Raising a dogs confidence.

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by mrose_s, May 21, 2012.

  1. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    I need help with Quinn. She has always been on the timid side but she's not really improving that much despite some of my efforts and I wanted to ask for more advice on what we can work towards.

    She very timid of dogs and people.
    Offleash dogs are a big thing that worries her - she's had a couple of scares with over friendly dogs getting in her face and now she starting to growl and bristle at offleash dogs she see's. She's still very controllable but I don't want this progressing. I've started arching out around oncoming dogs and trying to treat her while they're around but she's often too nervous in this situation to accept treats.
    On top of this if I'm out with her I am often jogging or biking so treating isn't the easiest option as I don't even always have my treat bag.
    Tonight she growled, bristled and looked about to lunge at a BC that came out of the bushes on our walk offleash but with its owners. She stopped when I told her to before she really started but its not great.

    She also quietly grumbled at a guy tonight that put his hand out and leant down towards her - she's nervous of strangers and doesn't really like pats. She went over and sniffed his hand when he offered it a couple of minutes later without issue and we were both sitting the same place making small talk for about 20 minutes all up and she soon relaxed.

    My biggest fear is having someone - a kid especially come and get in her face when she can't escape, I know she'll always avoid so long as she can but I worry that one day someone will be too fast for me and really scare her. If we are going somewhere a bit more crowded I have a harness with patches for her. I bought patches that say "Give me my space - do not pet" for when we are going anywhere especially busy.

    I often have people give her treats when out if I can - but she will sneak up and take it and then back off again and not be any more inclined to let them near her. It doesn't help that once people see how timid she is they want to make it their mission to pat her.

    She has a lot more confidence when you take her somehwere via car - a couple of days ago we took her pet shopping with Poppy and she loved it. Really relaxed and even took a couple of full face pats in her stride.
    She was still nervous meeting dogs but I can deal with this - she still relaxed herself easily in other dogs presence and could get her focus back to me easily.

    I think our main problem is when out walking - I often have real problems getting her attention back to me. She's nervy, distracted and jumpy. She feels really disconnected from me.
    I really want her to have confidence in me that I will look after her in any situation but I don't really know how to acheive this. i feel we have a great working relationship in a lot of situations but when she's nervous I often feel like I she's off in her own world.

    Advice? Discussion?
     
  2. Aleron

    Aleron New Member

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    Are there a lot of off leash dogs in your area? Are these dogs with owners or not? Is there any place you can walk her that there isn't? One of the worst things for dog reactive dogs is constantly being put in a position where they are on a leash and loose dogs are invading their space. The more that happens, the worse she will get about other dogs. She is worried, can't get away, so feels she has to scare the dogs off herself. She will end up escalating her reaction more and more over time.


    I would stop the having people give her treats routine. What you see in Quinn is pretty typical of most dogs - they take the treat because they want it but it doesn't change how they feel about interacting with the person at all. What is worse than that though is that the have strangers give treats routine puts more pressure on the dog, which causes the dog to worry about stranger interactions even more. I know that this routine is pretty popular, often repeated advice but I've actually not personally known of it to work with dogs who were truly worried about stranger interactions. In fact, more often than not I have seen it cause more issues long term.

    As for people making it their mission to pet her, you need to be your dog's advocate and learn to say "No, don't try to pet my dog, she's afraid". Step between them and Quinn if need be or just walk away with her. She needs to know she can trust you to protect her, not that you will stand there and allow people to do whatever to her.

    I suspect that one thing which will help a great deal is to follow a strict policy of not allowing anyone to attempt to interact with Quinn out and about. There is no reason strangers have to pet your dog. It's not a pleasant experience for her and that makes it bad experience for you too. Just having a rule that you don't ever try to get people to make friends with her when she's out and about will greatly lessen the pressure she feels when people approach. A lot of dogs like Quinn, their issue is they don't want to interact, they are afraid of strangers but they are repeatedly put into situations where they are forced to interact anyway. If you take away the pressure to interact, over time you will likely find she would just as soon ignore people.

    This is a good blog post by Silvia Trkman on dealing with fear: http://www.lolabuland.com/2011/10/27/busting-the-myths-ii/

    Also the Control Unleashed book may be very helpful for you and Quinn.
     
  3. jenv101

    jenv101 Bite Club

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    ^ completely agree with all of that. I have to tell every one I meet that Riley does not like strangers and ask them to ignore him. People will look at you funny but after a while you will get used to it lol. If it is someone that I know we will have regular contact with, and that I want Riley to feel comfortable around, we have to do many meet and greets with them ignoring him before he feels comfortable enough to interact with them. I don't think he will ever change so I have learned to manage the situation for his, and everyone's benefit.
     
  4. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thanks for the advice.
    We are actually pretty lucky - my area isn't prone to offleash, out of control dogs at all. Its one of the best places I've lived for it but she's had 2 situations where staffy crosses have come over to her and I've had to physically grab them to get them away from her. (the first was an escapee that we took to the vet, got its chip checked and got it home, the second was a tradie working at the sports grounds near our house with his 2 staffy mixes tore across the road to get in her face ) but the vast majority of the other dogs she see's are onleash or under control. Onleash dogs generally just make her nervous but not so defensive.

    I think I will take your advice to just not let anyone talk to her. Can be kinda hard when she likes to smile and wag her tail at people but as soon as they make any effort to come towards her she wants to bail.
    She does handle crowded situations quiet well despite some of her issues so I might just cut out people getting to talk to her, she doesn't want it and they'll survive.

    I do have controlled unleashed and I use the LAT game with her a lot - I was using it in the pet store the other day with a big Ridgeback mix that couldn't get its eyes off her. She relaxed really quickly and I could see her looking at it then looking straight back to me for her treat.

    I'll read Silvia's post now, I really love how she is with her dogs and I know she's found ways to make life easier for Lo and Bu despite their issues.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2012
  5. Greenmagick

    Greenmagick New Member

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    I would also look into "Click to Calm" and BAT.
     
  6. smeagle

    smeagle New Member

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    Are you still doing TID with her? We've found that this can help a lot with building their confidence.
     
  7. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    I emailed Steve again recently inquiring about it. Just after I took it on last time my work commitments skyrocketed and all her training was pretty much neglected till about 6 weeks ago when I put in my notice so I could get back to my dog stuff.
    He said they're doing an overhaul of their TID programs atm so I'm waiting till thats sorted and just trying to work on getting her to play comfortably in more places in the meantime.
    I think thats defenitly where I want to head with her training though.
     
  8. Red.Apricot

    Red.Apricot Active Member

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    Elsie's a little leery of strangers, and I stumbled onto something that has really helped her a lot. I taught her the command 'go say hi,' which means go poke the outstretched hand and let them pet your head twice.

    For a while I was clicking her interacting with strangers, but she was acting like it was icky. Now she seems up and happy while they pet her, and then comes right back to me for a treat. I'm not sure if that would help other dogs, though.

    She sounds like Elsie, actually--Elsie enjoys being out in crowds. We take her to art fairs and things regularly. She likes to sit on the toolbox and watch people go by, but she doesn't want to be interacted with.
     
  9. Southpaw

    Southpaw orange iguanas.

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    Instead of having the strangers give treats, one thing I've done with Juno is give her the treats myself when she's in the presence of strangers.... takes the pressure off her, she doesn't have to approach anyone she doesn't want to, but I'll reward her for looking at people or showing casual interest. Juno's only issue is with people approaching and wanting to interact with her, so we can easily do this without having to keep a safe distance.

    Admittedly I don't work with her as often as I should, but I have seen improvement. I think she'll always be wary of men, that's the first fear that cropped up as she was maturing... but she's getting better about strangers in general.
     
  10. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Thats a good idea, I havn't thought of approaching it like a training excercise. She's actually very relaxed around strangers so long as they don't try to interact with her. She doesn't mind eye contact (her eyes automatically draw attention so thats lucky) but she doesn't like being approached.
    She also makes it hard on the strangers, she often approaches people with a big smile on her face, ears back and wagging her tail looking like she'd love a pat. Then as soon as people show interest she's like "ahh.... noooo" and ducks away.
     
  11. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    Mia went through some really nervous phases when she was younger. It was just recently in the past year or so that she's come into her own. Honestly what I did was to ignore her issues for the most part, tell people not to pet her (Which is easy for me because I can just shove Summer at them and Summer is more than happy to pick up the slack and get all the pets), and just take her to lots of classes. Mia really has always done great in classes and she knows that she doesn't have to interact with other dogs and people there but she's learned to be okay with them around. I also find training just plain strengthens the bond between the handler and dog. The more Mia trusts me, the more she seems okay with other people.

    Honestly, just doing that and now I have a dog that goes up to people on her own and licks them. I honestly never expected that from Mia, but as she's gained confidence, she's really become a lot more social. My trainer does not believe that Mia used to be shy at all, lol.

    Anyways, I would just try more hands off approach.
     
  12. mrose_s

    mrose_s BusterLove

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    Glad I'm not the only one thats come across this.

    Quinn can be funny that she can pick a training class a mile off, first agility class I took her to she strutted in like she owned the place. It was all I could do to keep her from jumping on people and soliciting pats and trying to make friends with every dog she saw.

    A mini fox terrier walking 20m behind us on a walk though and I can barely get her attention becasue she's so busy looking behind her while tripping me up.

    She is still developing a lot in her head though - its only the last 4 months or so that she's started to come around to accepting, enjoying and actively seeking out affection from me or the other people in the house. Up until then she would avoid even a stroke on the head from any of us.

    Little weirdo... atleast she's interesting.
     
  13. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    Mia's personality has really rounded out now that she's 3. Just the past 1/2 year she's come into herself. I think it's combination of just maturity and then trying to calm myself about these things and to stop trying to force interactions.

    I really would freak out a bit every now and then when she was younger and would be afraid of something.

    Mia's always been really snuggly towards me but not anyone else. She's finally accepted a lot of my family members too almost to the same extent as me and seeks them out as well as me.
     
  14. JacksonsMom

    JacksonsMom Active Member

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    Jackson was always great with other dogs of all types, but was very shy with strangers. He'd often back up quickly if someone reached pet him, and was just all around uncomfortable with it. He still can be a bit iffy about certain people, but he's come such a long way just with age even.

    He's 3 1/2 and in the past year and a half, he's sooo much better. Almost an entirely different dog. I started using "go say hi" and pointing to the person and he's now willing to go investigate and enjoys a quick pat, but is still just indifferent. He doesn't seek out attention from strangers but LOVES my family and close friends. Once he meets you about four times, he usually will love you forever.

    It basically was a matter of me bringing him out in public ALL the time, always carrying treats in my pocket, and never forcing anything on him. Also, tricks and agility and the like really boost his confidence. If I pull out treats and get him doing tricks, I can tell it just makes him feel at ease like "oh I know what I'm doing here!"
     
  15. Southpaw

    Southpaw orange iguanas.

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    This is Juno as well. She is not fond of the physical affection that most dogs are. If you want her out of your space, there is no faster way to get her to leave than to reach out and pet her. Affection is very much something that occurs only on her terms - and she doesn't seek it that often. I know this doesn't help her feelings towards strangers... if she doesn't want me petting her, of course she doesn't want the random guy at the pet store to pet her.

    I don't push it. Normally she's very affectionate first thing in the morning and wants lots of pats, so I oblige, but that's about the only time of day that she's "into" it.
     
  16. Finkie_Mom

    Finkie_Mom It's A Red Dog Revolution

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    I echo a lot of what other posters have said - don't force anything on her in terms of strangers.

    My Kimma is NOT a people dog. Well, I should say that she didn't used to be. She's starting to like being pet, but she's still wary of strangers. A bit like Laurelin's Mia from the sounds of it. She will seek me out, but is just starting to seek out others (she turned 2 in December). You can do things like the collar grab game, just in case she were to ever get loose and someone goes to grab the collar. That has helped Kimma as she doesn't duck away if people do try to pet her (I generally just tell people she doesn't like to be pet - except if it's a kid - she LOVES kids).

    I also taught, "Go say hi!" to teach her to go up to people. Started it with kids mostly since she likes them, and now she will even do it for adults. But she always gets treated when she does go up to people (by me), even if the other person also gave her something. And I make sure she looks relaxed before I do that. If she is stressed at all (whining, pulling away, heavy panting, etc.), then I don't initiate anything. Interactions are only done when she's more relaxed.

    In terms of on walks, we did (and still do) lots of LAT, and we also got sidetracked by loose dogs getting in her face many times. But I just kept with it. It's literally taken 2 years (she's been reactive since she was a puppy), but it's finally getting so much better. She was one of those dogs that would react to EVERYTHING. Leaves blowing, dogs in fences, on leashes, people, bikes, kids running, everything. Drove me nuts LOL.
     
  17. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    The weird thing with Mia is that when it comes to ME, she is the most outwardly affectionate dog I've ever owned. But towards other people, she's indifferent or even seems to dislike being petted.
     

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