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Hello,

Looking for some advice for my 2 year old Berner/GSD boy. First he is a great dog, very loving and cuddly with me and my daughter. The problem is he very skittish with new people. Barks at them and runs away after about an hour or so he will come up to them...if they come over to the house enough he will warm up and not bark at them. For the most part it's not a big problem because I tell most people just ignore him and he'll be okay. He has never been aggressive toward anyone but you can tell he is very uncomfortable and he will stay away from anyone he doesn't know.

Bit of a back story...we got him as an 8 week old puppy just prior to Covid hitting, So he got no socialization for the most part. He is part of a pack (I have two other Large Breed dogs) and is very comfortable when he is with them. If take him out by himself he is very nervous. Tail down and literally doing circles around me instead of exploring the environment. I take them camping one at a time, the others love it, he doesn't seem to as much.

Looking for advice on how to make him more comfortable/confident when other people are around and when we are out just the two of us. Any training techniques that can help
 

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Cat-dog, GSD spayed female and Tornado-dog, JRT mix, neutered male
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I would start close at home. Go only as far as he is comfortable with and give him lots of praise, rewards and fun for being brave. Then slowly move out a bit more.

One thing you hear a lot is not to comfort him because that will reward his unwanted behavior. Don't listen to that. If he is afraid, then it is good to comfort him. Fear is an emotion not a behavior. Let him know you are there and will protect him.

As he is better with one of his siblings, you can have someone bring out the other dog while you handle him. Let him watch the other dog explore, but don't let him go right up to the other dog. After the dog has explored an area, walk him over and see if he'll explore it.

You can also try a double leash to walk him and one of the other dogs at the same time. It's easier than trying to hold two leashes. And it can ease some of the fear he's feeling knowing that his sibling dog is right there.

For people, just continue to ask folks to ignore him. Trustworthy friends who have dog sense can offer him treats - just make sure they don't bend over him or corner him (which can be done inadvertently, so keep watch). My Bat-dog had a bad vet experience at 1 year old and became very people afraid. I just let her take things at her own pace and never forced an interaction. I let folks know she had issues and asked them to follow a few simple rules:

Let her approach you
Don't bend over her
Announce yourself when you approach - so she isn't surprised or taken unawares

Most everyone was happy to do so. A few who were dog knowledgeable were able to give her treats, etc.

I took her camping all the time. I would walk her outside the campground where there were no people so she could de-stress and explore. Her brother Moose-dog always came along. Over the years, she went from a stressed dog who barked non-stop in fear at anyone passing by to a dog who could walk on a boardwalk past a lot of people.

For me, the main thing was always giving her a positive ending to any interaction. If we walked past a group of people, she got a ton of praise. If someone came to chat, she got a cookie. If a friend hung out with us, she got cuddle time while they were there.

She loved food and getting scratches, so I used that a lot. Friends were encouraged to give her treats. And I kept an extendable back scratcher handy so they could scratch her back from a distance. That worked so well that she forgave her Aunt C over a long held grudge (yes, dogs hold grudges) and let Aunt C scratch her without the scratcher.
 
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