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Canine Behavior/Fearfull Maltese


My 1 1/2 year old Maltese is afraid to go outside, He heard fireworks on the 4th, tucked tail and ran to the door and shook all night and has been afraid to go out since. We have to pick him up and take him out, but he goes to the door and scratches to be let back in. Shaking the whole time. I took him out and walked him around quite a few times, every time I stop walking he jumps on me, so I walk a few more steps, But he won't leave my side. He might take a couple of steps in the grass and pee but that is not all the time. Can you please help me, I don't know what else to do.

OK.  I have no idea how you reacted that first time on the 4th when your loved dog was shaking by the door.  I can only imagine because the normal human reaction would have been to console, hug, kiss, offer cookies, and in every way REWARD (inadvertently) the response the dog had to fireworks (which is, btw, a fairly common occurrence).  So: by behaving like a loving owner, you unwittingly rewarded his fear: be afraid, be very afraid.  The "correct" thing to do is the thing most decent people like yourself would NEVER DO (and it IS very difficult) which is to IGNORE the fear, wait it out until the dog comes forward, have a "party" and ask for a trained behavior, jackpot (handful of fat free string cheese), go on as normal.  Of course, you didn't do that.  Why would you?  it "feels" wrong, I know that!

So now: your dog has learned that "outside" is dangerous because his reaction that night was heavily rewarded; and he now has a strong conditioned fear response.

For the next two weeks, I would like you to do the following (hopefully your schedule allows it): pick the dog up after putting on his leash.  Stand there a minute or two (he may now have associated the leash with the fear).  As soon as he seems curious, sing him a little song and take him to the car (or, if you have no car, walk a few blocks IGNORING him the entire way, being happy, smiling, laughing even though people might misjudge your behavior and offer you money LOL).  Put him down on the ground.  Stand still.  Wait for him to make the next move, no matter how long it takes (this time period can be reduced to nothing or it can take days).  The moment he moves forward, calmly and joyfully praise in an undertone.  Reward every urination and/or defecation.  Then walk toward "home".  Observe the dog carefully, watch his body language.  If he flattens his ears, if his tail goes between his legs, if his hackles come up, STOP MOVING.  WAIT until he has "forgotten" (lost the fight/flight reaction), ask for "sit" praise highly, pick him up and go "home".  This is counter conditioning.  If done correctly in such a young dog, it really should not take more than two to three weeks to see a result: a dog that no longer exhibits fear as he approaches "home".  At that point, use followup feature.  You cannot let this dog out alone, it will reinforce what you are trying to extinguish.  Depending upon your dog's reaction to this counter conditioning, we will go from there.

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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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