fear because you are there.

On the other hand, dogs have two personality changes throughout their life. In some dogs it is barely noticeable and in some it is quite noticeable. Testing puppies to be service dogs rarely means anything because the vast majority of puppies are sociable. By one year of age personalities have changed quite a bit, and then there is another personality change at three years, when they are fully mature - that is when you get a better idea of what type of dog you have. This could be a personality change you have to work with and teach him that men aren't dangerous and new places are fun!

Whichever it is, the treatment is more or less the same. Take it in small steps. I wouldn't rush out and subject him to a heap of socialisation, just a couple of new people, a new place for 15 minutes - things like that. Keep up lots of treats with real meat, lots of encouragement. If he freaks out, retreat from the situation until he is calm, then try again but don't push quite as hard the second time. Always set your dog up for success. If he has an outing in which he gets upset you will likely be making it worse. So make sure each outing is easy for him to be successful in, and make it as fun as possible.

Also, always let him approach men. If you are walking up to them in a public place, stop a little ways back, give them the treat, and get them to call him over with the treat showing in their hand. Keep it very short, (treat, quick pat *under* chin, a word or two) and then let him leave with you. He learns if he does what you want he will get to leave and that will be a reward for him if he is finding those men stressful. Eventually you can make those greetings longer, because he knows that sooner or later he will be leaving - this is called 'behaviour adjustment training' or BAT.

Sounds like you are more or less on the right path. Watch his behaviour to tell you what to do. Good luck.
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Thanks for that information, lyssa. It was very helpful!

Now that you mention it, I think I do remember the "initiating event". When my housemate's friend came over for the first time, I remember Pluto greeting him and following him into my housemate's room out of curiosity. Well, my housemate's friend tripped, and it caused a lot of commotion (he's a big guy)... Pluto came running out and hid under the table or in a corner, and things have been pretty different since then. I didn't realize that there could be an initiating event, but I guess it all makes sense now. And the thing with the headphones, and sudden movements, I think just made everything worse. However, that guy did come over again last night, and I had him hand Pluto some freeze dried liver. Pluto let him pet him for about 30 seconds, then came out of the room with me, and peaked into the room every once in a while until he left. I think we are getting somewhere, but I can tell Pluto is still uncertain about him because he did bark when we first saw him.

I will continue to heed all your advise and work with him on this. I think I will only use boiled chicken, hot dogs, freeze dried liver and lamb lungs (when possible) to socialize him, as those are his special treats.

Once again, thank you everyone!
 

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Maria
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128 Posts
Discussion Starter #18
Oh, and Wyatt's Mommy, Pluto used to be afraid of bikes and skateboards as well! He was also afraid of people taking out their garbage bins, grocery carts, and pretty much anything that rolled, lol.
 

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Wyatt Earp
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3,595 Posts
Oh, and Wyatt's Mommy, Pluto used to be afraid of bikes and skateboards as well! He was also afraid of people taking out their garbage bins, grocery carts, and pretty much anything that rolled, lol.
LOL! He sounds alot like Wyatt! Wyatt will be 22 months tomorrow and happy to say he is not afraid of these things as much anymore.......however he is still a scardy cat. We finally took away our baby gates recently and he has full house privileges and a few weeks ago he experienced seeing his first bubbles in the bath. He was not too sure about those and the popping noises they made lol! I have yet to meet a golden who is not afraid of something. It's their nature.
 

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Apollo & Knightley's mum!
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279 Posts
So far my pup isn't afraid of anything, but he's only young and could go through behaviour changes, but I really hope he won't as that could put his future career at risk. I had to temperament test 11 different male pups to find one who was fearless though, so I would agree most do have some fear issues! I just took him to a major event several days ago with thousands of people for his first official training, and walked him through a packed amusement park with really noisy rides, blaring music, lights .... everything, and he just walked at my side wagging his tail. I was actually quite amazed.

By the way - use Pluto's innate curiosity as much as possible. If your housemate's friend gets down to look at something on the floor (facing away from Pluto) many dogs find that irresistible and it's very non threatening. Then slowly he would drop a treat to the floor when Pluto gets near him, and another and another, still facing away from Pluto as that is non threatening. Most fear issues can be got over to varying extents with careful conditioning, but it's always a matter of slow is fast, with short sessions every day. It sounds like if you can work with Pluto's issues with that specific guy you'd have a good chance of getting over much of this fear period, or whatever it is.

Your body language is such an important part to consider too. If you are out somewhere and he is getting stressed, trying sighing or yawning - dogs do both as they start to relax and it works to help your dog relax. Also, have your dog come up to anyone you want them to meet from behind or on an angle as its so much easier for the dog than head on, which you very rarely see in the dog world as it's considered very rude and a challenge!

I am hoping for a quick recovery for Pluto. I have read quite a bit about fear periods and the like if you have any questions.
 
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