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Discussion Starter #1
I have a three and a half month old poodle.

I’ve been teaching her what to do by rewarding her sitting quietly, and it’s not as often with women, either. But for the past three days, she has been VERY barky and has even growled at someone walking in our direction which is extremely out of character for her. She doesn’t do this on the rare occasion that I have a guest, etc. So I’m not quite sure of that. When she does it, We go to her designated timeout area and sit for three minutes. She will sit directly in front of me and bark at the person who is talking to us.

now, if we see somebody new I loudly say, “let me check! Okay, let’s keep walking.”

I’m a little bit concerned. Please provide some suggestions. I’ve socialized her with different people as much as I can during this time, so I’m not sure if the fear stage is creeping in a little early or what.

I did give her a few free walks to sniff around and explore where we live in certain areas.
 

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I'm asking this because if you've ever punished puppy for barking or growling at someone, you've now associated strangers with bad things happening. So this could absolutely escalate the fearful behaviour.

I'd keep a good distance from strangers for now and treat heavily. As long as puppy is taking treats gently (not snatching them, not ignoring them) you're at a distance that she feels comfortable with. With time she'll come to associate strangers with good things and you can slowly close that distance, eventually getting to the point where you park yourself on a bench and happily treat for every passerby.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm not sure I'm 100% understanding.... Can you clarify for me when exactly you're using a timeout?
She gets a timeout for a second after growling or lunging. Just for her to calm down.

Then I walk backwards and cross the strangers path and she will too, while looking at me without growling. I didn’t even think about the fact that it might make her associate strangers with something negative. She’s had an upset stomach for the past few days, so we’ve been working on rewarding with a favorite toy or praise.

thank you so much! I’ll keep you posted!
 

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There's a chance she's in a fear period, so just do whatever you can to keep it positive. :) Her experiences with strangers now will shape her perception of strangers for the rest of her life. Even though it can sound scary, try to hear her barks and growls as little cries for help. "I'm scared! I'm scared! Stay away!" I still have to do that with Peggy sometimes. It completely changes the way I react to her reactivity, and is successful almost 100% of the time.

Last night, for example, she barked at a row of big black garbage bags she glimpsed from our backyard, through the trees. (Our neighbour is doing yard work and left them on the sidewalk.) Instead of shouting "No!" as many people would (and as I may have done in the past) I saw them through her eyes: Strange. Ominous. Not supposed to be there. Never seen anything like that before! Eeeeeek!

I armed myself with some treats and treated her each time she looked at me as we walked around to the front and down to the sidewalk. I let her hang back as I gave the bags a poke, allowing her to approach on her own terms. She gave them one sniff and looked back to me for more treats. Success!

To be safe I then walked back up to our yard so she could see them again through the trees. (Context is huge for dogs.) She couldn't have cared less—just looked up to me for another treat and then we headed inside. If I'd not done this, there's a very good chance she'd have been wary of that corner of the yard for a long time. Maybe even forever. Or similar shapes might have continued to scare her.

If treats are a concern due to tummy upset, try using bits of chicken or any simple, whole food that she can tolerate. Processed treats are a waste of money at that age anyway, since you go through soooo many with training.

(Should add that Peggy still sometimes reacts to strangers. She's 11 months old and definitely a work in progress. Don't be discouraged.)
 

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One thing you can do is always put yourself between her and whatever she is reacting to. For dogs that is a powerful signal that you are in charge and she doesn't need to worry about it. If she is still fixed on the distraction, turn so that she is moving away from it and do whatever you need to get her attention on you. If there is not room to move away, then stop and let the distraction move on by while you are keeping her attention on you.

Also watch the "look at that" video and work on that with her a lot.

 

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"Let's go!" is a good one, too.

If a stranger is approaching and there's no way to maintain a good distance, say "Let's go," abruptly change direction (keeping the leash loose), and then treat as you continue walking.

We practise this inside a lot, off-leash. Peggy thinks it's the most fun.
 

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At 3 1/2 months old, she is not guarding you. She is scared and she positions herself in front of you because she feels more secure in that spot. Even as adults, toy poodles do not typically try to guard their people. They know they’re little, which is why they are scared.

Since she is so young, it might just be a phase. Make her feel safe by staying calm, with a positive energy and hopefully she will get over it.
 

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It sounds like nervousness to me. My Galen is roughly the same age as your puppy. Recently he too started acting skittish when he saw people from outside our household.

I handled it by calling out a calling out a cheery greeting to each person we met, which usually prompted them to say hello in return. These friendly interactions signaled to Galen that I wasn't concerned. Sometimes we would stop and chat at a distance. These chats were when he got the most nervous and was most prone to barking. In a very cheerful tone of voice I would inform Galen that he was was being a wimp and a coward, and that all the neighbors would laugh at him. Usually these comments would make the neighbor coo at him in the most unthreatening tone possible (before then laughing at him.) In a few cases, with neighbors I know well, I dropped the leash and let him approach them for cuddles if he wished. His choice, I never forced him, but I let him know with my attitude that I considered this neighbor a friend. His nervousness has diminished quite a bit this week, to the point where he looked very disappointed when a jogger ran past with no greeting at all yesterday.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
There's a chance she's in a fear period, so just do whatever you can to keep it positive. :) Her experiences with strangers now will shape her perception of strangers for the rest of her life. Even though it can sound scary, try to hear her barks and growls as little cries for help. "I'm scared! I'm scared! Stay away!" I still have to do that with Peggy sometimes. It completely changes the way I react to her reactivity, and is successful almost 100% of the time.

Last night, for example, she barked at a row of big black garbage bags she glimpsed from our backyard, through the trees. (Our neighbour is doing yard work and left them on the sidewalk.) Instead of shouting "No!" as many people would (and as I may have done in the past) I saw them through her eyes: Strange. Ominous. Not supposed to be there. Never seen anything like that before! Eeeeeek!

I armed myself with some treats and treated her each time she looked at me as we walked around to the front and down to the sidewalk. I let her hang back as I gave the bags a poke, allowing her to approach on her own terms. She gave them one sniff and looked back to me for more treats. Success!

To be safe I then walked back up to our yard so she could see them again through the trees. (Context is huge for dogs.) She couldn't have cared less—just looked up to me for another treat and then we headed inside. If I'd not done this, there's a very good chance she'd have been wary of that corner of the yard for a long time. Maybe even forever. Or similar shapes might have continued to scare her.

If treats are a concern due to tummy upset, try using bits of chicken or any simple, whole food that she can tolerate. Processed treats are a waste of money at that age anyway, since you go through soooo many with training.

(Should add that Peggy still sometimes reacts to strangers. She's 11 months old and definitely a work in progress. Don't be discouraged.)
she loves chicken and that’s all she’s been eating, with a little pumpkin thrown in. she tried a puppy milkbone and I believe that is what threw her off.

I‘ve positioned myself past people. I’ve noticed that she will sit if she Sees people coming. I did give her chicken on our walk today and she did a LOT better. Still a bit antsy around men because we don’t see as many of them out.

I’m not sure how to socialize with this pandemic going around lol, but she is doing wayyyyy better than she was a month ago. Thank you guys so mychZ
 

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Discussion Starter #11
One thing you can do is always put yourself between her and whatever she is reacting to. For dogs that is a powerful signal that you are in charge and she doesn't need to worry about it. If she is still fixed on the distraction, turn so that she is moving away from it and do whatever you need to get her attention on you. If there is not room to move away, then stop and let the distraction move on by while you are keeping her attention on you.

Also watch the "look at that" video and work on that with her a lot.

I will try this tomorrow! Thank you!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
It sounds like nervousness to me. My Galen is roughly the same age as your puppy. Recently he too started acting skittish when he saw people from outside our household.

I handled it by calling out a calling out a cheery greeting to each person we met, which usually prompted them to say hello in return. These friendly interactions signaled to Galen that I wasn't concerned. Sometimes we would stop and chat at a distance. These chats were when he got the most nervous and was most prone to barking. In a very cheerful tone of voice I would inform Galen that he was was being a wimp and a coward, and that all the neighbors would laugh at him. Usually these comments would make the neighbor coo at him in the most unthreatening tone possible (before then laughing at him.) In a few cases, with neighbors I know well, I dropped the leash and let him approach them for cuddles if he wished. His choice, I never forced him, but I let him know with my attitude that I considered this neighbor a friend. His nervousness has diminished quite a bit this week, to the point where he looked very disappointed when a jogger ran past with no greeting at all yesterday.
I’ve noticed this helps too! Her seeing me speak to them calmly. She also got scared of her toy today, so I guess she is officially in her fear phase. Thank you soooo much. Galen sounds wonderful! He’s lucky to have you.
 

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she loves chicken and that’s all she’s been eating, with a little pumpkin thrown in. she tried a puppy milkbone and I believe that is what threw her off.

I‘ve positioned myself past people. I’ve noticed that she will sit if she Sees people coming. I did give her chicken on our walk today and she did a LOT better. Still a bit antsy around men because we don’t see as many of them out.

I’m not sure how to socialize with this pandemic going around lol, but she is doing wayyyyy better than she was a month ago. Thank you guys so mychZ
It sounds like you're making the best of a tricky situation. :) Honestly, distance isn't the worst thing at your puppy's age. She can learn to focus on you while still being aware that the world has other people in it, and that they're nothing to be afraid of.

One additional bit of advice: A nervous puppy can find sitting very stressful. It's not a natural behaviour at all. So maybe don't push for this right now. But you can try other commands like "Touch" (nose touches hand, reward with other hand) or "Get it!" (scatter treats on ground to encourage sniffing), in addition to "Look at me" and "Let's go!" mentioned above. These get puppy "working" in a more natural way.
 

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It sounds like you're making the best of a tricky situation. :) Honestly, distance isn't the worst thing at your puppy's age. She can learn to focus on you while still being aware that the world has other people in it, and that they're nothing to be afraid of.

One additional bit of advice: A nervous puppy can find sitting very stressful. It's not a natural behaviour at all. So maybe don't push for this right now. But you can try other commands like "Touch" (nose touches hand, reward with other hand) or "Get it!" (scatter treats on ground to encourage sniffing), in addition to "Look at me" and "Let's go!" mentioned above. These get puppy "working" in a more natural way.
Wow. I will definitely do away with that then. I’ll put some focus on less fear when we walk. Hopefully that will help. I’ve also noticed that since she’s taller she is seeing new thing or noticing new areas that she wasn’t before, so I’ll definitely be working overtime to make sure she understands that she has nothing to be afraid of.
 

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Wow. I will definitely do away with that then. I’ll put some focus on less fear when we walk. Hopefully that will help. I’ve also noticed that since she’s taller she is seeing new thing or noticing new areas that she wasn’t before, so I’ll definitely be working overtime to make sure she understands that she has nothing to be afraid of.
That's so cute, that she can see more now because she's taller. Aw. :) It's hard to remember just how new the world is to them. But keep things light, encourage lots of sniffing and play, and all will be okay.

I know social distancing makes it all a little tougher, but you could print out a socialization checklist, if you haven't already, and start facilitating some short, fun interactions with things other than people. Little "obstacle courses" of different surfaces are good confidence builders. Just be sure to take photos to share with us here. ;)
 

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Borrowing a suggestion from Click-N-Treat again:

"Honor how he feels and it works. Isn't it funny how changing your own reactions to your dog's fears can make such a huge impact? Instead of worrying about how to fix it, run away from it together. Get far enough away where you can play the look at that game. Pause and take a step forward together, and another.

I remember when Noelle was terrified of helium balloons. She didn't know what they were, why they were floating, why they moved like that, and they really scared her. In a public place, I pointed to a red balloon, and told Noelle, "Oh no, it's Pennywise! We gotta go, run!"

And we did. We fled to the other side of the store, and we watched those balloons together. And we took one step closer, and Noelle sat. And we took two steps closer, and Noelle sat. And when we took three steps closer, Noelle wouldn't sit.

"Noelle! Did you see Pennywise? Run!"
Now, I'm laughing, of course. And strangers were no doubt looking at me like I'd just landed from Saturn. I didn't care. But, slowly Noelle got used to the balloons. We did it on her timetable, not mine. While we watched balloons I encouraged her. When you encourage someone, you give them courage. Giving courage as a gift sometimes looks like running away in mock terror from a helium balloon.

Laughing, being playful, while moving away from whatever was causing Noelle stress, let her know that I was there with her, and not against her. That we would meet the fearful thing and defeat it together. Balloons are a natural for being worried about Pennywise. Talking about alien abduction covers just about any other problem.

"Yes, Noelle, I know. You were standing by that loud door when the aliens abducted you last time. Let's get out of here!"

If you're willing to be playful, and have fun, and tune out the strangers who are staring at you, counter conditioning can be a lot of fun. Run away laughing. Stop and watch things and then take a step closer. Take two steps closer. Did you push it too far? Run away laughing. It keeps you from being tense and worried, and your happiness goes right down the leash.

Your dog knows you're playing. Frightened animals don't play. So, if you're acting goofy and playful, you're sending a strong signal to your dog. Huh, maybe this very scary thing is not very scary. And maybe I can relax, because my person is relaxed and happy. Move at the dog's pace and you'll get where you need to go. I encourage you to trust yourself, and encourage your dog. You're on the right road, going in the right direction. Great things are coming your way. You'll see."




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