Hi all. I've been a long time lurker of the board, ever since I first began thinking of getting a lab. Although I don't post often, I visit daily and love learning from everyone who does.
My pup is now 10 months old, and I think that he is entering what I'm calling, for lack of better term, adolescent onset fear (okay, so maybe thats what my trainer called it). He has begun to be startled by things that normally he would pay no attention to. We have socialized him extensively; he has plenty of doggy friends, visits doggy daycare at least once every two weeks, and we are just starting our intro to rally obedience class.
I know this is a common occurrence in dogs this age, but I am having trouble figuring out what to do about it. My trainer suggested moving him far enough away to where he is not reacting, and treating, decreasing the distance, treating, so on and so on. However, when he reacts to things he sees out the car window, or things outside that he sees through the window of the house, I'm at a loss as to what to do.
He has not been a reactive dog in the past...as much of a past as a 10 month old pup can have...but I am scared that he may be heading that way. Any suggestions would be of great help, I'm all ears.
what is he reacting to when he is in the car, and how does he react?
Only thing I can suggest, since you may not even be able to pinpoint what he is reacting to... Diesel often freaks out at night on our walks, barking at god knows what because all I see is dark! All you can do is provide positive support. Tell him it's okay, if he freaks out & runs from the window, guide him back to it & sit with him. Be calm & supportive, pet him & tell him it's okay. I don't agree with removing him from the situation to eventually take him back to it because then you are buying into his fear & justifying it for him. Work it out while he is going through it. He will get over it but you must always do your best to address it right away.
It sounds like your trainer gave you some good advice. The most helpful thing I have found when the boys are reacting is "happy talk." This was suggested to me by a behaviorist and trainer (and good friend). You feel a little ridiculous when you first start doing it, but once you see the effect it can have - well, it really is amazing what a powerful tool it can be.
The trainer who demonstrated this to me likes to use the phrase, "No big deal!" She says this in a very upbeat voice, dripping with affection. That's the best way I can describe it. The phrase itself is a cue to the tone of voice you should use, whatever that tone may be for you.
I have never really adopted a specific phrase, but when they are barking out a window or at a passing dog on a walk, I just start talking very cheerfully to them, using the tone of voice that I use for praise. It seems very weird to do this - you almost feel like you are praising them for misbehaving. But the theory is: If you are tense, they will be too. If you are relaxed, they will be too.
It really does work. I have watched them go from mohawk to waggy tail. When they reach "waggy tail," praise and treat!
Misha went through that stage at around that age. She would get scared of trash cans (maybe because SHE dropped my trash can once and the noise scared her) and try to run away from them when we were walking. I don´t know if it´s the correct thing to do but what I did was to confront her with the trash cans. Whenever she got scared of one, instead of running away from it, I forced her to pass by it several times until she stopped reacting, then I would let her sniff them. At some point she stopped getting scared of them.
Homer sometimes gets startled at night and barks. I just "growl" at him to shut up... and ignore his behavior (my patience is nule at night). When he sees we (Misha and I) don´t react to him he comes back to bed.
Cesar Millan confronts the dogs with their fears, he actually says that baby talking them and conforting them when they are startled makes matters worse...
thanks everyone for the advice! I will definitely try the baby talk. It mostly happens when he is engaged in something, like playing catch, and something off the the side startles him. I think it is more of a "if I bark real loud and raise my hackles, maybe the big bad thing wont come over here" kinda reaction, but it is still worrisome. Baby talking might help when it is something passing by or that I cant see out the window.
To further elaborate on what my trainer told me, she did not suggest removing him from the situation completely. It was more, give him some space to see that nothing is going to hurt him. When he first saw a horse (at one of our classes), he did his whole 'macho bark from behind my legs' thing. She had me move away from the fence far enough that he was not barking, but could still see the horses. When he stopped barking, I would say "yes" and treat. We would do this for awhile, moving closer and closer each time. Eventually we got to be standing right beside the fence, and he was just fine. Has anyone heard of this tactic before?
It is just when he has reacted to something outside the window or in the car (like a dog passing down the road) that I have been stumped as to what to do. He barks like a madman and gets all hackle-y. I will definitely try the baby talk, because just ignoring him doesnt seem to be do anything and I'm out of other ideas.
You mis-read the post, baby-talk and comforting is the WRONG thing to do. It reinforces the feeling that they are right to react the way they do.
Your trainer is telling you correctly, continue to de-sensitize when you can and teach the command "no bark" and use that in the car and the house. "Leave it" is also a good command to teach ASAP - ask your trainer about it.
Jackie, Champ, and Buddy
You'll either need someone else in the car that can redirect and reward for quiet behaviour, OR find some place where you can park (like close to a dogpark, petsmart, or a training school) and work him yourself.
definately NO baby talk. Nor should one console the dog, give them space as trainer said and ignore the behavior as much as possible.
Charlie (foster) and Rocky
alright, definitely misread the post. sorry about that. thanks again for all the advice!