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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! First post as I am looking for any advice to help my pooch. I adopted my dog from a rescue approx 2.5 months ago.

He was instact, approx. 1 yo, cattle dog/border collie mix (guessing). The rescue says he was picked up from a native American reservation. He was in a Foster's home for two weeks before I picked him up, the rescue director hadn't said anything about him being skittish, but the foster had said he takes a while to warm up to people. I met him and he instantly velcroed to me. Has been my shadow since day one.

I know basic obedience training, got him a good foundation while waiting for his neuter and after he was healed from it, then started him on exposing him to more distractions to solidify his basic obedience. During walks I had noticed he was very concerned with people walking behind us (even wayy far behind). First trip to home Depot I realized how scared he was or strangers. After a couple of attempts of just taking him to various places and waiting for him to relax I contacted a local trainer. She helped some but he is still terrified of strangers.

This boy is wicked smart, perfect on leash, totally potty trained, friendly with 90% of dogs (will hackle up if they come up too aggressively to him but never barks or bites) and pretty solid on cues, I just hate seeing him so scared with strangers.

We are currently traveling for four months so I can work with him 24/7 but don't know the best course of action to getting him to realize strangers aren't going to eat him.

Any help is super appreciated, and I am happy to clarify anything I might have left vague. Pics of the good boy attached
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It's not uncommon for the herding group breeds to be scared of strangers if their breeder is not paying attention to temperament. That "aloof or reserved with strangers" becomes "afraid of strangers". Since he is from a rescue, nobody was paying attention, unfortunately. The fear is likely genetic so can't be "fixed" per se, but you can help your dog learn to cope.

First, I would check out the Reactive Dog sticky thread. This might not be exactly your dog, but much of the training is going to be similar when it comes to counter conditioning.

Your dog is likely never going to like strangers, but you can work toward having him ignore them and be comfortable with the everyday stranger encounters, like passing them on a sidewalk. It will be slow progress, so patience is important, and you must work at the pace of the dog.

You might also consider looking up the "Muzzle Up" project, which conditions dogs to happily wear a muzzle. There are some times that our dogs have to tolerate strangers, like at the vet, and if your dog is one that might snap when afraid, the muzzle will protect the vet and the dog from getting a bite record.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
It's not uncommon for the herding group breeds to be scared of strangers if their breeder is not paying attention to temperament. That "aloof or reserved with strangers" becomes "afraid of strangers". Since he is from a rescue, nobody was paying attention, unfortunately. The fear is likely genetic so can't be "fixed" per se, but you can help your dog learn to cope.

First, I would check out the Reactive Dog sticky thread. This might not be exactly your dog, but much of the training is going to be similar when it comes to counter conditioning.

Your dog is likely never going to like strangers, but you can work toward having him ignore them and be comfortable with the everyday stranger encounters, like passing them on a sidewalk. It will be slow progress, so patience is important, and you must work at the pace of the dog.

You might also consider looking up the "Muzzle Up" project, which conditions dogs to happily wear a muzzle. There are some times that our dogs have to tolerate strangers, like at the vet, and if your dog is one that might snap when afraid, the muzzle will protect the vet and the dog from getting a bite record.
T

Thank you for the reply! Luckily he will not snap, and even when I had a drunk stranger grab his leash from me he tried to flee then simply laid down and shut down. Scariest moment if my life and actually made me freeze for a second before I screamed my head off at the idiot -_- But be that as it may I wouldn't be against conditioning him to accept one.

As for him never 'liking' strangers I am totally ok with that I just don't want him to be terrified when they're around. Ignoring, and simply putting his attention on me is the ideal and what I am hoping to work towards.

I will definitely read the sticky.
 

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My rescue girl is also very afraid of strangers. I took her to a behaviorist when I first got her and it did help, but I doubt she will ever be comfortable around people not in her "pack". She also just shuts down when people get too close to her...I hate it when people give me the "all dogs love me" line. Anyway, she has gotten better, it has been 3 years. When I take her to the park we sit in the hatch of my SUV when we are done and have a treat and some water and she watches the strangers walk by. That has helped a lot. She feels safe with me. We also do happy visits to the vet where she just goes in, walks around, hangs out for a min., gets a treat and leaves. My vet is very cool about this and trips to the vet have been much easier. Good luck!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My rescue girl is also very afraid of strangers. I took her to a behaviorist when I first got her and it did help, but I doubt she will ever be comfortable around people not in her "pack". She also just shuts down when people get too close to her...I hate it when people give me the "all dogs love me" line. Anyway, she has gotten better, it has been 3 years. When I take her to the park we sit in the hatch of my SUV when we are done and have a treat and some water and she watches the strangers walk by. That has helped a lot. She feels safe with me. We also do happy visits to the vet where she just goes in, walks around, hangs out for a min., gets a treat and leaves. My vet is very cool about this and trips to the vet have been much easier. Good luck!!!!!
Thanks for the reply! Sitting watching strangers is what the trainer I was working with had me doing. We sit somewhere there is a lot of traffic flow that people are less likely to stop and try to pet the doggie. Give food as people approach, (usually peanut butter or cream cheese in a squeeze tube) remove food as people leave. That has helped tons but if anyone focuses on him or talks to him he is immediately into flight mode. Sometimes it's just retreat under my chair, sometimes it's run behind it. I'm glad I'm not the only one dealing with this. I trained horses professionally for years so some of that had helped (body language, pressure and release, etc.).
 

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You might find BAT (Behavioral Adjustment Therapy) 2.0 by Grisha Stewart helpful! It's designed for dogs who are generally leash reactive, but incorporates a lot of techniques that help build confidence and allow the dog to have more control over the interactions. It can be a bit of a dense read, but has some real gems in there. I'm not able to set up a full BAT 2.0 protocol, but I'm able to incorporate a lot of the ideas, like rewarding my dog with distance from his trigger and more accurately reading how alert/alarmed he is, in our regular outings.
 

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I think I did LAT with my pup, I have him watch the trigger/stimulus from a distance he is comfortable at and reward verbally and with treats for watching calmly. I know it's not the same for your dog, but it helped my pup a lot to make a positive association and he is pretty much comfortable with everyone now (as long as they don't try to touch him). But if you are looking for indifference toward strangers, it really worked for my undersocialized pandemic pup.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I think I did LAT with my pup, I have him watch the trigger/stimulus from a distance he is comfortable at and reward verbally and with treats for watching calmly. I know it's not the same for your dog, but it helped my pup a lot to make a positive association and he is pretty much comfortable with everyone now (as long as they don't try to touch him). But if you are looking for indifference toward strangers, it really worked for my undersocialized pandemic pup.
Thank you all for the replies!

I think I'm dealing with a triple wammy here (Pandemic pup, breed traits, and being a rescue dog i.e. chased to be caught after having little to no socialization before). I am super lucky to have such a smart pup to work with this on, and more patience than most from my background.

I am hoping to enlist the help of an uber-friendly golden retriever of a friend to give him a buddy to show him the ropes too. In the mean time I'll continue the positive reinforcement when he is ignoring or relaxing around people, and do some reading.

Any other tips or tricks are very welcome. I appreciate all the help and direction!
 

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We got a puppy at 10 weeks old, she's now 6 1/2 years old. She is scared of most people. There are a handful of people she met when I first got her that she loves. There are a few others that she sees quite often and has grown to like, but it takes a LONG time,
I don't NEED her to interact with other people. I do have her on an herb supplement from Silver Lining Herbs called Keep Cool (I think) and it has helped her quite a bit.
What has helped her confidence the most is agility. She LOVES the sport. She can handle trials and does fairly well. But she knows exactly where the judge is at every second she is in the ring.

She is a very unique, pretty dog, so everyone wants to visit her. Most (agility) people understand and have learned not to every try to approach her. When new people come to trials, I sometimes have to pick her up and walk away because they won't leave her alone. (luckily she isn't that big, 35#)
She is MUCH better meeting people outside than indoors.

Unless you have a specific need for your dog to meet people. I wouldn't stress him out. If it's someone he'll see often, just have him hang out near them, but ask that they don't look at him, or talk to him. Let him make the first moves when he's comfortable.

He's super cute! Good luck!
 
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