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We have an almost 1 year old lab. We got her when she was 5 months old from a family who had gotten her at 4 months and didn't know how to handle a dog. We have had 4 labs so we are very familiar with the breed and the training but she is just not responding. We haven't been able to even teach her to shake! But the worst part is how skittish and scared she is all the time. She barks at everything, her hair stands up whenever there is car that goes by our house, anything. She cowers if you try to correct her at all and as she gets older I have become more and more worried of being bitten. She is most scared with me which I don't understand because I've never done anything to her. We are becoming worried that maybe the family we adopted her from abused her and it was mostly the mother??? I don't know. But complicating the issue is that I run a family daycare from my home (which rules out socialization issues because our vet has always complimented our dogs on great socialization as a result of the constant people of all ages around) and I am worried that there will be that one moment when she snaps. I don't have her out with the kids - the room is gated off but you just never know how creative kids can be and that scares me. Is there something we can do without understanding the root of her fear and what should our next step be? I am to the point of being scared to correct her and leave a lot of it to my husband.
 

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Other than management advice I would suggest that in your case you not take any chances with over the keyboard arm chair speculation and contact a certified behavorist that can come into your environment to observe all that is happening so as to provide for a more safe and proper resolution.

Why take chances with everyones safety experimenting with approaches that are not customized to your specific situation and do not allow for on the fly adjustments that may be needed in a real time? IMHO it is best in these types of cases to let and expert guide you.
 

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What kind of correction are you using? Corrections for a skittish dog should be appropriate to her ability to receive and understand them. Any harshness is only going to increase her skittishness. I'm all for corrections and use them, myself, but they're no good if the dog doesn't "get" it.

As far as training, the dog has to be comfortable and secure before she is in the mental space to learn anything. Trying to teach a dog how to shake her paw when she's afraid of some unknown force is just wasting your time and energy. Get her to feel more comfortable in her environment, then worry about teaching her things. If your house is hectic with lots of coming and going, that could add to her jitters. There may be too much going on for her.

The reason she may be more scared of you is that you might not be appearing to be a strong leader to her. Your concern about her biting is probably transmitting to her. If you could be more calm and confident around her, she might be less fearful of you. Any frustration, fear, insecurity or worry on your part is going to affect her feelings around you in a negative way.

Her past doesn't really matter. How you proceed is to assess the current situation and go from there.

I also suggest a professional to assess your situation and give you concrete steps to improve her situation. Failing that, I would toss the corrections for now, except for a very calm "uh-uh" when she does something wrong, and work on spending time with her alone, without distractions, in tiny training sessions with lots of praise and calm, confidant leadership, to build her confidence.

Here's an exercise I did with one of my dogs to build her confidence. It's surprisingly effective. Pushing

Good luck!
 

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Thank you for the suggestions. I really will have to take a closer look at the situation and see what is best for Junie and us. I know our other labs have thrived with the daycare in the home but it does seem to cause a lot of excess anxiety for her. I am concerned though that today she growled when I walked by carrying one of the babies I care for (she was crated at the time.) I have never been fearful of a dog but I think I am just about there. We do have another lab, which I failed to mention in my original post, who is 2 years old. When Junie growled at me, Cally leapt into action and jumped by the crate to growl back. So now I am worried about the reaction from Cally as well as Junie's actions. I really didn't anticipate all of this and it has me a bit frazzled.
 

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I don't know, I guess the advice above about getting a professional is the "safe" thing to say in these situations. But I personally would not back off. It seems you need to start completely simple. Work on one very simple thing first. I mean VERY simple. And then you grow up to more heavy training activities from there.

Professionals can be expensive too. Books and websites are economical.
 

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We did try and go back to the basics with her, going through all the steps and had no luck - she's very resistant to training. I want to make this work for all of us though, so we can give it a go again! Thanks!
 

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I know the feeling. Wally was, and still can be very skittish.

When he first came, it was even worse. I agree with acting calm and confident around her, even if she is currently scared/nervous. I used my usual tone of voice with him and any directions/cues/commands I gave were with the usual voice - not softer or harsher. I basically interacted with him like he wasn't shaking/panting in anxiety. If he couldn't pull himself together, I'd send him to his crate so he can get himself together and calm down. Usually, he'll come back out and look for me when he's settled down - which surprised me really :)

I wouldn't give too many corrections. I'd give her alternate directions. Like if Wally would try to take off and run - Instead of trying to correct his running, I'd make him sit next to/near me. Correcting him for responding to the fear he's feeling wasn't going to work. Instead, I wanted to teach him "when you get this feeling, do this action". He got it and he'll come back from where ever he's sniffing/exploring when he gets too anxious about something.

Another example, he doesn't too much like seeing new objects around that change how things look. Like a shovel on the ground where he walks by, or a flower pot where he usually sits. He would get apprehensive about tight spaces (especially if it's near an object he doesn't like). Instead of accepting it and letting him back off, or correcting him for "refusing" to come, I kept urging him to come along and sit where he usually does. The first few times it took a little while of encouraging. After a few days, he just does it like it's normal. Also he was off-leash (though in the yard) because I wanted him to feel like he did it on his own, instead of just being pulled past it.

With the kids - if she's well socialized with them and not nervous around them, maybe you could let the kids pet her gently on occasion for a few minutes. Let her sniff them, maybe let her eat a treat off their hands, etc. That way should a kid figure out how to get to her past the gate, she might not be nervous around the kid and lowers the chance of something bad happening.

I wouldn't worry about teaching too many things especially if she's still uncertain about you. If she knows some cues already, I'd give those and use it as a chance to reward her for working with you. I think that combined with being calm and confident around her will help her come around.

I wouldn't worry about the roots of her past, unless you can get some real information. If you CAN get real information, I'd get it - maybe it can help you see things through her emotions. Maybe you could get clues as to what created the fear response. I know I wish why Wally was afraid of some of the things he was (and sometimes still is) afraid of - other than the umbrella "lack of socialization" which I know is true - but some seem more than just that.

Otherwise, I'd just focus on creating neutral associations with things she's scared of. Yeah, I know positive is best, but neutral is often more realistic, at least it was in my experience. From neutral, at least Wally then explored it on his own to make an actual decision about something instead of a knee-jerk "OMG that's gonna kill me!" response.
 
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