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Fearful at very specific times

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by pauloconnor, Jul 13, 2009.


  1. pauloconnor

    pauloconnor PetForums Newbie

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    Hi all,

    This is my 1st post so be gentle :D

    I own a (nearly) 2 year old male Mastiff that we show regularly at championship level. He's a pet first and foremost but we enjoy the days out that showing provides and being able to mix with other like minded people.

    Last year we attended the Blackpool Champ show and (if you never heard about it) winds were up to 80mph and in the end the show was abandoned. Our boy was very spooked as he was just a puppy at the time and now whenever we go to a show he is very afraid at specific times.

    1. He is afraid whenever we have to navigate about the show and he pulls me in any direction to try and get 'away' from whatever it is he is scared of. When he is like this he is not interested in any kind of food as I have tried gesture feeding in order to give him more confidence. He will sit or lie down if I ask him but as soon as we set off again he reverts back to the pulling and shaking. I'm convinced this is because of what happened at Blackpool and am pretty stuck on how we can help him see that there's nothing to be scared of.

    2. Secondly (as we saw at a recent show) he is scared whenever it is very windy. We showed under a marquee yesterday and the wind coming through made it very noisey. As such he was shivering and trying to sit down whenever he could which obviously isn't the right behaviour when you are being examined by a judge. Whenever we had to move round the ring he was pulling to get away. Again, at these times he isn't interested in food at all as he is so focused on flight from the situation.

    3. Thirdly he is afraid of big articulated lorries. We live right near a freight depot so this makes being out on our walks difficult. This fear hear isn't as intense as the shows and I have been able to start gesture feeding here as a distraction

    All of the above seem to be centred around crowded/noisey places. The weird thing is that if it isn't too windy, once we are around the show ring he is absolutely fine. In the ring he behaves perfectly too. Another weird thing is that I am a drummer and he will happily lie next to me whilst I am playing drums and will actually go to sleep which is the ultimate calm behaviour!!

    I have tried various approaches:

    1. Gesture feeding - he is too scared for this to work
    2. Comforting him - this doesn't seem to help and have read this may re-inforce his fear
    3. Ignoring him - this doesn't seem to work particularly when he is pulling me about on the lead when trying to walk between the car and the show ring.

    I have had various advice. Some bad - such as shouting "no" whenever he pulls or yanking on his lead. To me this will only intensify his fear.

    Whilst at the last show Jan Fennell was there so I asked one of her advisers who suggested a specific technique for walking him. I have just read her first book and have been putting into practice the 4 techniques to achieve alpha status. They said to compliment this when out walking I should continually change direction so that the dog is always following me. It might take hours to get to where we are going but he said that it really does work.

    This makes sense to me but with dog shows I can't really walk round for 3 hours when we usually have a 3 hour drive beforehand and are judged at 9am! So, I need to think of how I can recreate the situation. However, we go to crowded places such as parks etc on regular walks and he behaves perfectly. He will walk to heel quite happily off the lead and away from the 3 specific instances above he seems to be bomb-proof!!

    So - now I'm hoping that people on here can provide some advice/real life examples of how they have helped their dog to overcome fear.

    We could easily stop doing the shows but for me that is avoiding the issue and if our boy is scared of something I don't like to think that he can't be cured so I'm willing to spend as much time as possible on this in order to help him out.

    Thanks for reading,

    Paul.
     
  2. davehyde

    davehyde Banned

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    sorry i havent got a clue personally, but how about a consultation with a good behaviourist?
     
  3. pauloconnor

    pauloconnor PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for the response!

    I have contacted and researched various behaviourists and ruled them out based on their methods.

    As I touched on in my post some people advocate shouting at the dog, yanking on the lead, using a choke chain or all 3 together. In a fearful situation I don't think this is the right approach. Further, I have read many, many bad stories about some national dog training franchises (that shall remain nameless) who quite simply take your large wad of money (£400 after ringing them for a quote) and run with it after the first session when they are supposed to pledge lifetime support.

    I like the concepts put foward by Jan Fennell i.e. relating to your dog as a pack leader. I'm implementing her system which takes time and so wanted to do some wider research on any other people who have had the same problem.

    Part of Jan Fennell's system, however, includes ignoring any unwanted behaviour. This hasn't seemed to work. This could be down to him not yet seeing me as leader or, as the behaviourist put it at the event recently, in the situation where the fear arises the dog is feeling the need to take over from me.

    This makes sense but it doesn't solve my problem! The person at the trade stand recommended a couple of books. One I had already read and my issue wasn't covered and another wasn't relevant either so I purchased the Jan Fennell CD on fear of noise and listened to it twice through but it seemed to contain a lot of anecdotal stuff rather than giving a specific framework on dealing with the issue.

    Thanks again, Paul.
     
  4. r_neupert

    r_neupert PetForums Senior

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    Maybe you can simulate by going to a market and walking through the stands trying your technique? Having never been to a dog show i can't say i know what happens there, but it would be simulating a crowd...

    As for any techniques i've used, i tend to just ignore everything she seems scared of. If you can portray some confidence in the situation as well, rather than having that niggling thought in your head that it's all going to go pete tong, your dog may feed off that. I guess in some way this has worked, because she pretty much couldn't care less about anything; fireworks, walking in thunder storms etc. Actually i took her to the vets to get spayed the other day, and they listened to her heart and counted her breathing, and the vet was very suprised about how relaxed she was.

    She is FAR from a perfect dog though, this is just a great attribute of hers ;)
     
  5. davehyde

    davehyde Banned

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  6. fun4fido

    fun4fido PetForums Senior

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    Hi Paul,

    Not all behaviourists used punitive methods. Keep searching, you need to find a behaviourist who used positive reinforcement, who will guide you through how to take your dog through a systematic program of desensitisation and counter conditioning.

    Your dog has built up a negative association with certain things, and these things now act as triggers for his fearful behaviour.

    A good behaviourist will assess and evaluate your dog and figure out the best approach to help your dog using kind methods.

    You are right, shouting, saying "no", ignoring, none of these will work, and could actually cause more harm.

    So please don't give up, keep looking for a good behaviourist, you do need professional help with this.

    All the best Angela
     
    #6 fun4fido, Jul 14, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  7. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    HI Paul

    I will reply, but am off to work soon.

    I have 3 dogs (5 at the moment) and I have used Jan Fennell's techniques for a long time. At present I have a bulldog, rotteweiler, staffi, collie and Mr max!, I believe without maintaining my pack leader status, then I would not be able to effectively manage my pack.

    Just to say, keep going with this technique, but it will not solve the fear. My collie is a nervous dog and I have to deal with her differently to the others.

    I will get back to you tomorrow x
     
  8. pauloconnor

    pauloconnor PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks all - looking forward to your further responses.

    It just seems that nothing will get through to him - food, my voices etc he's not interested.

    I've been taking him out each night this week after work looking for somewhere remotely crowded and the best I have been able to do is take him to a strange park each night where he has behaved impeccably as usual!

    Would appreciate any recommendations for a decent behaviourist in the north-west area.

    Thanks,

    Paul.
     
  9. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    Hi Paul

    For now, I would forget the shows until you have his fear under control. It seems it is manifesting itself in a number of ways. I guess bottom line is, you have a nervous dog.

    I think you are right to get in a behaviourist as nervous dogs are one of the most difficult to treat.

    Just a couple of points though:

    Gesture feeding - feeding is a reward. If you are feeding the dog whilst they are stressed, they can see this as a behaviour that they should do again because they get fed. The same applies to any type of affection or comfort.

    If you use food and affection/comfort you are reinforcing the behaviour.

    So if you have been doing this for a long time, then it will take longer to correct.

    In my opinion ignoring the behaviour will work eventually, although it depends on the dogs fear. I do happen to think that humans inadvertandly make it worse. If, the first time the dog displayed the behaviour, it was dealt with correctly, then it would not escelate. (I made this mistake, before I got myself a doggy education)

    Do you have an experienced dog person that you know? It would be interesting to see how the dog reacts with an experienced handler. That way you can tell whether it is a genuine fear or a behaviour the dog believes you have encouraged, due to reinforcing the behaviour with food and affection rewards. This does not give an exact indication, but it could be useful.

    x
     
  10. madmaddie

    madmaddie PetForums Junior

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    Hi Paul,
    Do you attend Ringcraft - where you know people who could help you 'simulate' the environment you (and possibly others at Ringcraft) encountered at Blackpool CS????

    Personally, I don't hold much at all with the Jan Fennell outdated methods.
    Rank reduction methods will not help with the fear that your boy was developed.
    A 'once size fits all approach' such as Jan Fennell is of no use to you whatsoever IMHO. You need an individual assessment of your boy and an individual rehab plan/behaviour modification plan to suit you, him and his needs.

    If you have been advised by ANY Behaviourists to yank/jerk/try a choke collar I would be reporting them to their Training Body.

    EXCELLENT behaviourists in the North West whom I would PERSONALLY recommend are David Campbell and Tina Meaney.
    Good Luck.

    About Us - The Animal Behaviour Centre

    MM
     
  11. pauloconnor

    pauloconnor PetForums Newbie

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    Brilliant.

    Thank you everyone.

    I've left a note with the animal behaviour centre to get in touch.

    It gets very confusing as I have been told to do complete opposites by so many different people.

    On the Fearful Dogs website provided above (which I had been on previously) it states that gesture feeding does not nurture fear but then I have also read in other places that that it does!

    In our circumstances the gesture feeding has helped with regards the low-level fear of HGVs but at the shows his fear is much more escalated and he isn't interested in food whatsoever.

    I also remembered that our boy used to be afraid of the vacuum cleaner as a pup and I managed to get him past this using food too. I would simply switch the vacuum cleaner on for periods and then sit down and read whilst letting him investigate tentatively. He would get within a metre or so and then back off so then I started using treats actually placed on the hoover. He resisted the food for maybe a week but eventually he took one and then ran away very quickly! Over the following days he slowly took the food and became calmer each time to the point now where he is happy for my to hoover up whilst he has a snooze!!

    He is also scared of the hair dryer so I will try to snap him out of this one too as another milestone. At the moment it seems like we have an impossible mountain to climb but i've seen that these issues can be resolved and I need to set small milestones.

    It seems there is no one size fits all solution. Instead its more about trial and error and finding out what makes your dog tick. I'll be taking some even more tantalising treats as we take him around this weekend. We are going to go along to a summer fayre and start off just opening the boot of the car and allowing him to take a look at his own pace rather than us having to hurry across the grounds ready for any judging.

    I myself get stressed internally at shows because it is always such a rush. I am always careful not to verbalise this in any way but I bet he can still pick up on it. Especially since he has started to fill out now I dread the prospect of being dragged round. He currently weighs in at around 14 stone whereas I'm only 10!!!! It would really help if people at the shows would not come over to fuss him when he is in that state as it can sometimes cause him to become evevn more scared depending on how they approach him.

    Agree on the Jan Fennell methods to an extent. I think it's imperative that you are seen as alpha to your dogs but regarding the way she recommendds dealing with issues I don't think I agree.

    I have seen a marked improvement in general behaviour since implementing the four disciplines. Our boy will always walk to heel off lead on regular walks and now he's doing long distance commands such as sit/lie down whilst off lead. We no longer have manic moments either as we know the correct way to approach the dogs after periods of separation however when you see a dog feared to death at a situation I can't see how ignoring the situation would be interpreted by the dog as me being leader.

    Either way I need some education and hopefully the people I've contacted can help!!

    Thanks again,

    If anyone has any more advice please keep it coming. I'm determined to crack this problem!
     
  12. madmaddie

    madmaddie PetForums Junior

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    aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarggggggggggggggh

    Just spent 20 minutes constructing a reply - only to be 'told' that my reply was too short!!!!!!

    Will try again!

    MM
     
  13. madmaddie

    madmaddie PetForums Junior

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    Now are you REALLY ready for all the constrasting advice??????
    lololololololololol GOOD LUCK

    MMXXX
     
  14. pauloconnor

    pauloconnor PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks again for the responses!

    Good news from the weekend - we took him as planned and we had no major problems. Considering this is a dog that has resisted every step of the way for the last year and a half this is nothing short of amazing.

    The problems usually start on arrival. Although he was a bit cautious we took a different approach. We got ourselves ready and then set up his ramp to get out of the car but didn't actually make him get out. We then sat on the grass enjoying the sun and chatting amongst ourselves enjoying a bit of food. Eventually he moved from right at the back of the car and came to the boot sniffing the air. We didn't give him any attention at all at this point. After maybe 10 minutes he decided to come down the ramp of his own accord and lay on the grass with us. At this point we gave him lots of fuss!!

    After maybe another 5 mins on the grass we put him on the lead and made our way into the fayre. Whenever I felt he was about to pull I changed direction. We looked funny walking in zig zags but it really worked and as the day progressed I had to do this less and less. I also used the sit and wait at times where zig zagging was difficult like when we were in big crowds.

    He must've been well behaved because we had a lot of people come over and comment on how good he was. In the end we settled in a seated area where people could have some food and we just let him relax around the crowds. I didn't want to push him too far by taking him past the noisey rides as I think we did just about as much as he could deal with comfortably on the first day.

    Overall though very impressed. We're going to keep working on it though because we're bound to have good and bad days but so far so good!
     
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