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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, looking for some help or advise. Let me start with a brief history of where I'm at now.

Our family got a new "puppy" from a local breeder here in Missouri. 'Tucker' is a six month old pure bred Golden Retriever. We picked him up last Friday 11/1 and brought him home. Per the breeder he has been around people and other dogs his whole life however has lived in a Kennel with other dogs.

This puppy is the most timid dog I have ever seen. He is not aggressive and he does not nip at anyone so I don't think he is scared of people. He has been gradually introduced to is new family and warms up fine. However he is scared of practically everything else.

He struggles with basically everything. He will not willingly do inside or outside of our house. He will get to a door and just lay down or stand with his head down. Once outside he seems to be fine, he plays in the back yard and runs around. On walks he "shuts down" at the sight of another person or dog and will not move. Most of the time on a walk his tail is tucked down.

While inside of the house he will not explore and pretty much just stays in the front room. We try to lure him out with treats and food but will not leave the room. He barely eats because his food is in another room and will not even think about going inside a crate. He does not really respond to treats however we have had some success with chicken breast (cooked of course) however not enough to reward him for trying to go into another room. He will not come out of the room without a few min's of trying and when he does he goes right back in.

I guess my question is, is this normal behavior? Will it get better? Are we doing the right things? Anything else we can try?

Has anyone else experienced this or have advise to offer?
 

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First - did you get him from a reputable breeder? Some puppy mills are disguised as legitimate breeders. That would explain a lot of how your puppy is behaving.

Aside from that, you've only had him a few days. He will need time to adjust. Weeks for sure. Let him explore and come around on his own time. Don't even worry about taking him for walks right now. Let him settle in to his new life first. He's just gone through a huge change! After a couple of weeks start taking him out for just short walks, stay close to home. Eventually you can take him out longer and longer.

Basically just go slow and let him settle in and adjust to his new life.
 

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Discussion Starter #3

They appeared to be, it's a smaller breeder in Missouri....it is family run. I spoke with them several times before we decided to purchase and post purchase they have been very responsive to my texts and offering tips and ideas to help us along considering the transition phase I have explained. The family came to meet us when we picked him up so all seems legit.

Do you have any advise or tips to help him transition in and out of the house at least? Right now he won't go unless carried.
 

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For what it's worth, this does not look like a reputable breeder to me.

My advice is to take things VERY slow. Be patient, take it step by step, and reward even the smallest of victories. Praise your puppy for the little things, like just being comfortable with a collar on. Praise him for just being close to his crate, even if he hasn't gone inside yet. You'll want him to feel like all of these everyday activities are fun. And that he's safe in his environment and can do things at his own pace.
 

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Agreed. The pup has not been socialized or introduced to anything. Give him time. When he stops, just stop with him and calmly wait. Don't praise or reward for him being timid or stopping This will only reinforce the behavior. Let him work the situation in his head. When he moves forward, then give the reward or praise.


My pup would not cross any change in flooring color. White floor tile with a band of colored floor tile. He would stop, freeze, sniff, look at me, sniff some more....one day he stepped across....treat.
The next floor obstacle was the gap between the floor and the elevator floor. I held the elevator many times while he figured out it was ok to cross the gap.....treat.

My point, like BluePaw, let the dog work it out. Treat, praise when he moves forward. Do not say anything or touch or treat when he is frozen. Just remain calm, quiet and patient. Treat, praise, touch when he moves forward.
 

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That's totally a puppy mill. It might be a relatively well-kept puppy mill, but it's a puppy mill.

Imagine if you kept a kid locked in a bedroom until he was 10 years old, then suddenly let him out and put him on a normal routine. That's what your pup is experiencing right now. You're going to have to take things slowly and patiently with him. He's missed crucial socialization periods.

For what it's worth, I adopted a 1 year old dog that hadn't been previous handled by people and she ended up being a great pet. It just took a couple of years to get her there. (She passed away last year at age 17.) But she was some kind of terrier mix - I wouldn't be surprised if a Golden, being genetically predisposed to be more mild-tempered and friendly, made progress faster than that, especially since your dog is younger.
 

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I agree that the people you got him from are a not great breeders. Looks like the only thing they do with their dogs is breed them. :/

It sounds like he was probably just stuck in a kennel and never exposed to the wider world. Working with a positive reinforcement trainer who has experience with shy, nervous, and/or under socialized dogs might be a good idea, once you've given him a few weeks to adjust to living in a house.

In the meanwhile, don't try forcing him to interact with people. If he doesn't need to be walked to go potty, I'd quit with walks until he is more comfortable with you. If he absolutely has to be walked to potty (no yard) and is showing signs of being uncomfortable being close to people, respect his feelings, and move further away from them. If he want to stay in one room, let him stay there. Don't force him to come out and interact. Let him come out on his own terms.
 

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With due respect, I am going to be blunt.

Your dog came from a breeder who failed to expose the dog to normal, everyday stimuli and situations. During the 6 months he was in this breeder's possession, unfortunately, he learned nothing more than how to use a doggie door. Which, by the way, is one of many clear indications of the breeder's neglect. Your dog should have been, but was not exposed to common events such as ... people, vacuum cleaners, cars, kitchen noises, doorbells, doorways, varying floor surfaces, puppy / human play etc .... and the list goes on and on. I can pretty much guarantee you that your dog subsisted in a pea-gravel outdoor kennel 24 / 7, entirely alone, with minimal if any human contact aside from daily feedings, until you came along and purchased him last Friday. Sad, very VERY sad but it is what it is.


My suggestion would be to do as much research as possible on the subject of under-socialized dogs. More specifically, topics such as CRITICAL socialization periods and what can be done whenever these periods are missed during a dog's development.. Which incidentally, your dog has obviously missed.

Armed with this information, I would then seek out the assistance of a reputable, positive reinforcement trainer to help you fill in the blanks. Your situation is certainly not hopeless but it's going to take some consideration and extra effort to bring your dog back up to speed.

I sincerely wish you and your pup the best possible outcome. Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Guys I appreciate ALL of the responses and feedback. Like you I was quite surprised with the lack of social skills.

My daughter worked with him quite a bit yesterday. He's doing better and adjusting to life in the house. He goes in and out of our back door (treat each way) and is very playful in the back yard.....chases balls, ropes etc. He has not gone potty in the house and only goes outside which is good. He is calm in the house and is getting more and more used to our family and the house but is still timid. He will walk 1/2 into the kitchen then back to his room then back a little more and back to his room and back a little more, etc.

What do you all recommend for introducing to more social situations? I.e. park with other people and dogs? Good idea yet or not? I can see both sides but wondering if small introductions to these places would be a good idea yet or not?

We also have his first vet appmnt scheduled for this weekend.
 

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I.e. park with other people and dogs?
Definitely not. Give him lots of time to become comfortable with his home and his new owners. You have to earn his trust. After a while, if he is doing well, see if you can arrange a play date with a calm, stable, and friendly dog. One dog. If after several meetings, arrange a play date with a small group of trustworthy dogs. If he's doing really well you could find a reputable doggy daycare and see how he does with that (do your research - no all places are good).

There is no need to take him to dog parks. Some people love them, but imo they are not a great place to take a dog, especially one with socialization issues. Dogs there tend to be uncontrolled with their owners not paying attention. Or worse, people take their poorly behaved dogs there thinking it will help them. It's a risk I personally am not willing to take with my dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Jen2010 - thanks for your reply. I should have been more clear, I wasn't talking about a dog park in the true sense of the word but more in the sense of the park where my daughter plays soccer....off to the side and away from people. Just let him observe and get used to other people and places.
 

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Oh yeah that could be a good idea actually. Let him set the distance and gradually move closer and closer if he's okay with it.

Just be aware of other people with dogs, sometimes people let their dogs off leash at parks like that. Or they want to come running over to say hi to your dog, which he might not be comfortable with.

Even any store with a large parking lot, like Home Depot, just sit with him a distance away and let him watch people.
 

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Several trainers that I know of say that what we typically call "socialization" should really be called "exposure". Puppies and dogs don't need people hanging all over them, and being forced to interact with them whether they want to be or not. Instead, they need to be exposed to things, see that they are no big deal, and allowed to understand that they can (and should) ignore them.

This is a good blog post that contains the link to a Facebook video about exposing puppies to the world. Maybe more precisely, about exposing the world to puppies. https://denisefenzi.com/2018/03/facebook-live-blog-on-socialization/

This is another blog post on the topic. https://denisefenzi.com/2018/08/socialization-and-early-training/

And another one. https://denisefenzi.com/2019/03/more-on-socialization/

This is a good blog post by another trainer about exposure vs socialization. http://playwaydogs.com/we-need-to-stop-calling-it-socialization/
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Guys - again thanks for the responses. I honestly didn't expect any responses so to read all of this is wonderful.

Obviously going into and out of our car is an issue to be able to get him to these places to be exposed to. What advise or ideas to you have to help him be OK with getting into a car. We brought him back on one and both times he was picked up and placed inside. He lets us pick him up so is that advisable or should we want until he's able to do that on his own?
 

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That's a training issue in and of itself, since he's probably only been in the car the two times you had him in yours.

Grab a handful of treats. Get as close to the car as he is comfortable. Give him a some treats. Move away. Repeat coming as close as he's comfortable. Repeat the treats. When the treats are gone, the session is over. Repeat this several times a day. The more comfortable he gets, the closer you can get.

Eventually, when he is okay with walking all the way up to the car, you can ask him to get in. It would be okay to use a trat to see if you can lure him in, but don't force the issue. Let getting in be his idea. Give lots of treats for that, then hop him out. Move away from the car, come back, and ask him to get in again. giving several treats.

Once he is comfortable doing that, then you can shut the door (ideally, you will have a crate for him, but if not, then a seatbelt harness is better than nothing). Again, treat, let him out, move away from the car. and repeat until he's comfortable with that.

Then, move on to hoping him in the car, closing the door, start the engine, treat, cut the engine, hop him out, and move away. Repeat as needed.

Once he is okay with getting in and the engine starting, back out of the driveway and pull back in. You probably know where this is going by now, right? Yep, lots of treats and repeats. :) The more comfortable he gets, the longer you can drive.

Obviously, some things are non-optional. If he needs to go to the vet, then he needs to go to the vet. In cases like that, just calmly pick him up and put him in the car, secure him in his crate or seatbelt, and go. After you get done, go back to training the next day. If it was upsetting, to him (and it probably will be) you might need to back up a step or four.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Again thanks for all the positive feedback and suggestions. He is slowly getting better day by day. he pretty much goes in and out of the back sliding door into the back yard with no hesitation. Sometimes coming back in it takes a little more effort.

We did try to get him to go out the front door with a leash and he was having none of it. So I got him out in the back yard with the leash (not holding onto it) and he ran a bit but was also distracted. Any time I would pick up the end of the leash and put any sort of pressure on his collar he would stop and go into defensive mode....stand there with head down and tail tucked. I'm thinking he might of had some sort of trauma or bad experience with collar? Anytime there is pressure he would freeze.

Any suggestions for that? I was thinking maybe a harness instead so it's not pulling on his neck? Good idea or bad idea?
 

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Any suggestions for that? I was thinking maybe a harness instead so it's not pulling on his neck? Good idea or bad idea?
A harness is always a good idea for a young dog, although that may bother him as much as the collar. Put it on and let him walk around the house with it not attached to anything before trying to use it.

However, this is also a dog you want to be very, very sure is never going to get loose outside your house. Read the Houdini thread in the Training forum and think about a safety backup if he somehow manages to back out of the harness or something fails. A collar that tightens might be a bad idea for working with him now, but it could also be a savior if things went sideways.
 
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