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Hello I’m looking for some advice on a generally nervous 18 month old female staffy-something called Luna (we suspect the other half is ridgeback based on similarities to a friend’s pure ridgeback, but we are far from sure).

We got her from foster care when she was a few weeks old, her mum having been rescued from a puppy farm. Luna was borne in foster care. She has had a nervous disposition from the very first time we met her.

We had Luna in our first home for 6 months, then moved to our current location and have been here for a year now with no plans on moving again in the foreseeable future.

While she was a puppy we took her to puppy training every week, engaged in never ending treat-training (we literally had treats in our pockets at all times), took her to lots of different parks and a couple of beaches. We probably didn’t have as many people visit the house as would have been ideal, but that’s just how our lives are. We probably had 2-3 visits per week for a few months, which dropped back to about an average of 1 visit, and has recently picked back up to about 2 again.

Luna has ended up very obedient, really likes playing with other dogs, is happy with people who have dogs with them but is suspicious and nervous around people who don’t (until she gets to know them, then she loves them, but this can take minutes to days). She is still very nervous about anything and everything unfamiliar and has developed a few behaviours I’m a bit concerned about possibly including some fear aggression. I'll go into more detail below:

Up until the last 1-2 months she has always enjoyed playing with other dogs a lot. She can be quite boisterous or not depending on what the other dogs are like. Generally no worries at all about her........however in the last couple of months I had noticed her possibly getting a bit defensive around her people. If other dogs came over to me she might snap or lunge at them, but doesn’t do it consistently. To stop this I make her sit and stay while I go over to dogs first and interacted with them. This seems to have worked, but then in the last week she has started getting grumpy with other dogs seemingly at random. She will bounce over to them looking happy (or they come over to her) have a sniff, and then suddenly her ears go back, hackles go up, and she immediately lunges at them. I have no idea where this behaviour has come from or what sets it off. She hasn’t had a bad experience with other dogs recently that my wife and I are aware of. I’m wondering if this may be her becoming less tolerant of other dogs as she matures, but not having worked out that she doesn’t actually want to interact with every dog she meets like she used to?

I mentioned fear aggression so let’s describe how that manifests. Its most common at home. If we have a visitor (outside of the 10ish people she knows really well) she will bark loudly at them with her hackles fully up and just generally look quite scary. Thankfully she won’t go too close to people and will flinch away if people extend an arm to her (I know it’s not good, but sometimes people do it before I tell them not to). If people look at her (not even eye contact) she starts growling as well. To sort this Luna gets sent to bed (her safe zone) as the visitors arrive. We then do whatever we are going to do while ignoring her, and once Luna has calmed down she is allowed out of bed. She will almost always come over immediately of her own volition, if she is calm we give her treats as she approaches, and then the visitor might feed her some treats under the table if things are going well. This works pretty well but she will still be really jumpy if the visitor moves to a different location. Gradually she gets used to people and will be happy with them moving around and usually builds up to quite liking people if they are around for long enough. While this is good it doesn’t seem to be helping with the initial response to visitors (everyone new is scary, even though she has ended up liking everyone who has come into the house). I'm not sure what to do next on this one.

It’s worth noting that she seems to want to interact with visitors finding them interesting and exciting as well as scary. She is always very keen to come straight over to them and be near (but not too near) them while she gets over her fear. She often leans in for a sniff and will start wagging her tail and glancing at me while doing so....so long as the visitor doesn’t move, if they do its time to jump away and start barking with the hackles up again.

The other thing she does at home is sit in the lounge looking out the front window. She growls or barks (not too much though, this is a much less vigorous response compared to when people visit the house) at most people going past (even if they have dogs) This extends to the full range of her vision and includes people moving about in their gardens across the road (basically if she can see a person they are too close). We normally let her get away with a very little rumble, but anything more and she gets sent to bed until she calms down. Having read some posts on these forums I think we should start giving her treats as soon as we see anyone going past instead?

And finally for fear aggression, while out on walks she will often growl at anyone new in a new area without a dog.

Other behaviours of note before getting onto general nervousness:
I get the impression she feels the need to protect her people from scary things. She seems to try and position herself between us and bikes, strangers, new objects etc. She can be quite subtle about it and I always get her to be on the other side of me if I spot that something is bothering her. In the last few days we seem to be making real progress here, and she has started going to the ‘safe’ side of me if she gets unsettled by something rather than getting in-between us.

Okay, general nervousness:
Throughout her whole life her default response to anything and everything new is to be scared of it. This includes things like new parks – we take her to 4 different parks and 2 dog beaches regularly and she will be excited and happy about going. If we go to a new one she gets out of the car and her tail immediately gets tucked under her body, ears back, looking all over the place. Just generally looking very unhappy.

If a new object or sound appears in a known area she will be scared of it (like a scooter parked in an unusual place, or some rubbish, or someone standing still bird watching when they weren’t there yesterday, or a street light rattles in the wind)/. She won’t go near it, won’t calm down, just wants to run a few 10’s of meters away from it. In an extreme case she may want to go home straight away, but this is rare.

Once she has been scared in an area she remains scared of that area even when there is nothing there/good things have happened there more recently. As an example, in one of the regular parks there are a couple of spots where bikes have come around a corner and startled her. Since then she has had loads of treats there, and several good interactions with other dogs. Despite this every time we go there her ears go back, she looks around in all directions very often, tail will be down but not underneath her, generally low body position, and she won’t want to play at all, she just marches forward as quickly as she can without running until we are through the scary section. I’m not sure how to make this a safe and fun area again? If I can’t then we are steadily going to run out of happy walk places :-(

Finally, even while we are in good happy places she will still be looking around often, checking for anything. She even does this in the house at home.

We have spoken to the vet about this who recommended putting her on ENDEP50 while we try to desensitize her to things. This has made her slightly less afraid of things (we still get the same reactions but not always as strong), but it doesn’t really seem to be helping her improve in the long run.

Any help is much appreciated. It seems like we nearly have a wonderful dog, and it’s quite sad seeing how scared she gets of things that could otherwise be great.
 

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Hello I’m looking for some advice on a generally nervous 18 month old female staffy-something called Luna (we suspect the other half is ridgeback based on similarities to a friend’s pure ridgeback, but we are far from sure).

We got her from foster care when she was a few weeks old, her mum having been rescued from a puppy farm. Luna was borne in foster care. She has had a nervous disposition from the very first time we met her.

We had Luna in our first home for 6 months, then moved to our current location and have been here for a year now with no plans on moving again in the foreseeable future.

While she was a puppy we took her to puppy training every week, engaged in never ending treat-training (we literally had treats in our pockets at all times), took her to lots of different parks and a couple of beaches. We probably didn’t have as many people visit the house as would have been ideal, but that’s just how our lives are. We probably had 2-3 visits per week for a few months, which dropped back to about an average of 1 visit, and has recently picked back up to about 2 again.

Luna has ended up very obedient, really likes playing with other dogs, is happy with people who have dogs with them but is suspicious and nervous around people who don’t (until she gets to know them, then she loves them, but this can take minutes to days). She is still very nervous about anything and everything unfamiliar and has developed a few behaviours I’m a bit concerned about possibly including some fear aggression. I'll go into more detail below:
Be aware that your dog, now a teenager in dog terms and very nearly adult, is a genetically nervous and fearful dog. Some you can help. Other things it is better to manage and not try to change.

Up until the last 1-2 months she has always enjoyed playing with other dogs a lot. She can be quite boisterous or not depending on what the other dogs are like. Generally no worries at all about her........however in the last couple of months I had noticed her possibly getting a bit defensive around her people. If other dogs came over to me she might snap or lunge at them, but doesn’t do it consistently. To stop this I make her sit and stay while I go over to dogs first and interacted with them. This seems to have worked, but then in the last week she has started getting grumpy with other dogs seemingly at random. She will bounce over to them looking happy (or they come over to her) have a sniff, and then suddenly her ears go back, hackles go up, and she immediately lunges at them. I have no idea where this behaviour has come from or what sets it off. She hasn’t had a bad experience with other dogs recently that my wife and I are aware of. I’m wondering if this may be her becoming less tolerant of other dogs as she matures, but not having worked out that she doesn’t actually want to interact with every dog she meets like she used to?
She should not be required to be friends with every dog she meets. Just like people, dogs have opinions about other dogs. As she matures she may be less inclined to like all dogs but may be selective. The situation you describe sounds like a dog park. I would stop going to the dog park. Instead, see if you can find a few friends with dogs and have play dates with just those dogs. Keep an eye on Luna. If she starts to get snarky, take her out of the group. Hackles up and ears down is a dog that is unsure and afraid. Hackles up to make her look bigger and ears down to appease. Learn dog behavior signals. She is telling you she is uncomfortable. Advocate for your dog and remove her from situations where she is uncomfortable. Again.. trusted friends a few dogs, the same dogs and the same people will help a lot. Liking all dogs is a puppy thing. She is now growing up. Adult dogs do not always like other dogs. Some do not like any other dogs.

In my world I do not let my dog play with other dogs. I have two dogs and I rarely let them play together (I compete and cannot risk injury). Dogs do find with NO dog friends.

I mentioned fear aggression so let’s describe how that manifests. Its most common at home. If we have a visitor (outside of the 10ish people she knows really well) she will bark loudly at them with her hackles fully up and just generally look quite scary. Thankfully she won’t go too close to people and will flinch away if people extend an arm to her (I know it’s not good, but sometimes people do it before I tell them not to). If people look at her (not even eye contact) she starts growling as well. To sort this Luna gets sent to bed (her safe zone) as the visitors arrive. We then do whatever we are going to do while ignoring her, and once Luna has calmed down she is allowed out of bed. She will almost always come over immediately of her own volition, if she is calm we give her treats as she approaches, and then the visitor might feed her some treats under the table if things are going well. This works pretty well but she will still be really jumpy if the visitor moves to a different location. Gradually she gets used to people and will be happy with them moving around and usually builds up to quite liking people if they are around for long enough. While this is good it doesn’t seem to be helping with the initial response to visitors (everyone new is scary, even though she has ended up liking everyone who has come into the house). I'm not sure what to do next on this one.
Put Luna up when people come over. Do not have them interact with this dog. When she comes over to them I bet they are standing up. They bend over to pet her and that is VERY threatening to a dog. She does not need to be friends with your friends. After they have come in and settled down IF the people will actually do as you tell them and IGNORE THE DOG.. NO petting, NO eye contact, NO talking to her then MAYBE let her in to be part of the group. She is a fearful dog and it pushed she may bite and that will make her a huge liability (or a dead dog).

It’s worth noting that she seems to want to interact with visitors finding them interesting and exciting as well as scary. She is always very keen to come straight over to them and be near (but not too near) them while she gets over her fear. She often leans in for a sniff and will start wagging her tail and glancing at me while doing so....so long as the visitor doesn’t move, if they do its time to jump away and start barking with the hackles up again.
This is a very fearful dog. This dog's next move may be to bite. Manage the situation. This is what crates are for. This is why you need a place she can be put that is quiet and comfortable away from your guests.

I have one friendly and confident dog and one that is nervy and less confident. They are German Shepherds. I value them greatly. When I have company they are put up. If I have over night guests that can be a bit different but I am selective. If a person so much as SUGGESTS a dog of my breed has touched them aggressively I could end up with a law suite or lose my dog. I manage the situation by separating my dogs from my guests. I have kennels and crates for this purpose.

The other thing she does at home is sit in the lounge looking out the front window. She growls or barks (not too much though, this is a much less vigorous response compared to when people visit the house) at most people going past (even if they have dogs) This extends to the full range of her vision and includes people moving about in their gardens across the road (basically if she can see a person they are too close). We normally let her get away with a very little rumble, but anything more and she gets sent to bed until she calms down. Having read some posts on these forums I think we should start giving her treats as soon as we see anyone going past instead?
Just keep sending her to her bed and give her the treat there. Try to get her to default to her bed when she is worried. This is why I like a crate. It is like a den and gives a dog a secure place to go if they need a time out. Dogs that use crates often choose to with the door open. It feels safe.

Feeding her treats when she is reactive to the stuff outside may back fire. You are showing concern and then feeding her.. think about that a minute. It is unclear on your part and she may actually associate the barking with the reward.

And finally for fear aggression, while out on walks she will often growl at anyone new in a new area without a dog.

Other behaviours of note before getting onto general nervousness:
I get the impression she feels the need to protect her people from scary things. She seems to try and position herself between us and bikes, strangers, new objects etc. She can be quite subtle about it and I always get her to be on the other side of me if I spot that something is bothering her. In the last few days we seem to be making real progress here, and she has started going to the ‘safe’ side of me if she gets unsettled by something rather than getting in-between us.
She is NOT being protective. She is showing fear. She views you as incompetent to take care of the things she worries about. She thinks she must take care of things herself. You already KNOW she is fearful but advocate for your dog. Get between her and the thing that worries her. You face it. Put her behind you. Let her know it is not HER job and YOU will take care of it. She knows you won't advocate for her at the dog park (take her out when she is worried) or with company (put her some place quiet and safe when she feels insecure) so she has no security that you will advocate for her out on walks.

Okay, general nervousness:
Throughout her whole life her default response to anything and everything new is to be scared of it. This includes things like new parks – we take her to 4 different parks and 2 dog beaches regularly and she will be excited and happy about going. If we go to a new one she gets out of the car and her tail immediately gets tucked under her body, ears back, looking all over the place. Just generally looking very unhappy.

If a new object or sound appears in a known area she will be scared of it (like a scooter parked in an unusual place, or some rubbish, or someone standing still bird watching when they weren’t there yesterday, or a street light rattles in the wind)/. She won’t go near it, won’t calm down, just wants to run a few 10’s of meters away from it. In an extreme case she may want to go home straight away, but this is rare.

Once she has been scared in an area she remains scared of that area even when there is nothing there/good things have happened there more recently. As an example, in one of the regular parks there are a couple of spots where bikes have come around a corner and startled her. Since then she has had loads of treats there, and several good interactions with other dogs. Despite this every time we go there her ears go back, she looks around in all directions very often, tail will be down but not underneath her, generally low body position, and she won’t want to play at all, she just marches forward as quickly as she can without running until we are through the scary section. I’m not sure how to make this a safe and fun area again? If I can’t then we are steadily going to run out of happy walk places :-(
She is showing fear and is over threshold. Dogs are associative creatures. She is fearful AND associative so when she is over threshold, she stays there and associates that with the place.

It might be a good thing to simply take her to the same place all the time for her walks. Honestly? A dog this afraid I would be willing to leave at home and not take on walks. There are dogs like that.. happy as clams never to go anywhere. I have an older dog here that is nervy and prefers to stay home. Actually, she LOVES to ride in the car but just as soon NOT get out at a destination. She does not curl her tail under but she licks her lips, pants, glances away.. shows me in every way that she rather not be there.

Finally, even while we are in good happy places she will still be looking around often, checking for anything. She even does this in the house at home.

We have spoken to the vet about this who recommended putting her on ENDEP50 while we try to desensitize her to things. This has made her slightly less afraid of things (we still get the same reactions but not always as strong), but it doesn’t really seem to be helping her improve in the long run.

Any help is much appreciated. It seems like we nearly have a wonderful dog, and it’s quite sad seeing how scared she gets of things that could otherwise be great.
Medication is an option for sure. This dog is very fearful and medication to take the edge off may be your answer and it may be life long. I would not hesitate to use medication to help her. There is a thread here "Medicating Molly." Look at it. You may need something stronger. The trick is to find the right combination so she can be happier and safer and you can enjoy her more.

If you don't want to do medication, then you need to do all you can to manage her environment and try to make her as comfortable as possible. At this age she is growing up. Her puppy play is disappearing and her adult behavior, which is largely genetic, is coming through. I wish you the best with your dog.
 

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Fear and nervousness is likely genetic, unfortunately, which means you can install coping mechanisms via training, but it never truly goes away. If she is constantly nervous, I think the medication route is good one. You won't get anywhere without her being in a frame of mind to learn. Hopefully some people who use medication to help their nervous dogs chime in. You should check out this thread about a very reactive and fearful dog who is now doing great thanks to medication and good training: https://www.dogforums.com/general-dog-forum/422457-medicating-molly.html

Medication also takes a while to "build up" in a dog's system. You likely won't see results immediately. Again, I'm hopeful someone else with more experience chimes in!

Also, pitbull type dogs are known for being intolerant of other dogs, and sometimes dog aggressive. If she is coming up not he 2-3 year age mark, her personality is likely developing and her preferences are being made known. It's also genetic, generally, so I would stop placing her in situations where she has to interact with other dogs and shoot for "calm and obedient around other dogs without having to interact." There are plenty of dogs who do not like other dogs and have no desire to play with other dogs and live happy and fulfilling lives.

Some other things you can do are block access to the windows where she likes to "guard". If she can't practice the behavior, it can't become a habit. When people come over, consider crating her with a delicious treat where she can see the action, but she is safe in her crate and your guests are safe from her.
 

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I agree with everything 3GSD4IPO and Lillith have said. She is a fearful dog and will likely always be that way. There are things you can do to help with her state of mind, but she will likely naturally be fearful her whole life. I'm speaking from personal experience - everything you described was exactly how my dog Kane was (and still is). He has gotten better with help from us, but I've accepted that I just can't enjoy taking him for a walk or have him be okay with guests. It's hard because our other dog absolutely LOVES people! So she wants to go for walks and greet everyone, etc. but I can't take Kane and Kane can't stay at home alone either (bad separation anxiety). Oddly though Kane loves going to daycare. I think it's that he's been going there since he was only a small puppy so he feels safe there and likes playing with the other dogs in a more controlled environment.

There is a booklet called "The Cautious Canine" by Patricial McConnell. It's an easy read an is not expensive. It helped a lot actually. It helps you understand why your dog is acting a certain way, which allows you to help her feel more comfortable in those situations. There are some really great tips in that book - I highly recommend it.
 

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Thanks for the replies people. Ill be sure to check out the medicating molly thread and will look into the book.

I just wanted to add a few more details to make sure I’m providing as much useful info as possible:

She isn’t being required to like all dogs, we aren’t sending her over to other dogs or taking her right up to them. We get her to heel when we see other dogs and then release her once we have established that they are friendly. She is then free to go over or not. Usually she does, but not always, and she always looks happy while approaching.

I’ve been trying to pull her back once she starts looking unhappy. The time between ears up, bouncy play movements to the lunge (transitioning through her ears going back and hackles going up) is about 3 seconds, so I have to watch her like a hawk to catch it in time. She has done it a few times in the last few walks and I’ve only missed it once so far (now that I’m on the lookout for the behaviour).

I should definitely have said that her bed is a crate covered by a blanket so she can only see out of the door.

3GSD4IPO - Your bet is completely off :p when people come over she is sent to bed, then she isn’t allowed out until visitors are sitting down and she has calmed down. We’ve had one visitor who wouldn’t ignore her, but that was a good 10-11 months ago, everyone else has done well with ignoring her. People do glance at her occasionally (not eye contact, and not every visitor and not every visit) which I think is understandable if not desirable, it’s a reaction to a thing moving in your peripheral vision while you may be distracted by other things.

I agree that the giving of treats when she reacts to things outside seems quite counter intuitive (its why we haven’t been doing that up to this point!). All the articles I’ve read online recently have suggested that this system resulting in reinforcing the bad behaviour is a myth – but I like your suggestion of sending her to bed then giving a treat, that seems to combine the best of both. Having said that, could she perceive that as being rewarded for going to bed rather than associating the passers-by with a positive reward?

On advocating (this is a new term to me so the following might not be totally appropriate) – when dealing with pretty much everything we have always positioned ourselves between roads, bikes, people, other dogs etc. we always get out of the car first, we send her to bed when visitors arrive and interact with them before she is allowed to, and she has to get our permission before going over to things. Is this advocating, or is it something else?

We got caught by the “let them sort it out themselves” myth when dealing with other dogs. She has been told off plenty of times and has told off others. Now that I’m aware that this is a myth I’m working on it.

Anyway the point is, despite us having taken the lead in these situations she still tries to get in front. Other theories we have heard from people include: resource guarding (us being the resource), dominance (she is the leader so gets to go first), and now lack of trust (she has to deal with things because we wont).

I should probably have made more of a point of the fact that despite her general level of nervousness she displays happy body language most of the time while on walks with occasional moments of concern. Its as if she is walking along having a good sniff then suddenly remembers that she hasn’t checked for scary things and has to have a quick look (or hears something like a dirt bike off in the distance). If she were a complete wreck all the time I’d definitely be ready to not take her out.
 

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Thanks for the replies people. Ill be sure to check out the medicating molly thread and will look into the book.

I just wanted to add a few more details to make sure I’m providing as much useful info as possible:

She isn’t being required to like all dogs, we aren’t sending her over to other dogs or taking her right up to them. We get her to heel when we see other dogs and then release her once we have established that they are friendly. She is then free to go over or not. Usually she does, but not always, and she always looks happy while approaching.

I’ve been trying to pull her back once she starts looking unhappy. The time between ears up, bouncy play movements to the lunge (transitioning through her ears going back and hackles going up) is about 3 seconds, so I have to watch her like a hawk to catch it in time. She has done it a few times in the last few walks and I’ve only missed it once so far (now that I’m on the lookout for the behaviour).
Absolutely it can happen fast. That is why I do not go to dog parks. Ever. And if she transitions to the wrong dog she could be a dead dog or an injured dog. I still recommend the same dogs and not too many dogs so the people and dogs are consistent and the same. It is safer and it is smarter. The minute she acts defensive, it is time for her to go home. And, as she matures, she may not want to play with other dogs. Be cognizant.. that is all.

I should definitely have said that her bed is a crate covered by a blanket so she can only see out of the door.

3GSD4IPO - Your bet is completely off :p when people come over she is sent to bed, then she isn’t allowed out until visitors are sitting down and she has calmed down. We’ve had one visitor who wouldn’t ignore her, but that was a good 10-11 months ago, everyone else has done well with ignoring her. People do glance at her occasionally (not eye contact, and not every visitor and not every visit) which I think is understandable if not desirable, it’s a reaction to a thing moving in your peripheral vision while you may be distracted by other things.
Considering your description I would still isolate her from guests and visitors. She is showing too much fear from what you described. Safer for all involved.

I agree that the giving of treats when she reacts to things outside seems quite counter intuitive (its why we haven’t been doing that up to this point!). All the articles I’ve read online recently have suggested that this system resulting in reinforcing the bad behaviour is a myth – but I like your suggestion of sending her to bed then giving a treat, that seems to combine the best of both. Having said that, could she perceive that as being rewarded for going to bed rather than associating the passers-by with a positive reward?
It doesn't matter. You don't care if she is associating the passers by with the reward. You are reinforcing that when she is concerned the safe place to retreat to is her bed (or crate). THAT is what you want her to do so that is what you train.

On advocating (this is a new term to me so the following might not be totally appropriate) – when dealing with pretty much everything we have always positioned ourselves between roads, bikes, people, other dogs etc. we always get out of the car first, we send her to bed when visitors arrive and interact with them before she is allowed to, and she has to get our permission before going over to things. Is this advocating, or is it something else?
You are confusing advocating for your dog with training. The things you are talking about are training things. Advocating for your dog are things like letting her know YOU are the safe zone. YOU will not let random people pet her or interact with her. YOU will get out front and take care of strangers, dogs and scary stuff. YOU are the safe zone and YOU will take care of it and she can RELY on you as her advocate and partner. Advocating for your dog is about your relationship with the dog and the dog trusting you.

We got caught by the “let them sort it out themselves” myth when dealing with other dogs. She has been told off plenty of times and has told off others. Now that I’m aware that this is a myth I’m working on it.

Anyway the point is, despite us having taken the lead in these situations she still tries to get in front. Other theories we have heard from people include: resource guarding (us being the resource), dominance (she is the leader so gets to go first), and now lack of trust (she has to deal with things because we wont).
There is a difference between getting in front to see new stuff out if curiosity and interest and getting out in front to react. Your description seems to indicate her desire to get in front to react. That being the case you need to help her to be less reactive (there are threads and threads and threads here on that topic).

I should probably have made more of a point of the fact that despite her general level of nervousness she displays happy body language most of the time while on walks with occasional moments of concern. Its as if she is walking along having a good sniff then suddenly remembers that she hasn’t checked for scary things and has to have a quick look (or hears something like a dirt bike off in the distance). If she were a complete wreck all the time I’d definitely be ready to not take her out.
Trying to advise over a forum is not always good. We only have the words we read and convey and often what we say is either too little or too much and is frequently understood differently than what the reader understands was conveyed. The original post seemed to be of a dog that is a really basket case of fear and worry.. but this says not so much. A GOOD hands on trainer would be a far better resource than a forum (if you can find one). Meanwhile, those who respond here can try to help.. and it is an imperfect process!! Again, I hope I have been helpful and you gain from this.
 

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Yes its difficult via text. I already had a large post just trying to provide details on Lunas problems, I didn’t want to triple the size of the post describing how 95% of her life is problem free and happy.

I will (am) looking into a good behaviourist, but forums are valuable for giving me things to try right now rather than letting things get worse while I look. I’ve posted this topic on a few forums, and by far the most consistent advice is “go see a behaviourist” so I will do that.

Is isolating her from visitors a way to fix the behaviour or a form of management for it i.e. do we do this for 6 months or something, or for the rest of her life? It seems extreme when she has grown to like everyone who has been around from more than a few hours. She doesn’t just tolerate these people, she will be really excited, happy, and playful when these people come over. The problem is the initial contact with new visitors.

Got to admit I’m still not sure what advocating is or how some of the things I listed aren’t it, but that’s fine, I know what term to look for so can do some research. Thanks for that.

Sorry for going over things several times, its subtle stuff and as you say this isn’t the best method for clear communication. Your responses really are appreciated.
 

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Yes its difficult via text. I already had a large post just trying to provide details on Lunas problems, I didn’t want to triple the size of the post describing how 95% of her life is problem free and happy.

I will (am) looking into a good behaviourist, but forums are valuable for giving me things to try right now rather than letting things get worse while I look. I’ve posted this topic on a few forums, and by far the most consistent advice is “go see a behaviourist” so I will do that.
Yes. If you can find one. A really experienced and compassionate trainer can also help you. Here is a book that can help you as well. "Canone Body Language. A photographic Guide" by Brenda Aloff.

Is isolating her from visitors a way to fix the behaviour or a form of management for it i.e. do we do this for 6 months or something, or for the rest of her life? It seems extreme when she has grown to like everyone who has been around from more than a few hours. She doesn’t just tolerate these people, she will be really excited, happy, and playful when these people come over. The problem is the initial contact with new visitors.
It is management. Again, I cannot see the dog so we don't know.. but with her fear issues and maturing I would play it safe. Take her out of the situation. If she bites someone, whether or not she breaks skin, she is then up for euthanasia. Why risk it? Again, I have a breed (and so do you) that is already viewed by the unknowledgeable public as a risk. Why set yourself up for that liability? Sadly, the worst dog bite I ever received was from a Golden Retriever so "type casing" a breed is silly but that is what the media has done and most people are ignorant with half not willing to learn.

Got to admit I’m still not sure what advocating is or how some of the things I listed aren’t it, but that’s fine, I know what term to look for so can do some research. Thanks for that.
I am not sure what you will find. Advocating for your dog is simply doing all you can to keep her from being uncomfortable and letting her know she can rely on you to "deal with it" whatever "it" is. The term is something we use in our training club and may not be an academic term at all.

You see people at dog parks chatting and saying, "Look at Fido playing, ins't that nice?" while their dog is running around giving EVERY calming signal (lips licking, wall eyes, ears down, turning head away, yawning) and appeasement signal (ears down, tail tucked etc.) the dog can and showing CLEAR discomfort.. while their owner is oblivious and not taking the dog out of that situation. That is NOT advocating for the dog.

I see people with puppies letting every Tom, **** and Harry lean over that puppy (which is scary) and petting it. That is NOT advocating for your dog... (would you let every person who sees your baby pick it up and cuddle it?).

Sorry for going over things several times, its subtle stuff and as you say this isn’t the best method for clear communication. Your responses really are appreciated.
Thanks. I have been mis-read repeatedly. I just hope something I have suggested has been helpful.
 

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Here is an article on dog Parks. Read this please. In it you will read about an oblivious person who actually punishes their dog instead of realizing the dog is afraid. That person is NOT advocating for their dog by stepping in and taking the dog out when he is afraid. Advocating for your dog means sticking up for him and supporting him and letting him know YOU will always keep him safe. Another part of the article actually explains how another group of people do this. It is pretty good information even if you do NOT go to dog parks.

https://wildewmn.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/are-dog-parks-worth-the-risk/?fbclid=IwAR2k-FYfzGPyYQviZ7fAaBaqosU3iIykKl5jJ1sfuqQTTNGFs4Ur4rSFaCs
 

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I came online to post the same thing as the OP.

My pit boxer mutt has traits similar to what you describe. It's really difficult to deal with, just frustrating and painful because you're doing what you can to make your dog feel safe and comfortable . I have my dog on 20mg fluoxetine and it has made the nervous behavior more noticeable. Not worse but more clear because it isn't detracted from by the more
impulsive or explosive reactions that look like pure aggression. My dog is very frequently exhibiting calming or displacement behaviors even when interacting with me or in familiar spaces. I'm not really sure how to interpret the yawns, lip licks, and shake offs because my only education on it is only from Turid Rugaas' little book.

I would put film on your windows to prevent your dog from rehearsing those reactions. Nearly every window in my house is covered in Gila film that you can buy at home depot. Emily Larlham has a good video on reactivity at dogmantics.com. Grisha Stewarts BAT book is helpful. Click to calm, Fired up frantic and freaked out, and Scaredy dog are a few titles I own that are helpful. I've watched a lecture by Suzanne Clothier in which she emphasized the significance of the emotions for the animal experiencing them. Sometimes I think its difficult for us to truly relate to dogs with these issues because they are so sensitive. Sometimes when my dog is over aroused and anxious its as if I'm holding her leash but shes in a different dimension. I have to wonder what sort of auditory and olfactory stimuli she is experiencing and how significant they are to her.

I'd also appreciate any advice on dealing with chronically anxious and fearful dogs. Can anyone recommend some confidence building activities? Do you know of any methods to interrupt a dog who is deep into a nervous state of compulsive ground sniffing?

My intuition tells me you can only modify behavior to a point and that these dogs will never be your happy go lucky ideal pet. I wish I had the expertise to expedite a transformation into a happier dog.
 
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