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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Faulkner has been fearful from day one. The breeder told us (and I don't think she lied, I think she genuinely misunderstood) that he was the cuddler of the litter. Yes, he cuddles, but it is clearly a fear response. He is now 4 months old and over 40 lbs. He's a lab/shep mix.

Here's the deal, he is scared of damn near everything. Loud noises, or sudden noises (a neighbor laughing, someone hammering), cars, other dogs, other people, he is genuinely afraid of the dark (which isn't a huge problem, but he's still young and needs to go out at night before being crated), squirrels, if the bushes rustle a bit when we're on a walk, you name it. When he is scared, he turns and bolts for home. No mater how far away from home we are, he does not stop until we get there, darn near choking himself to death. We need to find a way to help him, because he is likely to be as heavy as me when he's full grown, and that just isn't safe.

Here's what we have done, and what we have not done, for better or worse. We haven't forced him to interact with other people and animals. We take him on trails where he will see other dogs, but not be forced to interact. We just moved to this area, so don't know that many people so strangers in our house are not a regular occurrence. I did have family visit (4 adults and 2 children) from out-of-state and although he was initially fearful, he came halfway out of his shell after the 4 days of visiting were over.

In my mind, there is a fine line between fearfulness and aggression. Given his fearful nature, I was terrified that something would happen in public and he would bite someone or another dog, and he didn't have his rabies shot, and so on. Well, he just got his rabies shot, so what do I do now to help our little big guy?

Oh, for the record, he has never shown any aggression. Even his barking is not aggressive (except that it's loud and deep and scares people). He doesn't bark in an aggressive stance, and doesn't growl. If someone reaches out to tough him (without asking, argh!) his instinct is to back up, not snap. He won't even take treats from a stranger.

So, really, the bolting for home is the big problem. I don't care that he's not going to be a guard dog, he's our little Ferdinand the Bull sniffing flowers and chasing butterflies. But in a few short months I won't be able to restrain him when he bolts.

What do we do?

ETA: He's also scared of water (bath or beach), scared of new places (the vets office, but not in the usual way. Once he got used to the waiting room, he wouldn't go in the examination room. Once he got used to the examination room, he wouldn't go back into the waiting room. Geez.) Seriously, this guy is afraid of every thing!
 

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Awww, poor pup! Mine started out the same way for a lot of things - the first time he saw a skate boarder he panicked so much, whining, barking, dashing left and right, panting, etc. Couldn't calm down for almost half an hour after the skate boarder left. He was also scared of other dogs and lots of other noises at first as well.

What has helped him a lot is to be desensitized slowly (or veeeery slowly if his reactions are severe). For the noises he's scared of, you can get a neighbor or friend to help by making those noises very lightly outside your house where he feels comfortable. Or you can play a recording of the noise very softly. If he seems reasonably relaxed, feed him treats every time he hears the noise. Just keep repeating this exercise in short durations. Then, when he seems not bothered by the noise anymore, increase the volume slightly and repeat again. You'll want to keep repeating this process until eventually you can turn the volume up very high and he'll still remain relaxed. When you're desensitizing him to objects, you'll want to do the same thing, except place the object at a distance from him where he can stay calm. Then slowly move it closer, then eventually maybe see if he'll even go up and try to touch it (if appropriate). For introducing him to new places, maybe it's a good idea to bring treats with you, so you can leave a trail of treats so he will decide to enter a new room by himself instead of being forced in, and then when he's adjusting just keep feeding so he'll associate new places with good things?

I think it's really good that you're not forcing him to interact with dogs because I don't like to use the flooding technique, where you force the dog to deal with whatever it's scared of. But I think it's better to build confidence and positive associations instead. Oh, have you been doing obedience training using positive reinforcements? That can help him build confidence in general as well!
 

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Between 4-6 months puppies often go through a fearful stage where they are very hesitant of new things and places. He may have been fearful prior to 4 months but I just want you to know it's not completely abnormal behavior.

Continue to socialize your pup but do it gradually and do not force anything upon him. As long as you don't isolate him now, he will likely grow out of his fearfulness.
 

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Both posters give good advice. My pup was scared of the street sewer, scarecrows, and over-enthusiastic people when he was that age. I did not force him, but I did give him lots of socialization opportunities... and he became a party animal when he was 6 mos.

Mine is also a Lab - GSD mix. I'd imagine that yours looks more like a GSD than a Lab, because of the fear of water :) If so, than lots socialization with a variety of situations and people... without forcing, and maybe with lots of treats before he freaks out, and I think he'll grow out of it. Got Pix ?
 
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