My puppy seems scared of everything! Any advise?

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Kida's Mom's picture
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Joined: 2014-01-21

Hello everyone! I'm new to the forums. 

I have an 8 month old blue female doberman, Kida, who happens to be the sweetest girl in the world. However, she seems scared of everyone but me! I have two other dogs, both 1 year old. 1 male husky, 1 male flat coated retrevier. When I first got Kida, she was very adventerous and energetic and as of the last month or so, she has become very nervous and skiddish. Loud noises, quick movements and other people scare her and she has become a little more aggressive toward my other dogs. Is this normal behavior for a doberman?? I am not sure if I am missing something or am doing something wrong. Help! 

leslieak's picture
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I have a new dog, Zooey, who is also 8 months and we have had about 1 month now. We have another dog as well. Zooey is on the nervous side but high energy and is scared of new people and has even growled at men in our house when we have had a few people over since we have gotten her. After the initial adjustment period is over, that seems to be when some of the behavioral challenges become apparent. One thing I decided was important to do with her is give her attention, training, and spend time going on walks with her without the other dog around. I think she seems to need to build her own confidence and bond with me to help her through training to cope with scary, new situations. The other dog is very confident and dominates most situations so I have started to figure out her triggers on her own to help her through them. For example, I have brought her over to my dad's house on her own just to start addressing some of her nervousness with strange people and places one on one. Maybe you have been doing that already so its just a suggestion but I know for me it is easy to just have the dogs together for everything and forget that I need to take extra time with both of them alone to avoid behavior issues and even help alleviate any jealousy between the two dogs (which is our second biggest issue). Hope that helps!

Tannaidhe's picture
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Joined: 2013-02-25

I think it sounds like an age-related thing.  However, whether that is the case or not, the best prescription for any dog displaying fear reactions is exposure to LOTS and LOTS of things.  Koko taking classes at the PetSmart was great for this....  lots of things and noises and people and animals.  I highly recommend taking her to one on a regular basis if you have one nearby.  Obedience classes in an environment like that is even better.

You don't need to force her into immediate proximity to anything...  just close.  Walk her past 'scary' things.  Take a slow but normal pace.  Be calm and confident, don't fret over her reaction, or she will pick up that there's something to fret about, without any concept that it's her that is making you worry.

The uptick in aggression behavior towards the other dogs is more troubling, and I don't have much in the way of advice on that one - I've never really had dogs that were aggressive to each other.

Kida's Mom's picture
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Joined: 2014-01-21

Leslieak, Thank you for the advice! I have noticed that she is more prone to be scared of males that come around our house. She used to be very scared of my husband when she was younger and has now, very very slowly, warmed up to him. I will definitely have to spend some time alone with her, and train her without the other dogs around. I have also found training her with basic commands with my older dogs has been very difficult. She does much better on her own, which I am sure will be the case if I start walking her on her own. I definitely need to get better at that! 

Tannaidhe, Thanks for the advice! I sure do hope it is an age thing, I know there are definitely things I can do to help. It just becomes very diffuclt with two other dogs around who just exited their "puppy" year. Would you recommend taking her to a dog park on her own, without my other dogs around? Or work up to that point? Classes sound like a great idea. I will definitely look into that as I have a PetsMart a block away from my house! 

 

I think the one-on-one bonding is very important. I just have a difficult time thinking of ways to bond with her individually. Besides walking and one-on-one training what do you two (or anyone) recommend for better bonding time with my little girl? 

DJ's Dad's picture
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8 months old is definitely one of the 'fear stages' where the dog can be quite unsure of many things.

I wouldnt necessarily take her to a dog park, especially when I read where you say lately she is becoming a little more aggressive with your other dogs.  I'd venture to guess that she needs a confidence boost.  She's acting nervous and scared of strange situations, noises, different people and dogs because she feels vulnerable and many many dogs react negatively when they are uncomfortable in the situation they are in.

My opinion: Training, training, training!!!  Either on your own, one on one with a qualified trainer, or in a group setting.  Your Kida needs to slowly be exposed to different situations where you have total and complete control of what happens (this means 'no dog park' yet....you never know what the 'other dog' is going to do if you arent even sure what your own dog will do) Dog parks can be a great source for exercise and fun for a dog, but until you are confident that Kida wont be scared or aggressive, even if another dog at the park tries to start something with her, it's just not worth the risk to take her to one and give her a bad experience that will stay with her mentally for a long time. 

On walks, take her past things she isnt used to seeing or hearing, but do NOT force her to explore them.  Give her lots and lots of time, encourage her with your words, but dont force her. I tell my dog "check it out" when we come to someone or something non-familiar, and when she takes a step towards it, sniffs it, then comes back to me, I throw her a party!  When Kida makes even a small step toward something she normally is afraid of, reward her, with pats, praise, and treats.  Let her know that you have her back and you wont let anything bad happen to her.  It pays off in the long run.  Over time, with lots of patience and training, the 'trust' becomes a 2-way thing.  You can trust her to behave and protect you / she can trust you to protect her from scary things. 

Whatever you do, dont coddle her or pet her and say 'its ok, its ok' while she is scared.  Wait till she is calm, or shows some confidence...even just a tad...then tell her what a wonderful, smart dog she is. 

Kida's Mom's picture
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DJ's Dad: Great Advice! :) Thank you so much! I can completely see and agree with everything you're saying. Kida definitely needs some extra confidence. She gets scared of her own bark...poor thing! I am definitely going to head home after work and try out all the new tricks and tips. Definitely will have to make a stop at the pet store for extra treats! Thank you for letting me know about the strict no coddling tip. I am definitely guilty of trying to comfort her when she is scared, because I usually feel so bad, but now I know it is counter productive. Thank you thank you!

Echo's Dad's picture
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Kida's Mom, DJ is spot on, coddling while scared only reenforces her to be scared of the current situation.  At 8 months you should also start training without treats, their a quick initial start to learning behaviorisms, however, you will not always have treats with you and you do not want your dog to only listen/behave when you have treats to reward.

The highest form of reward for a dog is to reward their prey drive, whether it is a ball, a stuffed toy or other favorite toy that you wiggle around to exite your pet.  Also, like treats, you won't always have a toy with you. 

The second highest form of reward is your voice, and this is what you want to train your dog to respond to.  Like DJ said, throw a party when your Dobie does what she is supposed to do and never repeat commands, use other reinforcers if needed, but don't repeat the key command.  While training it is best to be able to reinforce the desired outcome within 3 seconds if the expected behavior is not observed.  Like SIT, if no sit within three seconds lift upwards on her collar and apply steady pressure until the but hits the floor.  Never use force on her behind to get her to sit, as this can cause later problems with arthritis or hip dysplasia.

Good luck.

leslieak's picture
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I agree with the slow approach and would probably not take her to a dog park yet. We have done short walks around the neighborhood and now Zooey seems a little more confident with that route so I am gradually expanding the walk by adding a street she hasn't gone down before. I think of it as a building block type of approach. She is actually afraid of cars we pass parked in driveways so I started walking by confidently at a pretty far distance and giving her rewarding attention after she has successfully passed by it. I don't coddle her or make a huge deal out of her reaction during the freak out as DJ's Dad mentioned. She is looking to your reaction on whether there is any validity to the scariness.

In terms of activities, we have a fenced yard so I actually will leave Argo in the house and bring Zooey out on her own to play catch. The dogs love to play with air toys together but Argo pretty much always hogs the ball or plays keep away with her. Argo is also in an obediance class right now so all of the lessons I learn with him in class I have a separate session with Zooey outside or in the kitchen without Argo. At some point I will enroll her in a class so she can get the socialization exposure as well. Or sometimes I will bring her out on the porch on her leash and hang out just the two of us so she can practice being quiet and patient other than just in her crate. If I think of any other strategies as I go along I will post an update.

Kida's Mom's picture
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Echo's Dad: Thank you the advice. I will stop coddling her right away. I did not know it was a counter productive thing, that it was making the behavior. We have not done much training past "SIT" and "DOWN" with her, so can I do 50/50 with treats and no treats? The training advice is MUCH appreciated. I am very small... 5 foot even and a little over 110 pounds so I am not sure how to make myself the "authority" with her when she stands up and is as tall as I am..lol! But the advice you gave me can definitely work for me!

 

Leslieack: Thank you again! I did not realize my reaction made such a difference to her being scared. This is definitely something I want to nip in the bud! And I will absolultey do the activities you mentioned. Kida loves to people watch and have the sun on her, so sitting on the porch just us sounds perfect. 

 

I really appreciate everything all of you have given me! Being a first time Dobie owner can be a little daunting. I want to give my dobie the best life possible so anything else anyone can think of, I will definitely apply!

Tannaidhe's picture
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Take her with you to PetSmart to get the treats...  and be sure to give her one while you're still there!  ;)  This will enforce to her that being there is a good thing!  Even better, if it's only a block away, walk there and back! 

 

Absolutely as DJ's Dad said, don't coddle during the scaredy episodes.  Any time you lavish them with attention - even if it is, to your way of thinking, 'negative' attention - they think what they were doing was the right reaction, or at least gets a good result.  As I said before, be calm, be confident.  Don't force her right up to 'scary' things, but don't let her run away either.  Show her that there is nothing to be afraid of.  When she emulates that calm confidence, that's when you praise. 

Another good way to work on this sort of thing, is to redirect her through obedience practice; if she starts getting edgy around, for example, the cars like leslieak mentioned, redirect her attention from the cars to you by asking for a sit, or a down, or a heel, whatever you've been working on lately but that she has a relatively firm grasp on. 

Remember also that if you want to teach her 'grown up' attitudes, you can't treat her like a baby.  Expect and reward the 'grown up' behaviors, and that is what you will (eventually) get.

 

As for one-on-one time...  doors and baby gates are your friend ;)  Don't be afraid to use them.

 

 

ETA: With your mention of being very small in relation to her...  invest in an EasyWalk Harness!  Seriously, best $30 I've spent on Koko.  He pulled me all the way to the ground a few times leaping after something that caught his attention; he just can't manage that with the harness... if he tries to, it just pulls him around in a circle.  lol  ;)

Echo's Dad's picture
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Kida's Mom,

You have no choice but to make yourself the authority figure, a Dobie who thinks they are the pack leader can be a very dangerous piece of business.  If you know she is as tall as you when she stands up, that indicates that you are allowing her to do so.  This you must stop immediately as it can become dangerous for you and for other people/children since it is not likely she will stop at only jumping up on you.  To stop this you will need a correction, not a voice command, at this stage voice commands are a reward and reinforces/rewards behavior, you do not want to reward the wrong behavior.  One way to do this is to keep a shortened leash attached to her collar at all times, maybe something about 4-6 inches long that you can grab quickly and give it a quick jerk to issue a correction.  This is not inhumane and will not hurt a dogs well-muscled neck.  A choke collar properly used is best.  There is a correct way and a wrong way to put on a choke collar.  Correct way will allow the collar to move counter-clockwise around the dogs neck, this in turn ensures any correction issued will easily release when the pressure is released.  (This also assumes the dog is normally to your left during walks, etc., if the dog is on your right, just reverse the collar so it travels clockwise easily around the neck.).  You could probably google video's of correct use of choke collars.

About the treats, I would suggest doing the training using your voice and reward with a treat or two after all training is done.  Another couple aspects about treats:  Some trainers believe it is counter-productive to give your pet treats from your hand as they say this tells the dog that you are not an authority figure and the dog likens this behavior no differently than they would taking food/bones/toys/treats from a subordinate dog in their pack.  Those trainers recommend placing the treat in a bowl instead of feeding directly from your hand.  I'm on the fence with this and while I can see their point, I'm not exactly convinced, so I do this 50/50 and all treats given from my hand are always something I have already taken a bite out of, such as apple, hot dog, etc.  The other aspect about treats is it is healthier and cheaper to make your own versus buying them at a store.  For treats I go buy a 2lb pack of chicken gizzards for as little as $1.57.  I freeze them for three weeks to kill any parasites and then boil them until they are well done.  My dog loves them and 2lbs at a $1.57 beats any store bought dog treat in quality and quantity.  Anoter option is to bake them peanut butter dog biscuits, many recipes online and also healthy and cost effect.  Liver is another great treat and relatively low-cost.

Good luck.