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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Nika is my Doberman mix (possibly mixed with Staffordshire), and as of late she's been showing signs of timidity and anxiousness. I'll give a few examples.

My husband and I were lying on the floor with her watching a comedy. We were in great spirits, laughing and joking with each other, but Nika was not. She was pacing and shaking. (I give this example particularly because she's a very sensitive dog, usually intune with our emotions).

The next day my husband was home from work while I was at work. He was sitting at the computer drinking coffee, checking email. Nika crawled under the computer desk and was shaking, panting, and whining.

We've spoken to the vet and concluded that her behavior while on walks, runs, throwing frisbees is 100% and that she is not in any physical pain.

I am the last one to leave for work in the morning and Nika is sleeping on our bedroom floor until I wake up to go to work. She's quiet and happy to see us in the mornings. When I start getting ready for work she goes into her timid mode. Her body is shaking, her tail is tucked, her head is down. The moment I say, "wanna go for a walk" she's instantly a different dog. Happy, excited (not overly), going to the door patiently waiting for her morning walk. Immediately after the walk she goes back into her timid mode.

She has free run of the house whenever we're gone and doesn't destroy anything, so I've been told it's not separation anxiety.

She's always been sensitive and for a little while I misinterpreted this timidity as sensitivity, but it's gotten worse in the last few months. We also have had no changes to our home.

Any suggestions? We don't have any kids but would like to, but don't want introduce that stressor if we can't get that timidity under control.
 

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Very interesting story. This will probably take a lot of dialogue to try to get a clue as to the possible sources of the problem. So get ready for people to ask you lots of questions! ;)

How old is she?
Have you had her since puppyhood?

You've already said there have been no changes in the household, but perhaps you could just continue to examine that premise, for something you may have missed. Sometimes stresses sort of creep up on a dog over time.

How much exercise and what type of it does she get? Has this changed at all in the last 6 months?

Have you had her tested for low thyroid hormone?


Has she had a general vet check up?

Is she a healthy weight?

What are you feeding her?

I can't think of anything else to ask right now, but maybe some of your answers will give a few leads!

Hope we can help....

edit... one more. Is she spayed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
She will be 2 in December.

We've had her since she was 9 or 10 weeks old.

I am trying to think of things that we've changed, but am failing. On a side note to that, my husband and I are very anal people and dislike change. :)

I do feel we need to exercise her a bit more. She's always been a very calm dog, and able to skip a walk here and there when one of us has been feeling ill or had a long day. Unfortunately I've taken advantage of this and her morning/daily walks have been close to 3x per week for about 20 minutes a walk. She also goes to the dog park once a week for about an hour. She's not a high energy dog and usually calms down there within 30-40 minutes of playing. This has been her routine since we've had her as a pup.

She has not been tested for low thyroid. Would there be any additional symptoms of that that I can look for?

I talked to the vet about this last week and they gave me the number for a dog trainer, saying it sounded more behavioral than physical. The trainer said to make her do something (sit, down, stay, etc.) such that she feels rewarded because she's making me happy. I did try that a bit this weekend, but it almost seemed that the very moment I stopped paying attention to her she'd go right back into timid/stressed. Almost as though she's trying to keep my undivided attention on her 24/7.

She's 55 pounds, ribs are palpable but not physically noticeable.

She eats Iams large breed food. I questioned that a little bit as she's more of a medium dog, but she falls within that weight range so I stuck to it. She gets 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup in the evening, approximately 10-12 hours apart. She does not always eat her food. The more activity she has/does the more likely it is that she'll eat her food.

Yes she was spayed at 4 1/2 months.
 

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Well, my experience with dobies is that they do tend towards being timid/nervous. Now assuming for right now that there are absolutely no health issues, then if I were in your shoes, I'd probably go on a concerted program of Positive Reinforcement training, as your trainer suggested.

Its going to take a few weeks for you to start seeing results... not sure how long you tried before, but overall this type of training does indeed build confidence and builds your relationship and trust with your dog.

Hopefully others have something to chime in, but here is one place to start. "Clicker training" as it is called, is extremely effective. You can take a look at this youtube channel to get an idea of how it works. Its quite easy to do, and fun for both you and your dog.

kikopup's Channel - YouTube

If you get into this, we have several books to recommend, and additional videos for sure as well.

Maybe that gives you one possible starting place.

And just one more thought... I have found my dogs not to be fully mature until their 3rd or even 4th year, so your pup may still be developing mentally/emotionally, just like a human in the late teenage stage. Building confidence, by having successful experiences is very important.

Hope some of that is a small help anyway!
 

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And I'd also say it could not hurt to get her more exercise, and to do it every day religiously. Exercise with dogs is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. It sort of re-sets their neurochemicals. The symptoms you are seeing can indeed be from stress.

My husband and I have a dog who requires at least an hour of off-leash running per day, in order to remain "sane". A day or two skipped and he is a nervous wreck, jumping at every little stimulus.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I have a few different thoughts.

First, I have heard that highly intelligent dogs (Poodles, Border Collies, Dobermans :p, etc.) won't reach their full maturity until 2 years. But that was just from one source, so it wouldn't surprise me for a second if it were 3-4 years as suggested by Tess. I'd also like to brag that if that is the case then clearly my dog is highly intelligent! :D

So I could see it as being a stage that she's going through before reaching full maturity.

Secondly, I'm torn as to whether it's exercise related or dominance related. The worst she acted was around my husband when she crawled under the computer desk panting, whining, and shaking for absolutely no reason. The trainer suggested making her do something when she gets into that state and when I suggested that to Adam (husband) he said that she does not listen to him when she's like that. She does, however, listen to me, with little or no hesitation, when she's in that state. So I'm wondering if she's having issues with deciphering whether or not he's her boss or her equal. That same day Adam took her to some parks around the area (not dog parks) to run around a little bit off leash and just get out some energy. Her mood was a bit better when I got home from work but she still seemed "mopey" that night.

On a side note, while she is our dog, I think she sees me as the Alpha. I trained her and take her out for most of her exercise. I also think she listens better to me than to Adam.

I'm going to take her to run around the golf course tonight and see how she does afterwards.

Now I'm just blabbing, perhaps I should get back to work!

Thank you Tess so much for your help. I really appreciate it, and so will our family!
 

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Secondly, I'm torn as to whether it's exercise related or dominance related...So I'm wondering if she's having issues with deciphering whether or not he's her boss or her equal....On a side note, while she is our dog, I think she sees me as the Alpha. I trained her and take her out for most of her exercise. I also think she listens better to me than to Adam.
I think you've gotten great advice - just want to call your attention to something specific around your thought-path. Dominance theory HAS been scientifically disproven in domestic dogs. Alpha, Beta, Omega - all have no place in domesticated canines. Have a look at our dominance sticky link here. If you read through the links provided in that sticky, I think you'll come out with a better understanding of how your dog will relate to your household.

The part of your quote that I bolded above would be a screaming excuse for why she may respond better to you than to Adam. Perhaps he can join you in some training - this would help him to build a stronger relationship with the pup, and in-turn, likely yield better results when he's attempting to calm her or give cues.
 

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OK, you will have many people here who will dispute the whole concept of dominance as an issue in the first place, and especially in what you are describing here.

I think it is much more likely that your dog was in "shut-down" mode around your husband as she was under the desk. What you describe is a very fearful dog, which is incompatible with being dominant.

Of the two of you, my guess is that you are softer with her, use a gentler voice and more encouragement. Perhaps your husband uses a deeper voice and does more of a "command" when asking for something. This may result in your dog just being sort of overwhelmed and cowering under the desk. Her brain is simply on overload and she does not know what to do to appease your husband.

If she is quivering, cowering, tail tucked, head down, that is super clear body language that she is feeling very much intimidated, the exact opposite of trying to dominate the scene. Rather she is trying to disappear.

If that is the case, we here on dogforum will totally encourage you let go of the idea of dominance as a source of your issues. It sounds a lot like your dog is timid, perhaps even fearful, and that using any sort of strong commands with her will have her emotionally collapse.

Again, the type of training kikopups shows you, will help her a LOT. She will learn how to do what you ask of her in a relaxed and rewarding way. Right now she is like a small child scared of being yelled at, and sort of paralyzed with anxiety.

Truly, try the kikopups way for even a few 5 minute sessions. I think you will see a difference right away. Do it in a quiet room, and be very calm with her, and as non-intimidating as you can be. What you are aiming for is a HAPPY response from her, with ears up, tail relaxed, body relaxed.
 

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OK, you will have many people here who will dispute the whole concept of dominance as an issue in the first place, and especially in what you are describing here.

I think it is much more likely that your dog was in "shut-down" mode around your husband as she was under the desk. What you describe is a very fearful dog, which is incompatible with being dominant.

Of the two of you, my guess is that you are softer with her, use a gentler voice and more encouragement. Perhaps your husband uses a deeper voice and does more of a "command" when asking for something. This may result in your dog just being sort of overwhelmed and cowering under the desk. Her brain is simply on overload and she does not know what to do to appease your husband.

If she is quivering, cowering, tail tucked, head down, that is super clear body language that she is feeling very much intimidated, the exact opposite of trying to dominate the scene. Rather she is trying to disappear.

If that is the case, we here on dogforum will totally encourage you let go of the idea of dominance as a source of your issues. It sounds a lot like your dog is timid, perhaps even fearful, and that using any sort of strong commands with her will have her emotionally collapse.

Again, the type of training kikopups shows you, will help her a LOT. She will learn how to do what you ask of her in a relaxed and rewarding way. Right now she is like a small child scared of being yelled at, and sort of paralyzed with anxiety.

Truly, try the kikopups way for even a few 5 minute sessions. I think you will see a difference right away. Do it in a quiet room, and be very calm with her, and as non-intimidating as you can be. What you are aiming for is a HAPPY response from her, with ears up, tail relaxed, body relaxed.
Indeed - positive reinforcement training will build her confidence significantly. I'll reiterate, get Adam involved in the training - you'll be amazed at the difference in how they relate after only a few quick sessions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ok, so I may have left a few things out. First, I am far more firm with her than my husband is. In the past I have yelled at her more than he has. While I have done all the training as far as teaching her goes, he does reiterate it, use it and has taught her her boundaries. I taught her the basics, sit, stay, down, etc. Adam taught her not to cross this line (basically areas of our front yard so she can be off her leash w/o fear of her running out of the yard, etc.)

She's also not always this shy timid dog with Adam. He plays frisbee with her (I can't throw a frisbee to save my life) and gets down on the floor to play with her (I've had my earrings ripped out so don't like to do that stuff anymore). I don't necessarilly think she's scared of one of us versus the other. While she went into timid mode while he was home alone with her, she also goes into that timid mode when I'm leaving for work in the morning and Adam is nowhere in sight.

I think we're onto something with the exercise. I'm going to stick to a more routine exercise for her and see how that works. As far as the clicker training goes. She did great with positive reinforcement with treats, "good dog", play time, etc. and that really worked for us so I'd like to stick to that versus the clicker training. However I'm running out of things to teach her LOL! She knows: no, sit, stay, come, come here, down, go lay down, crate, drop it, and leave it. (Come means come to me and sit down beside me and come here means come back into my general area. It took her a minute to pick up on the differences, but it works great with off leash training).
 

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I think we're onto something with the exercise. I'm going to stick to a more routine exercise for her and see how that works. As far as the clicker training goes. She did great with positive reinforcement with treats, "good dog", play time, etc. and that really worked for us so I'd like to stick to that versus the clicker training. However I'm running out of things to teach her LOL! She knows: no, sit, stay, come, come here, down, go lay down, crate, drop it, and leave it. (Come means come to me and sit down beside me and come here means come back into my general area. It took her a minute to pick up on the differences, but it works great with off leash training).
OK then, sounds good! More exercise is almost always a good thing.

Regarding the training, it sounds like you are already doing PR training. One does not have to use a clicker. It sounds like you have used the word "good" to do what we call "mark" the behavior you then reward with a treat. Its the same thing (although studies show that the clear sound of a clicker makes a better impression on the dog and results in faster learning).

In any case, you can check out the kikopups channel for lots and lots of ideas of what to train her to do!

Overall, I would encourage you again to take a softer approach with her. She is clearly giving you mega signals of fear and shutdown.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Couple things. First I want to make it clear that we don't physically hurt our dog. We adore her, have no kids, and basically treat her as our daughter (dog-ter as I refer to her). I am more firm with her than my husband, but we don't hit her. I do give her a loud firm "no" when she does something that I see as terrible (i.e. start a fight with another dog over a toy, and believe me she was not in her timid mode at that point in time; also when she's knocked my small nieces and nephews down by jumping on them).

Secondly, here is what we did yesterday. 15 minute calm morning walk. In the evening, 30 minutes on the golf course, and another 15 minutes around the neighborhood. Once I got inside she was calm, but not acting timid. I had to make dinner and nothing makes her (and her feline friend Barley) happier than knowing when I'm cutting up chicken. I used a couple of bits to teach her "stand" from a sit and/or down position. After that I filled her squirrel dude treat dispenser guy with treats and she went after it for about an hour or so. After that she followed her dad to bed while mumma stayed up on the couch channel surfing for a bit.

She got a 20 minute calm morning walk this morning and I plan on taking her out again for 30 minutes or so tonight. She did go into her timid mode again as I was leaving for work this morning, but I suppose I can't expect a complete 180 overnight. I'm happy that she didn't slip into it at all yesterday evening and will continue to give her more exercise and find things to teach her to do for training.

Thank you everyone for your help and advice. We all appreciate it. I'll keep you up to date on her progress.
 

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I don't think anybody said yo7 hit your dog, but there is no need for a firm anything, including a firm "no". That is what we meant :)
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It sounds like you are doing a great job with her. The exercise and treats and such are awesome. She certainly sounds very well loved!

One thing you can work into your routine is asking her for alternative behaviors when she is being naughty. For example, if she is getting too rambunctious with the little kids, asking her to "sit" or "come" to you works very well. Over time and repetition, you'll find that this alternative behavior becomes more and more conditioned and easier to get her to do. In this way you are teaching her what you WANT her to do, rather than just having her guess what you want....

As far as her getting obnoxious with other dogs over toys, this is called "resource guarding". We have a sticky here about it.

Yes, I truly believe you that you are kind to your dog and don't hit her etc. Just keep in mind that dobies are extremely sensitive, even to verbal reprimands. If she is cowering, quivering, tail tucked, head down, trust her, that she is feeling very much demoralized. And you can think about what the circumstances have been right then or that day, or the last few days, that has left her that way.

I have two very sensitive dogs. They have taught me a lot about dog emotions. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Just random question out of curiosity. I think Nika is a Doberman/Staffordshire mix. My husband believes her to be a Doberman mix but not necessarily mixed with Staffordshire. She weighs 55 pounds, is almost 2, and still acts like a puppy! Any guess, by looking at her photos, what mix she is???
 

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Just random question out of curiosity. I think Nika is a Doberman/Staffordshire mix. My husband believes her to be a Doberman mix but not necessarily mixed with Staffordshire. She weighs 55 pounds, is almost 2, and still acts like a puppy! Any guess, by looking at her photos, what mix she is???
Hm... hard to tell and I'm not an expert on guessing these things. I think you are both on track in terms of dobie being the main thing there. There are DNA tests you can send away for. Many DF members have done so and it is kinda fun to see the results!

Acting like a pup at 2 is not unusual for many dogs. Mine, at ages 3.5 and 2.5 are still very goofy and playful. :) (and I might add, quite "naughty" as well! ;))

Tessa737's Channel - YouTube
 

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Just random question out of curiosity. I think Nika is a Doberman/Staffordshire mix. My husband believes her to be a Doberman mix but not necessarily mixed with Staffordshire. She weighs 55 pounds, is almost 2, and still acts like a puppy! Any guess, by looking at her photos, what mix she is???
I personally see a lot of bully, especially in her face. I am not always good at identifying bully breeds, especially when mixed, but I find Staffie x Dobie or even APBTx Dobie believable. :)
Out of curiousity, is your girl colored like a red dobe or a fawn?

As far as advice, I think the others have given fabulous advice!
I also think you are on track with increasing exercise and using treats during training!:thumbsup:

Just a few things...
I would definintely have the vet test her thyroid. I know that you said that your vet thinks that this is behavioral, not medical. However, thyroid issues can cause behavior like what you describe. IMO, it would be good to know for sure whether or not there are thyroid issues. ;)

Tess said:
One thing you can work into your routine is asking her for alternative behaviors when she is being naughty. For example, if she is getting too rambunctious with the little kids, asking her to "sit" or "come" to you works very well. Over time and repetition, you'll find that this alternative behavior becomes more and more conditioned and easier to get her to do. In this way you are teaching her what you WANT her to do, rather than just having her guess what you want....
This is awesome advice! Teaching incompatible behaviors really does help and IME is far easier than correcting many undesired behaviors. :)

Tess said:
Just keep in mind that dobies are extremely sensitive, even to verbal reprimands.
So very true!
Dobies are highly intelligent and tend to have a strong desire to please their owners. My guy is very sensitive to tone of voice so we need to be very careful not only how we speak to him but also around him. I highly recomend that you read this thread.
http://www.dogforum.com/dog-behavior/calming-signals-10084/
It will help you to better read and understand your dog's body language. :)

I would also suggest that you take a look at this video. It is an excellent alternative to using "No" and other verbal corrections, especially with shy and sensitive dogs. :)
 

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My guy is very sensitive to tone of voice so we need to be very careful not only how we speak to him but also around him.
Our male is like that too! I got upset about spilled orange juice the other day... it was not even about him... and he turned into a nervous wreck due to my attitude problem.

As a consequence, I've learned I am not allowed to be a grump anymore in front of the dogs! :p

Amazing when your dogs require that you act like a grown up at all times! :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Out of curiousity, is your girl colored like a red dobe or a fawn?

Funny, when we got her she was colored like a red, which is why I got her, red dobes are my favorite. But as she grew her head and legs stayed a lighter red dobe while her body went kind of fawn. She's got a few areas on her body and tail that are colored like a fawn, specifically right behind both of her front legs on her sides.
 
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