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Sheltie fearful of large object

Discussion in 'Behavior' started by Sunflower77, May 22, 2019.

  1. Sunflower77

    Sunflower77 Forums Regular

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    My seven month old sheltie is not fearful of people and other dogs. She immediately gets along with people and dogs she meets in her day care, vet office, pet shop, groomer’s shop etc. She never even barks when we have visitors at home. But she is almost neurotic with large objects such as trash cans, mail box, window blinds, etc. I tried to get her used to these things to no avail. I can’t take her to get mail, push out/take in my trash cans. If I open a mini blind in a room when she’s around, she will immediately run out of the room and will be fearful to enter the same room again. To condition her with the blinds, I tried to hold her in my arms and raise the blinds gently and slowly. I could feel her body trembled with every 2 inch movement of the blinds.

    Last week, we had some roofers at home to replace my roof. She’s Ok with the roofers, but when a big tarp was raised on top of the roof, she happened to be in the yard with me and saw the tarp. She was on leash but she was freaked out and wiggled her head violently out of her collar and ran away as fast as she could. I wasn’t able to catch her. She never even stopped to look back once because she was so scared.

    She disappeared for more than two days. I distributed missing dog flyers to my neighbors, vet offices, pet shops, grocery stores etc. and contacted all the animal shelters within 30 miles. Because she wiggled out of her collar, she was tagless. I microchipped her but it’s not the kind with GPS tracking.

    Eventually, one neighbor found her two days later and she was returned to me. The first thing I bought after the incident was a martingale collar and now she’s double collared. It had been a big scare for the whole family for two days. I am wondering if this fearfulness is common among shelties. My previous American Eskimo dog was not like this at all. I got my sheltie from a reputable breeder (AKC breeder of merit) and her dogs usually have very good temperament.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2019
    Piper's mom likes this.
  2. ghggp

    ghggp Moderator

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    I am so very sorry you and your sheltie pup had to go through this trauma! I would be out of my mind had I encountered my dog being lost for two days. My sheltie boy at 1 year is still fearful. He got so scared of a flag that he almost darted into the street with my other sheltie tethered to him. He stopped just short of the driveway. So, I can completely relate to your situation. Make sure, from now on, he has some collar or harness he cannot get out of. My breeder said to give my boy more time to mature. Taking him to classes to help him overcome his shyness is helping a bit. Maybe get a professional trainer to help.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  3. Sunflower77

    Sunflower77 Forums Regular

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    I had read your story about the flag. That’s actually what I immediately remembered after she ran away.

    I bought a martingale collar ASAP after the incident. I didn’t do it earlier because I thought she was too young for it. After this incident, I‘ve realized the martingale collar is a must.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  4. Caro

    Caro Moderator

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    OMGosh, how scary that must have been for you!

    Sounds like she's hit her adolescent fear period. I'd say too that she's scared of noises - Sheepdogs can have very sensitive hearing and reactive to noise, they need to be able to hear a predator in the bushes and alert the farmer or hear a storm coming in. So on a farm she'd be great. I must admit, I've had several sound sensitive shelties, seems to be common in the breed over here, and they weren't timid dogs either, in fact Tully was my only timid sheltie and she's not sound sensitive.

    Couple of ideas before I head to bed. Atm, given her age and the recent incident, I wouldn't push her with noises too much, during the adolescent fear period they can develop a fear that can be life long (Tully is 12 and still scared of drains!). I'd suggest either taping or downloading sounds from the internet and playing them quietly in the background while she is eating or distracted with playing. You can actually buy sounds as well (have a look on Amazon). This is desensitising. If you think the actions are also contributing, just start with the noises at first.

    When you know there's going to be a lot of noise give her a job to do, otherwise you only give her the options of 'fight or flight' to deal with the scary thing.
    When we had big storms I'd actually tether Deska to me and put him in a solid harness - then he felt he had a job to do, even if it was following me around. We also did obedience exercises, trick training - anything that occupied his brain.

    I also found 'controlled barking' an effective method for dealing with inside noises - I had a couple of Shelties that barked at washing machine, hair dryer, dishwasher - anything electrical. A behaviourist showed me 'controlled barking' and it worked really well with Mr D. I know I've posted before how to do it if you want to do a search. Going to bed so I'll double check in the morn.
     
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  5. Sunflower77

    Sunflower77 Forums Regular

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    Thank you for the advice. I’ll search for controlled barking in the forum. My dog seems to be more afraid of movement than noise. My mail box and mini blinds don’t make much noise but she’s so scared of them moving/opening. Hopefully, this is just a phase that she’ll out grow.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  6. Piper's mom

    Piper's mom Forums Enthusiast

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    Have you taken any obedience classes or is there anyone near you who does private lessons you could take your girl to who could help you get to why this is happening? How scary this must've been for you...I would've been out of my mind! When Piper was young...probably around 6 or 7 months he started on this phase where he barked at mailboxes, seasonal decorations (inflatable ones), kids on bikes and skateboards...basically anything he was unsure of. I was attending an obedience class at the time and the instructor witnessed this when she had kids ride their bikes up and down her driveway. He was the only dog that barked and I couldn't get him to stop. The instructor held Piper by his ruff and gave him a shake while saying stop it. After class I asked her about it and she then demonstrated on me...painless but she got her point across lol. She also told me he did it because I allowed him to.
    After this, on walks if he barked at things (I'd say it was that he was afraid of the object but he wasn't a fearful dog, if that makes sense) I'd hold his ruff, give him a little shake and say stop it...then (he typically stopped barking right away) I'd give him a treat and praise him lavishly. It took less than a week and our walks were pleasant. He's now 4 years old and just the social butterfly! Never worked on skateboards though...he still barks at them!
     
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  7. Sunflower77

    Sunflower77 Forums Regular

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    Good advice. I’ll try it too. What is a dog’s ruff? The long hair around the face? I’ll sign my dog up for an obedience lesson when I find one close to my house.
     
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  8. Piper's mom

    Piper's mom Forums Enthusiast

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    Yes, the ruff is around the neck. However it won't necessarily work with all dogs. My young adult Finnie (16 months) is highly sensitive and lacks confidence and will bark at things that he's unsure of...if I did this with him he'd withdraw more. You know your dog best. Good luck and I hope you find something that helps your dog overcome this.
     
  9. Ann

    Ann Moderator

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    I'm so sorry to hear about your experience with your puppy. How frightening it must have been to lose her! Given that, her reactivity and the fact that she was gone for two days, I would take any training very, very slowly right now. Shelties, especially girls, can become very sensitive from 5 to around 15 months of age and these experiences can last a lifetime, or slowly improve with work. I've had several like this and learned that the cure is time and patience.

    Caro had some terrific suggestions. Playing sounds may help. I got a CD of noises for fearful dogs on Amazon. Eventually, you can gradually expose her to more experiences but given what she's just been through, I wouldn't do anything now but build her confidence in your home and take short, quiet walks. She will eventually get used to things like the blinds. One of my puppies, about the same age as yours, would run from the room when the furnace went on in the basement! It was such a low rumble we could hardly hear it, but she did. It took a full year for her to get used to it but now she doesn't care.

    There is a wonderful course I took that helped me immensely with my very fearful show puppy on working with reactive and nervous dogs. It's taught by Amy Cook at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. The course is online and you can work at your own speed on your own time. It was a lifesaver with my puppy and helped me build her confidence and our bond. You can email Amy directly at the link to see if it would help your girl. Good luck!
     
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  10. Sunflower77

    Sunflower77 Forums Regular

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    Thank you for always being so helpful. Sparkle is definitely a sensitive girl. I’ll check out the courses.
     
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