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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Jesse is 7 months old and we have been bad puppy-parents by getting slack about taking her to busy places with lots of people, cars, noises, etc. We did alot of this in the first few months we had her, and she was not too nervous at all. But, over the last few months life has become busier and we tend to spend alot more time at the local park or beach where she can run around off lead, play with other dogs and people and generally tire herself out.

Anyway, I took her down to our local shopping strip last week when I went to the bank and she was terrified!! First the canvas at the butchers shop rustled in the wind, then a boy went past on a scooter, then a lady with a trolley, then a train....by the end of the walk back to the car she was exhausted from the panic and anxiety and I felt horrible for her.

So, where do I start with rectifying this? Obviously she needs more exposure. I was thinking of starting slowly by taking her there after a run at the beach in the morning. Then she will be tired and it's not as loud and busy in the morning as during the afternoon. Is this a good start? I know not to give her praise or coddle her when she is fearful, but what do I do? When should I bring out treats? I was considering just finding a bench along the shopping strip and sitting there for a period of time each day...would this work?
 

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I think you have a good plan. Baby steps and lots of happy talk seem to help shy dogs. I've also had the dog sit,stay, shake, or lay down when they seem to be afraid. Also give lots of praise and treats when they comply. This will help them. This will help her associate the noise with something positive.
 

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Generally, a good plan to deal with fear is to expose the dog to the stimulus in a gentle enough way that no panic is triggered. Put her close enough to notice the scary thing, but far enough away that she's not having a full on anxiety attack. Play games and give treats in that zone. Then, you can move closer and closer (or make the scary thing louder and louder) and build up to a normal situation. If the dog panics, you need to back up a few steps and build up from a point of confidence.

Use both treats and games, since food helps calm a dog, and "working" mode in a working dog helps them feel confident and in control.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies. I will start off with baby steps - I think there's a good place that she can hear some of the traffic etc. but that she won't be too nervous and I will do some training with her there and slowly work our way closer. I will let you know how it is going!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Just a quick update and questions about a related issue we've been having with Jesse. I have been taking Jesse down to the shops/busy roads/etc for just over a week now - we go every day for about 15 mins (is this long enough?) and do some training there. I haven't seen alot of improvement yet. Although she looks not entirely comfortable she is not panicking because we aren't in the really busy areas...she still jumps at any unusual sounds though. The plan is to continue with this and slowly move closer to the things that scare her.

I also have some questions about a related issue that has also appeared recently - Jesse has become quite nervous around many other dogs. Although she has always been quite submissive (always the first to roll over when another dog approaches) she had a couple of bad experiences recently.
1) An encounter with a staffy who stood over her and growled/snapped at her every time she tried to stand up. The owners apologised and pulled him off, but Jesse then wanted to play with him again. Long story short, it happened all over again until the staffy owners left

2) A very big male lab who wanted to play but was extremely over-the-top in his play style. Jesse was absolutely terrified and started yelping and crying and couldn't get away because he was too quick. We separated them as quickly as we could, but she was still terrified.

Since this, Jesse has become extremely nervous around new dogs - she wants to play, and loves to chase other dogs, but if they turn to play with her or chase her she is suddenly terrified. She yelps and runs, which makes them chase her more. Today as she was running she was snapping at the dog behind her (no growling or biting though) because she was terrified. I am worried she is going to attack another dog when her fear escalates like this.

I have been much more careful to give her interactions with dogs that are smaller and calmer to try to build her confidence. But, it can sometimes be difficult to tell, and it's difficult when she's offlead at the beach or park to police this 100%.

So, my questions are:
1) Should I not let her run off-leash anymore so I can police this more? It's such a shame as she loves running around and it makes her much more manageable at home.
2) When do I step in? I feel terrible seeing her so terrified in these situations. But, often if the other owner pulls there dog away and they walk in the other direction, Jesse will start chasing and trying to interact with the dog again (if I let her/don't put her back on lead)....just for the same thing to happen over.

I should also mention that at dog training she's fine and not timid when in class (and enjoys a run-around with certain dogs after class), and is the same at doggy day care (she only goes occasionally). She has a couple of dogs at the park who she absolutely loves playing with, and also sees my sister's husky x border collie regularly - they play fantastically, but Jesse does get nervous when my sister's dog chases her (she is much quicker than Jesse) and she immediately drops to the ground.

Sorry for the length of this, but I am really needing some advice to try to improve this situation before it escalates further and/or becomes a permanent issue.
 

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To be honest, she doesn't sound too terrified if she chases after them!
is there a time when there are fewer dogs at the beach?

I don't go to dog parks because there are too many aggressive dogs and worse: owners who don't pay any attention to what their dogs are doing.

It sounds like she is doing fine if she is great at classes and doggie day care. You sound like a wonderful doggie mom!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
So, maybe I'm being too overprotective?!? It's just that she's sooooo terrified when they turn around and face her or try to chase her back. Then I feel guilty because she's scared. She stands there with her tail between her legs and won't move until the dog leaves.
 

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If she's going back immediately after the bad experience (i.e., short recovery time), chances are that she's expressing herself dramatically but isn't getting really traumatized. Rolling on her back and not getting hurt is good communication, and there's nothing wrong with a dog who sends calming signals to other dogs.

Try to set up more experiences that are guaranteed positives, like a mellow dog she loves to play with. Removing her from other dogs completely will just stall her communication skills and confidence where they are now. Set up success as much as you can, and try to calmly manage situations you can't control. Be aware that if you come in screaming or otherwise agitated when she's in an exchange with another dog, you can actually teach her to be stressed. When you do intervene, your whole attitude should be "no big deal," immediately followed by playing a different game.

Also, fifteen minute sessions are a perfect length for working on stress. Don't lengthen them. If you want to do more, add sessions, not length. Find a distance or a situation where she can eventually relax noticeably by the end of the fifteen minutes and have a blast there.

Go slowly. You can't mess it up by going too slowly, though you can mess it up by exposing her to situations she's not ready for.

It sounds like you have a girl who's naturally high strung and nervous. That's something you can live with, but in your shoes, I would be religiously investing in at least two 15-minute sessions a day to work on it. It'll be great bonding time, and you'll reap the benefits with a lifetime of safer, calmer, happier behavior.
 

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Right around her age there is also another natural fear period...usually not as long or as deep....but usually noticeable....
Tippy's advice is good....if she wont take treats, or go through her obedience exercises then the stimulus is too much...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Tippy and Liberty. I will try to increase to two sessions a day whenever possible - we are working at a distance where she is definitely happy to still take treats and listens well when I give her commands. It's just that she's still a little jumpy if something makes a loud noise. You're also right that she's probably picking up on my cues - her yelping and crying upsets me (and often the other dog owner) even though I know she's just freaking out and not being hurt. I need to practice my calm mood and behaviour in those situations!!
 

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Thanks Tippy and Liberty. I will try to increase to two sessions a day whenever possible - we are working at a distance where she is definitely happy to still take treats and listens well when I give her commands. It's just that she's still a little jumpy if something makes a loud noise. You're also right that she's probably picking up on my cues - her yelping and crying upsets me (and often the other dog owner) even though I know she's just freaking out and not being hurt. I need to practice my calm mood and behaviour in those situations!!
Definitely moderate your tone of voice too. High, whiny sounds can be interpreted as nervousness on your part, even if you mean them to be encouraging and fun. Midrange tones and an attitude of "no big deal," "good job" is what you want.
 

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You're also right that she's probably picking up on my cues - her yelping and crying upsets me (and often the other dog owner) even though I know she's just freaking out and not being hurt. I need to practice my calm mood and behaviour in those situations!!
Definitely. Our dogs are so in tune with the subtle cues and 'vibes' that we give off. You almost have to train yourself to be conscious of it.

I found that my reactions were a big part of Riley's fear. He went through a real anxious/shy stage and it started to turn around when I realized that I was making it worse. If I saw something that I knew was going to scare him, I immediately thought "oh boy, this is going to scare him" and I finally realized that I was tensing up, just enough for him to pick up on it, so of course he got nervous. I didn't realize what I was doing until read "The Other End of the Leash" by Patricia B. McConnell. She explained that we send that anxiety right down the leash to the dog. Once I learned to be aware of and change my own reactions, it helped immensely. When we heard a loud noise, I started actually laughing, tell him 'it's okay' and would give him a treat. He would practically hit the deck before, if there was a loud, sudden noise. Now he just looks up at me like "Wow, that was kinda loud. Where's my treat?" It just takes some time and patience.
 
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