Generalized puppy concerns and blather

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Generalized puppy concerns and blather

This is a discussion on Generalized puppy concerns and blather within the Puppy Help forums, part of the Dog Training and Behavior category; I am the new trainer and raiser of a spaniel-pitmix now named Sammy. He is ten weeks old, came home on Saturday, is about 15 ...

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Old 04-28-2014, 10:22 PM
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Generalized puppy concerns and blather

I am the new trainer and raiser of a spaniel-pitmix now named Sammy. He is ten weeks old, came home on Saturday, is about 15 pounds give or take, is the world's most horrendously picky eater, and terrified of his own shadow. I am making a new thread partly to keep my housebreaking worries thread clear of general offtopicness to the housebreaking thing, and try to organize my general panicky concerns.

I've helped raise pups before. Normal pups, that are enthusiastic and curious about new things. Sam is afraid of everything but me and the cats, to the point of running and hiding, will growl if approached when trying to hide even if that's directly under my legs, pecks at his food and water instead of really eating and drinking, and is actually housebreaking comfortably well. (knock on wood!)

I am working on introducing him to new things even around the house with lots of praise and food. My father, who owns the dog, is onboard with trying to manage a fearful pup, but I can tell he's upset and a little hurt by the pup's abject rejection of anything not me. Bribery via cheese, chicken and strawberry yogurt is making tiny bits of progress.

There's a lot to work on. He has been on Gravy Train til now, I feed Natural Balance .. or nature balance, I can't see the bag from here. He's not fond of it, so I'm probably going to have to start adding sauce or gravy or something to catch his interest as others have suggested in other thread.

I am a full time high school student. Classes don't let out for another month and a half thanks to lots of snow days. I am home for lunch to bring him outside and feed, and outside again, but can only be home full time during weekends.

Things I am doing:

* Half crate training. He is crated at night and so far sleeps like the dead whenever in it. I may be able to cajole full time crate training given how fearful he is, as dad is a bleeding heart for sad little fuzzballs even if he is authoritarian.
* Working on a good sit and drop it.
* Working on housebreaking, always exciting.
* Attempting clicker-type training without a clicker
* Working on not losing fingers to nippy puppies when treats are on hand. It takes him a while to figure out I will NOT hand it over if he's clawing and biting at my hand...

Things I am wanting to do:

* Get a clicker.
* Prevent seperation anxiety.
* Actually succeed in introducing Sam to life, the universe and everything, without losing a finger in the process.

Last edited by Redwood; 04-28-2014 at 10:28 PM.
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Old 04-28-2014, 11:21 PM
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Things I am concerned about, since I can't edit my post.

The growling! Anyone not me gets growled at, then he runs to hide behind me. It doesn't matter if they're interacting with him or not, he growls, then tries to use me as a shield. Hides under my chair, hides behind my legs, scoots under my desk.. Attempting to soothe him while he's growling may instead reward the very behavior I'm not happy with, and letting him hide behind me might too. He's gotten MUCH more growly today than yesterday.
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Old 04-29-2014, 12:32 AM
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Hi Redwood,

My sense is that it's too early to worry about separation anxiety. Sammy is an infant, and all infants, whether canine or human, need to feel close to their parental figures. It's through this bond of closeness and security that a child becomes confident and well-adjusted.

I'd like to suggest that you leave articles of your clothing and your dad's clothing in the crate with Sammy so that he feel comforted by your scents. It would be very good for him to develop a positive association with your dad's presence. Glad to hear that your dad is a "softie" after all.
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Old 04-29-2014, 01:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Redwood View Post
Things I am concerned about, since I can't edit my post.

The growling! Anyone not me gets growled at, then he runs to hide behind me. It doesn't matter if they're interacting with him or not, he growls, then tries to use me as a shield. Hides under my chair, hides behind my legs, scoots under my desk.. Attempting to soothe him while he's growling may instead reward the very behavior I'm not happy with, and letting him hide behind me might too. He's gotten MUCH more growly today than yesterday.
Honestly, I'd be much more worried about the classical (emotion-based) outcomes than the operant (intentional behavior) outcomes in a fear situation. It's biologically impossible to reinforce fear. Comforting a dog when they're frightened, contrary to the common myth, doesn't increase the fear response over time and may actually decrease it, so comfort away! It breaks down kind of like this:

Potential outcomes:
1. He growls at something that scares him, hides behind you, and you don't offer him comfort (and/or you move away so he can't hide behind you, etc). Outcome: He remains frightened, possibly becomes more frightened (hiding behavior led to re-exposure to scary thing = scary thing is inescapable, possible flooding), possibly becomes less likely to go to you for help when scared (because obviously that didn't work).
2. He growls at something that scares him, hides behind you, and you offer quiet, calming comfort and a safe place to retreat to. Outcome: He is slightly less frightened, both because he has been comforted and because he now has a viable, safe escape strategy to help him cope with being overwhelmed. He may possibly use you as a secure "home base" to venture out and explore the scary thing. At the very least, you avoid flooding and establish that going to you for help is a good plan when he's in over his head.

Are you familiar with classical counter conditioning? It works wonders for fear-growlies. I'm working with an unsocialized pup myself now and CCing really is the best "bang for your buck" as far as training effort (moderate) vs. results (great) vs. stress on the dog (minimal).
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Old 04-29-2014, 01:39 AM
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I'm way too tired to type out all my thoughts right now-will do later-but I'm so glad you named him Sammy!

From a mama of one Sammy to another
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Old 04-29-2014, 04:47 AM
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Here's a video to help with the growling: Training Aggression? Counter-conditioning a Dog to Blowing in Face

It deals with an aggressive response rather than fear-based (what your pup appears to be doing), but the concept and technique is the same.
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Old 04-29-2014, 07:05 AM
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I think also, try and not worry too much and do to much too quickly. He's still in a very new environment and it will take a while for him to settle in. I wouldn't worry too much about training for now, just counter conditioning to help him overcome his fears like inkii suggests. I think it would be really helpful if you taught him "No mugging" as well, so he has a good foundation of how to behave around treats when he you start with the clicker: here's a video for that (and of course kikopup has a lot of excellent videos on training your new puppy and how to deal with problem behaviours.
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Old 04-29-2014, 07:49 AM
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My little dog Jesse was very much a velco dog when I first brought him home from the shelter. He was always within about four feet from me and slept in a dog bed next to my bed. As time passed and he became more secure in our home, he's become a bit more independent. Now, he chooses to sleep in the living room on our leather sofa. My sense is that Sammy, too, needs to feel the closeness and reassurance of your presence right now. However, over time, he'll gradually become less afraid and more confident.
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Old 04-29-2014, 08:04 AM
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A 10 week puppy is likely going to a "velcro puppy" no matter what. He's just been separated from his mom and littermates, and thrown into a brand new environment, and he's scared. He has realized that you give him food and love-so you are likely to be trusted. But it will still take him time to accept you as his new mom.

A fearful pup is another story, but since he is so tiny, it will probably be easier to counter condition than if he were an adult. I'm not the expert on this though. The pup is always going to bond more with the person who takes more care of him and spends the most time with him (you). To get him to not be afraid of your dad, I would have your dad sit on the floor and grab some toys and try to play with him, or just throw treats at him if you're really getting nowhere. He can put some PB on the back of his hand and have pup lick it off.

Puppies won't starve themselves. If he's being finicky, try Kelly's recipe to make kibble more nommy. But as long as he eats, he will be okay. Gravy train is a crappy food-stick with the Natural Balance please.

You can always try using a loud clicking pen in lieu of a clicker as well.
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Old 04-29-2014, 08:21 AM
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It's time for dad to get down on the floor I find with fearful pups getting closer to their level helps as well as allowing them to initiate contact. I sit on the floor and watch TV with a few toys and treats around me and wait, curiosity always seems to win out. Even after the pup comes over I still don't engage with it, I'll wait and let him do his sniffing, get comfortable climbing over my legs and when I can see he feels safe I'll start gently wiggling a finger or toy, offer a treat, start quietly humming.

I strongly agree that you can't reinforce fear. My lab mix came to me at 20 months old terrified of everything except people. I live on the seafront and had a dog scared of sand, seaweed, water, skateboards, bikes etc. We tackled his fears one by one, patiently with lots of treats, gentle voice, cuddles and allowing him to retreat or advance as he chose. He now races around the sand, rolls in seaweed, loves to swim and shows no reaction to bikes etc when we're out walking. We still have issues of leash reactivity with other dogs but I have hope we will conquer that as well.
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