Feels Unsafe Quiet Places. Fine When Busy.
A dog can find a park full of people easier than a quiet field with a lone person or dog. She becomes hyper aware of them and feels unsafe.
More invisible in a crowd
We are the same really, aren’t we. In a busy place we feel less exposed. It can be more comfortable to be on a crowded tube train than sitting alone opposite one lone person. In a crowd we feel invisible. There is no attention on us so it can be far less stressful.
Meg is quite extreme in this respect. They can take her through a busy town or a country show and she is fine with lots of people and dogs – accepts being touched even. But, if they are out in their quiet village streets, Meg feels unsafe. She is very reactive to any approaching dog or person. It starts with growling and then she will become very noisy. She is scared.
Meg is a beautiful 8-month-old Belgian Shepherd and she lives with Australian Shepherd, Fin, age 6. She is yet another Shepherd-type breed who is skittish and scared of people and other dogs – but not in all situations.
Feels unsafe and is easily spooked
If they are out in the fields and she spots an approaching person, Meg will panic. If someone stops to talk to her owner in the street, she becomes very noisy. When a person comes to the house and into her presence, Meg backs away and growls. Even when she gets used to them, a sudden movement can start her off again. She doesn’t like approaching hands.
Meg goes to dog training classes where she is stressed and uneasy around people and dogs – growling at them when they come near her. I feel, because she is trapped in a situation where she feels unsafe, this won’t be helping her at all. If classes had succeeded in ‘socialising’ her, she would be okay by now.
However, when she goes to watch Fin’s agility classes where there is a lot of commotion and activity, she is fine.
It’s a bit puzzling. She was alright until about three months old. Her breeder was careful to introduce her puppies to everyday sounds and household objects. Maybe there weren’t enough new humans and other dogs in the mix? Their other dog, Fin, is a big alarm-barker at people passing or entering their house, so perhaps this is infecting the young Meg?
Training hasn’t helped
Meg has had plenty of training – but that as such isn’t the answer. ‘To alter the behaviour we need to alter the emotion’.
They have a good starting point with Meg being OK in crowds. I would suggest dropping out things they know stress her like the classes and do a lot of work just within her comfort zone. Firstly they will work in comfortable crowds, and gradually places a little quieter, always associating the experience with good things.
For her to trust them, they themselves need to behave appropriately in a her doggy eyes.
Dogs, for a start, don’t walk directly towards another dog or person they don’t know, unless it’s a friendly welcome or stalking. They would arc around them, leaving space. If frightened, a sensible dog would take evasive action unless cornered.
The bottom line is – Meg feels unsafe. Just why is a mystery, although I have found it is very common in Shepherd dogs, bred to guard and often highly sensitive, intelligent and reactive. A Shepherd’s socialisation and habituation to people and other dogs from a very young age, just a few weeks old, is especially vital.