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9 month old pup suddenly afraid of other dogs

March 25th, 2009, 10:05 AM
Hi everyone!

I am curious about my puppy. She's a German Shepherd/Beagle mix, just about 9 months old now and weighs 35 pounds. She has always been GREAT with other dogs! We had her in socialization classes and obedience since she was 9 weeks old and she goes to doggie daycare at least once a week. They always describe her as "full of beans, rambunctious and lots of fun"

Last Monday I took her to a new park and we had a great walk. We met lots of dogs and she had a great time. We went to the same park this Monday just past and she cowered at most of the dogs. Her fur was standing on end, tail between her legs, ears down, etc. This happened with probably 70% of the dogs we saw. Small dogs, big dogs. It was so bizarre. I didn't encourage her behaviour by petting her or anything, I just said "come on Milly" and we moved along each time.

I took her to daycare yesterday and they told me that she did the same thing there. Mostly just to bigger dogs. They said that she still played and ran around, but said the cowering was completely unusual for her.

I am really puzzled as to why she is acting this way. Is it a puppy stage?? Will it pass?

Another possibility is an incident that happened in the last 10 day or so. We went for our early morning walk (it was still dark) and we came across a man and his dogs. The dogs stopped to sniff each other and the man and I were chatting (about our dogs of course!). No sooner had the man said "my dog can be a little snakey at times" did her dog at mine. There was no warning, no barking, just a high pitched snap/ jump kind of thing. I'm not describing it well, it was dark out. The best I can say is that it was a classic sterotypical dog fight type of thing that you'd see on TV. No damage was done at the time and Milly and I just went on our way. I'm wondering now if this frightened her and has made her afraid of other dogs.

Is there anything we can do to help her get over this?? I hate to see her afraid of other dogs when she used to be so happy go lucky and playful.

Thanks so much!

ps. Our walks are always on leash. I don't trust our recall work just yet to do the off leash thing!

March 25th, 2009, 05:58 PM
I would say this attack is exactly where her sudden fear came from. Keep taking her to daycare and the other places, but try to arrange play dates for her with dogs that you know are gentle and that she will get along with. She needs to realize that not all dogs will attack her. If she doesn't get over that fear, it could cause fear aggression.

I suggest private play dates because the leash could make it tougher for her to get over the fear. A dog's instinct when threatened is either flight or fight. When you have the dog on a leash, you've taken away their flight option - so if she feels threatened, she may feel the need to attack.

March 25th, 2009, 07:16 PM
I agree - Sudden incidents like this can have a huge effect on our dogs, and how they approach strange dogs in the future.

The exact same scenario just recently happened to me with my 4 month old puppy at the dog park, except it was more a situation of a big husky playing rough/dominant with Bailey. Afterwards, for a few days and a few more trips to the park, she was extremley submissive (which she is usually not).

I got a few other dog owners together this past Saturday, with dogs that she's played with since she was 8 weeks old, and it seemed to snap her out of it. During that hour she was back to her old self, even wrestling with a big great-dane/bull mastiff and showing no signs of extreme submission.

Keep socializing her and try not to get too discouraged. Is there a big group of dogs at the daycare? I suggest trying to get a smaller group together - maybe 3 or 4 dogs in a group, ones that she's known for quite some time if possible. :thumbs up

March 25th, 2009, 08:35 PM
We've also noticed that dogs often go through a phase at about 9 months of age during which they react fearfully to events...some of them quite innocuous. Combine that with the snap from the strange dog on your walk the other night and I can certainly imagine that Milly is acting a bit strange.

We got Cass at 9 months of age. The first week she was with us, she was passing the door of the room where hubby was hefting a box up onto the closet shelf. She caught the motion out of the corner of her eye and it spooked her. She was leery of both hubby and boxes (:rolleyes:) for a while after.

To 'fix' it, we just kept exposing her to hubby and boxes, encouraging her to sniff both, not reacting if she behaved fearfully, but praising when she made breakthroughs. After a few weeks, she was back to her usual cheerful, mischievous self and no longer mistrusted either hubby or boxes. :p

So I'm with the others--find her a few close 'safe' friends to play with in a setting you can control and let her warm up to them. Start out with maybe one or two that she really likes, then add a few more.

Another thing you can do is pay attention to your body language when you walk her. As you approach another dog, walk confidently and put yourself in a cheerful frame of mind. Zip her right on by, totally unconcerned that there's another dog. She'll pick up on your body language and regain some of her confidence. Unless you are absolutely sure of the other dog (i.e., you know it well), don't stop to socialize while the dogs are on leash.

I suspect that given a little encouragement and a little time to get over her 'phase', she'll go back to being the friendly outgoing girl she used to be.

March 29th, 2009, 06:14 PM
Hi everyone,
Thanks so much for your replies. She went to 2 days of doggie daycare last week. The staff said she was much better on the second day. We went to the park yesterday and she was back to her normal ways! That was great to see :)

Thanks again, I'm so appreciative of your responses. Hazel, you've answered a couple of my questions so far and I thank you for that! I'm a first time puppy owner and it's wonderful to get information from people who've been through it before!:thumbs up

March 30th, 2009, 01:02 PM
:thumbs up YAY! Glad to hear it. :)