Becoming afraid of everyone

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mommachap's picture
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Joined: 2011-10-28

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I'm not really sure what is going on with our guy Emerson, but it seems like in the last week to 2 weeks he has started to become very afraid of everyone. As a baby he would at least come to women, but now at 14 weeks he wont come when he is called. If I am sitting down and call him he will come over wagging his tail, but if I'm standing he will just stay back with his ears pinned. He used to be okay with me coming over to him, but now even with me he stays back ears pinned and starts to pee. If my husband goes close to him he starts running to his bed screaming and peeing. No one has ever hurt him, I give him tons of affection. I just don't know why he has become so afraid and skittish. Is this a normal doberman behavior? It is just a stage? or is there something that I can be doing to calm my poor baby down?

 

DJ's Dad's picture
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Joined: 2010-10-04

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My personal oppinion here, and I am NO expert. 

It does seem to be a 'phase' with some young dobermans, but not all.  They can go through a stage where they suddenly seem more aware of their surroundings, and not too sure about any of it any more.  Has Emerson had all his shots and vaccinations yet?  If so, you can slowly increase his exposure to other people and places.  Dont ever force him to go up to someone or something he exhibits a fear of....you can 'entice him' to do so with treats and praise for every step he takes in the right direction, but dragging him over to someone or something he's got even a little fear or uncertainty about will just set him back even farther. (not suggesting you do this, just making a statement)  Dont dwell on his fears...giving him more attention when he acts this way could act as a reinforcement (in his way of thinking) to negative behavior.  Ziva had a fearful stage...not quite as bad as you say Emerson is going through right now, but she was afraid of dogs bigger than her.  She was afraid of plastic bags that blew across the field in her direction.  She was afraid of stairs.  I slowly let her see that none of these things were going to hurt her.  I let her explore her surroundings in her own time, no matter how long it took, and encouraged her and gave her praise and treats every time she made even a baby step forward to overcoming her fears.  Puppy classes with others helps, too.  It's a confidence-building thing you need to do with him, and let him know that these things he fears are really nothing to be concerned about.

KevinK's picture
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Joined: 2010-07-15

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Have you done any socializing, and did the breeder socialize the pups as well?  Like Paul said, one of the biggest things is to NEVER "comfort" your dog when he/she is scared.  People tend to humanize their dogs, and this is one area where you absolutely don't want to do it.  Like mentioned, if your dog is scared, and you "comfort" him, what you're telling your dog was "Good boy, that is a scary thing, and you SHOULD be scared.  Good job, keep being scared when you see people".

I would just give no reaction, remove yourself from the situation for now, and start working more on socialization, slowly.  You will find a threshold distance, meaning maybe your dog is ok being 10 feet from someone, but not 5...  Or maybe 30 feet is ok, but 10 is no good.  So, find that threshold, and slowly start working closer.  This is an area where free-shaping comes in handy.  When you get near that threshold, and your dog doesn't react in a negative way, start rewarding something simple, like a quick look in the direction of the person.  What becomes very important here is timing...  In other words, it's a split second between rewarding your dog looking at a person, and looking away, so you want to be careful.  This is where alot of people go wrong, with the timing.  A huge tip, is remember it's better to not reward at all than it is to reward the wrong thing.  This is where markers come in so handy, because you can pinpoint the behavior exactly.