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Thanks to all of the forum members who have given me advice and linked resources in the past. This forum has been a valuable resource for an inexperienced trainer.

I am actively working on capturing calm behaviors and lowering the arousal level of my dog. I have given her a "cortisol vacation" for a couple weeks but now we are venturing further out into the neighborhood in order to exercise her and work on obedience. I'm always carrying treats and a tennis ball. The ball is only used for her recall and used minimally because I don't want to create too much arousal through chasing.

I feel like I have a pretty good system down for marking and rewarding her attention on me and yielding to leash pressure. She is learning to heel pretty quickly. I am seeing significant improvement but I am also running into certain situations that just feel horrible. There are certainly triggers but they aren't completely clear to me. Loud engines, loud stereos,loud pedestrians, dogs barking out of car windows. She especially fears any person walking behind us. I guess there could also be auditory and olfactory stimuli that I am completely unaware of. Any one or combination of these things can trigger a fearful response but it is not consistent. At certain times it may not bother her, at others it may surprise her but she seems to shrug it off, and sometimes she has her ears pinned back, lip licking, rapid breathing, pulling ahead on the leash with an energy that says get me out of here. She goes into that fog of detachment where she doesn't seem to hear her name. What makes it worse is that it triggers anxiety in me. We can go from having a great walk to an urgent retreat back to the house.

I would like any tips in dealing with these fearful states of mind in the heat of the moment. I don't want to reinforce this behavior accidentally through feeding or comforting. Does anyone have a strategy or tactics to instill confidence in stressful situations in uncontrolled environments?

Thanks for any advice!
 

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Before she shows all those awful signs of fear she may be getting anxious. I learned to watch my dog rather than the surroundings and could move away before dog went into outright panic mode. You may think that door slam started her off but before the door slammed she may have heard somebody yell or a loud truck and started getting tense then the door slam set her off. It's called trigger stacking and it's real.

You may be either going too far from home or for too long a walk. It took about 6 months for Bucky to tolerate a 1/3 mile or 20 minute walk. A switch flipped and suddenly he was able to tolerate much longer walks so long as he got a 'relaxation protocol' or 'sit on the dog' break every so often. Bucky is horrible if it's dark out as he depends on sight so much.

Heading for home is the best thing to do. I stop and wait out Bucky once past whatever it was that set him off but he is over the top excited rather than in panic mode. I wouldn't stop and wait for her to feel better if you are seeing the clenched mouth, whale eyes and all that. When you head for home you are showing her that you understand and can keep her safe. That's all you need to do right now. Once she starts to feel better and wants to sniff and can hear you stop and do a short training session with lots of treats.
 

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Sometimes it helps to just stop for a while and let them get their bearings. Sometimes they realize that everything is okay, but sometimes you do just need to go home. Encourage her to sniff, as it is a calming behavior. I would lean down and comfort my dog when he was feeling scared, and that often seemed to help. He would start prancing and want to go further. You can't really reinforce fear, so comforting is okay.
 

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I have so, so much sympathy for what you're going through!

It sounds like she's experiencing trigger stacking, possibly with triggers that haven't been identified yet.
 
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