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HI everyone, I posted about a month ago about our puppy, Hoku. When we had had her for only three days she raised her hackles and barked at a neighbor, she was 20 weeks old at the time. A bunch of people here mentioned fear aggression, and I took her to a training facility nearby to get her evaluated. She is a lab/mastiff mix and is going to be a big girl (55 lbs at 25 weeks now). The trainer we met said Hoku was not fear aggressive, but was a little cautious, and she encouraged us to socialize and train Hoku. The trainer recommended positive associations, and said Mastiffs are sometimes timid, and slow to mature, so to expect Hoku to be a little flighty for awhile. Hoku is now 25 weeks old, and I was hoping to get some more input from all of you. She is very docile and sweet with my family, she even listens to our 3 and 6 year old when they tell her to get in her crate, or when they have her sit and wait for a meal.

Hoku is cautious, but not afraid of anything in particular. For example, the fireworks did not phase her, thunder does not scare her. She LOVES kids, I have two (ages 3 and 6) and we have 22 kids under the age of 13 that live on our 3 block long dead end street. She is not afraid of them when they are on their bikes, or their scooters, or when they are dressed in costumes. When they are playing outside, she likes to take a nap right in the middle of them all. She follows them around and likes to be pet by them. She LOVES everyone we meet. Sometimes, if a stranger leans over too quickly and reaches for her, she will jump back, but then she immediately jumps forward to be pet. She is not afraid of big trucks, the other day she lay loose in our front yard when the UPS truck drove up our street, backed into our driveway and drove back down the street. She didn't move from her laying down position on the grass, she raised her head and watched, but thats it. When people come to our house, she barely notices the doorbell, and usually doesn't even bother to get up. She LOVES our cat and all the dogs we have met. She is rather submissive, but she approaches strange dogs and tries to play. She likes petsmart and the park and wants people's and animals attention.

The weird thing is, she shows no signs of fear or hesitancy when walking in the middle of the day, when it is noisy and chaotic outside. Or when we have taken her out far from home. We took her on vacation to the beach, and had to spend a day in town, and she did great. She met tons of dogs and people on the beach, and loved them all.

HOWEVER, she is nervous when I walk her in the early morning. When I get up at 6am to give her her morning walk, she is "on edge." She doesn't want to walk, and I have resorted to feeding her her breakfast from my hand as we walk, to try and create a positive association for that walk. I am not certain I am doing it right, I try to give her random handfuls of kibble when she is doing what she is supposed to be doing, walking nicely next to me. But, I can tell from her body language she is feeling nervous. And she stops repeatedly to come home; usually an encouraging "Lets go, Hoku" and (sometimes) a light tug (not drag) on the leash, will inspire her to catch up, but it is a continuous struggle. If a stranger approaches, or if we approach someone, she is on edge, but as soon as I greet them, she greets them joyfully too. Also, during this morning walk, little things will scare her, like dogs barking behind a fence or a woodpile or a plastic bag in the wind. When this happens, and she seems scared, I have her sit and give her a treat for sitting, then I try to get her to look at me using the "look" command and holding a treat in front of my face. Sometimes this works, but she is still scared. Am I inadvertently rewarding her fear by giving her a treat when she is scared? If she shows fear to an item I have not had a problem having her approach the item to eat treats off of it (this is what the trainer told me to do), and her fear usually goes away after a moment (like with the woodpile). However, I am not certain what to do when she is scared, and I can't easily get her to calm down (this is usually caused by barking dogs behind a fence) and about her general fear during morning walks. During these walks, things that don't phase her at all during the busier day hours seem to increase her anxiety. Finally, I am amazed that she seems to be less anxious the moment we start walking home...even if we are not backtracking, she relaxes once we are heading towards home.

Sorry this is so long, if you go this far, thanks for reading. Also, I hate to cut out the morning walk, because one of the main reasons I got a dog was to take on my morning walks while the kids are still sleeping. I can manage short walks and training sessions during the day, but i don't really have another time to get some real exercise and to devote a full hour to her.

Finally, she did the hackles raised and barking thing one more time recently. I was playing in the front yard with the kids (mine plus others), talking to another Mom, and one of the neighborhood dads (who Hoku has played with many times) came walking up the street behind me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but didn't acknowledge him. Hoku stood up from where she was napping at my feet (with 6 kids between the ages of 3-7 playing around her) and she woofed 2 times at mike, and her shoulder hackles only were raised. She did not seem fearful, tail was straight back (not down or tucked), ears were forward, head was high. She started walking towards him, and when he bent over and clapped his hands at her (in a friendly way), she jumped forward, crashed right into him in a classic puppy play way. What do you all think of this? Am I mistaking fear for excitement or something else based solely on the hackles? The bark was not her high pitched play bark,but I do not think she is afraid of Mike, he has petted her and played with her at least twice a week since we got her...
 

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Wow, that is certainly the strangest behavior I've heard of in a long time.

I know there are a lot of people that believe you can reinforce fear, but there are others out there that believe you can't. I've heard both sides to the debate, and it's another one of those things that I believe are based on variables and the dog.

I really cannot give any suggestions as to what could be the problem... I mean, maybe the -quiet- neighborhood bothers her? I don't even know if that's possible for a dog... I know with us, some people feel troubled when it's much more quieter than usual... I mean- That's about the only thing I can think of to explain it... I would be in the same boat you are.

I think though that what you're doing with her, feeding her breakfast while you walk on those mornings, and giving to her when she's doing what she's supposed too, that's good- That seems to follow NILF (Nothing in Life is Free program).

Hmmm, I'm sorry I can't offer more advice, but I'm sure others can and they will. : ) Good luck to you and Hoku.
 

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What you describe is normal. Dogs are cautious by nature and every situation is a unique combination of sight, sound and scent to them. Home is safe, secure and has a set routine...everything else is slightly scary and she will be on guard outside that environment.

Raised hackles can mean many things...arousal is one of them and from your description (ear set, tail set, etc) I would say it was arousal.

Lastly, it might help to understand that dogs don't see very well. While they can see movement 10x faster than we can, their acuity (sharpness of vision) is not good....about 20/70 by human standards and some dogs have even worse than that.
 
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