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Rescued Pup Afraid of Other Dogs

717 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Chas
Hello All. We rescued a 11 week old puppy about a month ago from a shelter. Yesterday on a walk we were approached by a Golden Retriever off leash and our puppy immediately recoiled and tried to run the other way. Before I could pick her up and remove her from the situation the Golden was already at her. My puppy freaked out. She was screaming and it really freaked me and my wife out.

She is now about 15 weeks old, 26 LBs and is a Lab Mix. We've noticed she is super timid of a lot of different things. I have read that this type of dog fearfulness is not good and could lead to aggression later on anytime she is afraid.

We do not know much about her before she came here to live with us. I have owned many dogs but I always knew where they came from and have never had a puppy that wasnt confident and curious around other dogs.

What are we up against here. Is this something to worry about and if so how do we go about nipping this in the bud before this becomes an issue.
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Yes, this is something you should be concerned with.

This level of fear in a puppy this young isn't great, but at least it's not aggression. Does she show this kind of fear in other situations or just with other dogs?

I've heard good things about the website below are two good pages from that site: What you need to know to help a fearful dog | Fearful Dogs
This is a good overview of general terms trainers use to refer to fearful dogs, body language dogs show when afraid, and is good for helping a novice with the terms they're likely to come across in reading about behavioral modification in dogs.
Getting Started | Fearful Dogs
This is a good one about how you start to help you dog.

Spoiler: you begin by managing them so they don't have to be in situations where they're afraid. This tends to be the opposite of what most people (non-trainers/general public) seem to think they should be doing- often people will assume the dog just needs to spend more time with other dogs to get over their fear and will begin to send them to day care or bring them to the dog park, etc. When you start working with a fearful dog, you're always starting with the least amount of pressure possible, and working with them at a distance that they can see what they are afraid of but aren't reacting to it by doing things like fixating, shaking, drooling, crying, lunging, barking, etc.

Given the very young age of this puppy, IMO it is of the utmost importance to socialize this dog very well, and probably in your best interest to work with a professional at the very least in a puppy-level obedience class. Socializing means setting up experiences that allow her to build positive associations with new places, people, dogs, and things, and like I said before, has to be done at her own pace. Some dogs win the genetic jackpot and are OK with everything without ever being intentionally socialized, some dogs lose the jackpot and are extraordinarily fearful or aggressive even when socialized, most are somewhere in between. With a very fearful dog, the way you avoid aggression issues and begin to combat the fear is to build as many positive associations with as many of her triggers as possible by starting out at a distance from those scary triggers that is close enough to notice but not to react, as I said.

A good puppy class would be perfect in this situation- she'll be around other dogs in a controlled environment and learning that they aren't scary, she doesn't have to actually be playing with or super close to the other dogs in the class if she can't handle it yet, and you'll be working with someone who can help you formulate a plan of action for combating this fearfulness so that 1) she can become more confident and 2) it doesn't possibly develop into aggression later in life.

With a puppy that age- ESPECIALLY a fearful puppy- you want training to be fun and exciting, with lots of easy things going at her pace so she's building confidence, which means looking for a trainer who is at the very least force-free with their puppies. Given her fearfulness, it would probably be a good idea to also look for someone with experience/knowledge of behavioral modification.

You might want to work with a trainer in the puppy class, complete the puppy class, and then see where she is at the end of it and whether you/your trainer feels she would be best served continuing group classes, working in private sessions, or what. It is probable she will need further training, but depending on how far you actually want to go with her and whether she ever displays aggression related to the fear, she may or may not be able to get by without it.

Good things to look up would be confidence building exercises in dogs, perhaps you might consider taking her to a recreational agility class when she gets closer to 6 months-a year; I've seen them do really wonderful things for timid/fearful or dog reactive/aggressive dogs and they really can build confidence wonderfully. You might also look into some general dog behavior information and training information.

I think a lot of help would be found at a good puppy kindergaten type class with a competent trainer.
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Well she absolutely loves people. Shes not shy about bumbling up to new folks. She isnt afraid of cats. Shes hyper curious and loves to pounce at them. She seems to want to chase them but so far we can control it with constant verbal cues and rewards.

She is however afraid of, lawn mowers, weed eaters, vacuums, drills...but not at the level of the freak out she had with the dog but we've never let her escalate in the presence of things she doesn't like or understand. She is getting better simply by living here. We put her on leash when I mow or something and just walk her around and encourage her from a distance. She is getting better in that aspect and honestly I somewhat expected that. Nobody likes scary noises at first. SHe did however do wonderful during the thunderstorms and fireworks recently. My Rotty mix, (RIP Maggie) would flee to the shower and hide any time there were fireworks or thunderstorms. LOL.

So all in all I think she's doing okay for her age as a puppy I'm just really worried about the dog fear.
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My pup was like this at that age, a really good puppy class with controlled play interactions increased her confidence within 3 weeks, now she wants to meet every dog. She is naturally appeasing so she's timid at first meet with other dogs even now but we manage it by:

When meeting on leash we request a slack leash from both parties, a dog pulling against a lead looks aggressive. you can gain this with a pulling dog by keeping some of the leash back the releasing it.

First meet is very short, determined by Echo. sometimes 20 second sometimes longer, we remove her if she is overly stressed. Learning to read your pup's body language will help, we watched in the puppy classes and our instructor helped us pinpoint times we needed to intervene.

By the 3rd meet the dogs are usually friendly enough to play off lead, or we've worked out that they won't be playing at all.
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