Nervous Behavior

Posted by ColinS
Nov 25, 2007
Dear Daniel,
First of all I want to thank you for creating such a wonderful, quality product. Sitstayfetch has helped us out tremendously with the training of our new family member.

We need some advice about our one year old Golden Retriever, Rainer. Any suggestions would be very welcome.

We took her on from a reputable breeder at eight months, she was bred for showing by the breeder but, due to illness, she was hardly taken out to be socialised with human beings,traffic,strange noises etc. she is now a year old. We understood that with love, patience and training she would be fine... and so she is, at home and in the garden. She has a submissive nature, wants to please and trains very easily. She is adorable and very loving. The problem is when we take her out, she is very nervous and we are unsure and worried about her reaction to everyday things, in case she slips the lead, doesn't respond and bolts. We have been taking her short walks to accustom her to people and traffic. She walks to heel on the lead and sits at the edge of the pavement.

Our problem is that is still nervous of everything, for example, when walking, if someone walks behind us, she becomes skittish and keeps turning around. Her body language is that she will bolt given half the chance. I keep walking and tell her to heel, I put a treat in front of her nose to get her attention but she is concentrating on what is going on behind. A couple approached us the other day and the dog swung aroung behind me off the pavement and between two parked cars. She was cowering and could have slipped the lead very easily had I not grabbed her collar and the scruff of her neck.
Another problem is any vehicle with a loud engine, she becomes skittish and she tried to run when a motor bike passed us. I try to anticipate anything coming towards us and keep her walking to heel, talking to her to try and keep her listening to me. I don't praise until we get past or it passes me! When she is really frightened she will not respond to me. I have to stop and try and get her to sit. I speak firmly to her and have tried to get her attention by walking another way or geting her to sniff a treat. She will have none of it and takes ages for her to recover. Sometimes this ruins the whole outing.
We were sat taking a rest while out walking and a young boy came near us. Our dog reacted with head up and then she started barking and growling, heckles up. She does seem ferocious but this is what she does when people she doesn't know come to the house. She then runs away and gradually sidles up behind me. If left, she will approach them and sniff and before long she is at their feet. In fact, this is what she was like with us when we brought her home. She did slip the lead, the very first night and I thought I'd surely get bitten approaching her but no, she cowered and let me put the lead back on. Her eyes were full of fear. By lunchtime the next day, she was fine and she has improved everyday. She is now totally devoted to all of us.
We bought a harness because we were so afraid she would slip the lead. How can we encourage her? We regularly go in the garden and train her but she is very easily distracted.
I have let her off the lead once in an enclosed space and she went tearing off and I thought I'd lost her. She returned when I shouted her much to my enormous relief, but because of nervous reactions I daren't let her off anymore in case she takes fright and will not listen. She usually does everything we ask her to when training in the garden except when she is really distracted by the cat or a bird.
She is a beautiful dog and learns fast. What else can we do to help her socialise and be more reliable?

Thank you in anticipation, Elaine, Colin, Jonathan and Rainer
Posted by Tisha
Nov 28, 2007
It sounds to me as if your nervousness about her being nervous is making her more nervous! and so it goes on in a circle. Try just relaxing with her more and perhaps taking her out to a busy place and just sitting with her so she can see what is going on and will gradually become habituated..if she is so willing to learn she will soon pick up that bad things will not happen to her while she is with you. She needs to know that you are her leader and she can relax and you will make everything OK. You sound like very loving owners so I´m sure she is in the best home she could be in, it just takes time and she is still only a baby. Lots of luck