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Puppy Advice -- Fear Period

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Hi all! I'm new here so forgive me if there is already a thread devoted to this topic. I've been lurking on the boards for a while now and have read a lot of good advice. I'm hoping you all can give me some advice on helping our new BC puppy, and share your experiences with fearful puppies/puppies going through fear periods.

 

We adopted our puppy from a rescue group last week. The group believes he is a full blooded BC and he certainly looks it! We are familiar with herding breeds and the challenges and joys of puppy-raising, and are very excited to introduce our puppy (Beau) to the very best life we can.

 

When Beau came home, he was 8 weeks old and initially showed normal signs of puppy-leaving-litter separation anxiety. He cried most of the night, but by the next morning was beginning to warm up to my husband and I. However, as we have had him over the past few days, we have noticed he is intensely fearful of other people, unfamiliar places, car rides and children. He will struggle against the leash or our arms, and even growl when someone unfamiliar pushes his comfort zone too far. He hates walking anywhere unfamiliar and will sit down and refuse to move when we go too far outside of familiar territory, even within our own immediate surroundings. I'm assuming he's going through a fear period, but as I don't have experience raising a puppy this young, I am not quite sure how to best handle it.

 

Of course we correct the growling, and I expect he will grow out of some of his fears with confident handling and time, but I don't want his fear to escalate into something more dangerous, especially with the children in our neighborhood. I want to make sure to manage this fear appropriately and get started early, so that we can encourage Beau to develop into a happy, confident dog. I figure even though we've only had him a week, it's better to address this early on rather than potentially letting it escalate further/ leaving it unaddressed.

 

Do you all have any advice as to what is normal for a BC puppy during a fear period and what we should be concerned about? How did you help your puppies through this time?

 

Thanks in advance!

 

 

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Never, ever correct growling. Never. Did I say never enough? His growl is his way of saying he is scared. Imagine if your child came in your room, said he was afraid of the thunder and you punished him. Would that help the fear? Or destroy his trust in you?

 

Remember those stories you hear about the dog biting "out of the blue" or "with no warning?" Guess what, their owners almost certainly corrected them for growling. Growling is communication. Figure out what it means and address the problem. In your pup's case, it's fear.

 

Protect him. He needs to know you have his back. If he trust you, he will relax. Do not let people come near him if he is scared. Do praise and shove treats in his mouth when you are near scary things. That way you can associate good experiences with what scares him.

 

Read this article "He Just Wants to say Hi."

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One hundred percent what Liz said. Never correct a dog, especially a puppy, for growling. Never.

Sorry to repeat what Liz just said, bit it is that important.

If you correct a growl, then he will know he cannot growl, and the only thing he can do then if he is frightened is move up a step to biting.

 

As for fear....if you got him last week and he was 8 weeks old, then he is only 9 weeks old, right? At that age, he should not be out walking on unfamiliar ground in the first place, because he has not, I presume, had his full set of innoculations, and is therefore still very vulnerable to picking up a terrible fatal disease. I would never put a puppy down on the ground outside my own yard until he had had his full set of puppy shots.

 

Next thing is, please remember that he is a little baby at this point. It is normal for him to be fearful. You are not doing anything wrong, but consider offering him more support. He really really needs to know that you are his champion, his parent, his protector in the world right now. He is not ready to deal with scary things without support, he is too young.

 

For instance, if a three year old is terrified of, say, the ocean, a good parent won't force the kid to go up to the edge of the water. Instead, the thing to do is tell nice stories about the ocean, and go look at it from a distance, and very very slowly as the kid gains confidence, you would take him closer and closer, praising him for his bravery all the way.

 

So it is with a puppy. Always sound cheerful when you are with him and he shows fear, telling him it's OK. You don't want to go "awwww...poor puppy...are you scared?" because that gives the idea that there actually is something to be scared of.

Instead, just say "it's OK" in a cheerful voice, while protecting him at the same time. Don't let strangers approach him if he is afraid! Instead, let him just see the person from a distance, say nice things to him, and give him treats.

 

As for the car, please don't force him to get into the car. Start with him only looking at the car from a distance, while you praise and treat. Feed him his meals near, but not next to, the car. Work slowly ...very slowly, over the course of a week or more, until his bowl is next to the car. Then, next to the car with the car door open, then in the car, then in the car and you start it and shut it off again. And so on. If you do this you will get him over these fears for life. If you rush it or push him or correct him you may create a problem for life. Be very patient.

 

Apply this same technique to everything he is afraid of, and soon, as Liz said he will associate treats and nice cheerful take with strangers, or whatever else it is, and stop being afraid.
Then and only then can you let the stranger get closer. But if he shows fear again, back off and work the distance again.

 

Best of luck! Please let us know how it is going, as we want to help.

And.......we all really like puppy photos. ;)

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Big ol' like button needed for both the previous posts.

 

And, yes, it bears repeating again -- Never, ever, EVER scold your pup for growling.

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Everything D'Elle and Liz said. Read their posts, then read them again, then read them a third time if need be.

You have a canine infant. Protect him. Care for him. Nurture him. Do not correct him for telling you that he's afraid and totally overwhelmed, and don't force him into anything.

Also, be advised that many border collies are not that great with kids, so you may have to protect and help him with interactions with them. Remember, border collies are genetically hard-wired to respond to movement and children are often more than they can handle. Kids are loud, fast, erratic and unpredictable and become even more so when zooming past on bikes and skateboards. So, go very slowly with him when it comes to children. Not every puppy loves kids.

Mainly, though, remember that he is just a baby and obviously he is still pretty freaked out. Border collies are sensitive dogs who require thoughtful handling. He doesn't need to meet your entire world and all the things in it just now. First let him get to know you, learn to trust you and become confident in his immediate surroundings. He is too young to meet children, go on car rides or take walks in strange places - especially since he hasn't had all his shots. He is trying to tell you that he's scared. Listen to him. Let him become brave and confident at home, first. Do not rush him. The rest of the world can wait.

~ Gloria

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Thank you all for the advice! We will definitely take it to heart.

 

I should have said we are NOT walking him outside in the general world, just walking with him around our dog-free backyard. Our "correction" for growling has been backing away and not engaging with the scary situation quite yet, so it seems like we need to continue to allow him to set the pace with any interactions with people we have in our home.

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I'll defer to others as to the timing of this type of training, as I've never raised a pup. I DID successfully teach this cue to all my dogs, as they appeared in my life.

 

Check It Out. Whenever a dog would appear to hesitate after seeing some object, I encouraged them to Check It Out. IF and ONLY IF I knew it was harmless. I'd walk to the object, letting the dog hang back if it wished, (most of this was on leash), and touch the Scary Thing. Then I'd coax the dog to me, praising quietly for each step in the right direction. If the dog was able to actually put a nose to the ST, they got a treat of some kind, and more quiet praise.

 

It didn't take any of my dogs long to catch on. I'd only had Gibbs a few months, and he was a ranch dog, not used to sirens or loud music or water sprinklers,. The new things in suburbia concerned him. Walking him one day off leash, he saw a balloon that had gotten it's string tangled in a fence. He trotted over to it and bopped it with his nose, then looked at me, tail wagging. I didn't produce his treat quickly enough, so he bopped it again, harder. Really proud of that boy.

 

Gibbs was almost 3 when I got him, so you may need to adapt this routine for a puppy. As I said, not knowing anything about raising pups, the best suggestion I can come up with is to start using the cue with things he's already comfortable with, then very very slowly go to novel items.

 

BTW, I didn't use this w/people. People are entirely too unpredictable, I'd be very cautious w/exposing this pup to people who you aren't absolutely sure give him his space.

 

Good luck, and pictures are always appreciated.

 

Ruth & Gibbs

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...People are entirely too unpredictable, I'd be very cautious w/exposing this pup to people who you aren't absolutely sure give him his space.

 

I absolutely agree with making sure the people the pup meets now should be carefully chosen, but meet people now he must. The human socialization period -- that critical time when a puppy should be exposed to friendly people -- is from 7 to 20 weeks of age.

 

So is the period from 8 - 11 weeks, the fear impact period that he's in now. Don't avoid people; just make sure you're careful who they are and that he has positive interactions with them.

 

http://ice.ucdavis.edu/%7Erobyn/Korina/BCIdeas/Criticalperiodsinpuppydevelopment.html

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Thx for that clarification, GL. I was thinking of people I've seen who take their pups into random situations, like walking the pup down a crowded street, going up to people they don't know, asking for help socializing their pup. Gah,

 

Yes, he needs to meet people, but they should be known to you, and have a little bit of sense about dogs.

 

R & G

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Thank you all for the advice! We will definitely take it to heart.

 

I should have said we are NOT walking him outside in the general world, just walking with him around our dog-free backyard. Our "correction" for growling has been backing away and not engaging with the scary situation quite yet, so it seems like we need to continue to allow him to set the pace with any interactions with people we have in our home.

 

 

Hi again!

 

That sounds perfect. You don't want to force a pup into something that scares him. :)

 

And yes, I agree with allowing him to set the pace with people, too. You do want to let him meet folks, but you also don't want to overwhelm him. Some border collies can be a lot more sensitive than the other herding breeds. If people scare him, do supervise those interactions closely and make sure they are appropriate with him. \He's still just a tiny baby learning a whole new world. :)

 

~ Gloria

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Such good advice above. I am glad you are receptive to the advice offered.

 

Best of luck with your new pup.

 

Photos please!!!!

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