Need Help With Social Skills - Doberman Forum : Doberman Breed Dog Forums
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-20-2020, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
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Need Help With Social Skills

I got Zipper in mid February from her breeder when she was 8 weeks old. I made sure she had all her puppy shots, parvo shot, rabies, bordatella, microchipped etc before taking her out to be around strangers and other dogs. During that interim time, the covid 19 shut us all down and no local places like Petsmart, Tractor Supply, Lowe's etc were open and available to take a young doberman puppy to be socialized. In fact, my town was on a 'stay at home' order unless it was an absolute necessity.

So, long story short....she didnt get socialized like my plan was for her to be. Now, we can get out and about (with masks and social distancing) but she is already 6 months old and is scared of other dogs and people. We've been working on meeting people when we go places and she has come a LONG way forward in that department. She will let people she doesn't know pet her after she cautiously sniffs them. YAY. But...strange dogs is still a hurdle for her that she just can't seem to master, and I get SO frustrated at times. I need some good tried and true suggestions on how to keep her from being scared of dogs--even smaller young dogs---and either running away screaming or bouncing stiff legged toward them barking her head off. On leash, she is so barky when she sees another dog, even at a distance, it's embarrassing at times. I've been taking her to a training facility that has 'puppy play days' for 8 month old and younger dogs that get to run around off leash and play together. Zipper does not want to play, and she takes at least 30 minutes of the hour we have there to even calm down and stop barking at them. We also have gone to 3 out if 5 basic foundation classes with 10 other dogs, learning skills like sit, stay, down, leave it, drop it, etc This is an on-leash class, and she wants to bark, snarl and lunge at the other dogs even though they are at least 10 feet away from us. As long as I feed her exceptional treats, I can keep her attention and she isn't barking at the other dogs. She is a Jekel/Hyde personality because she is not this way at all at home around my other 3 dogs. I dont want to give up on her, but I feel awful that the other 10 people in our class have paid just as much as I have to get their dog into a class to learn something and they are probably wondering why I am there with what seems to be an aggressive dog that wants to eat their little poodle. She isn't aggressive...she has a lot of fear and just wants the other dogs to disappear. What can I do to help her overcome this?

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-20-2020, 09:40 PM
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I recommend you talk to your trainer about a plan of action. You may need to work on some private lessons for a while. They key is going to be to take things at her pace - you might be pushing her too far, too fast - what's called "flooding" her. You need enough distance from the things that are making her nervous that she can feel comfortable and be able to think and learn. If she's so close that she's reacting/anxious/overwhelmed her brain isn't going to be able to process and learn and so she won't actually make much, if any progress.

For example, if you are asking her to approach people and take treats, but she's really uncomfortable, you put her into a situation that causes her a LOT of conflict. She wants the food, but she doesn't want to approach. A better strategy is to be at a distance where she is comfortable, and YOU give her the food. She will learn that when she's "around" strangers, good things happen, but she isn't "forced" to go beyond her comfort level. The next session, you get a little closer, and repeat. You always stay at a distance where you see comfortable body language, and she never has to choose between getting the food and feeling discomfort.

In a situation with strange dogs, it's the same concept - you stay at a distance where she can see them, and watch them without reacting, and you simply feed her good, high value food. Just a little bit of time, and then leave this situation. It's classical conditioning - when she's around other dogs, good things happen. Next time, you're closer. You can do this by being far outside a dog park, watching dogs go into a place like Petsmart (back of the parking lot), a vet's office, etc. Being "in" a training class but just sitting way in the back and watching the other dogs. You don't ask her to interact or get close to the other dogs.

I absolutely would NOT ask her to play with other dogs. She may never be a dog that enjoys that, and there's nothing wrong with that. Adult dogs don't need playmates. She may also never be a dog that loves having strangers pet her and "love her up." That's also fine, as long as she can learn to tolerate having people in her space and being calm. Set reasonable goals for her and work towards them slowly.

This is going to take a lot of slow, diligent work. It will go better if you have a good, patient, skilled trainer to guide you.


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Last edited by MeadowCat; 07-20-2020 at 09:45 PM.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-21-2020, 06:00 AM
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Cool

My dog Hoss was similar to what you are describing at 6 months.
He thought he was the dog referee during play time.
Training classes , yep, pain in the butt.
So it was suggested that I read a book called B.A.T. 2.0
This book was a left saver for Hoss and I and now he goes everywhere with me.
B.A.T. 2.0 ......It’s all very similar to what MC described in the previous post.
I remember all the barking in class and eventually I would still take Hoss to classes but sit in a quiet corner and let him observe.
I wanted Hoss to just take in all the people and smells and recognize this atmosphere was safe for us.
As Hoss matured we could get closer to things and interact with class exercises.
Check out this read.....very simple exercises you can incorporate into your daily walks.
Also watch out for stupid humans and their dogs even in a class setting.
As you are trying to adjust this behavior you want to prevent any negative experiences for your dog.
People do stupid things at the expense of our dogs .....so as the saying goes “Watch’em”!!!!

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Last edited by LadyDi; 07-21-2020 at 06:05 AM.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-21-2020, 11:18 AM
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Boy, good advice from both MeadowCat and LadyDi.

We all have tendencies to want to rush rehab type training and go to far and to fast for the dog and end up slowing the whole process.

I socialize my dogs extensively around people (the pandemic would have slowed things down some but I had dozens of ways to facilitate dog behavior around people) and I don't bother much about dogs.

Basically all I want my dogs to do is ignore strange dogs--they are going to see strange dogs (and strange looking dogs) all of their life because they are shown in conformation and later in a variety of performance events. And typically adult Dobermans (and really most adult dogs of any breed) don't need play time with other dogs. If there are other dogs who live with them they can play with those dogs,

Works for me and my dogs and even with the pandemic I can go to places outside which still have people around (grocery store parking lots are good for this) sit with my dog on the tail gate and watch the people go in and out with groceries.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-21-2020, 12:20 PM
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2 Dobies - I have no ideas for you as I have also been told I Need Help With Social Skills too So maybe I can learn here too - Best of luck

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-21-2020, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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GREAT advice, guys. Thanks. I can put some of this to use actually tonight, since we have a training class coming up in a few hours. I have 'high value' treats ready---tiny cuts of chicken and pork---in my treat pouch. We will try to get to the farthest end of the training area, maybe even tell some of the other owners what we are doing and why, and see how that works out. I think I will give up on the puppy play days for awhile, since it seems to stress her out more than it is helping right now. I'll be sure to report back in the next day or so on how our training class goes tonight. Actually, she already knows sit, down, stay (working on that one) so I might just use the training time to work on ignoring the other dogs in class. To me, that's worth the price of the class....I dont really have any neighbors that have dogs that we can experiment with ignoring. They are either little house dogs than never come out or big snarly dogs that are worse acting than Zipper is!

"Train now, or forever hold your leash"

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 06:00 AM
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Excellent!
Training classes IMO is the best place for teaching good citizenship.
Hoss and I sometimes just go to our training school and walk around.
Sometimes we just perch and watch the activity.
Suggestion Study your dogs body language as that will tell you so much.
For instance dog laying down....and laying way back on the hip is a good thing ....that tells me Hoss is relaxed.
If he is laying but still crouched On top of his legs and not laying back...that tells me he is ready to hop up at any moment so he is not to relaxed yet.
When hoss Yawns a lot that tells me Hoss is anxious and/or stressed.
Every dog is different so study your dog. It’s just like little human kids as parents we begin to pick up on the signs of when are children are happy or when they are about to do something michevious , so watch and learn because your dog watches you all the time. They are experts in human body language so good for us to do the same to get an edge on training. They talk to us all the time through their own language.
At least in class your around other dog people that have similar goals with their own dogs so thats a great place to start.

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 06:57 AM
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Great advice MC and LDi !

2Dobies , Keep us up-dated - this will be interesting to watch unfold

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 11:29 AM
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In addition to the excellent suggestions you've already gotten... "Attention is the Mother of All Behaviours" if you can teach your pup to focus on you, make eye contact with you, and create a conditioning so that this behaviour becomes her default reaction to distractions, other dogs, scary things, this will help you a LOT in rehabilitating her behaviour.

You can purchase a single Puppy Culture course on this subject as a DVD or Video On Demand option for about 20$
https://shoppuppyculture.com/collect...-behaviors-vod
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-22-2020, 03:13 PM
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I'm putting this here for advice to anyone who reads this, not necessarily just for you. I do not wait until my puppy has all of their shots to start socializing my puppies.

-Between first and 2nd shots, I will take them to people places like Home depot or outside shopping malls, even outside of grocery stores. People love puppies and want to pet them. I will also let them play with other puppies around the same age if I know the owners.

-Between 2nd and 3rd shots I continue the puppy play dates and I add playing with friends dogs. I also take them to training places where they can be around other dogs but not necessarily in contact.

Is this a bit riskier than waiting until the 3rd set of shots? Yes, but my mentor has been doing this for 50 years without a single incident. The peak socialization ages are between 6-12 weeks, if you wait until that 3rd set of shots you're missing the most important period. I have a few breeder friends who choose to wait or just plain don't believe in socializing their dogs and I'll be honest their dog's temperaments are very timid around other people, things and dogs. They have gotten somewhat better with age, but not a lot.

My male went through a fear period around 1 year old. He wanted to kill everyone and everything. As other mentioned I just kept working with him around these things but not too close and when something got too close I drew his attention to me and gave him a treat after. Some people tend to want to correct a dog and I can tell you, at least with my dog, that only made everything 100x worse.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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OK, we went to the outdoor class on Tuesday. As soon as we drove into the parking lot, Zipper started getting tense and started barking because other people were beginning to also drive up and get out with their dogs. I got her out of the car, walked her around the very outer edges of the property, treating her whenever she would actually look in the direction of another dog and NOT bark...which was at first, not that often. But, we made it over to the training area (fenced area) and instead of walking through the gates, we stayed on the outside of the fence and just walked back and forth, doing some random sits and downs and stopping to look at the other dogs inside the training area. If Zipper looked and didnt bark, she got paid off with several pieces of cooked chicken from my treat pouch. The trainer hollered and asked "Is Zipper being quarantined tonight?" I told her that Zip is being a little reactive, so we are just trying to calm things down before joining the group. She was very ok with that. After about 10 minutes of doing what we were doing, we went through the gate and walked to the farthest corner of the training area. It was hot and humid and a large black cloud appeared overhead that made it look like it was going to pour down any minute. I was aware of Zipper being uncomfortable (she hates storms and thunder, also) so we continued with sits, downs, heel and lots of treats. She only barked ONE TIME at a mastiff pup that was trying to get to her. Other than that, she was as chill as I had ever seen her be in a setting with other dogs close by while she was leashed up. It was definitely a positive note to build on. We have such a long road ahead of us with this social thing...and the best I am hoping for is for her to just be able to IGNORE the other dogs. Anything more positive than that will just be a bonus. Thanks everyone for your advice, and your help. And to Gretchen_Red. yes, now I know that socialization around people and other dogs is way more important than waiting till all shots are completed, but this covid BS sort of threw a wrench in the works and took us all by surprise, so that had a lot to do with taking her places at the time. Zipper is a sweet girl, just a little over 6 months old now, and I fully expect her to overcome most of her fears because I am committed to working with her. Again, thanks for the advice and encouragement.

"Train now, or forever hold your leash"

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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-23-2020, 11:07 AM
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What I want to emphasize is that you don't need to "reward" her for not barking...you are actually trying to classically condition her. That means you can actually simply feed, feed, feed, regardless of her behavior. You're simply creating a positive association with her being around her "trigger." So even if she's "reacting" you're not rewarding bad behavior, you're literally changing her emotional response by pairing a GOOD thing with the thing she dislikes.

There's a lot of good information out there on classical conditioning. It doesn't always make sense to us.

Here is some good reading:

In this first article, there's great explanation of what classical conditioning is, but pay particular attention to the very end - she explains exactly what I mean about helping dogs who are fear aggressive to other dogs. Showering them with treats regardless of how they are behaving: https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/tr...y-association/

Another great article about the mechanics of classical conditioning - also a good reminder that the "trigger" appears first, and THEN the treats. They can't be simultaneous: https://www.gooddogsantacruz.com/the...-conditioning/

And one more fantastic article: https://www.clickertraining.com/node/2327


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