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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

I have a shy 13 week old puppy. I was planning to start leash training w/him by going around the block. First time I did it, he did walk for awhile but looked very alert / concerned and after going by a house with a barking dog in the yard, I ended up carrying him. Second time, he kept immediately trying to go back up his walkway and into his house. I decided he was too afraid and carried him the entire way.

Seems like he's too afraid outside of the yard, so this morning I started inside the yard. I take him around the perimeter step by step and give him food for treats. We did it twice - first time he was doing great, then lost interest, so I took him off leash and let him play for a bit. Checked if he was hungry again and since he was, we walked again. This time, he stopped because he got concerned about loud traffic or something going on out front. I tried distracting him, but he was too distracted by the noise and I ended up letting him run back to the house, then we went inside.

Just wondering if anyone has experience training a shy dog? I don't want to accidentally encourage his shyness, but I don't think he can learn if he is too afraid. Am I doing the right thing by letting him go back in if he gets to afraid of the noises? I'm imagining that at some point he won't be so concerned with them.
 

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Hello,

I have a shy 13 week old puppy. I was planning to start leash training w/him by going around the block. First time I did it, he did walk for awhile but looked very alert / concerned and after going by a house with a barking dog in the yard, I ended up carrying him. Second time, he kept immediately trying to go back up his walkway and into his house. I decided he was too afraid and carried him the entire way.

Seems like he's too afraid outside of the yard, so this morning I started inside the yard. I take him around the perimeter step by step and give him food for treats. We did it twice - first time he was doing great, then lost interest, so I took him off leash and let him play for a bit. Checked if he was hungry again and since he was, we walked again. This time, he stopped because he got concerned about loud traffic or something going on out front. I tried distracting him, but he was too distracted by the noise and I ended up letting him run back to the house, then we went inside.

Just wondering if anyone has experience training a shy dog? I don't want to accidentally encourage his shyness, but I don't think he can learn if he is too afraid. Am I doing the right thing by letting him go back in if he gets to afraid of the noises? I'm imagining that at some point he won't be so concerned with them.
Start building his confidence inside the house before taking him on walks. Play tug of war games letting him win then praise him. Expose him to loud noises while giving him an air of confidence smiling as if it's a game and that it's nothing to be afraid of. Your puppy will sense if you're worried about his reaction. So try not to worry and keep playing/laughing during the loud noise. You can use vacuum cleaner or youtube of dogs barking (raise the volume). Your reaction is very important. Try to be nonchalant about it by continuing the game you were playing as if nothing is happening.
 

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You're doing a lot right! - but here's my take on things: This might not all be what's best for your specific situation- you know your puppy well, I've never met him. However, I'd expect at least some of it is applicable.

You can't actually reinforce emotions like fear. The dog does not enjoy feeling that way, nothing you offer can convince him that he wants to feel that way. Plus, if I told you "feel happy" or "feel sad", you might be able to put on a good show, but you won't actually feel those emotions- same with your dog. Feel free to comfort them, though. Making a big deal (even picking them up) can be a problem though- they might think the reason you're fussing over them is because you are scared, too- focus on being happy, calm, and confident- maybe a bit excited, too. Praise is fine, just don't get down on the floor and say "ohhh, it's okaayyy babyyyy, youu'rre fiiinne..." etc. Definitely praise him when he's calm. Show him that he can have a good experience outside. And you can stroke him when he's scared. When he gets scared, perhaps instead of letting him hightail it back home- this may send the message that you are worried too- you can crouch down with him and pet him, try to distract him- it may take a minute, but you may be able to get his attention, especially if you're able to anticipate the stressor before the dog freaks out. This isn't ideal, as you want to avoid him ever getting to this point, but it is unavoidable to a certain extent.

Another thing about picking him up- he may feel like he's being forced into staying in the scary situation, which could worsen his fear. But you know your dog- he may not feel this way, I have no way of knowing.

You've tried coaxing with treats- that hasn't worked- first of all, keep trying, progress doesn't happen in just a few days. But try to use the treats as a reward, not a bribe- the whole coaxing thing might get him even more worked up (again, you know your dog, not me, this is just a general concept, everything is case specific). Act excited, and run a few steps out of your yard, talking in a high/excited voice, (and jumping around, too, if your self-respect can handle it lol). When he runs over to you, have a "puppy party". Give him a treat, pet him, play a bit, then try running a bit farther. But don't try to go too far, even if he is handling it well, you don't want to push him too far. This way, walks become a game with you, not a big, overwhelming experience. Also try incorporating tug or other games instead of treats. These are often the best reward t use while out and about, most dogs are significantly less excited about treats while out and about.

Is it possible to get him to take a walk with a different, more confident dog?

I can't tell from your post if your dog is scared of the cars and dogs he sees on your street, or just of being outside the yard. If it's the former, can you take him in the car to a trail- like a hiking trail (keep it relatively short, and don't choose a strenuous trail, he's still young) that's away from roads. This could be a fun, positive walking experience for him.

It's good that you're not forcing your dog to endure scary things- it's great that you're going back inside. You're showing him that he has a safe space. But there is this elusive balance you'll need to find: You don't want to just instantly whisk your dog inside if anything happens. Ideally, you can anticipate something overwhelming, and either distract him or remove him from the situation. If it's something like a car, you may try acting very excited when you hear it coming- "what's that, puppy? What is it? Isn't this so exciting? Look!" But if something unexpected happens, there are a few different "game plans"
1. Your dog is startled, but you are able to get his attention back to you. At this point you reward (heavily). Either play or treats.
2. Your dog absolutely cannot handle the stimulus that scared him. You can't get his attention, he's shut down. Take him inside. He can't learn anything if he's in this state.
3. Your dog freaks out for a minute, comes to you, but is a few seconds or less, he starts to calm down. In this case, you may need to go inside, or you may not. You will need to be watchful. Watch his body language. An overwhelmed dog is not going to learn anything- besides that what is scaring him is bad and scary- which isn't hat you want him to learn, of course.

Have you tried staying in the yard and watching cars, dogs, etc. going by? Does he react to those while he's in the yard? Reward him for looking at things that pass by if he's ok with it in the yard. This will help build a positive association.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Start building his confidence inside the house before taking him on walks. Play tug of war games letting him win then praise him. Expose him to loud noises while giving him an air of confidence smiling as if it's a game and that it's nothing to be afraid of. Your puppy will sense if you're worried about his reaction. So try not to worry and keep playing/laughing during the loud noise. You can use vacuum cleaner or youtube of dogs barking (raise the volume). Your reaction is very important. Try to be nonchalant about it by continuing the game you were playing as if nothing is happening.
Thank you! He's actually great with anything that goes on inside, but you gave me an idea. His biggest fear seems to be big vehicles going by in front. I have someone coming to install screen doors on my house - so I'm thinking once that happens, I can open the door and let the loud noises come in through the screen. I will also try the youtube videos as it is def noise that concerns him (cars and dogs).
I am trying to build his confidence inside with 'focus' and some other things. He's actually very quick at learning ...
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You're doing a lot right! - but here's my take on things: This might not all be what's best for your specific situation- you know your puppy well, I've never met him. However, I'd expect at least some of it is applicable.

You can't actually reinforce emotions like fear. The dog does not enjoy feeling that way, nothing you offer can convince him that he wants to feel that way. Plus, if I told you "feel happy" or "feel sad", you might be able to put on a good show, but you won't actually feel those emotions- same with your dog. Feel free to comfort them, though. Making a big deal (even picking them up) can be a problem though- they might think the reason you're fussing over them is because you are scared, too- focus on being happy, calm, and confident- maybe a bit excited, too. Praise is fine, just don't get down on the floor and say "ohhh, it's okaayyy babyyyy, youu'rre fiiinne..." etc. Definitely praise him when he's calm. Show him that he can have a good experience outside. And you can stroke him when he's scared. When he gets scared, perhaps instead of letting him hightail it back home- this may send the message that you are worried too- you can crouch down with him and pet him, try to distract him- it may take a minute, but you may be able to get his attention, especially if you're able to anticipate the stressor before the dog freaks out. This isn't ideal, as you want to avoid him ever getting to this point, but it is unavoidable to a certain extent.

Another thing about picking him up- he may feel like he's being forced into staying in the scary situation, which could worsen his fear. But you know your dog- he may not feel this way, I have no way of knowing.

You've tried coaxing with treats- that hasn't worked- first of all, keep trying, progress doesn't happen in just a few days. But try to use the treats as a reward, not a bribe- the whole coaxing thing might get him even more worked up (again, you know your dog, not me, this is just a general concept, everything is case specific). Act excited, and run a few steps out of your yard, talking in a high/excited voice, (and jumping around, too, if your self-respect can handle it lol). When he runs over to you, have a "puppy party". Give him a treat, pet him, play a bit, then try running a bit farther. But don't try to go too far, even if he is handling it well, you don't want to push him too far. This way, walks become a game with you, not a big, overwhelming experience. Also try incorporating tug or other games instead of treats. These are often the best reward t use while out and about, most dogs are significantly less excited about treats while out and about.

Is it possible to get him to take a walk with a different, more confident dog?

I can't tell from your post if your dog is scared of the cars and dogs he sees on your street, or just of being outside the yard. If it's the former, can you take him in the car to a trail- like a hiking trail (keep it relatively short, and don't choose a strenuous trail, he's still young) that's away from roads. This could be a fun, positive walking experience for him.

It's good that you're not forcing your dog to endure scary things- it's great that you're going back inside. You're showing him that he has a safe space. But there is this elusive balance you'll need to find: You don't want to just instantly whisk your dog inside if anything happens. Ideally, you can anticipate something overwhelming, and either distract him or remove him from the situation. If it's something like a car, you may try acting very excited when you hear it coming- "what's that, puppy? What is it? Isn't this so exciting? Look!" But if something unexpected happens, there are a few different "game plans"
1. Your dog is startled, but you are able to get his attention back to you. At this point you reward (heavily). Either play or treats.
2. Your dog absolutely cannot handle the stimulus that scared him. You can't get his attention, he's shut down. Take him inside. He can't learn anything if he's in this state.
3. Your dog freaks out for a minute, comes to you, but is a few seconds or less, he starts to calm down. In this case, you may need to go inside, or you may not. You will need to be watchful. Watch his body language. An overwhelmed dog is not going to learn anything- besides that what is scaring him is bad and scary- which isn't hat you want him to learn, of course.

Have you tried staying in the yard and watching cars, dogs, etc. going by? Does he react to those while he's in the yard? Reward him for looking at things that pass by if he's ok with it in the yard. This will help build a positive association.
Thank you! I did take him out again today and manage a combination of 1 & 3 - I got his attention back even if it took a bit. I had to use cottage cheese chunks ... this is his favorite food ever that I am weaning him off of. But maybe this is the treat for outdoor work in the afternoon (mornings, I think dog food will work).
He does react to those things. In the back yard, I managed to get him focused back on me (with the cottage cheese), but in the front he is just terrified. I'm thinking to work in the back, then start leading him down the driveway. If I can condition him to noise in the meantime, that will be great.
I think things just take him a little more time because he wants to observe before jumping in. He does know some other dogs but they are all much older. I'm hoping to find a puppy or two for him to play with soon.
Thank you!
 

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Great! It sound like you're on the right track. And it's great that you have that perfect training opportunity with people coming for your screen doors. Good luck!
 

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Yes my pup was the definition of shy when he was a young pup (now 7 months). He actually freaked wailing at the vet for his 2nd shots and almost fell off the table. He was terrified shaking of cars, strangers, anything new to him.

I started with watching out the front window with him, people and dogs walking by. I gave it the cue 'watch' when he was calmly watching and just told him what he was looking at (puppy, people walking, a car driving by). I found that bringing attention to the stimulus before he reacted (and acknowledging that he sees or hears it) really helped him to remain calm. Anytime he heard something outside, I'd say "Ozzy hears it" and just say what the sound was for instance a siren.

After his 2nd shots, I bought him in the front but stayed far enough away from the stimulus that he didn't react and again just 'watched', praised and treated. Gradually I was able to reduce distance, but staying within his threshold was very important, as there is a fine line between desensitization and sensitization.

As he learned I have his back, and gained confidence with stucture through training sessions, he's made a complete 180°. It totally can be done! Just listen to your pup, learn doggy language, don't push anything and I'm sure he will come around too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yes my pup was the definition of shy when he was a young pup (now 7 months). He actually freaked wailing at the vet for his 2nd shots and almost fell off the table. He was terrified shaking of cars, strangers, anything new to him.

I started with watching out the front window with him, people and dogs walking by. I gave it the cue 'watch' when he was calmly watching and just told him what he was looking at (puppy, people walking, a car driving by). I found that bringing attention to the stimulus before he reacted (and acknowledging that he sees or hears it) really helped him to remain calm. Anytime he heard something outside, I'd say "Ozzy hears it" and just say what the sound was for instance a siren.

After his 2nd shots, I bought him in the front but stayed far enough away from the stimulus that he didn't react and again just 'watched', praised and treated. Gradually I was able to reduce distance, but staying within his threshold was very important, as there is a fine line between desensitization and sensitization.

As he learned I have his back, and gained confidence with stucture through training sessions, he's made a complete 180°. It totally can be done! Just listen to your pup, learn doggy language, don't push anything and I'm sure he will come around too.
Thank you :) Great ideas to try. Today we sat in a park and watched people. He did pretty good as he was relaxed enough to take treats, but not to play. Just watched things. Many different noises and he was pretty relaxed. I'll try on the front porch too, it's kind of funny but it seems like he's less scared when we're out than when we're outside of the house. My neighbor was working on his truck this morning and my puppy freaked, didn't want to go out in the yard (can see the neighbor through the fence). I took him out and set him down and he ran back to the patio, so I thought, ok I'll do this 10 times (small yard) - but on the 8th he ran 3/4 of the way, then started playing. :) It's just hard to know when I'm balancing out giving him experience that he can handle, vs pushing, but I think I'm getting it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Great! It sound like you're on the right track. And it's great that you have that perfect training opportunity with people coming for your screen doors. Good luck!
Thank you :) I think we're making progress, I was just expecting things to move faster.
 

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Thank you :) Great ideas to try. Today we sat in a park and watched people. He did pretty good as he was relaxed enough to take treats, but not to play. Just watched things. Many different noises and he was pretty relaxed. I'll try on the front porch too, it's kind of funny but it seems like he's less scared when we're out than when we're outside of the house. My neighbor was working on his truck this morning and my puppy freaked, didn't want to go out in the yard (can see the neighbor through the fence). I took him out and set him down and he ran back to the patio, so I thought, ok I'll do this 10 times (small yard) - but on the 8th he ran 3/4 of the way, then started playing. :) It's just hard to know when I'm balancing out giving him experience that he can handle, vs pushing, but I think I'm getting it.
Great! I'm glad you are getting some progress. Don't be disappointed with how long it seems to take, I felt the same way, then one day it all seemed to come together. It's gradual, but it seemed to come together quickly when it happened. Just remember to take it at his own pace and big reward (verbal and/or treats) when he makes even a little progression. Let him return back if he wants, that will let him know you are listening and respecting his feelings. This will help him see you have his back and give him confidence. Let him know what he's looking at (your neighbours). He won't know the word neighbour yet obviously, but I found it helped my pup to feel more comfortable knowing I was cool with it (no big deal and my pup is safe). I talk to my pup all the time, he loves to listen to my voice and picks up surprisingly well even if he has no clue what I'm actually saying. Our body language and tone of voice really communicates!

It'll happen, no worries, just try not to fret if it feels is taking a long time, every pup is different and they go at their own pace. The biggest thing IMO is to help them gain confidence, through training (and I mean training sessions like sit, down, high 5s, whatever he likes) and showing him you will keep him safe.
 
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