fearful lab, better then worse
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Thread: fearful lab, better then worse

  1. #1
    zara07 is offline Junior Member
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    Defaultfearful lab, better then worse

    Hello,
    I'll try to keep this brief. I purchased my 3rd lab, zoe, from a reputable breeder at 3 mos. She was noise phobic from day one. She lived on a quiet farm, and moved into the suburbs where there is frequent helicopter and plane noise, as well as school buses, construction, trucks, traffic noise etc.
    She never liked leaving the yard for walks, but once out, was pretty good. I took her for longer hikes and swims as she got older, and she was good off leash. But she's always been kind of aloof. Doesn't follow us around, won't hang out w family but will stay in adjacent room.
    All got worse 2 mos ago at 8 mos. We were out on hike in a new area when a bunch of planes flew overhead. She froze until I came to her, and then raced back to the car. Since then, she will get out of the car if I take her to a park, but won't move from the side of the car. And these are all parks she previously loved. On walks, she would be happy to go, but then lay down in the middle of the road and refuse to move. I usually waited this out, and gave her treats once she started walking. At the same time, she was becoming less engaged w our family. She used to hang out on the couch w my husband at night, and now hangs out by herself in the kitchen.
    On the advice of our vet, I tried a trainer who used a metal choke collar for about 10 minutes in front of the house trying to get her to walk-failed miserably. Also said she was in the 10% of worse dogs (problem dogs) she'd ever seen. Since then, zoe is much worse. So, no walks, just playing in the backyard.
    Finally got her to venture out from front to backyard, yesterday.
    Yesterday, had consult w behaviorist who felt there was something wrong w zoe, not sure what but felt she was almost autistic. Had lots of rigid behaviors, wasn't bonded w me in a normal way, and after talking w her mentor, feels like the best zoe will ever do is in a quiet environment- back at the farm. thinks she wasn't socialized to suburban noises properly.

    As an example of the lack of bonding, she was napping just now downstairs, heard me, came over but didn't touch me. I tried to pet her a bit and she walked away, lay down a few feet away. Using a harness this morning, I got her to the end of the block by using treats, pulling and releasing, trying to change her direction. Once she saw a bird, she was fine, and we went around the block.

    She is on prozac, 10 days now, and so far, it has helped w her paw chewing, but not much else. She is unfriendly to strangers, barks at anyone she sees on walks.

    I really love her, we all do, but I want a dog I can walk and hike with. I tried noise desensitization, but she wasn't afraid of the noises- it's something about the vibrations she's afraid of. I initially used a well regarded trainer who felt I needed to pull her through her walk fears-walk opposite direction if she wanted to rush home. He did have me use a choke briefly, a nylon one, and I think maybe I traumatized her w/ that, but I used it only a few times, and only if she was about to slip out of her collar-and she was still going for walks w/out too many issues.

    It seems like she's had a personality change, behavior change since she turned 8 mos.
    I feel like there is something not right w her, want to give her every chance-but don't know what else to do. I'm hoping maybe this is crazy puppy behavior that she'll grow out of- that's the miracle we'd like to see. Just don't know what to think.
    thanks for any thoughts

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  3. #2
    DuryLane's Avatar
    DuryLane is offline Member
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    It must be difficult and frustrating, I'm sure. From what you have written, it sounds like Zoe's personality issues are genetic. A dog that has a well balanced personality will not have difficulty adjusting from quiet rural to city/suburb. With Zoey exhibiting her fear based behaviour as a young puppy, tells me that it is more genetic based than environmental.

    Zoe's behaviour sounds like it is fear based. She may be genetically shy and unfortunately when behaviours are genetically rooted, they may be modified somewhat, but will never completely go away. I don't believe this is a temporary puppy phase she is going through. I think this is her personality. Forcing her to do something when she is too wound up in her fear will not help her to overcome her fear. It may have the opposite effect and cause her extreme anxiety. Maybe a behaviourist that will implement gentle, baby steps that do not overwhelm the dog?

    Do you have any friends with dogs who are friendly and confident? Going for outings with a confident dog may help her to see that walks and outings are fun. A confident, friendly dog can help a shy dog to relax and come out of their shell. It might be worth a try......

    She may never have the outgoing, enthusiastic "I Love Life" attitude that most Labs exhibit, but she is who she is and you may have to accept her for who she is.

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    zara07 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks. I had a behaviorist come last wk, and zoe was much worse when she was here. behaviorist tried (gently) putting harness, gentle leader, calming cap on the dog who responded by shutting down.
    This was a dog who, while frequently tentative on walks, walked. sometimes even excited to walk. Thinking it over, she stopped walking altogether when a trainer suggested by my vet used a choke collar and tried to get her to walk. zoe was flipping around, freaked out. I never should have let it happen...

    My epiphany came this weekend when I realized she would follow me around the corner, front door to backyard, as long as I didn't hold the leash. If I picked up the leash (and I'm using a harness) she balked and tried to go inside. I think she has made an association between human holding leash/scary noises/pain. Since then, we've been practicing w lots of treats, and she lets me hold the leash moving from front door to backyard. Then we walk around the yard, w me still holding the leash, then take it off and play. It's progress.

    I don't know what to expect- do you think she can get back to hiking through the park, going for walks? If I go slowly...

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    CallieAndKing is offline Member
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    I think what you wrote in your last post is the way to go. I would not bring in any more behaviorists or trainers. Just continue to work with her one on one and regain her trust and then take baby steps down the street. I'd continue to drive her to those favorite parks but not force her to leave the safety of the nearness of your vehicle until she is ready.

    Our Indie (now waiting at the bridge) came to us at three afraid of everything. It took us over an hour to get him out of the truck when we arrived home and another 45 minutes to get him to the front yard where our other Lab Murphy waited to be introduced. Murphy had to lay on the ground tummy exposed for Indie to even stop shaking. It was almost a year before we could take him to the beach or anywhere without him staying in the back of the truck. 6 years later, he went anywhere and everywhere we asked him to go…we never forced him beyond what he was comfortable with and eventually he learned to trust us enough to willingly follow us anywhere.

    It will take time and patience…


    Our Yellow Baby Girl "Dream A Little Dream" born December 16 2014
    Our Chocolate Girl "Kona of the Storm" born August 8 2014
    Our Black Boy "Angus Demetrius" born April 26 2013
    Our Yellow Girl "Calliope" born January 6, 2006
    Our TriPawd "King" - Shelter Rescue born late fall 2004

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    zara07 is offline Junior Member
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    thanks for the note. she's doing much better-all over the last 2 wks. she's eager to walk in the morning, and gradually going a little farther each time. then 2-3 shorter walks over the course of the day. I stopped prozac 3 wks ago because she was sleeping all day-she's awake and alert now, and I can't see that prozac was helpful. I've read a few books about training reactive dogs, positive training etc and that's helped more than any of the professionals.
    It's been a learning curve- mostly about patience and reading her signals, trusting my intuition-and she's coming along. she's a lot of work, but she's also the smartest dog I've ever owned.

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    dogfur is offline Member
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    Just keep going with loads of patience and be positive. Give it time and she will get better, and don't put her in situations where she will react. I go with my gut. If my dog doesn't like a collar, or harness I don't use it. I try it another day.

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    CallieAndKing is offline Member
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    Great news.

    It does require a lot of patience but it is so worth it in the end; their trust in you is so heartwarming when finally they give it to you.


    Our Yellow Baby Girl "Dream A Little Dream" born December 16 2014
    Our Chocolate Girl "Kona of the Storm" born August 8 2014
    Our Black Boy "Angus Demetrius" born April 26 2013
    Our Yellow Girl "Calliope" born January 6, 2006
    Our TriPawd "King" - Shelter Rescue born late fall 2004

  10. #8
    CallieAndKing is offline Member
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    I just have to share this memory of Indie….

    We used to take each of our four dogs to the beach by themselves every so often so they could get some extra attention from us without competing with the others; on Indie's last solo trip with us he showed us how far he had really come.

    We had finished his swim time and were lying in the sun before heading back home. A woman brought her labradoodle (I know…. : ) onto the beach near us and was trying to get her into the water. The doodle was balking and obviously afraid. Indie stood up and began to walk to the doodle…I asked the woman for permission to let them become introduced and was given it. Indie went nose to nose with her and then walked towards the water, stopped and looked at her, took a few more steps and so on. Within a few minutes the two were in the water together having a ball.

    THAT is the reward you get for the patience in teaching a lab to overcome their own fear….Indie - so afraid of everything 6 years earlier took another dog and helped her overcome her fear….

    Perhaps my favorite memory of our Indie boy.


    Our Yellow Baby Girl "Dream A Little Dream" born December 16 2014
    Our Chocolate Girl "Kona of the Storm" born August 8 2014
    Our Black Boy "Angus Demetrius" born April 26 2013
    Our Yellow Girl "Calliope" born January 6, 2006
    Our TriPawd "King" - Shelter Rescue born late fall 2004

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