5 Month Pup Confidence
First of all what a great forum, we've been learning so much, thanks!
This is our first Doberman (female) and we can literally not get enough of her!
We've been taking her to the training school for the last 2 months and doing loads of socialisation. Taking her on play dates, parks, different environments etc. while ensuring it's all positive experiences.
I've got 2 things sitting in the back of my head which I'm hoping you can shine some light on...
1.) At the puppy school she seems a bit intimidated by other pups at times, not running away or real panic... Slightly submissive towards certain dogs might be a better way of putting it. Should we try and build bit more confidence in her or can we ignore it?
2.) She doesn't seem to bark at strange sounds or go out to investigate... And my thinking is that it's because she is still a young pup. Will that protective trait come to show as she grow older? We would love her to eventually be able stand her ground and guard her territory.
3.) Is it possible to socialise too much? Making her too friendly? The answer will probably be no - as far as my research stretched - but just to make sure.
I know she is very young, but would rather ask too early than too late :)
At this age, you do NOT want her barking or growling at new stuff, typically...that can often be a sign that a puppy is unsure or uncomfortable. You can encourage her, gently, to check new things out - that's part of socializing, but you MUST make sure she is enjoying experiences and that it's a positive experience. It should be on her terms, her choice. If there's something interesting or unusual, you can give her the option to check it out...I literally tell my dogs "check it out!" I often reward them for doing so, am encouraging in my tone, etc. But I would never force it with a puppy, because that can backfire on you. If a new experience at that age is negative, it can have lasting affects.
I don't think it's possible to oversocialize, *provided* your dog's socialization experiences are positive. A Doberman that has had a lot of experiences with different people and situations is the best equipped to judge independently whether a situation is normal, or a threat.
Slightly submissive isn't anything to worry about in a 5 month old puppy--and as MC pointed out not all puppies are social butterflies. She's a puppy--puppy behavior is built in to protect baby dogs--being submissive is appropriate but you don't want her overwhelmed with a bully so just keep an eye out for her being bullied or overwhelmed by another puppy at this point. Her confidence would normally increase with age and experience.
Personally I don't want my dogs to bark much at all--the dogs are not sound sensitive but I am so I discourage barking. As a result, when one of my dogs bark--it's because there is something unusual going on. A couple of times it was someone in my fenced back yard--I turned on a porch light and let one of the adult boys out--there were sounds of running (dog and two footer of some sort)--in the morning there was a piece of denim just inside the fence. In that case my dog barked only once in the house and said nothing in the yard but was effective at ridding his yard of someone who didn't belong.
Good socialization is the best way to accomplish this--I was told by a trainer for police, guard and personal protection dogs that the most socialized dogs are the best at this sort of work because they've seen enough to know the difference between normal and weird behavior.
Most puppies will be tentative about seeing something unusual for the first time--that's not a problem they should be cautious but you want them to see all of the stuff so that they know about it.
Good for you coming on the forum and getting questions answered! I would just add that, if you are noticing body language that causes you to use the words, “She seems intimidated, “ that is extremely significant. I believe, with the experience of many decades of dog ownership, horse training, and parrot training plus being a teacher of dog training classes and having owned a vet clinic for two decades, I would not ignore those observations. Dobermans are so smart, so sensitive, and so tuned in to their environment as part of being a guarding breed that you need to address apprehensive behavior.
Her behavior tells you a very simple but profound thing. She’s uncomfortable! So, there’s a very simple but profound action you can take to help her feel more comfortable. Just imagine the way you feel when you are apprehensive about some activity like going for a job interview or starting a new job. Apprehensive feelings are okay for puppies AS LONG AS they are not repeated on a regular recurring basis, which can certainly leaded to learned apprehension, and worse, specific apprehension about a particular situation, like being around other dogs! Just think about the way dogs learn to be apprehensive about the vet clinic. You don’t want her LEARNING and PRACTICING apprehension.
So, you can easily do a very simple thing when you take her out places. Feed her tiny pieces of a very high value treat, preferably something very natural that she doesn’t get at home like cooked chicken. My friend who has a new rescue that’s apprehensive about puppy class does this and already, in just two weeks, she’s seeing a huge difference in the young dog’s emotion about going in the training building. First, she gets there early so there is no rush. Second, she takes organic baby food in a squeeze tube (like you can put shampoo in for travel) and gives frequent licks throughout the process of getting out of the car, pottying, and going into the building. Then she gives licks frequently during class and ANYTIME she sees a stress signal (see below).
She’s pairing a SUPER happy thing with every step of the previously anxiety-provoking event. After all, when you start a new job, you don’t just get anxious when you arrive at your desk, you are probably anxious back when you are trying to get ready and it builds from there. But I pretty much guarantee I could change that mindset, that concern, to smiling happy feelings if if I was right there peeling off a $50 and handing it to you every few minutes! And, if you’d known ahead of time you were going to get money handed out to you, you’d have jumped out of bed before the alarm had a chance to go off!
That’s what happens- once your pup realizes that the situation which formerly caused her some stress NOW pays free GREAT handouts (don’t cheap out and use your everyday boring rewards because some dogs can’t eat them when stressed - you want something that is GUARANTEED to create a happy feeling!), she will quickly be dragging you in the building.
Keep it up throughout the class and NEVER, under any circumstances, allow any dog to bully her or jump all over her even if the instructor pairs you up with such a dog. Be proactive, block the other dog, and simply say to the instructor that this is not working for your puppy. If she did get bumped or vigorously approached by another dog and you saw that it intimidated her, don’t re-pair her with another dog immediately, just back a good way out of the action and feed her while she’s watching everyone. If she seems like she’s willing to reengage then just choose carefully! A sensitive and skilled instructor won’t put you in such a position but sometimes they don’t know how two dogs are going to end up playing together and you have to be the one to make the decision to protect your puppy.
If she is really reluctant to want to play with anyone, then just let her stay in there and watch everybody else play while you feed her the little super treats. Building her confidence and happy attitude is more important right now as having her play with another puppy, In my opinion. Another day will come around for that and hopefully she will be happy to engage at that time because you have done this wonderful conditioning.
Note that she does not have to do any behavior whatsoever to get the treats! No “sit” first! They are simply being given to change her mood and her attitude about what is happening all around her. If you want to look it up it’s just basic Pavlovian conditioning.
One big thing: don’t overwhelm this puppy just because you have food!! Make sure she has the ability to withdraw from proximity to ANY other dog! Protect her space. You don’t want to give her a lick and the next second a big bruiser bowls her over and terrifies her. Protect her space. Let her observe. Slow things down for her as she learns confidence in the situation. Some people just sit safely on the sidelines watching and feeding until their dog really shifts to feeling more confident. For some dogs that takes weeks. You’ll have to judge that and it sounds like you are very sensitive to your dog.
What’s happening now, it sounds like, and totally without you realizing it, is that she is being conditioned to be apprehensive about being around other dogs in general. You definitely don’t want even a little bit of that at this impressionable young age. Practice makes perfect and you don’t want a perfectly apprehensive puppy.
I would also use this conditioning anytime you take her out anywhere to socialize with people, new places, anything that might tend to frighten her the least little bit. Pay close attention to her body language and watch for lip licking, ears back, and tail down. Yawning can also be a sign of stress. Lighten up on how close you take her to new stuff while you condition her good feelings. You are using your goodies to change her emotional slant on what’s happening out in the world but you can’t do that if she’s perceiving she is too close to the stress. I wouldnt get to far with my $50’s and a situation like this: “Here you go, just wade in there with those pesky sharks, no problem, I’m going to be handing out $50’s!”
You want to creat a strong POSITIVE “conditioned emotional response” (trainer Denise Fenzi’s term) for everything you do with her outside your home but it’s a process. Just like a new job.
Good luck and happy training! And conditioning!
OK... So this is just my thing.
My youngest is wonderfully socialized. He interacts with people as well or better than any dog I have ever owned. The one exception is home protection. While he is never allowed to bark in public, he has always been free to audibly protect our/his house.
Ok, to my point.... And again, this is just my own POV based on my experience.
My McCoy never interacts with unknown dogs. In fact his entire off-leash life occurs only in our house or our fenced yard.
Dobermans, in my experience, don't need other dogs to be happy and healthy. They have one mission: to please and be pleased by their human. It is innate.
The downside to restricting your Dobe's "free for all" with other dogs is that the onus falls on you to keep him/her mentally and physically stimulated. The upside is a safe and secure dog who totally understands his/her role in your life.
Oh well... I am sure that others will disagree with me.
I agree and I also never let Boon interact with other dogs; havenít allowed it since he was about 6 months old. In addition, I did boatloads of pairing high value food with being around, being in class with, and passing in close proximity to other dogs; did the high rate until he was two. Still do it, but not at a conditioning level, at a maintenance level. Iím always extremely proactive about his space and monitor his comfort level around other dogs as well as what they are doing.
Boon is solid as a rock around other dogs, even when moving or waiting in close proximity to them, but he would not tolerate much rude behavior from one. When called for, he gives clear respectful body language to them to back off, but Iím always on alert to stop that one careless person who might allow their dog to jump him and possibly mess everything up. Been there, done that.
When I had the little rescue Border Collie for six months, he was tolerant and played with her but interactions with her were never a priority.
I feel like I have to add that when she is with other dogs, which she knows a bit better she is the complete opposite. We often take her to play with a fully grown Labrador and also a 2 year old Boxer, which she can't get enough off. They will literally keep at it for the whole of the day and she will start instigating play. But at puppy school she is more reserved, I'm starting to think it's just because she doesn't know them that well yet.
Okay great, I'm happy to hear that she should not be barking/growling at this stage.
Like I mentioned, we're making sure all the new experiences are positive, our breeder also made that very clear from the beginning :)
I especially like the part of high value treats, I will definitely make use of that.
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