Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

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Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Joon » Fri Oct 10, 2014 11:10 am

Hello everyone! I've been reading these boards since before we got our puppy, and it's been a tremendous help for me and my husband as first time dog owners. I'm writing about our French Brittany... hopefully I won't get chased outta town for this. She's 7.5 months old and we got her at 8 weeks. I realize now we did a terrible job at socializing her and I'm hoping to learn what steps we can take now to fix what we did, er, did not do.

We had a friend bring his dog over a few times when she was younger, and we took her over to his house. She'd be nervous at first but then would settle down and play like crazy. We don't know anyone else with dogs so we didn't do "puppy play dates" or anything. We've taken her on lots of trips with us, including a stay at a dog friendly hotel and she did great. She loves going places with us but we just didn't introduce her to enough new situations with dogs and now she's become very fearful.

While out on our morning jogs, we pass the same few dogs on leashes and she's pretty good. She gets alert, I'll stop and encourage her to sniff something off the path and let her be engaged in exploring until they pass us. No idea if this is the right thing to do, but if we don't do this, she tries to lunge at them. She's wagging her tail while she does this but her body language is very tense and it seems to me like she is very unsure of herself.

We run into people walking their dogs off leash fairly often and they never have any control over their dogs. They start shouting at their dog and waiving their hands around but the dogs always run straight up to little Joon. She of course panics and is at the end of her leash, trying to get away. If I'm able to calmly position myself in between her and the dog and tell the dog to BACK OFF she will stand behind me and peer between my legs. If there are two dogs off leash, then all bets are off and she is scrambling to get away while i'm trying to prevent her legs from getting severely tangled up in her leash. She looks very panicked in these situations and I don't know how to help her. The "dog walkers" always get angry with me about it and I'm like WELP MAYBE DON'T LET YOUR DOG OFF LEASH IF THEY ARE NOT UNDER VOICE CONTROL. Not EVERY dog LOVES it when strange dogs run up to them, especially when they are on leash and the other dog is not. But I realize it's not my business and I try my best to get away from the situation and continue with our walk. She calms down quickly after these episodes and it doesn't seem to effect her afterward. Today I took her for a walk in a different area and she did the exact same panicked-pulling-gotta get out of here dance when we passed a statue of a dog, and then the same thing when we passed a fire hydrant she hadn't seen before.

So basically, I know that I didn't introduce her to enough new situations while she was younger. I'm hoping to fix what I did and I realize it may take a long time, and I'm prepared to go slow. If anyone has any tips for me going forward how to handle these situations I'd really appreciate it. Any exercises I can practice with her when she sees something that spooks her? How do I handle uncontrolled dogs and angry owners, when I've got my own crazy pup?

If you took the time to read all of this, THANK YOU!
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Cindy » Fri Oct 10, 2014 12:12 pm

I am certainly NOT an expert along these lines but I feel fairly safe in saying that you may not" have done anything wrong :) I've never known a French Brittany but we've had 7 regular Britts over the years. It wasn't until we adopted Layla that we finally had an outgoing/social dog!! Since we live way out in the country, our dogs don't get to socialize with people or other dogs that often. We have a big dog park not far from where we grocery shop so try to get them there 1-2 times/week. Layla runs up barking to every dog and person she sees. Kayla will go up and sniff other dogs and then keep on going. And Pippa would just as soon avoid dogs and people so runs in the opposite direction! I don't think it works to force these situations so we just keep on trying to expose them to dogs/people at every opportunity. I'll be interested to hear what suggestions people have but I'm fairly convinced it's just their individual personalities that come into play.
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Joon » Fri Oct 10, 2014 12:22 pm

Cindy wrote:...but I'm fairly convinced it's just their individual personalities that come into play.


That's true! I feel I should clarify I don't want to change her personality, by forcing her to be a social dog. I just really want to learn what I can do to help in these situations, and I don't want to make it worse, ha!

I don't know much about the differences between french and regular brittany's, but I do know that I could have written half these posts on this forum about Joon so in my limited experience they are pretty similar. :)

Your dogs are gorgeous, btw!
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby dmedric » Fri Oct 10, 2014 1:59 pm

You've hit on one of my pet peeves -- people who let their dogs off-leash without having control over them (and I live in a county with a leash law). My Brit, Cooper, is very selective about other dogs and really doesn't react well if a dog he doesn't know runs up to him while he is on leash. I can't stand owners that yell out "it's okay, my dog is friendly" -- that really doesn't help if my dog is reacting badly (and I'm walking 2 dogs on leash). I am working on Cooper's reactions to other dogs, but it is a work in progress.

For situations where the other dogs are on leash, the trainer that I worked with suggested distracting him with high value treats. Basically, if I see someone approaching with a dog that we don't know, I say "look at me" and as soon as he turns his head, I give him a treat. Then I hold another treat just in front of his nose, continue to walk, calmly passing the other dog. One caveat: I will cross the street to give Cooper some space if at all possible. I also think that continuing to expose your dog to other dogs in controlled situations will help.

All that said, I think it is perfectly fine if Cooper doesn't want to greet another dog as long as he remains calm and quiet. I often let my other dog, Belle, greet dogs we know while Cooper just stands slightly off to the side and watches, but doesn't interact.
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Cindy » Fri Oct 10, 2014 4:18 pm

Your dogs are gorgeous, btw!

Thanks!! And all three are super sweet rescues!
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Barb Wright » Fri Oct 10, 2014 8:04 pm

Guess the first thing I want to point out is that at 7.5 months Joon is still very much a puppy....she is too young to have much confidence, and with limited exposure to dogs/dog situations, she is just exhibiting the insecurity. Perfectly normal for her to be fearful until she can see just what is going to happen with the encounter. Putting yourself in front of her is fine, and so you should if you don't know what the loose dogs are going to do. Even picking her up is fine, I've done that many times in the past when my pups were fearful or I was unsure what the approaching loose dogs were going to do. At this point in her development you are still her protector and only when she matures, has more confidence, has more experience behind her will she then be comfortable with the approach of loose dogs. You are doing fine, and realizing that she needs more exposure means you will try to cover those bases more often. Travelling with dogs is always good for them, and she sounds like she rolled with those uncertainties pretty well for such a young pup.

Now, people whose dogs are loose and not under voice control are the folks who are in the wrong. Do not let them intimidate you into thinking that you have done something wrong because your dog is fearful. Just defend your dog the best you can in those circumstances. Keep your voice calm....the yelling and shouting of the other people at their dogs just further ignites the situation.....protect Joon, calm her best you can until the situations resolves. She may turn out to be a dog that just does not want to socialize with strange dogs, especially upon meeting suddenly or with a lot of vocal distraction....so just keep introducing her to social situations as often as you can and as she matures and gains confidence you will find out if she is a cautious, reserved socialite or if she is a "I love everyone, let's party" type :wink: Personally I think that dogs that rush up to strange dogs are not properly dog socialized, and in some cases are asking for trouble. The owners are at fault, remember that!!

When Joon approaches something spooky to her, give her time to inspect and investigate it....my Cassie spooked at statues of moose, but did not spook at the real thing :roll: She also was very cautious when something large, strange, and new appeared where it had not been before. I feel that a cautious dog is a thinking dog...a good trait.

American or French, this is a Brittany stronghold.....which also accepts Honorary Britts as well :D Glad you are joining us and hope to hear lots more about the life and adventures of Joon the French Brittany :D
RIP Sweet Cassie 4/98 - 3/13
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Lisa » Mon Oct 13, 2014 8:15 am

Along with the other advice offered, I try to make new things lots of fun for my dogs. If it's something I can pick up and play with, we do. If it's something stationary, like a statue or fire hydrant, I make a game out of checking the thing out. Yes, I probably look like a goofball, but it sets my dogs at ease. If my dog is spooked by something, then I make it more fun. I'll ask my dog if she wants to check it out, get excited about the thing, run up to it then run away again, touch the thing and ask my dog to sniff or touch it too, you get the idea.

When Charm was a puppy, interacting with new things kinda looked like this:
Me: "Charm-charm, look! Isn't this so cool?! Oh my gosh, we have to go check it out!" All said in a happy, exited voice. Then we go up to it, as close as Charm is willing to go. She would get a treat for even trying to approach, and then I'd say "yes, good girl! Let's go over here now!" We'd run over and check out something else for a minute, then back to the scary thing, more treats for approaching and maybe a little play or something, and then run off to check out something else. I never made leaving the thing an escape, just a chance to go check out something else. Pretty quick, Charm was wanting to run up to the new thing for treats and to play with me.
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby adele » Tue Oct 14, 2014 6:55 am

Everything everyone's said seems bang on to me. With off leash dogs it's such a complicated business... there is no answer since every situation is different and ya just have to judge by the situation. I had soooo much trouble when Lola was around 2. She decided she didn't want to have anything to do with other dogs and started growling, barking, and snapping at them - which is acceptable doggie speak for "get the h@% away from me" - but not acceptable behaviour around humans. I read that it didn't help if I got upset - just increased the stress - but I was upset. I eventually did figure out that I often (not always) had more control over the off leash dogs than their owners and if I used my best Commander-in-Chief voice I could get the off leash dogs to sit or stay or even leave. You could try that.. not scared screaming "get away from me" ... but use your "I'm in control here" voice (even if you're not) command the other dog to sit... it often works to defuse the situation. Don't feel bad about expressing your feelings to the owners if they do not have control over their dogs. Like Barb said, they are the ones in the wrong. Oh, it used to make me just boil over :twisted: :evil: I remember so many disasterous run-ins with off leash dogs... I even tried to kick one once :oops: but he was pointedly approaching Lola and wouldn't take no for an answer.

Not all dogs are friendly social beings, loners are not bad dogs! Lola is happy to ignore other dogs - that's the way she is. I'm okay with that so long as she behaves herself. If you want your puppy to meet other dogs you could try this... it might work for you and your pup (might not)... When I'm still quite far from other leashed dogs I yell over to the other dog owner and ask if their dog likes to say "hi"... some say yes and some say no... if it's "no" then I cross the street or go up a drive way or turn around... I just calmly move out of the situation... If it's yes you can just tell the other owner that your dog is a little shy and, ya know, a lot of "doggie" people will stop and calm their dog and allow a slow easy greeting.. or even no greeting at all just keep the dogs apart and have a quick chat with the other owner so your dog can peek out from behind your legs and maybe get the nerve up to say hi (or maybe not)... just have a quite chat with the owner and then walk on... even giving the other dog a wide berth if your dog is scared. That works with Lola now... after a lot of training. She'll move to the end of her leash away from the other dog and just wait till I finished talking - which is fine.. she does not have to interact with the other dog. Sometimes and I have no idea why, she deems the other dog "acceptable" and will exchange sniffs. We now have a few dog friends that we confidently walk up to with Lola's tail wagging... we just avoid other dogs. One thing you can/should do is teach your own dog really rock solid sits, stays, and heels. If you have control over your dog these "out of control" situations will be a lot easier to handle and your dog will know what you expect her to do... that can help with her confidence. Your dog is still a baby so you may want to stick with dogs about the same size or really calm dogs. On the other hand, I met with a dog trainer just the other day and she thinks that meeting strange dogs is just asking for trouble. Dog/dog interactions are complicated and when you toss in humans it just gets worse... Dogs straining on leashes get pulled into more "aggressive" body language then they may be meaning to convey, and leashes can get tangled which could cause "misunderstandings" between the dogs. She teaches her dogs to just walk past the others without any meeting at all (course she has more than one dog so they can interact with each other).

You could also try a puppy socialization class. Lola used to love her classes - we'd practice basics like sit and heel and at the end of the class the dogs were allowed to play. At first Lola hid under the chairs (which is okay) but she eventually got into it.
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Joon » Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:44 pm

Thank you all so much for the encouragement! You guys really made me feel better. Just wanted to give a quick update.

In the past week or so since I've posted I've followed your advice and started bring treats on our excursions around the neighborhood, so I can reward her when she walks by a dog calmly. I've also started to stand up for her a little more and request that people please back off with their dogs. This is hard for me to do! I've been trying to spot trouble from afar and I look for places to take her a little out of the way so she can still observe, but not get too close for comfort. And reward her for taking a step towards them, but letting her go at her own pace. I think it's helped a lot. We had a really lovely (and close) encounter with a couple of leashed dogs the other morning and Joon reacted so well, I almost got teary. haha. Their dogs were calm and they saw that she was nervous so they spoke soothingly to her. I thanked them and they probably thought I was strange but it's so cool when strangers "get it".

I also called a local doggy day care and explained about Joon, and they invited me to come by this next week with her to slowly starting getting used to the surroundings and seeing the other dogs. I'll be staying with her and just walking her around, and will probably be there for about 30 minutes. They were super understanding about her and seemed happy to help us out. I don't want to overwhelm her so we are going to take it slooooow. Like, we may just stay in the parking lot.

I'm going to try and post a picture of her, we'll see how this goes:

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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby adele » Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:10 am

She's so pretty. Love her colour.

Hope things continue to go well... keep us up to date on her progress.
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Re: Help with fearful brittany puppy - 7.5 months old

Postby Cindy » Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:37 am

Thanks for the update and glad things are getting better. Joon is gorgeous!
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