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Old August 6th, 2009, 01:17 PM
jmayoff jmayoff is offline
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Dog pulls/scared

Sorry this is so long, but I thought I'd include everything that might help someone help me.

I have a problem with my 10 month old (mostly) black lab.

He is scared of all big trucks, some small trucks, most things that make loud noises and large curbside recycling/garbage bins. This is making it difficult to go on walks. He clearly is not happy to be out walking when these vehicles/bins are around.

He used to pull a lot, all the time when walking on-leash. I've since done a little leash training. Now he seems only to pull either to get away from the things that make him afraid or as we're walking in the direction of home (excited to be going home.) When we're walking away from home and there are no loud noises, he's a perfect dog walking beside or behind me without pulling, although that may just be because he's not happy to be going away from home.

I do not comfort/pet/baby him when these trucks go by. I command him to sit and we wait until they pass.

I've been reading Ceasar Millan and so, I've been trying to be calm-assertive with him as a way to reassure him that I, the pack leader, am in control and there's really nothing to worry about.

It doesn't work.

Does anyone have any suggestions for me? I'd really like to be able to go on long walks with him, but it's just too stressful, since we're stopping (or abruptly changing directions) every few seconds.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 01:23 PM
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Bailey_ Bailey_ is offline
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First off, great job for being consistant and NOT comforting him when he reacts to the loud sounds. As I'm sure you know, that would only enable the behavior.

Could I ask what type of collar you're using on him? Because he pulls and reacts to noises, you want to ensure that you're wearing a safe collar that won't hurt him, and also won't allow him to get out of it.

What exactly is his reaction he has when the loud trucks pass? (Whining, putting on the brakes, leaping, pulling back, tail tucked?) You mentioned it's some small trucks, but does this behavior occur basically when any or the majority of vehicle passes? Does he exhibit this fear when the vehicle comes from behind you, or even when it's coming towards you?

Have you been trying to take him on the same paths every time?

You mentioned that he used to pull a lot when you first got him - how long have you had him, and in which direction was he pulling? Did he pull to lead, or pull back to escape? When he first pulled on the leash with you, did you notice this behavior towards the vehicles at that time as well?

Sorry for all the questions, just want to get a better idea of what's going on so we can help you.
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  #3  
Old August 6th, 2009, 01:45 PM
BenMax BenMax is offline
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Just to add to Bailey's question, does he have a favourite toy or treat? This may help depending on the answers to the questions above.
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Old August 6th, 2009, 05:57 PM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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Too add to the questions Baily asked:

Does he have this reaction when he's just outside at your home? That (home) would be the place to start desensitizing him.

Did you teach him leash manners in a calm place before trying to bring him outside in a more chaotic environment? If not, he may be a little too overwhelmed.

And last, have you tried any trust building activities with him? If he doesn't trust you, the "calm assertive" thing isn't going to work very well. He should be looking to you for guidance and comfort, instead he's trying to avoid the situation altogether.
I like Cesar Millan in some ways, but he makes it look like you can just pick up the leash, be calm and assertive and everything else will follow. It doesn't really work that way. It takes LOTS AND LOTS of time and patience to get dogs to trust you and to desensitize them to stuff and train them. Most people aren't Cesar Millan and they don't work with tons of dogs professionally every day.
You may be trying to rush him and being a bit impatient, which is counterproductive.

Also, 10 month old black labs are unbelievably hyperactive and need a ton of exercise. If he's not getting enough exercise and stimulation in a comfortable environment first he's probably going to be neurotic when you take him into a chaotic situation. High energy dogs get overstimulated easily, and he's still just a puppy.

Last edited by MyBirdIsEvil; August 7th, 2009 at 03:13 AM. Reason: Addition of info
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Old August 6th, 2009, 07:39 PM
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Bailey_ Bailey_ is offline
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MyBirdIsEvil had some great points. I think the thing people need to understand about watching Ceaser or another trainer on tv, or reading their books, is generally these people have been working with dogs that have behavior issues for YEARS. I've even heard Ceaser say on a few of his episodes that what he does is instinctual for him, and owners should not copy his actions or try things at home without consulting a professional.

With that said, I do think it's awesome you're trying really hard with your dog and I commend you for your efforts!!

Looking forward to hearing your answers to the questions, I'm sure someone will be able to help you a bit further. If you still find you're having problems, or you notice your dogs behavior is getting worse, please don't hesitate to call a behaviorist that can help you further. Sometimes it's such a huge help to have someone "spotting us" to identify if we're doing something wrong, and unintentionally sending a dog the wrong signals.
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  #6  
Old August 7th, 2009, 08:23 AM
BenMax BenMax is offline
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I was hoping to get all of these important questions answered before offering something. Since there are no answers then I will comment regardless.

Being calm and assertive is ok but it is not fool proof as every dog is different. Since this is not working for you then I would move to something different but remaining 'calm' which is the key.

Firstly, terrified dogs are my 'thing'. Moving from aggressive to scared and submissive was definately a transition but I have had excellent results. The key to the success I cannot take fully, I must attribute these successes to my little helper, that being a calm, assertive, confident min pin.

If you have a friend or neighbour that has a stable dog that walks well on leash, and is well adjusted to all environments or situations, this will help tremendously. What I recommend is that you map out your route initially with only minor disrupting attractions. Go for a walk with your dog and the other dog, in the same path for 1 week straight and do not deviate from this route. If after the 1 week has passed with positive results the next step is easy. Keep the same route but extend the route to the next obstacle. Maintain this route until you see improvement and then for the next week, extend the walk once again using the same two routes combined with the third 'extension' of the route. Once this is completed, change completely but do the following as close as possible to the opposite end of the route to the beginning (so in other words point Z to A). Ensure that the other dog is with you during this process.

I would also use a halter to maintain full control so that the dog does not pull enough to get loose. I would NOT use a chock collar at all on this dog. He does not require any correction at all, just encouragement. Bring along a favourite toy or treats to encourage him forward when you see he is starting to panic.

Walks should be encouraging for dogs as well as fun. When you feel some tension from him - jog through that area using a 'fun' voice. He will hear you and feel your energy which should snap him out of the 'funk' he is in.

Another great activity for him is obediance courses with other dogs in attendance. He needs a leader that will always encourage him and he needs that security from you that you are there for him.

I have had some very tough cases. Not one dog has been like the other, but what I have learnt is that sometimes I am not enough. I use other dogs that are stable and confident to assist always to get them through their fears.

Please try this. Don't get discouraged as this takes days, and even weeks before you see some real changes. Also, one of the most important things I can tell you is not to anticipate failures. If you anticipate something will go wrong, it usually does. Do not tense up in problematic areas. To assist with this (human mind training), wear some headsets and listen to some music if it helps. This will keep your mind calm and you will then not be tense holding the leash. This helps you also to move forward and it will encourage you to help him move forward as well. Sounds nutty - but for me it works well.

Best of luck with your dog. With time, persistance and optimism - you will see results.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 12:52 PM
jmayoff jmayoff is offline
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Thanks, everyone, for respodning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey_ View Post
First off, great job for being consistant and NOT comforting him when he reacts to the loud sounds. As I'm sure you know, that would only enable the behavior.

Could I ask what type of collar you're using on him? Because he pulls and reacts to noises, you want to ensure that you're wearing a safe collar that won't hurt him, and also won't allow him to get out of it.
I have both a standard canvas collar and a choke collar. I never let him pull hard enough on either to hurt himself. I command him to sit. Usually that works, but if he's pulling very hard (which is not often) I'll grab his choke collar by hand, making sure it doesn't tighten and he doesn't choke himself.

Quote:
What exactly is his reaction he has when the loud trucks pass? (Whining, putting on the brakes, leaping, pulling back, tail tucked?) You mentioned it's some small trucks, but does this behavior occur basically when any or the majority of vehicle passes? Does he exhibit this fear when the vehicle comes from behind you, or even when it's coming towards you?
He tries to hide behind me. He does tuck his tail and he'll try to pull away from the object he deems is the making the noise.

I have a feeling it's the loud noise, because regular cars are not a big problem, unless there are a lot of them, but those small, but loud scooters get him going.

Also, he's much better in the evening when there are fewer big trucks driving by.

Quote:
Have you been trying to take him on the same paths every time?
We generally go on one of two or three regular routes.


Quote:
You mentioned that he used to pull a lot when you first got him - how long have you had him, and in which direction was he pulling? Did he pull to lead, or pull back to escape? When he first pulled on the leash with you, did you notice this behavior towards the vehicles at that time as well?
We've had him since February, got him when he was 4 months. He has always pulled to lead. I only noticed the behaviour the first time I took him on a daytime walk, when those trucks were around.

I've been training him not to pull for about two weeks now.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 10:07 PM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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I would avoid using the choke collar altogether.

For one, choke collars are mostly for obedience training and unless a professional trainer has shown you how to utilize one you may not be using it or putting it on right.

And second, choke collars should really only be used on walks for dogs that already understand how to respond to the corrections from the collar.
If you're having to grab the collar to stop him from pulling and choking himself then you shouldn't really be using it on him because the collar is of no benefit to you and could cause throat injury, even without tightening.
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Old August 7th, 2009, 11:52 PM
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I agree that a choke collar for your dog isn't neccessary. Choke collars are often resorted to when people notice their dog pulling, however a lot of times it can CAUSE pulling. You have other options for tools to use on your dog in regards to pulling, my favorite (and the only collar I use on any of my dogs) is the martingale. It's very forgiving, which a choke chain collar is not. It's also extremley comfortable for your dog and very safe - he won't be able to slip out of it in the event that he's pulling.

Here's an awesome video that pattymac posted a while back that helps people with pulling called the 'Balance Leash'. I've tried this with a few dogs and it's been extremley successful with all. You may want to give it a try with your dog as well, instead of resorting to the choke collar. http://www.dogstardaily.com/videos/w...lance-ttouch-0

Quote:
He tries to hide behind me. He does tuck his tail and he'll try to pull away from the object he deems is the making the noise.

I have a feeling it's the loud noise, because regular cars are not a big problem, unless there are a lot of them, but those small, but loud scooters get him going.

Also, he's much better in the evening when there are fewer big trucks driving by.
Because he's reacting to the point where he is already getting behind you and tucking his tail and pulling away from the obect, this is telling me that any corrections you're trying to make are coming much to late. This isn't your fault, it just means that you aren't quite seeing the correct moment that the correction or innteruption needs to happen to change his focus from the vehicle. It NEEDS to happen before your dog gets into the 'fright & flight' state of mind, because once he's there - regardless of whether you try to remain calm and assertive - it's just too late.

I really reccomend you seeking out someone who can help you, even if you just get one or two lessons to show you when/how to properly move your dog through this behavior before it becomes a learned behavior.

BenMax had some wonderful suggestions, including that of getting another calm, stable dog to join you. The BEST teacher is another dog, and often the presence of another dog will keep your dogs mind off of the traffic. He may be more interested in socializing and it would be a wonderful step towards desensitizing him to the roads.
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Old August 8th, 2009, 02:43 AM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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Quote:
The BEST teacher is another dog,
That's very true.

Going out on a walk with someone that has a calm and mannerly dog (older dogs are often good candidates) could help a ton. The younger dog will look to the other dog for cues.

My collie was always a lot easier spooked than my other dog, but he'd look to her when he got startled, and being she's scared of absolutely nothing (other than tortoises....yeah...I dunno...) he was usually calmed by the fact that she had no reaction. It was also a lot easier to train him than her because by the time we got him she already knew a bunch of commands, so when I'd ask her to do something he'd just copy.

Both of these dogs were leash pullers at first, but eventually I could walk both of them several miles and they would stay right by my side the whole time. It just takes a ton of patience. Don't set goals that are too soon. Puppies especially can go through phases and he may actually just snap out of it one day as you work with him.
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Old August 9th, 2009, 11:06 AM
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Little Leah Little Leah is offline
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Ceasar Millan works MIRACLES, I've watched his show when I got the discovery channel in HD. He is right you have to be calm and assertive, if that doesn't work by any chance after trying for a few months then be stern let him know your the leader. Don't hesitate to pull back on the chain, he probably says this too, if he looks at you he is asking you "What should I do next mommy". Try and find videos of him somewhere you can probably more then likely find some at the library, see all the different methods and see what one suits your dog best. Just keep on trying .
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Old August 11th, 2009, 11:42 AM
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With a dog that exhibits fear like this, I would not recommend being stern. That could just compound the problem when the dog starts to associate the loud scary noises with his human suddenly becoming unpredictable. While Cesar Milan's methods may work with some dogs, his general rule of thought is that every single behavior is dominance motivated. IMO this is baloney - most behaviors have nothing to do with dominance.
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Old August 11th, 2009, 10:35 PM
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MyBirdIsEvil MyBirdIsEvil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kandy View Post
With a dog that exhibits fear like this, I would not recommend being stern. That could just compound the problem when the dog starts to associate the loud scary noises with his human suddenly becoming unpredictable. While Cesar Milan's methods may work with some dogs, his general rule of thought is that every single behavior is dominance motivated. IMO this is baloney - most behaviors have nothing to do with dominance.
I've read his books and he doesn't think everything is dominance related (he talks about submissive behavior too), but he does specialize in dominance dogs so most of the dogs on his show lean that way.

Mostly I agree with your post. People need to take things they see on his show and read in his books with a grain of salt. Dogs are individuals and his methods aren't a be all end of dog training. In fact his methods are best applied to very specific cases and people usually shouldn't be copying him.

I actually like his show and find it quite entertaining, but I hate that it makes inexperienced dog owners think that by watching his show they have a firm grasp of dog behavior and training. I'm really starting to dislike the fact that I'm seeing people yank their dogs around on a slip collar and think that they're training, when in reality the dog just looks unbelievably confused, because that's what they see him do on tv. The shows are edited down a whole ton, and the stuff on leash is just a very small portion of what he's doing with the owners and the dogs. Obviously they're edited to show the most dramatic and entertaining parts. You can't just poke a dog in the neck or pull on a leash and get it to comply, which is what the show leads people to believe.

Last edited by MyBirdIsEvil; August 11th, 2009 at 10:40 PM.
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Old August 11th, 2009, 10:49 PM
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Well said.
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Old August 15th, 2009, 04:27 PM
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Little Leah Little Leah is offline
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As I said Cesar has different approaches, I haven't seen much of them, but he does say that each dog does have their own way of learning. So keep on trying diff methods, or if it really does become a huge issue try the treadmill. It may or may not work, it depends on your dogs personality, only YOU know it best not us .
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Old August 19th, 2009, 03:56 PM
jmayoff jmayoff is offline
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Hi, thanks for the responses and the discussion about Ceasar Millan. I think I realized while reading/watching him that he's got some special talent/skill that not everyone can reproduce, so I'll take what seems to work from him and try different methods for what doesn't

Back to my problem. I now realize that his pulling problem is probably completely related to his fear of large trucks and bins. My wife tells me that a couple of months ago she and the dog were standing on the corner and a large truck blew a tire making a loud noise. There might possibly have been a recycling bin nearby, but that's just speculation.

So, my question now is how to help him get over this fear.

My first thought is to take him to a construction site (maybe on recycling day) where there are a lot of trucks and let him work things out for himself, using treats whenever it appears that he stops acting fearful. I would do it for just a few minutes at first and then for longer and longer periods of time.

That makes sense to my mind, but I have no experience with this. Any thoughts/suggestions.
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Old August 20th, 2009, 02:01 PM
kandy kandy is offline
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Actually to start desensitizing him to the loud noises - you need to start slowly. If you take him to a place where he will be overwhelmed by the noise, it will only reinforce the fear. It might appear that he's over the fear when in fact he might have just 'shut down'. You need to walk him in a quiet area, but someplace that you can get as close to loud, city noises as you want. As you walk toward the noisier place, watch your dogs body language - when he starts to show signs of tension, stop. Stay at that distance and distract your dog by having his absolute favorite toy there or by giving him high value treats (whichever high value item works best for him). Each day try to take him closer to the high noise area, even if it's just a few more steps.

You could also try walking in your normal places, and watching for trucks that will cause him to be scared. Before the truck ever gets close enough to start the fear reaction, distract the dog (again, with whatever high value item works for him), and praise like crazy if the truck gets past without him reacting. Have him sit with his back to the fearful thing so that he will be paying attention to you. The trick is to pay close attention to the body language so that you stop the reaction before it starts. If the reaction is already underway, it's too late. You can also make a recording of the loud noises and play the recording while at home. Start out with the volume at a level that doesn't cause any reaction in the dog, and slowly start to increase the volume day by day.

One other thing - you might want to have him checked at the vets. There are health issues that can actually cause pain with loud noises.
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