Fear of other animals, car, and leach after beating Parvo.

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I got this question today:

Quote:
Hi, My son got a Doberman as a pup and he ended up with Porvo by 12weeks. we saved he at a price of 1100.00.  But now at 8 months,
Rex (the pup)has fear towards all dog, a leash and a vehicles. Runs from all of these things.
is there a way to help him over come this fear issue??
We want him to have courage pride also take him on walks and rides..
Can you help, is there help for him??

Here was my response:

The trouble here is that Rex went through a tough time around the Fear Imprint Period. This is a time in a dog's mental development when they're highly susceptible to programming from pain. In other words, pain at this age will develop a phobia. It's more than a simple association of pain to the car, other animals, and the leash. It's deep programming.

To work toward fixing this, you need to start doing two things: stop any reinforcing you might be doing of the behavior and start gradually exposing Rex to the offending stimuli in a positive situation - one that will hopefully build a positive association that will outweigh the fear imprint.

You may be reinforcing this behavior. When he shows fear of such things, don't comfort him. You're the alpha figures, he looks to you for what is safe, so if you comfort him when he shows fear of the leash you are telling him that his fears are valid.

Likewise, don't force him one any of these phobias. You don't want to worsen the situation.

I would start with the leash. Throw the old one out and get a new one that looks a lot different. Leave this new leash on the floor where he can get to it but where it won't trap him anywhere. Maybe put some treat next to it. Let him investigate it on his own. If he goes to pee on it - let him. He's earned it. ;)

I'd leave it around the house for a couple days. During this time keep a collar on him and start doing some normal obedience training with him (sit, down, come, heel) holding his collar with your hand or maybe a cloth, something you can put on and pull off effortlessly. The idea is to get him accustomed to the feeling of being on the lead.

Obedience training is one of the best therapies. So if you're not teaching the basic stuff I'd get to it now. The best way to build confidence in a dog is training. Essentially, training is teaching a dog how to get what it wants in the best way.

After a few days start playing with him around the leash, then using the leash for play, then holding the leash while you practice training. Eventually you should be able to hook him up without objection. No forcing. No comforting. You need the alpha attitude - strong dependable leader.

Once he's good on the lead, I'd work on his heeling. As many times as you can in a day, take him out and walk him fast, slow, direction changes, stops, training him to stay right at your heel, not crowding. If you can get him totally confident in the heel position, he will feel safer there, reverting to his trained response to any change he learned in training.

Once that is solid, you can start walking him near the car - same approach.

Let me know how things are going as they come along. We have a discussion forum on Gentle Doberman http://www.gentledoberman.com/forum Feel free to come by and pose any more questions there as well. I'm putting this email up. Others may have further thoughts and it could help others too.