Loss of trust in fearful situation

Posted by Foster-Pop
Sep 30, 2011
I am currently fostering a 1 year old SBTx called Star from a local shelter where she was highly stressed. I've had her for 3 weeks and she's doing great with her issues of separation anxiety, house training and hyper excitement. I've been teaching her a recall using a flexi leash and asking for a come under considerable distraction and, so far, she's been almost 100% reliable, breaking off her interest in whatever she was about and running back to me for praise and treat. She walks confidently and loves meeting other dogs and people. The only problem I sometimes have to deal with is that she occasionally appears to get spooked for no (to me at least) apparent reason - she will tuck her tail down in an inverted L shape, crouch low, goes wide eyed and rushes back and forth in a sort of frenzy. Usually I just shorten the leash, let her calm down and she very quickly returns to normal.

This morning, however, during our morning walk a hot air balloon passed quite low overhead and she again went into a fearful reaction as described above. I again shortened the leash till she was restrained close to me and stood calmly with her until the balloon had disappeared. I didn't make any fuss of her or pet her to try and reassure her, just tried to act as if there was nothing to worry about. Star seemed to loose trust in me and after we continued our walk kept out in front of me on the flexi-leash and would not respond to willingly to my recalls. After about half an hour she seemed back to normal.

I am concerned that I may have damaged our relationship in some way and that she will not trust me in future fearful situations. Can you advise me on the best way to handle unexpected, fearful events and retain my dosg's trust?
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 30, 2011
Hi Foster Pop,

I think you did great to deal with her fearful reaction to the balloon. I would exactly do the same thing.

The reason why she didn't respond to your recalls on your way back, is not a sign of loosing trust on you but she was still a little nervous or stressed. I don't think you need to worry about it.

In fact, I think she will encounter a lot of "new things" as you keep take her out. One of my past foster dogs that used to live in a foot deap feces with 26 other dogs in a small house of a dog hoarder had to experience many new things during the 2 months he lived with us. I still remember his reaction to a view of roofers working on a roof during our walk. He got so scared and turned around and bolted to the direction of our home. He was panting and shivering as we got home. Another foster dog freaked out of a teenager on a skateboard.

They will just have to get used to those things as they encounter them. As they get over those fearfulness, they can put a little confidence in their piggy bank.

I hope your foster dog will save up enough fund to graduate soon
Posted by Foster-Pop
Sep 30, 2011
Hi MaxHollyNoah,

Thanks for your support. It sounds like your doing a great job too.

Kind regards.
Posted by KOPCaroline
Oct 1, 2011
Hey Foster Pop,

Just to throw more encouragement in - I think its a good thing to try and expose your dog to new things as much as possible while she's still young. Certainly since she's already anxious you dont want to constantly spook her, but I mean that you shouldnt try to avoid stressful situations. The younger a dog is when they are exposed to more and more noises, feelings, people, animals, situations, etc etc - the better. It will, as MHN said, help her to gain confidence, and I also think that your reaction to her fear was totally appropriate, just as her continued anxiety afterward was totally understandable.

Take her through car washes, see how she is around loud children, get her meeting people and dogs and other animals too (puppy socialization classes are great!) Try and maybe aim for something new every week and see how she goes.

You're doing great though! Hope she keeps getting more and more comfortable!