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Canine Behavior/5 month old afraid of walks in city

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Dear Madeline, I have read you biography and I promise to read and rate your response within three days.  I understand that your time is valuable, that you are most likely spending at least 45 minutes of your time in response to my question, and I understand too that when questioners read and rate your responses fairly that you make random donations to animal shelters to help homeless animals.  In the interest of being appreciative of your time AND helping shelter dogs and cats, I agree that I will rate your response and give you fair feedback.

Hi and thank you for your time and any help!

Our puppy is very afraid of walks...any noise, cars or even people/dogs approaching from a distance causes him to begin turning to run home or locking up and refusing to move forward.  We've read that you should hold your ground if he freezes and wait him out or motivate him to move forward, but what if neither works? ...do we allow him to retreat back towards home to reduce the stress per walk??

We just adopted him as a 40LB 5 month old German Shepherd / Chow mix 1.5 weeks ago from a shelter in a large city where they said he was rescued from a farm days before we adopted him.  His demeanor in the home is confident and playful and even outside he is good with people (even face licks) and dogs after a few moments of introduction.  You can do anything to the dog and he is fine with it...paw holding, toweling-off after rain, interactions while eating, hugs...an angel:)  Outside of a few normal puppy accidents in the house he is beginning to learn to go to the bathroom outside...no nervous/panic peeing or anything like that.

We live in an apartment building on a residential street in a busy downtown area of a large city, so when leaving the building for walks there's always going to be random delivery trucks, people, construction equipment etc.  When we take him out he wants to run to a spot we picked for him to go to the bathroom and we've had some success drawing him out further from their for a walk down the residential street but that includes moments of tail between the legs panic and also moments of tail up confidence with even leisurely sniffing of the grass.

We've been quiet on his retreats and praise and treat him on forward progress.  We have not comforted his retreats or anything like that, just held our ground or pulled him forward...to an extent.  But we've read you shouldn't force him forward but we've also read you shouldn't let him retreat so what do we do when he locks up and won't progress further??

Thanks again!!!

Adam

Answer
Adam,

Today I made donations in the amount of $40 to shelters in response to two recent questioners who read, and then RATED fairly, my responses.  It is too bad that you have not yet rated my response since July.  Don't you want to help animals with donations by simply providing a fair rating for the time I took to respond to your question?



Hi Adam,

Thank you for your question, for reading my bio, and for agreeing to its virtual content.

It sounds as if you got yourself a lovely pup who handles beautifully.  It can be difficult for some dogs to adjust to city noises, especially dogs who were raised in quieter environs; but, what you have working FOR you is that you have a young puppy who's more behaviorally malleable than would be an older dog.  The down sides to such a sudden change in environment are that your pup is barraged, as you explain, by numerous sounds and experiences to which he's never been exposed before, and all at once, where he has to deal with everything at once without any time to get used to one or two new stimuli at a time with controlled exposure, and then move on to coping with more.  The adjustment would have been easier if his exposure to all the stimuli could have been controlled.  I may have some suggestions further down on controlling the stimuli to some degree using a park setting.

I'm wondering where you read the advice to "hold your ground" or "motivate your puppy to move forward?". It sounds a little oversimplified to me and it would help me to have more details as to the methods suggested and if you're currently employing them.

Although I can't lay out an ambitious program in this format, I can give you some brief suggestions which may help you.  First, do you have a lobby in your building?  If so, I would suggest taking some time to sit in the lobby with your pup before walks, allowing him to adjust more slowly to the idea of venturing outside.  If he expresses interest by sniffing towards the exit, or even moving that way, allow him to do so without any pressure, following his lead.  Of course, be careful of revolving doors and such, and if your lobby has those, you might consider those part of the challenge and instead opt for a regular door if you can out of which to exit.  Your can deal with revolving doors later, after your pup is dealing better with all the city stimuli.

If your pup has a favored spot at which he likes to potty, allow him to go to it and do so.  You don't want to disrupt your dog's willingness to potty outside, especially since he's just getting the hang of his housetraining.  After he potties, praise him verbally lavishly and offer him a very special treat, something he loves or will love, like small bits of salami or other fresh deli meat. Save these special treats for outside and don't offer them to him at other times. If he accepts, see if you can lure him with the treats a little bit further out than his favorite potty place.  Don't try to go too far too fast.  The distance covered should only be a few feet to a few yards every couple of days.  Your pup will tell you and show you what he can handle.  By no means try to force him to go further as doing so could be a setback.

If he has a favorite dog or person buddy, it might help to have that dog or person down the street where he can smell and see them as enticement to move further along willingly and happily.  See if you can enlist someone to help you in this regard over the next couple of months.  As your pup looks forward to seeing his buddy daily on walks, have the buddy move a few feet further down the street every couple of days.  If you're unable to enlist such helm, then substitute "buddy" with a favorite game your dog loves.  At that spot where the buddy would have been, instead stop and play a fun game of tug with your pup if that's what he loves.

If there's a park nearby, you may want to start your walks in the park by driving there and having your pup acclimate to all the city activity by spending a calm half an hour at the park pottying, playing, and just sitting for a few minutes.  The noises and distractions of a city are somewhat more distant from a park setting, and it might be just the amount of reduced exposure to al these things that your pup needs to adjust.  

Focus on making your pup's walks outside fun as well as productive.  If there's a dog park in a quieter setting nearby, take some time to play with him as well as train him in the dog park (ideally at times when no other dogs are there as you want to avoid competition between dogs over training food and toys).

If you find your dog is not adjusting, or even becoming worse, it would be best at that point to contact a training professional who's also well versed in canine behavior who uses purely positive, gentle methods to move your pup forward.

Best of luck,
Madeline Friedman, M.A.,  for AllExperts  

Canine Behavior

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Madeline S. Friedman, M.A.

Expertise

I respond to public questions only. I'm not a veterinarian & do not respond to medical questions.Suggestions: Submit a question in one area of priority, as what I am able to address in this venue is limited. Provide as much detail re: the behavior & issue as you can. Tell me how & if behavior is a change from previous behavior & when the changes occurred. Let me know what you think may have triggered such changes & what you have tried so far to resolve it, & what the results were. Let me know what you want help with & what are your concerns & questions about the behavior. I have set up a payment/donation to myself for responding to questions. I donate most of it to animal shelters & rescues. I keep a small portion for my time. The minimum donation is $25.00 on PayPal. When I see that a donation has been made, I will respond to your question. You will be prompted to make the donation before submitting your question. When you have read & rated my response fairly, which must be at the time you read it, I will refund $5.00 back to you IF YOU REQUEST that I do so in your rating comments. If I ask for more details, please respond as a "follow-up" & not as a new question. If I don't respond to your question, I will refund your donation less $5.00. DO rate me fairly at the end of our exchange. I will be pleased if you DO nominate me for volunteer of the month - why not, if I was generous in my response? I may suggest something you were not necessarily ready to hear, but I am honest in the interest of helping your dog, & that is my goal. Please keep that in mind. Please do NOT contact me privately about Allexperts questions through my e-mail or website unless I have invited you to do so. That is an invasion of my privacy - thank you for respecting it. If you would like to contact me for actual dog training & behavior consulting, you may contact me through my Web site.

Experience

Own & operate dog training & behavior consulting businesses, Hoboken Dog Trainer, and ny-njDogTrainer, in the NYC & NYC Metro areas since 2002. Work with thousands of dog owners & their dogs, & shelter & rescue dogs. Active volunteer in dog shelters and rescues (rescues being "no kill" and shelters being municipality-run urban shelters that can and do euthanize dogs). AllExperts volunteer in "Dogs, Category 701" and "Dog Training" and "Canine Behavior" since 2006. When you submit a question, please make sure it's being submitted in the appropriate category as I volunteer in two different categories. Make sure you agree to the Virtual Contract (the instructions I outline for question submissions) and agree to read and rate my response when I answer in the body of your question. I make donations to various animal non-profits based on YOUR ratings. If you don't rate my response, or rate it unfairly, you have just denied a dog rescue org or shelter a donation. Keep that in mind.

Organizations
Professional Member of APDT for five years Founding Member of Animal Behavior Associates Behavior Education Network Former Board Member of IAABC, appointed by Founder Former Member of IPDTA in Canada Founding member of Behavior Education Network

Publications
Chronicle of the Dog (APDT, peer publication, numerous articles) Popular Dog Series magazine, numerous entries AOL in Everydayhealth.com Tonowanda News Morris County News Vermont News Boston NOW New York A.M. Polo Trace Newsletter The Dodo AOL

Education/Credentials
Counseling Psychology, Caldwell College Animal Science, Rutgers University Master of Arts Degree Permanent New Jersey State Teaching Certification (teach public school and university level) Numerous workshops, lectures, and seminars on dog training and behavior Ongoing self-motivated study in my area of expertise

Awards and Honors
Best Canine Coach Award, 2006, Rondout Valley Instructor's Training Course Society of Illustrators, second place international competition Jellybean Photographics, second place international competition Fashion Institute of Technology "Commitment to Illustration" award

Past/Present Clients
Testimonials from a number of clients appear on my Web site at www.ny-njDogTrainer.com under "Reviews." My customers include: Puppy owners wanting to get their puppies off to the best start; owners of mature dogs who want their dogs to have more obedience skills; fosters and owners of rescue dogs or shelter dogs; customers with special needs who need to train or retrain their dogs; housetraining and housebreaking; owners who have behavioral issues with their dogs such as house accidents, aggression towards humans, aggression towards other animals, inattentive dogs, unmotivated dogs, overly-exuberant dogs; and, more.

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