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I posted a few weeks ago that Stella started random displays of fear aggression, seemingly at nothing other than some scent she seemed fixated on. I had assumed it was some sort of predator, and she managed to get over it. However, it has started to happen again randomly. Typically it's in the same space, or span of space down the street from us. Even if we're able to get by and she doesn't have a full of fear aggressive reactions, she gets very anxious and fearful and is easily spooked by other noises or movements during the walk. This doesn't happen all the time but when it does it's very upsetting to watch and nothing seems to make er feel better. Sometimes I can momentarily distract her but it's short lived. It's really upsetting because she was always really confident and never really scared of anything.

I'm struggling with what to do because while I know *something* is scaring her I have no idea of knowing what that something is, how to stop her being scared of it, or if it's something maybe I should be scared of too! Could it be a gas leak? Has anyone ever heard of dogs behaving that way due to something toxic like that? I know there is a natural gas thing not far from where she reacts that way. Should I try to investigate and find out what it could be? I could try but I just don't have any confidence I could find out the source of this.

And in terms of training should I...try to train her like this is general anxiety? Honestly I don't know how else I could attempt to help her because it's not like I can notice this before she does, prevent it in any way or be able to lessen or increase the intensity of the...source of fear. It's just really upsetting because she's been improving with her leash reactivity and polite greetings. I hate to see her scared and be unable to relieve it. I'd really appreciate any advice or thoughts.
 

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Wow! I wish I could add something but I'm in the same boat as you are. How does one try to deal with an unknown and make the appropriate changes??

I'm sure you are watching her very closely when you enter this particular area. Does she give you any indication she is scenting this unknown or maybe hearing it by her posturing of her head or ears?

I wouldn't rule anything out that you might think of since you are familiar with the area such as a gas leak.

And yes, there are dogs which are trained to detect pipeline oil leaks as well as natural gas leaks but I assume it is through standard detection training practices.

I'd be interested to hear what you discover, when you find out what this particular area has that sets her off.
 

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I'm sorry to hear that things haven't cleared up completely after the aforementioned incident. And I wish I could give better advice on this.
Do you think she could be going through a fear period? It could be gas or something toxic, but I'm leaning against it since your outside so unless your pretty close to a pontentail leak its probably not going to be to concentrated. I don't think it could hurt going to were she normally gets scared and investigating on your own, maybe you'll find something you cant see from the road. Or she possible has decided that something that she was ok with before is now scary just because or possible it moved or looks different. Maybe there's a sound or smell coming from a house you walk by that makes her scared?
Maybe it might be worth it to take a break from walking in that area to work on some confidence boosting things, and see what works for her best for distractions. Or bring something like a kong stuffed with goodies (possibly peanut butter) that she only gets to lick while walking down that area, or make walking down that area into a game (maybe something like "go check it out"). Maybe making walking down the stretch become a rewarding fun exciting thing to do might help. You could also try teaching her a "on by". Its a common mushing phrase which basicly a cue for them to pass by a possible/potential distraction and not stop. I personally use while on walks when we pass by people/dogs/cars (things that they normally react to or a little nervous around).
 

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Could be some sort of noise that you can't hear? Bus is very sensitive to a LOT of noises ("booms" and "beeps" mostly, but you'd be amazed at how many things make those sounds :< ), and a complete wuss over it- he shuts down, wants to hide someplace "tight" like under the couch or between my feet if out. And that's after work to teach him that just fleeing in terror isn't an option. It also has gotten worse (more triggers) with age.

Maybe try putting some cotton in her ears to muffle sound a bit and see if there's ANY improvement? That might give a clue if it's a noise phobia issue. Or not. I would imagine a "scary" scent could also be causing it as well, and might be harder to rule out. If you have any friends/neighbors with dogs, invite them along for a walk, and see how their dogs react. If it's just her, I'd be more inclined to believe it's some sort of "individual" phobia, rather than one of the more universal ones like predators.

You don't have cicadas in your area currently, do you? A previous dog had an encounter with one that buzzed furiously right against her nose, and after that would hackle, bark, growl, etc if she heard one buzzing- it's a pretty weird noise, and I've seen lots of dogs freaked out by it.

As far as getting her past it, "heel" with steady dispensing of spray cheese? It makes a little noise which might help if that's the issue, and is yummy, so a good distraction. Or you might be able to teach her a "run past"/"on by" behavior like Sabina suggested- which she might find appealing because it will get her out of there faster.
 

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Thanks for the replies. I appreciate the advice, it's just difficult to create good associations because by the time I realize it's there she's super scared already and the Pavlovian horse is out of the lab.

@busannie I'm pretty certain it's a scent, as this behavior is always preceded by furious and focused sniffing of the ground. That's actually another difficult part because like any dog Stella will periodically sniff along the ground. But then she'll start sniffing like crazy and sometimes "hugging" the ground with her claws, and the the fear displays escalate. I already always bring string cheese on our walks because we have been working on her leash reactivity (she's made lots of progress!). I actually tried dropping a few pieces on the floor and she ate some last night but it did nothing to soothe her. Other times she refuses to eat the special treats at all. It gets that bad, and very quickly. But maybe I could try some string cheese or kong spread as well.
 

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I think trying the cheese spread/kong filling or peanut butter might be worth it. If she's engroused in licking and eating ,insert food item here, she might not even have time to smell the scary smell. Basicaly the principle of being so focused on one thing that another thing (in this case the possible scary smell) doesn't even register.
I'm not sure what surface you walk on (dirt, pavement ect) but maybe something died or marked there and while the scent has dissipated enough that you cant smell it, the scent molocules are still clinging to the ground. Dogs have better noses then we do so she might be picking that up and it bothers her. As busannie mentioned maybe try bringing along another dog to see if they also have a reaction or not, it might help to give you a better idea of what's going on.
 

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I can just imagine how upsetting it must be for you to see her that distraught. Have you thought of avoiding that route all together for a while? I know it might be difficult and take extra effort to go out of your way to give her exercise in a different place. But perhaps you are going to have to consider that to get her back to enjoying her daily walks. Drive her maybe one block up from where you are now and walk there.
 

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If it seems to be something she's smelling on the ground before reacting, I just would cut out sniffing on walks for a bit. That's much easier to head off and prevent than if she's reacting to a scent on the air. Since you can't know what sort of sniffing she's going to do until it's happening, just don't allow any for now, at least not in areas she's previously been reactive.
 
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