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timid Gunny--is this typical?

 
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Kris K
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PostPosted: 01/23/05, 7:16 pm    Post subject: timid Gunny--is this typical? Reply with quote

We have a male GWP who is about 1 1/2 years old--purchased from a breeder at 20 weeks old. He is incredibly sweet, devoted, loving and gentle. He adores our young children and is an ideal family dog. However, Gunny is terrified of strangers. There are 6 people in the world--my family of 4 plus my parents-- that he has decided he loves--outside of us, Gunny is afraid of everyone. He adores other dogs--his issue is only with other people. He lives inside the house with us, he goes to work with me, and has been treated lovingly since his first day with us. I don't read his behavior as aggressive, just scared. He chuffs and growls as he retreats to some "safe" position. I've had dogs all my life--he's my first GWP--all other dogs I've known seem to know when they are visiting with a "dog friendly" person and drop their guard a bit. Gunny though, seems to trust no one outside of his family. I started walking with a friend and he growled at her every morning for about 2 weeks. Now he'll sniff at her hand and back up, as if to say, "Oh yeah--you. Now go away please", though he no longer growls or chuffs. Is this common behavior for GWP's or is this timidness particular to him? As our kids get older, more and more "strangers (friends of our kids)" will be visiting our house--I don't want him to feel terrorized and I also don't want invited guests to feel threatened. I also know that a scared human makes for a scared dog, making the situation potentially volatile. Does anyone have any suggestions? What can I do to help Gunny? Are all GWPs like this?
Thank you!!! Confused
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cheerio
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PostPosted: 01/23/05, 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was he shy when you purchased him? Was he raised in a kennel? How were the parents? Do you live in the country? How much socialization have you offered him from the very biginning?
With these answers, I may be able to provide you with some suggestions...
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Tony
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PostPosted: 01/24/05, 10:42 am    Post subject: Re: timid Gunny--is this typical? Reply with quote

Kris K wrote:
Are all GWPs like this?


No! This behavior is extremely unusual for the breed, especially for a dog that has lived in the house with people for most of it's life. Did he wait a year before he decided to fear strangers, or was he this way when you bought him? If a stranger walked up and grabbed his collar, would he bite them out of fear?
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Kris K
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PostPosted: 01/24/05, 12:54 pm    Post subject: timid Gunny Reply with quote

Thank you both for your replies. . .Tony; regarding your comments: when we first saw Gunny at the breeder's, he was in an outdoor kennel with another littermate. Interestingly enough, the littermate was very very shy--he wouldn't even come near us. I remember Gunny was racing around, playing with the other dogs and having a great time. He seemed more interested in the other dogs than us, but not unfriendly. He was very subdued in his first few days with us. After about a week or so he started to warm up and seem "happy". It's hard to pinpoint exactly when this behavior began so it must have been not long after we brought him home. I should note that he has NEVER exhibited any form of aggression or fear within our family--it is only around poeple he doesn't know. Regarding the grabbing the collar scenario. . .I'm not sure what he would do if a stranger grabbed him. I don't think he would let a stranger get that close to him in the first place--he would take off first. If someone snuck up on him and grabbed him quickly, I don't think he would bite, I think he would more likely go into submission mode--hind quarters shaking madly. However, when a neighbor boy (just a little older than my son) wanted to pet him a weekend ago and pet his back, near his hind quarters. I was holding gunny by the collar and reassuring him, but Gunny snapped--a cautionary snap, I don't think he truly intended to bite, but his message--"Back Off"--was very clear. I told the boy Gunny was too scared and it would be best to give Gunny some space and time to calm down and leave him alone. Gunny stayed in the front yard with me and did settle down, though not until all the neighbors left.

Cheerio: We live in the suburbs and he has the freedom to choose--most of the time--whether he wants to be inside or outside. Usually he prefers to be next to me, wherever that might be. When I'm gardening in the front yard, he's outside with me, off leash. In general, we don't have many visitors. He's with me at work, but visitors are generally limited to FedEx or UPS--hit and run kind of visists. When that happens, he hides under my desk, looking out at them from under the front part--growling like he's big and tough. Last week I was interviewing people for a job and Ia cutally think ti was good for him--poeple would sit across my desk and he had to just deal with it. He would growl a few times--I would tell him "No" sharply and he would sit down and be quiet. He has been to obedience school and did well--he loved playing with the other dogs and when he's playing with dogs, people, i.e. the other dog's handler, don't exist. He'll bounce around like a crazy person--even knocking into the other handler on occaision--and it doesn't even phase him. When you say parents, do you mean dog or human (breeder)? I really don't know much about either, except that the breeder is very involved in the local chapter of the GWP club. She claims the dogs were free to come in the house, but I really don't have a way of knowing for sure. I have to say I'm very curious about his early weeks due to his behavior. All 4 of us are very sweet to him--verbal corrections are all that we use--so I can't point to any instance since he's been with us that might have precipitated this over-cautiousness. We are debating getting a second GWP in the hope that it will model "braver" and more confident behavior. My parents bring their dog to work--a small Aussie mix--and they are amicable with each other, but she is not really a friendly, sociable dog. They don't play together--she's more interested in showing him she's the boss. Do you think a second puppy would be helpful?

When he is exhibiting this behavior, I've tried 2 ways of correcting him--the sharp "No" ans also a more gentle, down on his level reassurance (i.e. "It's ok Gunny--you're ok") and neither seems to be better than the other. When I reassure him, he looks at me like, "Thanks for your efforts, but you just don't understand". If either of you have alternate suggestions, I am very much "all ears".

I apologize for the long winded reply--I'm trying to include anything that might be helpful in figuring Gunny out. Please know that I am very appreciative of both your attempts to help Gunny (and my family) get over this. If I could just inject him with a tiny bit of my old Lab's easy going, "Hey buddy--wanna be my friend" nature, Gunny would truly be the perfect dog. However, every dog and human has imperfections and we will love him and care for him with gentleness and kindness no matter what--it just would be so nice if we could get him past this.

Thank you!!
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cheerio
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PostPosted: 01/24/05, 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your dog seems to be what we refer to as a "Dog dog" and not a "people Dog". He definitely showed the typical behavior of this type of temperament when you first went to see him. Not all Dog dogs are shy, but when they are, they tend to be drastically so, because they do not know how to take cues from the human world. For future pups, remember to always insit in seeing the parents and if possible the grand-parents.

Now the point is that you have a shy dog, no doubt about it, which could be learnt or inherited. The behavior modification of shy dogs have been my passion for many years now, and it is always a pleasure to answer a dog owner who loves his dog sufficiently to want to understand and help him. In order to bring your dog out of this behavior, you have to know a few things:

First, you have to understand that all dogs from all breed go through a period of shyness sometimes between the 7th and 14th month of their life. It is the equivalent of the 9 month old human baby. At this time, your puppy who may have been a perfect outgoing friendly dog may suddenly express some aloofness sometimes to a very serious degree.
A dog may be or become shy under 2 circumstances: personal make up, usually an hereditary trait, or mishandling.
A pup who is shy through what some call bad breeding, meaning born from one or both shy parent(s) or from one or both parent(s) known to have produced or be likely to produce shy pups (through the study of their pedigree). This pup may appear shy, from the start, or, in most cases, may appear as secure as they come up until the time he reaches this "shy period" which will mark him for the rest of his life with that inheritate shyness trait. The dog therefore will become the shy dog he was bred to be, no matter the amount of socialization he may have received prior to this magical age of 4 months your trainer referred to.
A pup could have been destined to become a strong secure dog, but, due to the mishandling of his owner, reverts to a shy temperament. Mishandling involves abuse, physical and mental, but also a lack of socialization (very easily fixed) or, as it is the case in most cases, simply doing the wrong things at the wrong time, that is while the pup has entered the "shy period" above referred to.
Understanding the reason why the pup is turning into a shy unsociable animal is very useful in that it can give us pointers as to what should not be done during his recovering period. For exemple, if you know that a dog was kicked, you will know not to talk to him or call him while holding a broom or any type of stick. If you remember having forced your pup to be sociable to a big tall stranger with a beard, a hat, a deep voice and, heaven forbid, a uniform, while he started his "shy period", you will naturally avoid, while working with him in order to regain his confident, any contact between the dog and a similar person. Having said this, please understand that whether or not you know the source of the shyness, you can work with your dog with the same success. The exercises to recovery are the same, no matter where the shyness came from. However, a dog "born shy", will often demand a little more time to recover. You must also understand that you cannot change the genetic mark up of your pup, so what your are aiming at doing is changing his behavior, not his personality.

There are several critical points, a list of don'ts and does, to consider if you are to work towards transforming your dog's behavior:

DO NOT CONSOLE and pet your dog when he is afraid or backing out from a stranger's hand. This is the most common and the most detrimental mistake made by owners of shy dogs. Petting is a reward. By petting or consoling verbally your dog when he exhibits any types of timid signs, you reinforce the unwanted behavior, thus ensuring the same behavior for the same future situation. The best thing is IGNORE IT. Which brings me to the next important point.
DO NOT force your dog to situations you know will make him uncomfortable. The progress has to be achieved progressively, by stretching his comfort zone. So, at this point, asking or allowing people to pet or feed him treats is not a good idea.
BE STRONG, show confidence in your leadership. Your dog is one who, in a pack, would not be at the top of the hierarchy. He needs to know that he is lead by an Alpha who is strong and on whom he can rely on for all of his needs. Love is not sufficient. He needs rules, a lot of them, and plenty of happy cuddles to reward his obedience to orders and rules. Put rules every where you can around your house. For exemple, puppy wants to go out: "Sit", then you open the door. Time for a walk? "Sit", then you may put his collar/leash on. He needs to get out of the car? "Sit" "Stay", open the door and then "out". He wants his food? Water? "sit" or "down" then you may put his dish down for him. He wants to be beside you when you have your dinner, or when you watch TV? "Down" and "Stay"... More rules he has, more predictable his life will be and more comforting he will feel. It is in front of the unknown that he panicks so more known element you can bring to his life, the better he will be. Start making sure he always sit when you stop during a walk. This way, the day you meet someone along the way and stop to talk to that person, insteat of being afraid of the stranger, your dog will be thinking "Dad stopped, I must sit and keep an eye on him to know when he is going to start walking again"...
TRAINING TRAINING TRAINING. You probably took your dog to obedience training. This is fantastic, but do not stop to basics. Dogs such as yours excell in obedience and in many sports. They enjoy doing something well. It builds their confidence, and re-enforce the bond between you, his leader and him, who loves to please you. Agility is particularly good at building confidence, and it is fun as well.
LAUGH with him, especially after he defies you. If you say "down" and he does not, insist calmly until he does. When he does, roll him over, play with him, laugh with him, tell him he is a goof, pretend that his impertinence was a joke on his part...
BE THE LEADER. Ask everyone else in the family to leave the dog alone. They can pet him, they can include him in games, they can talk to him, but they should not order him if you are home. This is your place. The principle behind the recovery of the shy dog is that he must take his confidence from his leader. Too many leaders will confuse him and only delay his progress.
NO KENNEL LIFE. Your dog must be part of your life, part of you. Take him everywhere you can, even if it means he has to stay in the car (providing the temperature is safe) while you are doing your shopping. Whether you go for 5 minutes or 5 hours, take your dog with you. Think of him as your shadow. Definitely take him to Petsmart, but do not allow people to touch him. If you are asked, simply tell them that he is a puppy in training so he needs to concentrate totally on you. Allow him to follow you from room to room in the house. But remember that there are rules, and he may be asked to lay down when you are in front of the TV, or reading or eating at the table.
HAVE CUDDLE TIMES. When it is quiet time, for exemple while watching TV, take him on your laps upside down and rub his tommy. Then have him sit beside you and rub his chest, his face, his eyes (Mom licks her pups eyes when she is pleased with them). The petting should be slow and firm, deep. Remember, he must feel that you are calm, secure and strong.
GIVE HIM A JOB. Responsibilities do wonder for one's ego. If he is in the car, when you leave, ask him to "keep the car", to "be a good boy, to keep the car". When you comeback, take a few second to fuss over him: he "kept the car", he was "a good boy", he did "a good job". Pet him, laugh, do what ever you want to make him feel how pleased you are. After all, the car is still there! Same thing when you leave him at home. Tell him to keep the house. In the car, you can also ask him to keep a bag, or a paper. Show it to him and tell him to "keep the bag". Show it to him again when you come back and tell him he was "a good boy", he "kept the bag". GWP are good retrievers. Use it to ask them to carry a shopping bag back to the kitchen, or your gloves... Always fuss at the end.
DO NOT SCREAM. This has for effect the opposite of what you expect. The reason is simple. When Mom is angry with puppy, she will growl, very deep, very calm, very quiet. When she is happy, she makes high pitch sounds, and puppy gets very excited, very playful. When a human screams, the tone of voice is high and puppy becomes hyper. So instead of screaming, lower your voice, stay calm and quiet, and tell the dog what you think of him right now. When you are happy, it is time to scream and laugh.
DO NOT GET ANGRY. Getting upset because your dog is afraid can only make matter worse. If he is so afraid that he actually growls, ignore his reaction and simply take him away, preferably on the leash, while talking to him calmly: "Lets go out boy", "I think you will be better there", Let's see if the kids are in the yard"... Just carry on a conversation in a very sereine tone of voice.
Finally, BE PATIENT. You will have to walk at your dog's pace. It will take time. At time, it will seem like he is not progressing much, other time, it will seem that he has, but suddenly falls back into his old habits, and one day, you will look at him and you will wonder, when is it exactly that he became the self confident dog that you now have, when did the transformation happened? The truth is that it was every day from the very first minute you started working with him, up until the very moment you asked yourself this question.
Some very specific exercise accellerate the recovery of the shy dog. You may want to take puppy for a walk in a parking lot on a quite day, then, in the same parking lot on a busy day, on a Saturday morning for exemple. When you are in the kitchen and your dog is next door, make a lot of noise with the saucepan for a few minutes, then call him while still moving saucepans around and give him a treat, without making a case of it: "Here is a treat for you good boy" while you are moving pans knocking them a little. Simply drop the treat if he does not come to you. Make it as natural as you can.
I have to be honnest that it is work, but it is no more than if you had a dog who runs away, or if you were to start a canine sport and rectified certain habits such as missing an obstacle for exemple. What it is, it is dedication to your dog.

My final comment will be regarding trainers, and books and videos. There are many of those on the market now days. Be very cautious of what you get. Some are good but some are not. It is always more difficult to rectify a previous bad training than to start fresh with a good one.
Out of all the books I know available in the US, there is only one I would all heartly recommend: Help for your Shy Dog by Deborah Wood. This book is pleasant to read and offer not only a very sensible approach to the problem, but also some very useful exercises.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
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Kyle
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PostPosted: 01/26/05, 4:10 am    Post subject: Cheerio Reply with quote

Cheerio - I have been reading these post a long time and you are my favorite! You give great advice and if I were a GWP I'd want to be yours!
We need a lot more like you on this planet!
Kyle
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