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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello again everyone,

I've been absent for a while - lurking a bit, but no posts. I absolutely ADORE this board, but aside from sharing cute anecdotes, I don't feel as though I have much to contribute to the "serious" discussions...so I mostly just absorb.

Lately, though, I've become increasingly concerned about Dominic, our 10 (almost 11) month old. He has, despite our concerns, developed beautifully...physically. Mentally, however, it seems he is a few bricks short of a full load.

It's funny...I NEVER socialized Jaeger in the way most people think of socialization. Being a young, single girl in a (very) rough city, I wanted a big, protective dog. He went a lot of places with me - moved around a lot - but I never let strange people pet him or play with him; aside from one other puppy, he was never allowed to socialize with other dogs; and really, comparatively speaking, he didn't "see" a whole lot at a young age, aside from the walls of my apartment. Yet he is very stable around other dogs and strangers (with the exception of dominant men or those people that I tell him NOT to be okay with). Nothing rattles him. NOTHING scares him. Not to say he isn't sharp and doesn't have a mind of his own, but I trust him.

Dominic was exactly the opposite. Since our intention was for him to be a dual purpose dog - sport and service - we socialized the hell out of him from 9 weeks on. He has been EVERYWHERE from a Braves baseball game to the NYC subway to a charter bus on the way to a local festival. He's seen dogs galore and even more people (although we do limit the number of people that we allow to approach him, simply because we don't want him dragging us up to strangers looking for attention); but he's a chicken sh.... He's nervous in crowds. He'll bristle and jump back from other dogs, growling or barking the whole time. He's ALWAYS been skittish around strangers. And anything new...a bulldozer at the back of our community...cats at the vet's office...scares him to DEATH.

Having Jaeger with him helps a bit. He'll act a little more bold when "brother" is backing him up... But not much.

Being from completely different lines, I figured maybe Dominic was just one of those dogs who was going to take longer to mature, so I wasn't too concerned until this past weekend.

Dom has developed an irrational fear of the vacuum cleaner. The first few times we ran it around him, he was fine. Then, all of a sudden, he became terrified. I don't mean, "Ahhh, it's going to get me!! ::runs away::" I mean, if there was a 1,000 cliff to jump off of, he'd do it. The first time his fear became evident, I was bringing him back inside from going potty (this was months ago) and he just started flipping out. Pulling backwards, throwing himself on the ground, screaming...he even pulled me off our front steps. I finally had to pick him up and carry him into the house.

Since then, it hasn't gotten any better; he's just gotten harder to handle. You absolutely cannot run the vacuum with him in the house, and if you put him outside while you run it, half the time he won't come back in.

This past weekend, we finally moved his cage from our bedroom down to the "dog room". Figured at almost 11 months old, he's old enough to sleep with the "big boys". It's really just a storage room where Jaeger and Bruno's cages are set up. It also happens to be the room where the vacuum "lives"...in the closet. Behind a closed door. NOT RUNNING.

Needless to say, I was flat on my face in the hall Saturday night with my hand bent backwards, stuck in Dom's collar. Once we FINALLY tricked him into coming back inside (which took about 45 minutes because he panicked as soon as he realized that his cage was in that room), it took me 30 minutes to get him down the 15' hall. He was jumping straight up in the air and crashing down and thrashing around. Have you ever seen the cartoons of cats with their feet spread, claws out, gripping onto door frames or bathtubs so that you can't put them in? That was him. Like I said, he pulled me over 2 or 3 times and proceeded to drag me to the other end of the house. I finally had to use his leash as a choke collar, and even then, he damn near passed out before I could get him down there.

Sunday and Monday were not much better.

What is wrong with him? What could cause so much senseless fear in a well-socialized, supposedly well-bred puppy, let alone such TERROR? With every passing day, I'm more and more certain that he's NOT going to be bred...no way, no how. I can see a bit of uncertainty going away with maturity, but not this. Do you think he was traumatized somehow in the 9 weeks before we got him? Are his bloodlines bogus? Or would a cross of Cak and Dargo vd Thuringer Kronjuwelen really be that unstable?

HELP ME!! I honestly don't know what to do with him.
 

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Yikes, this sucks. What kind of structured training have you been doing with him?
 

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He is what he is, you've done all the socialization you can with him n something in his head just decided it's time to act like a sissy. Here's my advice, without seeing the dog myself I can only go on how I would deal with my own dogs under those circumstances.

Firstly, I wouldn't worry about it too much, spend the next 6 months just completely ignoring his stupidity and following the advice in #2, don't react to it negatively even if it makes you mad, and I know sissy irrational dog behaviors make me mad :lol: Just don't react to him, lift up on the choker as per #2 n be very calm about it.

Secondly, I would buy a nylon choker like a dominant dog collar or something of that nature n I would walk him around the things he's scared of, not right up close at first, take him to the distance that first makes him anxious, when he starts acting stupid or frantic, just calmly lift up on the choker n tell him "stop it, sit" n make him sit... the second he stops acting like a sissy, immediately release the tension on the choker.... to the dog it's like "agh!! vacuum cleaner! agh!! crap! I'm acting stupid n now I can't breathe! *stop* whew, wow, I stopped panicking n now I feel so much better... maybe that's what mommy wants, just for me to sit here n deal with it". The more you let a dog practice this stupid behavior the more he thinks it's acceptable to do so and it becomes a bad habbit. I see alot of success using the choker, some dogs will fight it at first because they're so panicked, help him sit down n guide him to calmness, the second they do calm down n you release it they finally understand that being in a frenzy makes things alot worse. He needs to learn to deal with it and face it instead of acting stupid, "just be calm n sit here, stupid".

Just my $.02 ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Yeah, it does, Woody.

We started right away with him on some basic obedience. Just a couple minutes a night working on hier, sitz, platz, "look", and "wait". Confidence building exercises, too, like overcoming strange obstacles or odd footing. Nothing too daunting, just simple things like wading into water, crossing funky bridges on playground equipment, something akin to a small dogwalk... Things to try and instill both trust in us and trust in his surroundings. Nothing nearly as crazy as Greg Long's exercises... :lol: :wink: He was never very fond of that stuff, either, though. He'd do them for a food or tug reward, but never happily like Jaeger.

After a couple months we progressed to what I consider "baby bite work" - going after a toy, having to grip it solidly and hold on for the "win", and learning to aus and sitz either on command or when the toy stops "fighting back". Now that...that he LOVES.

We've also taken him to two local SchH clubs just to get acclimated. Doesn't show much interest. Mostly just nervous.
 

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I have seen pups with similar issues come around...but this dog needs alot of work NOW.Most of the ones I saw come out of it were younger.

I have had experience with some the same bloodlines as this dog.I do see a little of it in those dogs.

If you look at a dog's eyes when they are THAT stressed,you will see a definite glaze.They are in survival mode.I had a Dutchie pup for a little while that was the same way about anyone picking him up.Just totally go into flight/fearbite mode.He sent an older woman to the hospital for stitches.He was pretty much over it in a week.The guy that has him now says he is great.He was only 4 months old at the time though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Andres - Believe me, I'm thinking the same thing. I was actually considering rehoming him in strictly a pet home, but my partner is too "attached". Not that I don't like the little guy...

Mike - I tried "desensitizing" him to the vacuum months ago as soon as I saw the problems starting. I'd bring it into our bedroom with him and either set it close to his cage so that he'd see that it didn't move on its own and wasn't going to eat him, or I'd let him run around loose, playing with his toys in the hopes he'd realize that the damn thing wasn't possessed by a demon. No such luck. I've never tried with the nylon choker, though. Interesting idea. I'll definitely give it a shot. Thanks.

And I don't react to his freak outs, believe me. One, I've trained horses for years and, thus, have learned that if an animal is TRULY panicking, anything other than a calm reaction from you has the potential to make the situation exponentially worse. Two, Dom has never handled correction very well, so physical punishment is, for the most part, counterproductive. You should have heard me in the hall the other night when I finally put a choker on him. I was standing there watching him flip himself over repeatedly while choking and was like, "Well, if you pass out, you'll be easier to drag down the hall..." :lol: :?

Greg - We've talked on an off about my dogs. I've talked to Jenny, too. I worked with him as much as I could when he was younger because I was concerned this would turn into a BIG issue (fear biter, etc, which I DON'T need), but obviously my methods were lacking.

Yes, I see the glaze. I fully recognize that "checked out...operating on instinct" look from other dogs I've had and the horses... What exactly do you recommend? You said "work NOW", but what can I do specifically?
 

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Mike - I tried "desensitizing" him to the vacuum months ago as soon as I saw the problems starting. I'd bring it into our bedroom with him and either set it close to his cage so that he'd see that it didn't move on its own and wasn't going to eat him, or I'd let him run around loose, playing with his toys in the hopes he'd realize that the damn thing wasn't possessed by a demon.
This isn't desensitizing, this is flooding. If not done very carefully, it can backfire. Flooding works best with people with phobias, who want to get over it. Dogs rarely want to get over their fear. It becomes a reinforcment thing.

In desensitization, the dog sets the critical distance, not the handler.
 

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I agree with Mike, the dog is what he is and there's nothing that will change it's "mind", scared is scared. Hopefully he won't be a fear biter. You hear it all the time, puppies are a crapshoot,

AL
 

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melissa mims said:
Mike - I tried "desensitizing" him to the vacuum months ago as soon as I saw the problems starting. I'd bring it into our bedroom with him and either set it close to his cage so that he'd see that it didn't move on its own and wasn't going to eat him, or I'd let him run around loose, playing with his toys in the hopes he'd realize that the damn thing wasn't possessed by a demon.
This isn't desensitizing, this is flooding. If not done very carefully, it can backfire. Flooding works best with people with phobias, who want to get over it. Dogs rarely want to get over their fear. It becomes a reinforcment thing.

In desensitization, the dog sets the critical distance, not the handler.
Good post (independent of this thread), liked that you pointed that out, didn't know that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Melissa,

Interesting post. Definitely.

I understand what you're saying, but I have to ask... If in desensitization (as opposed to "flooding") the dog sets the critical distance, will the dog ever become desensitized? Like you said, dogs don't "want to get over their fear", so is it logical to think that if allowed to progress at their own pace (in terms of distance from the "scary" object, if I'm understanding you correctly), they're ever going to get any closer?

I happen to know that if Dom was allowed to set the critical distance from the vacuum, he'd be half way cross the country by now. :lol:

Not trying to argue, just questioning.
 

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In desensitizing, the item is brought to the closest place where no negative response is elicited. If that's in a different room, fine.

Only very gradually is it moved closer, and not close enough to elicit the negative response.

If the item can't be in sight, then a similar item is used, or part of the item, or the unplugged item, or (say, if it's the mailman) a person who kinda looks like the mailman, then a person with a mailbag, then a person with a mailbag and the mailman's blue shirt, and so on.

If the unplugged vacuum cleaner still elicits the reponse, then the hose or the attachments or the cord or a different smaller vacuum or whatever is vacuum-like but not scary is the first item.

And so on, to the next closer item in a different room, to the next closer item in the doorway, etc.
 

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"Flooding" is putting the feared item/person with the dog regardless of the dog's response.

In flooding, the item cannot have any bad consequences at all and cannot be removed until the animal is calm.

My understanding is that flooding is best reserved for low-grade fears.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you for the further explanation. So you do physically move the object (or like object) closer, but not until the dog is completely comfortable with the prior distance?

My understanding of the word "desensitize" was obviously incorrect, as I understood it to be more like flooding. Sort of forcing the issue in a calm, quiet way with no negative consequences then waiting for the animal to settle.

The unplugged, completely inanimate vacuum elicits the same response as when it's running. The smell of the unplugged, completely inanimate vacuum elicits the same response. Hell, the word "vacuum" might freak him out at this point...
 

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Al Curbow said:
I agree with Mike, the dog is what he is and there's nothing that will change it's "mind", scared is scared. Hopefully he won't be a fear biter. You hear it all the time, puppies are a crapshoot,

AL
This is not a hopeless issue.Too many dogs are considered unworkable that could be ok in the right hands.

Dogs dont feel fear the way humans do.its not about changing a dogs "mind".Its about pushing back thresholds.Its about working through stress and coming out stronger on the other side.
 

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I understand what you're saying, but I have to ask... If in desensitization (as opposed to "flooding") the dog sets the critical distance, will the dog ever become desensitized? Like you said, dogs don't "want to get over their fear", so is it logical to think that if allowed to progress at their own pace (in terms of distance from the "scary" object, if I'm understanding you correctly), they're ever going to get any closer?
You can do any number of things to alleviate the issue(s)...but you can't do ANYTHING to turn a dog such as you describe into a RELIABLE working dog. Spare yourself and the dog the grief. Let him be a pet. If you need a working dog, find a new prospect. 11 months old already CLEARLY shows what the dog is. Mind you, there's a bunch of progress that can be made with a flighty dog, but if he's going to be a "pro" on the street, HE SHOULDN'T.

Not everyone's Michael Jordan, right?
 

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IMO it depends on the dog, if the dog is as bad as described then I wouldn't trust the dog to be a solid dog later, you can cover up these issues with training, but somewhere in that dogs head he will always have a little bit of that doubt and unsureness lingering, n it'll show up when you least want it to, under high stress. Kimbo for example, the GSD that I was testing on tile, I can get that dog to bite on tile and hold on and even look good doing it, but I still told my TD "I don't think he's right for police", because they can work the dog for 1 year addressing his slippery floor issue n not only will it be a 50/50 shot that he will get over it, but that behavior is already in his head, it's very possible that he'll revert back to that behavior under a stressful situation. You can train and train and cover up the flaw, but it's still there somewhere in his head. This is different to a dog who's just not sure about stuff, investigates and is OK with it... if a dog would rather jump off a cliff than face his fear, and something as simple as a vacuum cleaner, then the dog is what he is and that's all you can expect, even if you can make him look good.

Ofcourse, I didn't raise that dog, so I don't know how the dog has gone thru his entire life, because certain events can make an otherwise sound dog do stupid things, n you can bring a dog thru that if you instilled the problem in him to begin with, but if it's "just there", it will always be "just there". He won't be a killer dog, but you could make him believe he is.
 
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