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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have a 6 month old GSD/Lab cross named Winston, and he's a very well behaved dog, knows tons of tricks, listens really well, excellent recall level, etc, but lately I've been observing his behaviour and noticing that he's become more shy around people and a bit more submissive.

I didn't think much of it, I put it off to a phase of reluctance as he's growing up but I've been thinking more about it lately. One outward thing I've noticed is that while he was younger, and when he generally exhibited more traits of confidence and outgoing behaviour towards people, he tended to put 1 ear up all the time, even when relaxing inside, and when he was outside he would put both ears up. Lately he has been prone to have both ears down inside, even tucked towards the back, and when outside will usually only have one up, if even, and both only come up in a few situations.

I've been reading about dog psychology and noticed that hes been exhbiting many calming signals, and I've been thinking that these phenomenon are likely all connected.

I don't feel like I'm overly firm with him, and I'm not generally very aggressive with him I don't pin him down or hit him when he does things wrong or anything like that, I did a little bit when he was a puppy before I read more about it, but I've stopped since. One thing that my roommate and I did which may have made him a bit uncomfortable is when he would jump into bed and come cuddle up for a bit some time we would hold him there or flip him over, I never did it to the point where he became distressed but my roommate did once or twice, I've since spoken to him about it. I

I really would like to find a way to encourage his flourishing and well-being, to help him find more confidence and at the same time more comfort and happiness in his life, I know these seem like big words and concepts to apply to a dog but I feel that they fit. I will answer any questions about my habits in interaction with him if anyone thinks they know of anything which could be causing him to feel this way, and will be open to any kinds of suggestion towards things which could help him.

It may help to elaborate that this year I am in a medium size apartment, we have a back yard but it isn't fenced and he can't run it freely. He does get frequent walks as well as dog park visits, many times a week I will take him into the woods with my friend and his sister for well over an hour, some times up to three hours, and even on the days with the worst weather or when I'm the busiest he'll usually be outside for at least an hour or close to it.

Next year I will be living in a house with my friend who also owns his sister, and they will have a yard to run as well as a network of trails extremely close by, so he will get even more activity, and over the summer I will be working in the Bush as a tree planter, and I intend to bring him with me, as we have a dog friendly company. I feel as thoug these changes may help, but I would like some advice about things I could maybe do in the mean time.

Sorry for the long shpiel, thanks to anyone who takes the time to read it, and thanks in advance for taking the time to think about it and reply to it. I would be more than happy to accept links to articles or recommendations about books as well.

Sorry to add even more to this, but something I just thought of:
I think I may have started training too intensively too early, he took to it really well and enjoyed it but the amount of discipline I expected and received from him at a young age was quite high. He's just 6 months and we've already been working on 5 minute sit stays with visual obstructions, very long distance recalls with distractions, and training and treat routines involving around 10 tricks in different sequences, many of which he has known for a long time now. I certainly allowed him to play and have alot of free license when he was young, but I definitely did impose a higher level of discipline, much earlier, than I would have knowing what I do now about puppy development. I hope I didn't rob him of his childhood or something. Could this have any bearing on these recent traits as well?
 

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Your post is very informative and the content gives us alot of good information that we can use to help you.

One thing I like to do to help a shy dog is this:

I tell ppl to keep a treat jar at the front and back doors.

When a visitor comes in they need to allow the dog to come to them. The person should not speek to, or reach for, the dog.

I tell them to have the visitor take a few treats and drop them on the floor about a foot away and allow the dog to take them in their own time. Once the dog is allowed to smell the visitor, it should begin to warm up to them.

If the dog is REAL shy, the visitor should turn sideways to the dog and crouch down or sit on the dog's level. Again, the person should never push. Let the dog come to them! When the dog comes, give it a treat and say, "good dog"!!!

If the dog is just "a little shy" and has no problem approching ppl, using LAVISH praise, scruffing under the chin or on the neck and chest can help to raise confidence.

Since your dog knows tricks and stuff ... giving treats and using "GOOD DOG" in a "happy" voice a lot to reward good behaviour can be a great help.

When the dog realizes that you are happy and it is doing good, it will be alot more confident.

Along with Obediance Training another good way to build confidence is Obsticle training.
 

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Get out and about with your dog. Meet all kinds of people. Fat people. Skinny people. Tall people. Short people. You catch my drift. Bring a bunch of treats and let people interact with him. People love silly pet tricks. Have these strangers give him a treat and pet him when he exhibits the desired behavior. The key is a lot of positive experience with people. The more, the better.

Kaki and I stay in front of the supermarket doors(out of the way) so that people who show interest may come meet and greet. Petco and Petsmart are also great places. There is a list floating around somewhere of dog friendly stores.

Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think you can be too training intensive with a GSD unless you're on crack. Have you considered enrolling in a formal obedience class, flyball, etc? Do not alpha roll your dog. It's detrimental to your bond. If anything, more training is the best answer. I'm taking Kaki to agility classes to work on her confidence.
 

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"Comfort", "happiness", "well-being" and "confidence" are all words that are certainly applicable to a dog and the way he carries himself. Not to worry at all. Your pup is at a very young age and I think that save any major problems, he should grow up and flourish into a very confident and well-behaved dog. Far more fearful, much older dogs have been rehabilitated into calm and confident dogs.

The first thing I'll say is positive training only. Negative methods do have their place, when correctly applied, but they certainly do not belong in puppy training and negative trainers will agree with me on this. If you're interested in clicker-training, I would check that out, but it seems as if you're doing well enough without it. Keep up the training and be as positive as possible. Positive training works absolute WONDERS for many dogs who lack confidence. It really gives them a sense of purpose and structure, and helps them come out of their shells.

And no, as long as you kept things positive for the most part, you didn't rob him of his puppyhood! (He has quite a bit of it left anyhow!) You can't really start training too early. Contrary to what most people think, training isn't to dogs as school is to humans. They don't consider it a drag or a solemn chore. They like working with you -- especially the breeds in his mix -- they like learning new things and getting things right. My dogs are their happiest at two points in the day -- when they see me reach for their leashes, and when they see me reach for the clicker and the treat jar. So it should be for every dog; he should be able to look forward to training sessions with you. Keep up the socialisation, too. A puppy can never have enough socialisation.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks very much for both the advice and the encouragement everyone. He hasnt been as shy around the house, but I'm going to start taking a bag of small treats with me when I go for walks for people to give him, and I've already started giving him extra effusive praise when he does his tricks, and we're working on learning new things. He gets really excited when he's successful at learning something new! I'm going to spend even more time with him around people if I can, I already try to socialize him as much as I can but I'm going to work more on giving him praise for being brave in interactions with new people and generally just try to both listen to everyones advice, and not worry so much about him, he will surely come out of his shell in good time!:cool:
 

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Good on you. Being too afraid for the pup’s confidence can ironically damage the pup because he ends up being coddled and sheltered from the rest of the world. This is something you don’t want, because it gives him a reason to believe that the world out there is dangerous! Instead, keep introducing him to new scenarios, new sights, sounds and smells. Getting strangers to give him treats is a great idea.

A couple of pointers: remember that HE should approach the stranger, not the other way around. Strangers should be reminded not to lean over him from the front, or reach down to him over his head, when delivering the treat – this can be intimidating. They should try to make sure he can see their hand coming towards him, which will make him feel less vulnerable. (Having said all this, strangers can be very bad about following instructions, so as long as your dog is coping with it, it might be best to just remain silent!)

Lastly, if your dog is still too shy to approach strangers directly, they can gently toss the treat to him or on the floor near him. The association (strangers = good!) will still be made and he will gradually become better about going near unfamiliar people.
 
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