My dog Lexi has had a problem of being a nervous beast ever since we brought her home at seven weeks. We've been working through it and have been doing fairly well, until recently. We had her out for her evening walk Monday night at a local park. We were leaving a trail and entering into a field where some kids were tobogganing. When Lexi saw them coming down the hill (screaming and yelling, of course), she just about had a heart attack. She ran for her life.

She didn't seem to relax and return to herself until after we were home for about a half an hour. Tuesday night, we went to the same park, but a different location so as not to have her surprised by tobogganers again, but unfortunately we ran into some again. Her reaction was similar, but I thought not quite as reactive, and she was able to regain her composure enough to sniff around and even play fetch again before we went home. At this point, I was thinking that continual exposure would make this no big deal after awhile.

But..Wednesday night we had an uneventful walk and it wasn't until we were home and Lexi had gone to bed that the problem came up again. I always leave the window open in the spare bedroom (Lexi's room). Well, I guess a few kids in the neighborhood decided to slide down the snow banks across the street and Lexi heard their yells and screams. She bolted out of the bedroom and paced around the house like a caged animal. I tried to get her to go outside so she could see what was making the noise, but she wouldn't go out (and this is a dog that is "always" wanting to be outside!) I closed all the windows to keep some of the noise out and after 10 or 15 minutes of this pacing, she finally settled in the corner of the dining room in behind the table and chairs (the furtherest point in the house away from the noise).

When I saw that the kids had gone inside, I made Lexi go outside with me and we went over to where they had been playing so she could sniff the area. When we got back in the house, she finally relaxed enough to go back into 'her' bedroom. Last night I had her out again, just walking around the neighborhood, and of course we ran into a couple of kids sliding in the snow. She reacted with extreme fear again (her breathing even seemed different), but after about 5 minutes our walk returned to normal (sniffing and being nosey instead of pulling and trying to get the heck outta here!).

With Christmas vacation coming up, I know there are going to be kids out in the snow every day. I don't want to keep Lexi away from the park for 2 weeks, besides last night proved that just walking around home can be dangerous (in her mind). The worst part is I don't want her to be afraid in our home. This was always the one place she showed no signs of being afraid and now she's lost that after Wednesday night. Does anyone have any ideas about this.

She gets so agitated that she won't even listen to her commands, which I rely on in other 'scary situations'. I've been giving some thought to asking the vet for a medication (*****) to help her get through the toboggan season, but I don't know. I've also heard that GSD's go through a fear period around the 12 month mark and she's now almost 14 months, so maybe this is part of it. I'm lost. Any thoughts??
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My dog Lexi has had a problem of being a nervous beast ever since we brought her home at seven weeks. We've been working through it and have been doing fairly well, until recently.

()
I was thinking that continual exposure would make this no big deal after awhile.

Hasn't your dog ever been around kids "screaming and yelling" before?

Where do you live?
In the Kalahari desert?
It's just a hunch, but this really isn't the first time your dog has acted spooky around kids (especially loud ones), is it?

()
I'm lost. Any thoughts??

IMO, you need professional help. You admit that your dog has always been a "nervous beast," and she's probably never going to get any better if YOU continue to do the same old things. And things may even get a lot worse.
IMO, there's probably something that YOU are doing here, i.e., some way that YOU are reacting, behaving, etc., that's contributing to your dog's skittishness and fear.
And no one here can see how YOU normally go about interacting with your dog, etc., your home environment, etc., so, IMO, you need the help of a professional behaviorist/trainer who can then OBSERVE your dog, and YOU, and gather more information. MUCH more information.

Yes, there are ways to desensitize a dog to situations like you're describing, but it's also very easy to make matters worse (which is what you are probably doing already), too, if you don't do them correctly.
Get some help, Pam. And keep your dog out of the park and away from rowdy, noisy kids in the interim. Otherwise it'll be that much harder for you to eventually deal with the situation effectively.

And good luck!

Handsome Jack Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply by e-mail
Godspeed, Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Semper Fi.
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=13981 Heroism and Cowardice
It's just a hunch, but this really isn't the first time your dog has acted spooky around kids (especially loud ones), is it?

She admitted the dog had been like this since she acquired him at 7 weeks of age.
IMO, you need professional help. You admit that your dog has always been a "nervous beast," and she's probably never ... are doing here, i.e., some way that YOU are reacting, behaving, etc., that's contributing to your dog's skittishness and fear.

Not necessarily. When a dog starts out fearful as a pup, and continued attempts at socialization don't significantly remedy the problem, its not at all likely that the owner is doing something wrong. Rather its very likely the dog's temperament is at fault.
Yes, there are ways to desensitize a dog to situations like you're describing, but it's also very easy to make matters worse (which is what you are probably doing already), too, if you don't do them correctly.

Yes and sometimes forced socialization with no results will make matters worse. There are some dogs in this world that should be given the freedom to not go around people or places with loud noises. If the dog proves to be unresponsive to exposure of such things then IMO its more kind to just allow the dog to be a hermit. Not doing so continues to place the dog in situations where it becomes overly anxious.
Get some help, Pam. And keep your dog out of the park and away from rowdy, noisy kids in the interim. Otherwise it'll be that much harder for you to eventually deal with the situation effectively.

By help I'd like to clarify that most trainers aren't what's needed here. Rather a behaviorist would be more effective.

Tara
From what you've written you've been doing everything right. The number one prescribed medication for a fearful dog is repeated socialization attempts. Being happy, ignoring perceived threats, acting like you & the dog are the only two people in the world is the most effective way to attempt to head off anxiety attacks.
Reading your dog's body language, trying to intervene before she goes into panic mode, and letting her decide what her limits are will go along ways with many dogs. If your dog is treat-oriented then carrying treats around with you can also help. If someone asks to pet her and you think she'd be willing to allow it, have the person offer her a treat first. If you see her becoming panicked try to distract her with a little training exercise where you give command(s) she knows and treat her for obeying.

Having said all of that, there are some dogs that just don't respond to these methods. The fact that your pup was like this when you brought her home is a very big indicator that she has a faulty temperament. Pups like this are either rehabilitated with the methods described above and employing alot of patience and repeated, consistent attempts, or they're not. The ones who aren't, IMO, should be allowed to remain like they are, with understanding owners, and no longer be continually exposed to frightening things.
A behaviorist can help you more than a trainer if you are willing to seek professional help for her. There are also medications available to help short-circuit panic attacks. Some medications are stronger than others. Several of the more common ones will not change her energy level, focus or anything else noticable. If going out in public is important to you and you think she would miss going on her walks then talk with your vet about a medication called Clomicalm and then seek a behaviorist.

In the meantime, take your cues from your dog. Be especially vigilant when she is around children. She may be a total marshmallow who 'wouldn't hurt a fly' but fearfulness and anxiety can and will trigger dog bites. If she feels cornered or harrassed, especially when she's already in a panic state, don't allow anyone but yourself & someone you know she trusts to go near her.

Tara
It's just a hunch, but this really isn't the first time your dog has acted spooky around kids (especially loud ones), is it?

She admitted the dog had been like this since she acquired him at 7 weeks of age.

No, she admitted that the dog has always been a "nervous beast," WTYAA.
But being particularly skittish around loud kids specifically can be a LEARNED behavior, and reinforced by improper handling.
IMO, you need professional help. You admit that your dog ... behaving, etc., that's contributing to your dog's skittishness and fear.

Not necessarily.

It's almost a 100% certainty that this person is doing things that are contributing to this dog's fear, even if it's just repeatedly exposing this dog to fearful situations without knowing how to do that correctly.
And if she had been doing it correctly, she wouldn't be here now, would she?
When a dog starts out fearful as a pup, and continued attempts at socialization don't significantly remedy the problem, its not at all likely that the owner is doing something wrong. Rather its very likely the dog's temperament is at fault.

The dog was ADMITTEDLY born with a less than desirable temperament, but this person could be making it worse (and almost certainly is).

There's no reason that a dog with a less than desirable temperament can't EASILY deal with situations like this, provided its owner knows how to deal with the dog.
Yes, there are ways to desensitize a dog to situations ... probably doing already), too, if you don't do them correctly.

Yes and sometimes forced socialization with no results will make matters worse.

That's why this person needs to see someone IN PERSON.

There's just too many possible variables here.
You don't want to take the chance of inadvertently making matters worse, do you?
Or do you?
There are some dogs in this world that should be given the freedom to not go around people or places ... dog to be a hermit. Not doing so continues to place the dog in situations where it becomes overly anxious.

Please. Stop trying to cover every base imaginable, WTYAA. And we already know how kind you are.
You* don't know what's really going on here, and *I don't know what's really going on here.
Stop pretending that you do.
Tell her to get some competent IN PERSON help and be done with it, because you'll likely make matters worse by trying to help her without having enough information to do so.
Get some help, Pam. And keep your dog out of ... harder for you to eventually deal with the situation effectively.

By help I'd like to clarify that most trainers aren't what's needed here. Rather a behaviorist would be more effective.

A competent trainer would EASILY be able to see if this person was doing certain "things" that might be contributing to this dog's behavior, etc.
I'd much rather see her with a competent trainer than with an incompetent "behaviorist."

Handsome Jack Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply by e-mail
Godspeed, Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Semper Fi.
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=13981 Heroism and Cowardice
There's no reason that a dog with a less than desirable temperament can't EASILY deal with situations like this, provided its owner knows how to deal with the dog.

"No reason" huh? And how do you know that the dog's temperament is 'less than desirable' versus downright wrong? You make it sound like all dogs, no matter the problem, are curable.
That's why this person needs to see someone IN PERSON.

Which is why I suggested seeking help both here and in my direct reply to her.
There's just too many possible variables here. You don't want to take the chance of inadvertently making matters worse, do you? Or do you?

Yes, that's exactly what I live for, to make other people's matters worse. You caught me.
Please. Stop trying to cover every base imaginable, WTYAA. And we already know how kind you are.

Well since there are more than one base to cover it makes sense to address as many as I know how.
You* don't know what's really going on here, and *I don't know what's really going on here.

And you responded, and I responded, so what makes you think your response was more worthy or more correct than mine?
Stop pretending that you do.

I'm not pretending to anything. I happen to have experience with symptons like this dog has and addressed, as generically as possible, what I know to be prescribed methods.
Tell her to get some competent IN PERSON help and be done with it, because you'll likely make matters worse by trying to help her without having enough information to do so.

Once again, I did tell her to seek a behaviorist.
A competent trainer would EASILY

What exactly is competent? How many types/kinds/competencies of trainers are there? I don't see that you're helping matters by suggesting a trainer when the vast majority of trainers easily locatable via phone book, vet or word of mouth are likely to not have any significant behavioral understanding of this nature.
be able to see if this person was doing certain "things" that might be contributing to this dog's behavior, etc.

And if they couldn't spot anything, or what they spotted wasn't the problem, then what?
I'd much rather see her with a competent trainer than with an incompetent "behaviorist."

Well guess what, there are competent behaviorists out there same as trainers. There are incompetent trainers out there, same as behaviorists. Temperament problems of this nature are generally better helped by behaviorists IMO.

Tara
()
There's no reason that a dog with a less than ... provided its owner knows how to deal with the dog.

"No reason" huh? And how do you know that the dog's temperament is 'less than desirable' versus downright wrong?

I don't see much difference between "less than desirable" and "downright wrong."
But more importantly, neither of us has any idea what this* particular dog's temperament actually is, so stop pretending that *you do.
You make it sound like all dogs, no matter the problem, are curable.

That's only because you don't listen very well.
Many of these situations (e.g., gene-based problems) are not curable.
But they certainly are MANAGEABLE, if the owner knows how to deal with them.
And without resorting to drugs.
That's why this person needs to see someone IN PERSON.

Which is why I suggested seeking help both here and in my direct reply to her.

Then why chew on me!!!???
Sheesh.
There's just too many possible variables here. You don't want to take the chance of inadvertently making matters worse, do you? Or do you?

Yes, that's exactly what I live for, to make other people's matters worse. You caught me.

Then why not just advise this person to seek professional help and be done with it?
Why do you always have to get a pound of my flesh in the process, too?

It's really starting to *** me off, WTYAA.
Please. Stop trying to cover every base imaginable, WTYAA. And we already know how kind you are.

Well since there are more than one base to cover it makes sense to address as many as I know how.

You're in no position to help this person (in the way that you seem to be trying to do) without exposing this dog and her owner to RISK.

UNNECESSARY risk.
You* don't know what's really going on here, and *I don't know what's really going on here.

And you responded, and I responded, so what makes you think your response was more worthy or more correct than mine?

Because *my* reply couldn't possibly have made matters worse!

You're trying to get into technique and methodology, with a complete stranger no less, without having a *** clue as to what might actually be going on here!
"First, do no harm."
Stop pretending that you do.

I'm not pretending to anything. I happen to have experience with symptons like this dog has and addressed, as generically as possible, what I know to be prescribed methods.

The dog that you eventually had to euthanize?
Is every bit of advice you ever offer anyone regarding fearful dogs going to be based on your experience with that one dog?

You should ask that about behaviorists, too.
But you didn't.
be able to see if this person was doing certain "things" that might be contributing to this dog's behavior, etc.

And if they couldn't spot anything, or what they spotted wasn't the problem, then what?

The same could be said of a behaviorist!
I'd much rather see her with a competent trainer than with an incompetent "behaviorist."

Well guess what, there are competent behaviorists out there same as trainers.

Then let her find one.

Handsome Jack Morrison
*gently remove the detonator to reply by e-mail
Godspeed, Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Semper Fi.
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=13981 Heroism and Cowardice
"No reason" huh? And how do you know that the dog's temperament is 'less than desirable' versus downright wrong?

I don't see much difference between "less than desirable" and "downright wrong."

I do.
But more importantly, neither of us has any idea what this* particular dog's temperament actually is, so stop pretending that *you do.

I'm not pretending any more than you are.
Many of these situations (e.g., gene-based problems) are not curable. But they certainly are MANAGEABLE, if the owner knows how to deal with them. And without resorting to drugs.

Of course they're managable, at least much of the time.
Which is why I suggested seeking help both here and in my direct reply to her.

Then why chew on me!!!??? Sheesh.

You chewed on me and every one of my posts since then. Its very convenient of you to now turn it around on me.
Why do you always have to get a pound of my flesh in the process, too?

Aww, start a fight and cry that you are the one being abused.
It's really starting to *** me off, WTYAA.

S'okay by me.
Well since there are more than one base to cover it makes sense to address as many as I know how.

You're in no position to help this person (in the way that you seem to be trying to do) without exposing this dog and her owner to RISK. UNNECESSARY risk.

Please explain to me what it is I've advised that would be risky.
Because *my* reply couldn't possibly have made matters worse!

Your assumptions & tone don't help people to take your advice. Now, how did my post have the potential to make matters worse?
You're trying to get into technique and methodology, with a complete stranger no less, without having a *** clue as to what might actually be going on here!

Again, I'm at a loss to understand what in my original post was risky or bad advice.
I'm not pretending to anything. I happen to have experience ... generically as possible, what I know to be prescribed methods.

The dog that you eventually had to euthanize? Is every bit of advice you ever offer anyone regarding fearful dogs going to be based on your experience with that one dog?

The dog I euthanized was my most extensive experience but there have been foster dogs as well.
What exactly is competent?

You should ask that about behaviorists, too. But you didn't.

Because you specified and applied the adjective, not me.
And if they couldn't spot anything, or what they spotted wasn't the problem, then what?

The same could be said of a behaviorist!

You're going in circles.

Tara
When Lexi saw them coming down the hill (screaming and yelling, of course), she just about had a heart attack. ... we went home. At this point, I was thinking that continual exposure would make this no big deal after awhile.

Yes, continual exposure to desensitize her to it. But under controlled conditions. You can't just keep surprising her with screaming sledders, or you're going to worsen that fear - especially since it's happening in different places, which will generalize it.
First of all, exactly what is it that sets her off? Is it the screaming or the toboggan or the sound of the toboggan, or the whole package? (For example, does she always react to the sound of children playing, or is it just specifically when they're on a toboggan?) What was different between the first incident and the second? How do you react when she gets frightened? How quickly does she get over it?
Basically, I would take these steps:
1. Expose her to the object of fear at a SAFE distance away - i.e., a distanceat which she has no fear reaction.
2. Open Bar - Every time the object is in her view or hearing, you'rerapid-firing with praise, treats, play, all three if they float her boat. When the object is gone, you stop.
3. As long as she's showing no fear: Next session, start at original spot.After a few minutes, move a bit closer.
4. If at any point she begins to show fear, move backwards.
5. Keep sessions short - i.e., 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, the most important thing is that she is not "surprised" by an incident before she's ready for it.
Perhaps you can wait on her walks until after dark, when the kids are in bed?
I've also heard that GSD's go through a fear period around the 12 month mark and she's now almost 14 months, so maybe this is part of it.

Some people will tell you there are no fear periods. All I can say is that I've seen too many adolescent GSDs who develop quirky little phobias to discount it entirely. :}
But it still won't go way on its own.

Family Dog Trainer
"It's A Dog's Life"
http://hometown.aol.com/dfrntdrums/myhomepage/index.html Get Healthy, Build Your Immune System, Lose Weight http://www.re-vita.net/dfrntdrums
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