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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,

Looong time lurker here who posted a year ago when I first got my female standard poodle, Holly.

I think I reported a long time ago about Holly's caution around strangers and new things and things haven't gotten much better since then. I thought I'd post and see if anyone had any insight or encouragement.

Holly is very hesistant around new people, taking a long time to warm up. This usually manifests itself with barking and growling, stiff body and general unease. We've been through "Ceasar Milan type" training and positive reinforcement (ditched the ceasar guy and have stuck with the positive style for last 6 months or so). She's currently on a prozac type medication(Reconcile) that has calmed her down a bit in the last 2 months but still has set backs occassionally. She is definately what CBrand would call "sharp shy".
Her breeder isn't the best and I've since heard many many stories of either shy poodles or poodles with health problems from her. In fact--Holly just had a seizure last week. Vet visit and blood work concluded a "wait and see" approach to see if she has another one.

I guess my question is not how to deal with it--I NEVER leave the house without a clicker and treats but with all the work I'm doing--do people see these issues get better with time or is this it? I love this girl dearly but my work with her is sometimes exhausting! I should also mention that 2 months ago we went through a major life change where I ended a relationship (with Holly's "dad") and while her "protective" or fearful increased somewhat after that, OUR relationship has improved 10 fold as there isn't as much stress and tension in my life anymore.

Thanks for your help and reading this far into the post!
Rebecca
 

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How old is this bitch? I'm sorry to say that in my experience, these things sometimes get worse. Our neighbor got a 9 mth old Standard boy who came with serious sharp shy issues. They worked with a professional behaviorist but the dog never got better. In the end, when he was about 1.5-2 yrs old he bit a boy while my neighbors were hiking on a trail. The boy was trail running, came up behind them and the dog lashed out in fear (he really hurt the boy, though, this was not just a nip). The dog was eventually returned to the breeder and put down.

Another issue you are going to have to consider is the seizures. Often times seizures seem to be brought on by stress. If your girl is in an almost constant state of agitation when she is out or when people are in your home, this could exacerbate her epilepsy.

You sound like you are doing a great job of managing the situation so far. If it gets to be too much, or if Holly becomes a danger to people then I think you need to look at other options. Until then.... good job!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Oh ick! Not the reply I was hoping for but realistic nonetheless.

Holly is almost 2 yrs old (7/28/09). I do know that her fear issues have elevated in the last 2 months because we have moved into an area that is densely populated (as opposed to the very rural area we used to live in) so her exposure to people is constant and that has probably elevated her stress (and perhaps brought on a seizure--though I hate to think my poor girl is so stressed out that she's having seizures). We got her when she was about 3 months old and did, what I thought at the time, was an average amount of socialization--many obedience classes, petsmart, markets...I guess it was just not enough to overcome genetics and/or lack of early socialization

I guess a good thing (if there is a good side to this) is that she's never tried to bite, lunged, snapped...though I'm not under the delusion that she couldn't if the circumstances were right. SUCH a sweet girl to those she knows and loves (and there are quite a few).

I'm going to step up the training while we're outside. She use to walk with her tail tucked most of the time but I've gotten it so it's loose and usually mid-level now. It's hard too--she's such an intuitive girl and I'm so naturally shy--I can't help but wonder if she's picked up some of that shyness from me--Is that possible? If I start acting outgoing and approaching people, could she possibly follow suit?

Many thanks for your advice,

Rebecca
 

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I feel your pain. She is a walking time bomb. Not attack wise-I don't mean that, but anything like another seizure, a scary full-frontal charge with teeth bared. She sounds like the kind that would charge, nip, then hide behind your skirt and peek out. Has she been in group obedience classes and been allowed to sniff and gently greet other animals and people? What would you think about another dog as a friend/companion to her?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Partial2poodles--she does have a chihuahua mix brother who she loves and adores. He's a very friendly little guy with strangers and I've used him in the past to show her that if he's not afraid, she doesn't need to be either. I might need to notch up that training with him and her (with a friend because that's a lot of work with just me!). It doesn't always chill her out but maybe eventually it will.

She's been to plenty of training classes--top of the class in most of them (6 rounds of agility, tricks etc to help with socialization)--but every class it wasn't so much the people in class, but the people just coming into the training center that she would bark and growl at.

Hate to say it but she has done the "charge and bark" at the dog park to a few people (we stopped going when I noticed a pattern). She never did anything other than bark thank god.

Oh my pooh sweet Holly--she is a bit of a ticking time bomb but I so want to put the effort in so if there is a chance she could chill out and not be so fearful, she's given that chance.

I hate bad breeders!
 

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This is not your fault and is not the result of under socialization. It sounds like this poor girl is hard-wired shy. Please don't blame yourself.

Also, the stress is not causing the seizures. The stress is just bringing to the surface the epilepsy that is already lurking.
 

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Mandy is/was a shy girl.
We lived out in the country and even though socializing from 9 weeks old she was always shy. We moved to the city 7 months ago now and she is still shy to a point but when offered a cuddle or scritch she will now take it willingly.
We started using the dog park since I went from 3 acres to a townhouse and at first she just wandered doing her own thing then she started going up to people for lovings now she begs dogs to chase her.
She got a little cheeky at the park but realized she was just talking the other dogs into playing as none of them ran from her.
She is still reactive ( barks ) if someone comes near her car while in it. If somone comes down the stairs and surprices her.

What helped her I think is seeing Casey get loved on as he is so oppisite of her and is a total hog for attention.

Your dog may never be a outgoing girl but you can manage her and you know her limits.
I do lots of walks around the neighbourhood and she is really happy to see kids come up to her.

have you tried having everyone you meet turn into a pez machine and give her treats?
Take her out right before her meal and have as many people as you can get give her some of her kibble. People might be more interesting if everyone gives her great things

Good luck to you.
 

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Your dog may never be a outgoing girl but you can manage her and you know her limits.
I do lots of walks around the neighbourhood and she is really happy to see kids come up to her.

have you tried having everyone you meet turn into a pez machine and give her treats?
Take her out right before her meal and have as many people as you can get give her some of her kibble. People might be more interesting if everyone gives her great things

Good luck to you.
I disagree. I don't think you should ask strangers to feed/pet this dog. Don't put the public in danger to socialize your shy/fearful dog. If you dog needs drugs to keep it calm, you really need to seek the assistance of a animal behaviorist and have the dog evaluated to see if things might get better in future and learn how to proceed with rehab. We can't see the dog's reactions to people over the internet. Seek professional help!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thank you everyone for your replies and opinions. I understand each point of view. I think I should note that after looking up last night the definition of "sharp/shy", I might have used it a little too loosely. Yes she is reactive by barking/growling but her first instinct is to run (or sniff and then decide what to do). I realize now that as Holly was growing up, we had a lot of people who would rush up to us to "love on her" and this would overwhelm her. I am in the process of teaching her that I will protect her and she doesn't need to protect herself from the "gushers". My mistake definitely. If a stranger spends more than 30 seconds to 2 minutes with us, she WILL love them and never forget them.

We have worked with a great behaviourist/trainer who worked with us by asking strangers to give Holly treats. I think her rationale was to continously pair yummy cheese with strangers will start to change Holly's fear of strangers (and it has). During 5 sessions, she barked at one person--a woman wearing mittens (silly girl). The medication is/was to help Holly with the big transition from no people around/lots of people around. It has really helped take her edge off--but I think more importantly--has helped me through osmosis to be able to relax her. By no means is it a medication she will be on forever. We play lots of games on the streets now. Ironically, Holly has always been better in groups of people rather than walking on a quiet street with a single person approaching. The few times she barked at people at the dog park were individual people who were approaching from a distance the group I was standing in.

To lighten the mood--here's a video of Holly delivering a beer from the fridge--it's amateur and she still was learning how to do it. Ignore the goofy guy at the end, I need to learn how to edit him out of it :)
 

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We have worked with a great behaviourist/trainer who worked with us by asking strangers to give Holly treats. I think her rationale was to continously pair yummy cheese with strangers will start to change Holly's fear of strangers (and it has). During 5 sessions, she barked at one person--a woman wearing mittens (silly girl).
I was going to Agree with Mandy because you had stated she does not show aggression. I think this is a great idea done with experienced adults first and work slowly to other dogs and children. Fear I am sure is tricky, but I respect the fact you are seeking support outside of your home. I think Holly will improve but based on genetics - she may be a little reserved. My one Pom is this way, but as you said once she meets and greets, she is in love. The video was adorable too! She is a pretty girl.
 

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She is such a pretty girl. So sorry to hear that you are having such serious and distressing problems with her. And, sorry to that she is now having seizures as well.

I would err on the side of caution in having her greeted by people offering her treats. It only takes one time for her to react badly and bite someone and the results will be awful.

I do hope that you find something to help her with her fear issues.
 

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That beer trick is pretty funny, but I shudder to think of the mess if Beau ever figures out how to open the refrigerator!
 

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Rebecca, it is sad that your girl is so shy, but she is sooo lucky to have found you as her owner. It sounds like you are doing as much as you can to help her out, AND, you recognize her and your shortcomings in all of it and you are willing to try different avenues and change your own behaviors to help her out. I give you a lot of credit for all you have done so far to help her and all the time and love you put into her.

I agree with working on the allowing of people to give her treats when she meets someone new, this always helps the dog to come to the realization that people mean "good things", but care must be taken with this, of course. A wonderful thing is what you did mention... that is that you become her "protector" so she does not feel she needs to do it. I DO NOT mean for you to have her hide behind you, by any means. What I think would be great is for you to inform anyone that approaches you and your girl that they MUST NOT TOUCH OR MAKE EYE CONTACT with her. In this way, you are taking that worry away from her and thus becoming her protector. They should stand and talk to you till SHE feels comfortable in reaching out to them for a pet, then they can give her a treat and talk quietly to her, then leave her alone. One other thing... if she starts to bark at the person approaching you or her, get her attention, make her sit by your side and lightly correct her if she barks, or call her name and get her attention looking at you (you can say.. look at me...) and give her a treat immediately. Distract her from having to feel she needs to bark at the person coming up to you or passing you or even moving in the distance. Always make her sit, get her to make eye contact with you and treat. Encourage her to continue eye contact if she acts like she is going to get nervous and bark again.

Most of all, let all strangers (or anyone that makes her nervous) know that they are not to make eye contact or verbally talk to her till she has relaxed and has made the first move to making friends with them. Also, if she decides she is going to "hide" behind you.... step aside of her so she is by your side and encourage her to sit... do not let her sit behind you, even if this means you have to side step her multiple times till she gets the idea.

You may have already done or are doing what I mentioned... I just thought I'd put this out if it can be of any help. Again, I give you a lot of credit for all you are doing for your girl, and with patience and persistence, you may be able to help her be better. She will most likely never be an outgoing, eager to meet strangers type of girl, but if she can learn to sit quietly next to you and not be nervous, that would be a great thing for you both!

Also, I think I would continue to take her to the dog park, but on a leash, never off. In this way you can work with her with encouraging her to sit next to you and not worry about what is going on around her and keeping eye contact with you if she does worry. Make the dog park trips short and sweet. No long sessions and never advance to another level till you are sure she is totally comfortable with the level she is at. AND, if she cannot handle the next level, revert back to the one before.

I wish you and your sweet girl the best and hope things get better and better for both of you! Oh, and I loved the video clip....LOL!
 

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Thank you everyone for your replies and opinions. I understand each point of view. I think I should note that after looking up last night the definition of "sharp/shy", I might have used it a little too loosely. Yes she is reactive by barking/growling but her first instinct is to run (or sniff and then decide what to do). I realize now that as Holly was growing up, we had a lot of people who would rush up to us to "love on her" and this would overwhelm her. I am in the process of teaching her that I will protect her and she doesn't need to protect herself from the "gushers". My mistake definitely. If a stranger spends more than 30 seconds to 2 minutes with us, she WILL love them and never forget them.

We have worked with a great behaviourist/trainer who worked with us by asking strangers to give Holly treats. I think her rationale was to continously pair yummy cheese with strangers will start to change Holly's fear of strangers (and it has). During 5 sessions, she barked at one person--a woman wearing mittens (silly girl). The medication is/was to help Holly with the big transition from no people around/lots of people around. It has really helped take her edge off--but I think more importantly--has helped me through osmosis to be able to relax her. By no means is it a medication she will be on forever. We play lots of games on the streets now. Ironically, Holly has always been better in groups of people rather than walking on a quiet street with a single person approaching. The few times she barked at people at the dog park were individual people who were approaching from a distance the group I was standing in.

To lighten the mood--here's a video of Holly delivering a beer from the fridge--it's amateur and she still was learning how to do it. Ignore the goofy guy at the end, I need to learn how to edit him out of it :)
YouTube - MVI 1273

I'm so glad you have professional help in dealing with her issues. She looks like a very smart, sweet Spoo. I've found that most people don't respect a dog's space and want to rush in to gush over them as you said. It's rude to your dog so don't allow it; they are not part of your dogs pack/family. I'm sure things will get better in the future, just keep working at it. Your dog learns and grows a little more every day;these things take time. Great Job!!!:)
 

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I don't want to be a wet blanket, please do not be discouraged by this. My dog Matrix was always a bit fearful, but after his first seizure his behavioural problems noticeably increased and turned toward aggression. He would no longer tolerate strange dogs or strange people entering his space. In situations where he would take a little sniff and move on quickly, he began to growl and charge.
We worked on it a lot, increased his exercise, but each seizure seemed to reset his brain to his fear aggressive self.
He was extremely socialized as a pup because he was slotted to become a service dog, but when he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, he was disqualified.

It's hard, but with lots of patience and understanding, it can be managed.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Wow--thank you everyone for your kind words and encouragement. It means so much.

Jesters Mom--thank you for that advice. It's good to remember that I don't HAVE to allow someone to pet my dog.

Locket--How do you deal with your dog's fear issues? Do you remove him from the situation or use treats? Poor baby.--especially to have his behaviours "reset" after every seizure.

Well I guess the best thing I can do is take it one day at a time and go from there. Thanks again for everyone's kind words!
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
I wanted to give an update since everyone was so kind to respond previously. Holly has been doing fabulously. She's becoming looser and much less anxious on walks. I've upped her exercise quotient and notice a HUGE difference in behaviour with more exercise. She just doesn't get as worked up about stuff when she's exhausted.

We are still working on around our apartment building--she's more suspicious of people in "her" building which leads me to believe there's some territorial protectiveness going on. We went to a large dog event today and the only time she barked at someone was when a large man came running in our direction after his loose dog, he stomped on the leash to catch the dog, the dog yelped (poor pup!) and Holly started barking. She was clearly being protective of me from this guy who hurt his dog. Though I was sort of defeated that she even started barking, her bark was not as anxious as it usually is. More of "alert, alert". We went up to the man a little later to say hi, she barked again and then he gave her a treat and they were new best friends. Other than that one time, she was downright FRIENDLY to everyone she met. Tail up and wagging the whole time!

So all in all, some very nice progress with Holly. I'll be in touch with my trainer to talk about her being "protective" of me (instead of just fearful) and see if we need to amend her training plan to include anything different.

Rebecca
 

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I am so happy for both of you!!! You must have been working very hard with her to get her to this point. I wish you continued successes with her and a happy life for both of you.
 

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I think she's a lucky dog to have such a caring and proactive owner.

One of my friend's dogs gets several seizures a month and has for years. He's always been a snappish and over reactive dog. We've noticed that he tends to be worse right before or right after he's had a seizure. Unfortunately, he's fluffy and cute and the size of a stuffed animal. People always want to fawn over him. We make sure that everyone who comes in contact with him knows he's a special needs boy.
 
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