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Help with skiddish Sheltie

Discussion in 'Sheltie Training' started by im2funny4u, Apr 4, 2014.

  1. im2funny4u

    im2funny4u Forums Novice

    Apr 4, 2014
    Clay, NY
    We acquired our sable and white Sheltie, Toby, when he was two months old and he is now seven months old. We have a Grand Dog who is also a sable/white, male, Sheltie. We know from him that Shelties can be skiddish and afraid of almost everything. Our vet said Shelties can either be skiddish or agressive. At first Toby didn't seem skiddish so we thought he'd be an agressive Sheltie. We enrolled him in Obedience training when he was two months old which maybe was too young. He only learned one lesson out of 6 lessons and we have practiced with him hr after hr for five months. We had heard Shelties were brilliant but for whatever reason Toby refuses to learn simple commands such as "leave it," or "shake." He started to get skiddish at about 4 1/2 months and now at age 7 months he has such panic attacks he makes himself sick. Going outside is a major trauma for him and he has more or less confined himself to the living room where he deems it safe. He was extremely easy to crate train but I suppose that is because he feels safe in the crate. I know consistency and facing his fears is important. I took him out yesterday and was determined to get him to face his fears. A rabbit ran across my feet and he was so spooked he took a flying leap. He landed on his head on concrete slabs and hurt himself. Since yesterday afternoon he is now afraid of me and hides. At the end of April he is being neutered and then he will need 10 days of healing. I am hoping after he is recovered that I can find a good trainer to come here to the house to help him face his fears and become less anxious. At this point I can't imagine boarding him if I go somewhere. I also can't imagine traveling with him and having to get him out at rest stops. We live in a suburb of very snowy,cold, Syracuse, NY. I wonder if once we get nice weather and he can stay outside for periods of time and once he gets older if he will outgrow some of this? I am brand new to Sheltie Nation and this forum so I may forget to look for answers to my query. I would appreciate any help anybody can give me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2014
  2. Caro

    Caro Moderator

    Jan 14, 2009
    Canberra, Australia
    Your post really concerns me, what you describe is worrying behaviour for any dog, not just a Sheltie.

    What the vet told you is really irresponsible. Shelties are not an aggressive breed at all and should not be - they are bred to be around animals and wouldn't last if they were aggressive. Nor is skittishness normal - like other herding breeds they can be reserved, sometimes that can show up as shyness, but a balanced Sheltie should not be skittish or scared of everything.

    Puppy classes can start as young as 8wks. The main purpose of puppy classes is to teach owners how to communicate with their dog so don't worry what he did and didn't learn in class.

    Dogs don't refuse to learn, that isn't how a dog thinks. Usually the problem is the dog doesn’t understand what the owner wants. Much of training a dog is for the owner to learn to communicate what they want – remember we have the superior minds. The only other time when a dog isn’t going to learn is due to health issues (incl psychological). In your case your dog may be so scared he shuts down. Only ever use positive methods and keep your training sessions very short so it doesn’t become overwhelming. 5min at a time is more than enough. Going to more obedience classes will help - but take him to the training centre first to see if he can cope with the environment.

    Puppies go through fear periods at around 4 and 8mths. It is extremely unusual for a pup to be so scared to go out so he may have had a bad experience during this time. Outside of a major incident having occurred to him, it is very difficult to understand.

    I am worried he is not going out. This is a critical age for being socialised and for developing a well rounded dog. Atm just take little steps like you would with a new puppy. If he’ll only go a few steps outside then that’s fine, each day increase it by a few more steps.

    Do not wait until he is neutered to start with someone. Get a behaviourist – not just a trainer – and make sure they only use positive reinforcement and they have experience with either shelties or herding breeds. If they mention dominance or alpha run away – these approaches can do real damage to a sheltie. It’s really hard to diagnose over the internet, a behaviourist can look at where the dog came from, and how you interact.

    Look for another vet. Honestly, you need a vet who will work with you. Firstly, your dog needs a full physical, fear can often come from pain so get the joints checked and you may want bloods done. You also need a vet who will help with medication - this is something a behaviourist will probably talk to you about, it is much easier to re-train a dog when their anxiety levels aren't so high.

    He won’t grow out of this, at best it will stay the same, but likely it will get worse.

    Sorry the post is long. Rather than type more do a search on Sheltie Forums for ‘shy’ or ‘timid’ or ‘fearful’, quite a few good threads there.
  3. im2funny4u

    im2funny4u Forums Novice

    Apr 4, 2014
    Clay, NY
    thanks for the reply

    Thank you for the reply and all of your advice. Yes, Toby's behavior is alarming for any breed. I've had dogs all my life and have had many different breeds. The smaller breeds usually are more nervous than the larger breeds. I've had two different vets tell me that Shelties are very skiddish. My daughter has a Sheltie that is almost as fearful and skiddish as Toby. I have not had any nice weather since we brought Toby home 5 months ago to acclimate him to being outside. Besides ton of snow we've had temps well below zero this yr. and he could not be out for more than a minute. He has constant "well puppy" check ups as he goes in monthly for all his shots. He will have extensive blood work and complete physical before neutering in a couple of weeks. I don't believe any of his behavior is caused by a physical ailment. He was only two months old when we acquired him so if something scared him while he was outside it would have been when he was living at the breeder'

    s. It has been too cold with banks of snow for him to have been out long enough to have something frighten him here. I do hope a behaviorist will be able to help us help him. I know from his obedience training that I can not let him run away from his fears and he must face them and conquer them. The rest of his behavior will have to be corrected over time.
  4. MissyGallant

    MissyGallant Premium Member

    Dec 20, 2011
  5. BarbV

    BarbV Premium Member

    Dogs will pick up on your emotions so if you are shy or nervous, they will definitely sense it and react accordingly. So make sure that you are calm and relaxed whenever you are around pup.

    As Caro said, start with baby steps. Take the dog outside and just sit on the steps. Let the dog hear traffic, etc. If pup settles, treat and reward. Then gradually move further and further out into the big world. Remember, constant positive reinforcement every time pup goes beyond comfort zone.

    Go to pet friendly pet stores. It's a great way to socialize and teach your dog about distractions.

    I'm not sure about going back to obedience yet. It may be too much.

    Are Shelties skittish? I know Indy reacts to any sudden loud noise or movement. (Eg something falling to the floor. He will jump but generally chill right away)

    If all else fails, consider a Thundershirt! Awesome! Just google it. I use one on Indy sometimes with thunderstorms

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