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Submissive puppy needs her confidence

4661 Views 11 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Wworm
Hi there everyone!

I recently got my first puppy ever this past february and its a beautiful basset of course :) She is 4 months now and teething like crazy which is always fun.

However she is lacking confidence. Just scared of everything little noise and thing. She is scared of the bells we are trying to use for potty training, which I am conditioning her to it and it seems to be going well because I can get her to touch it now. I have never hit this puppy, but she acts as if I have. Earlier I said potty and she ran and coward from me like it was a bad thing? We always make potty a positive thing, never gets left out for potty breaks, gets treats and lots of praise. I feel like I have to condition her to everything we do. I can understand vacuums, baths, ear cleanings, and all those typical weekly and daily loud scary things, but going outside? Any suggestions on what I can do for her and help her build the confidence she needs for her everyday life?

She has been a blessing in my life, I just hope she will see it as the same one day.
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I have found obedience training, and later on agility training, to be great confidence builders. They gain confidence from mastering the exercises and obstacles, learn to have some fun, and also the obedience gives them behaviors that you can use in stressful situations.
Welcome and congratulations on your new baby...I agree with Soundtrack on this one. I can't say for sure with the agility training but Woody has been blessed with his obedience training. It helps our communication and lets him know the guidelines that I expect. We are just starting but already I can see a difference in him and it is all positive...he loves our training and homework time and is mastering it very quickly......

I am sure others here will have even more advise for you..this is a great bunch...

Welcome aboard

Woody Hayes' mom Kristi:rolleyes:
Shyness is the one an only personnality trait that consistently passes from puppyhood to adulthood. She is always likely going to be shy but you can help the details of which are to extensive to handle in such a forum. I will provide refference that should help

a Fair Review
This breezy little paperback is a gem. Deborah Wood has managed to present a very readable, optimistic, and practical guide for coping with a shy dog. Between Wood's refreshingly conversational writing style and Amy Aitken's endearing illustrations, this is a book that any owner of a shy dog would find palatable and motivating

The author gives useful, practical advice that embellishes upon only a few central themes. The primary concept around which the book is structured is that the key to helping a shy dog through life is extensive and continual training and calm leadership, "...A dog's basic personality doesn't change. However, a fearful dog can learn to compensate for her shyness. The more training she receives and the more situations she experiences, the better she compensates. Your goal with your dog will be to help with the compensation process."

cautious canine
details the counter-conditioning desensitaztion process used by most behaviorist in dealing with fear based behavioral problems,

also keep in mond with puppies there are developmental stages and in these developmental stages are fear periods

Fear Periods

All puppies go through stages where they are more fearful and other the question is this shyness new or has it been part of her personallity all along the answer to that question will guide you on how to proceed long term.

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If she acts afraid do not comfort her by saying,"Its ok",etc. This encourages her to be afraid. Ignor what is happening and carry on as usual she will learn if you are not afraid then she doesn't need to be either. Socialize her as much as possible with people and noise. If she runs to hide by you ignor her.Be aware of the tone of voice you use.High voice means really good ,low growly voice means bad.
If she acts afraid do not comfort her by saying,"Its ok",etc. This encourages her to be afraid.
after the pano thread I'm now feeling better

Myth of reinforcing fear
Copyright 2007, written by Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. and Daniel Q. Estep, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists. Reprinted with permission from “Pet Behavior One Piece at a Time”.

There seems to be a persistent belief that it is possible to reward fearful behaviors without rewarding the emotion of fear. This may be true in people. We all know individuals with a “martyr” mentality who will act fearful and helpless just to get attention and have others take care of them.
This doesn’t seem to be true for animals. They don’t pretend. If they don’t feel afraid, they don’t act afraid. When their emotional state changes, so do their behaviors.
and from Patricia Mcconnel another certified animal behaviorist

and [url=]
Reducing Fear in Your Dog
A gentle hand or a tasty treat doesn’t reinforce fear, it reduces it

Your dog hears thunder, he runs to you and you pet him. Voilà, your dog just got reinforced for running to you when it thunders, and worse, for being afraid of thunderstorms in the first place. But that’s not what happens, and here’s why. First, no amount of petting is going to make it worthwhile to your dog to feel panicked. Fear is no more fun for dogs than it is for people. The function of fear is to signal the body that there is danger present, and that the individual feeling fearful had better do something to make the danger, and the fear that accompanies it, go away.

...The greatest damage that’s done with outdated “don’t pet the dog” advice doesn’t relate to storms, but to the pitfalls of trying to explain classical counter-conditioning (CCC). CCC can be a profoundly effective way to change behavior, because it changes the emotions that drive the behavior in the first place. A typical example in applied animal behavior is having visitors throw treats to a dog who is afraid of strangers. Understandably, many a client has asked, “But isn’t giving him treats when he’s barking and growling just going to make him worse? Won’t he get reinforced for barking and growling?” The answer is no, not if his behavior is driven by fear. Remember, fear is no fun, and a few pieces of food, no matter how yummy, aren’t going to override the brain’s desire to avoid it.
Tossing treats (or toys) to a fearful dog can teach him to associate approaching strangers with something good, as long as the treat is really, really good, and the visitor is far enough away to avoid overwhelming the dog. CCC is one of the most important tools in a trainer or behaviorist’s toolbox, yet it can be hard to convince people to try it. It feels like rewarding a dog for misbehaving, and in our punishment-oriented, “you’ve got to get dominance over your dog” society, it is tough for some people to do. But that’s exactly what I did to cure another Border Collie, my Pippy Tay, when she developed a fear of storms many years ago.
CCC is one of many ways you can help a thunder-phobic dog. I’ve used some of the following with good success, either on their own or, in Pippy Tay’s case, combined with other methods: pheromone therapy, wraps, acupuncture, acupressure, diet change and, in serious cases, medication. If your dog is afraid of storms, you’d do well to consult a behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist for assistance in choosing the method that is right for you and your dog.
and Reinforcing Fear II, Thunder Phobia III
The bottom line is you could indeed cause problems by inadvertently reinforcing behavior in certain contexts. There are two things that are important to remember here: one is that fear is an emotion, and “reinforcement” refers to something that increases a behavior. You can’t, technically, reinforce an emotion, but you can increase the frequency of a particular behavior. In the case of thunder phobic dogs I don’t think there is ever a problem, because you are trying to decrease the emotion, which would indirectly decrease the problem behavior. Besides, if you sit beside your dog and stroke him while it thunders, and he stops pacing in circles but sits beside you, then if you are reinforcing anything it is him sitting beside you and not pacing.
Secondly, motivation is key here. If a dog is barking at visitor from fear, then having the visitor toss treats or toys does NOT reinforce the barking! It decreases it, because the emotion of fear subsides and it is the emotion of fear that drives the behavior. Once the dog associates visitors with treats, her behavior changes to body wags and happy dances. (Visitor = chicken! I love chicken! I love visitors!) This is standard Classical Conditioning, and I can tell you from 22 years of experience that it works incredibly well with lots and lots of dogs. However, if the dog is barking at people not because she is afraid, but because of another reason, it IS possible that you could increase the frequency of the behavior. That’s why it is so important to be able to read dogs and do a good evaluation of a problem behavior. I met a dog once who loved to get right into your face, all body waggy and grinny and relaxed, and then explode in a bark lunge about four inches from your face. I truly believed she just adored it when you startled (I rose at least a foot from my chair), and that is behavior that was clearly being reinforced!
It is imporant to understand that when dealing with shyness/fear that it is an an emotional response when the dog is in that state is is not reponding cognitively that is it is not thinking in order to make the associate between getting a reward ie food , comfort etc and its behavior it need to be thinking congnitively which simply does not happen. Change the emotional state of the dog and you change the behavior. Comorting and reward work on classical conditiong principals like pavlovs dogs. at the emotional level.

Pia Silvani's article "Reinforcing Fear, Why the Debate
There is reluctance in using classical counterconditioning when dealing with emotional behaviors since many feel that the undesirable behavior will be reinforced and that soothing the dog will reward timid or fearful behavior. However, studies reveal that it is difficult to operantly condition anxiety-related behaviors (Aloff, 2001, Miller, 2001, Price 2001).

Logic also tells us that it is difficult to punish or reinforce involuntary or reflexive behaviors. Let us look at a few other examples:

If your dog is afraid of loud noises, such as thunder, and you decided to give him a scratch behind the ear and a little hug should he run to you in a panic, you are NOT rewarding his fear. If YOUR behavior calms the dog down, then the dog obviously did not become more fearful. You helped change his emotional state. If the dog is phobic and an ear scratch or hug does not help, then what you did really does not make a difference. The dog remains the same emotionally--not worse, not better.

If your dog is fearful in a particular situation and suddenly freezes, and you give the dog a massage or attempt to sooth him by using a calm tone of voice, perhaps by saying “it’s okay”, and the dog begins to relax, you will NOT increase his level of fear nor will the dog become more stiff or frozen the next time he is in the same situation. It will not increase the frequency of freezing. This is what reinforcement does, correct? Reinforcement increases behaviors. Instead, the dog may be put in the same situation again and look to you for guidance. Your calm tone relaxes the dog. This is more powerful than any reinforcement given since you are changing the emotional state. Classical will win over operant.
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Hi Baileys,

Would love to see pics here of your new basset, if you have some!

I got Worm around the same age. He was one of the smallest in his large litter; plus he was around bigger puppies from older litters. I think this was a setup for being a bit fearful and lacking in confidence, which he was initially. I guessed it was because he was around bigger dogs who got their way more; ate more from the communal dish; maybe got pushed around more. Could be a genetic thing, too.

I tend to agree with Mikey that I felt like I had to give him a lot of reassurance the first few months, and that seemed to help build his confidence. At first, he assumed we would take his toys and food away from him, and would get anxious about it. So we pet him a lot and reassured him to give him a sense of safety that even tho we were around him, we would not take those things from him. I also thought it was so strange (never met a dog that didn't like to go outside and take walks-- ha ha, never had a basset), but he didn't enjoy going outside either. all the sights & sounds were a bit scary and overwhelming at times. He was afraid of all sorts of things, including balloons that waved around in the wind, cats, squirrels, other dogs, other people, even stationary rocks that were big, plants, trees. Oh also, his (and my) reflection in mirrors and in glass windows. I would try to help him by going up to the rock or balloon myself and showing him it was ok to be around them. He would keep his distance and just watch me at first. Later, he would sniff more and come up to those things more and then discover they weren't going to harm him. So i think it is a learning process too.

The cure for fear is exposure. gently, at first, probably the best. I'll try to forward you a handout that might be helpful. good news is that now, 5 months later, Worm loves going outside, is really comfortable eating his food and playing w/his toys, and not afraid of that much anymore.
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Sorry Mikey,I disagree,I read everything you posted and so far as I can tell dogs are not people and I'm not talking about storms.When people try to give comfort to their dogs they usually over do it. They pet them franticly and say,"Its ok,its ok,its ok." Which I have seen increase the anxiety the dog is having,by ignoring whatever has scared the dog and not saying anything to him it shows him you are not afraid and if you ignor it he can ignor it and just go on,once away from the situation then softly talk to him or pet him. It may take a couple times and it may not work for all dogs,it depends on the fear level, but it has worked for me and my dogs become more confident around strange things and places.
Rule of Twelve exercise

Baileys: Here's the handout I was talking about. we got it in our puppy training class, about how to expose our puppies to at least 12 different things (oops, Worm was already older than 12 weeks)...

The Puppy’s Rule of Twelve
Positive Paws Dog Training ©2002 – Margaret Hughes – 707-935-6142
Adapted with permission from Pat Schaap’s Rule of 7’s

Make sure all experiences are safe and positive for the puppy. Each encounter should include treats and lots of praise. Slow down and add distance if your puppy is scared!
By the time a puppy is 12 weeks old, it should have:
(If your puppy is over 12 weeks start right away with this socialization guide.)

Experienced 12 different surfaces: wood, woodchips, carpet, tile, cement, linoleum, grass, wet grass, dirt, mud, puddles, deep pea gravel, grates, uneven surfaces, on a table, on a chair, etc......

Played with 12 different objects: fuzzy toys, big & small balls, hard toys, funny sounding toys, wooden items, paper or cardboard items, milk jugs, metal items, car keys, etc.......

Experienced 12 different locations: front yard (daily), other people’s homes, school yard, lake, pond, river, boat, basement, elevator, car, moving car, garage, laundry room, kennel, veterinarian hospital (just to say hi & visit, lots of cookies, no vaccinations), grooming salon (just to say hi), etc....

Met and played with 12 new people (outside of family): include children, adults (mostly men), elderly adults, people in wheelchairs, walkers, people with canes, crutches, hats, sunglasses, etc….

Exposed to 12 different noises (ALWAYS keep positive and watch puppy’s comfort level – we don’t want the puppy scared): garage door opening, doorbell, children playing, babies screaming, big trucks, Harley motorcycles, skateboards, washing machine, shopping carts rolling, power boat, clapping, loud singing, pan dropping, horses neighing, vacuums, lawnmowers, birthday party, etc…

Exposed to 12 fast moving objects (don’t allow to chase): skateboards, roller-skates, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, people running, cats running, scooters, vacuums, children running, children playing soccer, squirrels, cats, horses running, cows running, etc…

Experienced 12 different challenges: climb on, in, off and around a box, go through a cardboard tunnel, climb up and down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide & seek, go in and out a doorway with a step up or down, exposed to an electric sliding door, umbrella, balloons, walk on a wobbly table (plank of wood with a small rock underneath), jump over a broom, climb over a log, bathtub (and bath) etc....

Handled by owner (& family) 12 times a week: hold under arm (like a football), hold to chest, hold on floor near owner, hold in-between owner’s legs, hold head, look in ears, mouth, in-between toes, hold and take temperature (ask veterinarian), hold like a baby, trim toe nails, hold in lap, etc…

Eaten from 12 different shaped containers: wobbly bowl, metal, cardboard box, paper, coffee cup, china, pie plate, plastic, frying pan, Kong, Treatball, Bustercube, spoon fed, paper bag, etc......

Eaten in 12 different locations: back yard, front yard, crate, kitchen, basement, laundry room, bathroom, friend’s house, car, school yard, bathtub, up high (on work bench), under umbrella, etc....

Played with 12 different puppies (or safe adult dogs) as much as possible.

Left alone safely, away from family & other animals (5-45 minutes) 12 times a week.

Experienced a leash and collar 12 different times in 12 different locations.
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They pet them franticly and say,"Its ok,its ok,its ok." Which I have seen increase the anxiety the dog is having
If it is increasing the anxiety of the dog than it hardly can be called comforting now can it. IMHO what you wittnessed is not a person trying to relieve the dogs fears or comfort it but rather just the opposite They are expressing their own fears and hoping the dog can comfort them. If you read the articles it is well recognised the ability of dogs to feed off the fears of those near by. So if the situation cause fear in the human they are not going to be able to comfort the dog. or if the dogs behavior cause concern, worry, fear this again can be percieved by the dog and make it even more fearful. It is well document this type of feedback is often the cause of leash aggression wear a dogs act fearful and aggresive on leash but not off.

IMHO that issue was dealt with adequitely in the articles linked to. Also adressed in the articles is the inadequices of comforting as well. How while it does not reinforce fear it is unlikely to deminish it either especial petting which as shown to lower the stress hormone cortisol in humans but not dogs.

I'm not talking about storms
fear is fear is fear. there is nothing special about thunderstorms, spiders or large men in beards that makes dealing with a fear of anyone of them different than the other.

Socialization is fine for a puppy upto 20 weeks after that time its effeciveness evaporates because of the natural social development stages of a dog. Durring that time they are much more open and accepting of new experience hence the critical need for socialization to prenvent problems going forward after this time period. Afterward however a more proactive approach is needed. simple exposure is not adequite. That exposure need to be couple with pleasant good emotions not neutral or poor ones.
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Thank you!

Thank you so much for all your helpful tips. I try and exposure her to as much as I can. She goes to about 2 dog training classes a week for about 1-3 hours each time (granted its more for me then her after about 30 minutes, but that's ok she is benefitting by being there).

I have been reading the Patricia McConnell books this past week and I highly recommend them for people who are new at this dog owning thing :p I have read about half of the adult and 1/4 of the puppy.
that's really good! i'm sure those classes will help... keep us posted and put up some pics sometime!
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