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Canine Behavior/Dog scared all of a sudden


QUESTION: My 3 year old dog, doppler 60 lbs.  In the last 3-4 days she seems very frighted, we do have a new puppy who is only 4 lbs which we have had for 3 weeks.  The first 2 weeks were fine and they played toghater.  now doppler is ignoring her and very put out.  she will not play with her toys and she loves them.  HELP

ANSWER: 1.  Not playing with her toys does not mean she's "very frightened"
2.  Introducing a tiny neonate is a shock for any adult dog, especially one who may not be heavily socialized to other dogs or to dogs of that size
3.  By ignoring the puppy, Doppler is making a statement of social hierarchy.  THIS IS NORMAL.  She may seem "put out" but she is, in fact, making an enormous adjustment and also making darn sure this puppy knows who is who in this household.

She should return to normal behavior within a reasonable amount of time (several weeks).  You must greet her first, feed her first, interact with her by asking for simple behaviors all trained with positive reinforcement ("sit", "come", "find it", etc.) and not fawn all over this puppy instead (which is actually a rather normal Human response to a neonate of any species, even dangerous ones!)  Remove the puppy and socialize it separately outdoors, find a puppy kindergarten that is run properly:

This will prevent the puppy from primarily bonding with the adult dog, rather than you, and will also give the adult dog some "space" when the puppy is out.  Remember to also take the adult dog "out" for "fun" events (whatever she enjoys).

If you see REAL FEAR (running and hiding from the puppy, visible trembling, not eating for days at a time, avoiding any room the puppy is in), use followup feature.  I will have to ask you a great many questions so, should this occur, provide as much information as possible.

Don't worry.  Be happy.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: this all makes since.  One more question.  Doppler also all of a sudden seems to be scared of noices.  examples: kid next door playing with plastic ball and bat, when he hits ball she wants to leave yard, and when the birds out side make lots of chirps...almost like some starteling noices are scaring her.
I dont think that is due to the puppy...but not sure?  What can I do about those?

I'd run this past the veterinarian.  There could be some sudden loss of cognition due to the stress she's under while establishing hierarchy and accommodating the puppy.  Although, at age 3, I would consider this unusual (this is a very young dog).

Why not make an appointment with your veterinarian and request a short course of propanolol, which is a beta blocker that truncates adrenaline (prevents it from obtaining full effect on the dog's behavior).  Also:  think carefully.  WHEN did you first NOTICE this....she may already have been developing this fear before the puppy but you are now paying much closer attention to her.  Is it possible the dog has associated the chirping of birds with some abuse inflicted on her by those kids playing with their plastic ball and bat?  Is she left alone outdoors: if so, not any more.

What do YOU do when she behaves fearfully and wants to come back indoors?  Since you are a particularly caring and sensitive owner, your first instinct is to soothe, comfort, etc. but this is not a human child, it's a dog, and this reaction from you is REWARDING whatever fear response she has.  It seems odd that a dog would develop a fear of bird song in conjunction with the ball and bat, too much to be coincidence.  Let's say this:  a dog is outdoors and a skunk appears.  The dog is startled, fight/flight and perhaps even prey drive are elicited; dog gets skunked.  At that moment, car horn sounds somewhere, and dog has now received a conditioned response with the car horn and the terrifying experience of the skunk.  Happens with people too, but it's easier to "fix" in a dog.

I am going on vacation from 9/9 to 9/21.  I would like to hear results of veterinary opinion.  Meanwhile: go out with the dog.  If she reacts to any of these sounds in a way that is obviously fearful, have a "party" (all by yourself).  Do a little dance, sing a little song, the dog will look TO YOU and see you are happy and not worried.  When she comes to you, sing song voice of what a "wonderful world this is" and pop a treat in her mouth so long as she is visibly NO LONGER FRIGHTENED.  Since you are now outside WITH her, she WILL look to you as a way to determine what level of threat "this" actually "is".  A casual, calm, upbeat approach on a consistent basis can change (counter condition) a dog that trusts you quite quickly.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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