Sudden shyness

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Posts: 13
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Sudden shyness

Post by victorianpaws » Fri Oct 04, 2013 10:30 pm

As of a few weeks ago, my year and half old Havanese/Shitzu (Thats our best guess of the moment) went a dog park for the first time.

Wink is normally the first dog to quietly meet any dog or human at any point in time. Head low, tail wagging and normally lays down politely so even babies can pet her with ease. On our daily walks she has almost always encounters other dogs and seems delighted to meet and play for a few minutes. So it was my natural resolve that the dog park would be an ideal place for her, since she has always been so well sociable and her recall was great for only having her for three months.

From the first dog to trot up to say hello, she was on her stomach. It was so surprising! For the entire hour that I was there, nearly every single dog she cowered and skittered away from even if they were polite and calm. The only dogs she was even slightly comfortable with was a pair of long haired Chi's, that didn't bat even an eye at her. I felt like the mom at preschool, with my kid attached to my leg who was completely terrified of the world. This dog has accompanied me to several homes, stores, restaurants, and parks full of unknown people and dogs and has never had any issues of insecurity before.

I instantly saw her insecurity with the situation and decided my best bet to making it any sort of a successful trip was to move into an empty area of the park and let her calm down and get her confidence back up. Try again with an older toy poodle who had been very civil and easy, and praise Wink when she made any friendly movements. It did not have that great of results, so the trip turned out to mostly be an adventure day of roaming the dog friendly trails and playing in the shallow ends of one of the ponds.

I'm at a bit of a dead end, and can't really think of any ideas to encourage her to be relaxed and confident off leash with other dogs. I picked up a clicker, but I don't know if that would be helpful in this situation. Any advice would be very appreciated! I'm only three months in to owning her, and she is a wonderful dog. It just makes me sad that she can't seem to enjoy a situation that seems like it would be right up her alley. :(

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Re: Sudden shyness

Post by Swanny1790 » Sat Oct 05, 2013 2:05 am

Your "mom at preschool" analogy is very accurate. You did perfectly, easing her out of a clearly stressful situation and giving her some space to sort things out. I'd suggest easing your way into the whole dog-park thing. Find a quiet corner of the dog park and let her do as she wishes off leash. When dogs approach watch her body language and if she seems stressed intervene. If the environment starts to be overwhelming move along to places where she is clearly more confident. It may be as little as a few minutes at first, but with time and exposure she'll learn there is little to fear and a lot of fun to gain.

Just like the toddler at pre-school, she is going to have to figure it out herself. I think so long as you don't let her become overwhelmed (after all, it is a new environment even if it doesn't seem so to you), she'll likely warm up to the experience.

I'm not sure how to phrase this, and I certainly can't support it with scientific data, but I think the leash not only gives us confidence that we can intervene if something aversive is happening to our dog, it also gives the dog confidence that we are right there, less than six feet away, ready to intervene. Without the sensation of the leash (that physical connection), she may be a bit unsure of herself, but if you give her a chance to explore the larger world at her own pace I think she'll probably be just fine and soon be able to romp freely with other compatible dogs.
"Once infected with the mushing virus, there is no cure. There is only trail." - Sven Engholm

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Joined: Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:38 pm

Re: Sudden shyness

Post by victorianpaws » Sat Oct 05, 2013 1:19 pm

Thank you so much, I was starting to really beat myself up thinking I had done something wrong.

Your post inspired me to bust out my long lead and take her for long walks during the "dog hour", and let her interact with the neighborhood dogs she has already met without mom being right there. She seemed a little nervous at first, but adjusted quite quickly. Granted, these are dogs that she knows already but I think it was a good exercise for her. Plus it let me work on my recalling her from "Fun" situations that are far more entertaining for her then walking around with mom.

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Location: London, UK

Re: Sudden shyness

Post by ClareMarsh » Sun Oct 06, 2013 4:48 am

My dog is like yours, he is very sociable (too much at times :roll: ), wants to meet other dogs, always does it with soft body language and a soft waggy tail. I'm in England so dog parks are few and far between but we have areas where groups of owners congregate to chat and the dogs also congregate and "play".

My dog would not be comfortable in these situations and on the odd occasion we find ourself in such a situation will come to me to be picked up out of the chaos (he is a long haired chi :D ). If you stand back and watch the play where groups of dogs gather it can be lovely and joyful but it can also be quite horrible with dogs bullying other dogs or ganging up on a less confident dog. Dogs who aren't walking with or being entertained by their owner will often make their own entertainment which isn't always great for our dogs.

So, I'm not saying never go (although a lot of us on here don't use dog parks unless they're pretty empty) but if you go, keep your eyes open, and as you did, make sure you keep your dog both physically and mentally safe.

Here is an article you might find interesting ... s_King.pdf

Honestly if it were me, with the dog you have who is happy around other dogs I wouldn't risk upsetting the good socialisation work that you have done by putting her in a situation that she can't cope with or that might go "wrong".
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