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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Overall Gunner is an AWESOME dog. The only problem that I'm having is when I take him somewhere new. When I open up the back of my SUV and get him out, he immediately starts growling, barking, and his hackles go up. It's only in new places. Yesterday I parked somewhere different at the park, and this morning we went to my regular vets office for his last set of puppy shots. Both times, he came out of the car and went a little nuts. There were people around in both places. As soon as I walk him around a minute, he's completely fine. At the park, he ignores other people and dogs. At the vet clinic, once we got inside he was an angel. He was very friendly to all the staff and didn't even flinch for his vaccines. How should I handle this behavior? I really think it's insecurity that is causing it. I'm socializing the heck out of him, but when he's acting like that, what should I do? I tried to correct him yesterday but honestly I think it just made it worse. Today I completely ignored the behavior and stayed calm and confident and he got over it much faster. Anything else I should do or watch out for? Again, I really dont think it's aggression although i could see how a stranger might think differently. Gunner is not shy at all and typically seems pretty confident.
 

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If it gets worse I'd consult a trainer. However, to me it sounds like insecurity. I don't know where he is with his shots but if you can, take him all over. Take him to new places and neighborhoods for walks, take him to other parks, if he is allowed into the stores (call in advance) take him on errands with you. Expose him to new places and new people as often as possible.
 

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I agree that it sounds like insecurity. When does he start acting up? Can you get his attention with anything before then? Food, high value toy, anything? So instead of witing for his reaction, get his attention. It might not always be possible yet but it's a good goal.

An example - Flirt does better at new places in agility IF I do simple obdience up to the start line to warm her up. IF I wait for her to sniff and get distracted, it's much harder to 'reel her back in" and get her attention than if I'd started by keeping her attention.
 

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I wonder what would happen if you opened your truck's windows just a bit when you arrive at a new place and let him look out before getting him out of the car. I wouldn't say anything to him, just let him absorb on his own.

Anyway, aggression and fear look very similar in a young puppy; I would agree that you're likely just dealing with some insecurity. Keep up with the socializing. Try not to keep reassuring or sweet talking him--sometimes that just makes the situation worse--but instead, just be a strong steady personality in the background who is very matter-of-fact about new experiences. "Look at that; what is it? You silly boy. Ok, let's go." and walk on.
 

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Sounds like insecurity, and you're exactly right that corrections can make it worse - much worse. You want to catch him before the reaction, like Adara says, and make the new experience really positive. You may want to check out Leslie McDevitt's book, "Control Unleashed." There are great techniques in there that are useful for almost any dog, but especially for those who tend towards slight anxiety. I've found it extremely helpful.
 
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Is he using his nose at all? Chase reacts the same way to new objects (a suitcase on the side walk, a manican, a large banner flapping in the wind) and he reacts to it by growling and hackles up, after a few seconds he stops and sniffs the air. As soon as he stops using his eyes and uses his nose, he calms down instantly. There were only a few objects that he would not let go (the giant cat statue in front of PawsWay PawsWay.ca) so I placed treats on the statue and said 'Go find it.' He immediately started using his nose, and was fine with the statue.

This method worked for me because i knew what he was nervous about, and targeted it. For your dog it may be tricky because you could be nurturing his behaviour by rewarding it with treats. Maybe encourage the behaviour of using his nose will work? When he calms down and starts sniffing around, mark it, reward it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks everyone. It's almost like he jumps out, realizes he doesn't know where he is, and goes into panic mode. After a minute or two he calms down and is fine...but those first few moments can be pretty hairy. I like the idea of getting his attention immediately. I also wonder if waiting for him to be calm before even letting him jump out would help. At home, he has to be in a calm state before we do anything...play, eat, etc. I guess I should carry that over to our trips too. Maybe ask him to do a few obedience exercises while still in the car and then once again when he's on the ground. I think keeping him distracted will help. I really don't think it's an aggression issue. Other than this, he's completely fine. He loves people and is very affectionate to everyone that he meets. I think he just needs some more work and socializing to be comfortable in all situations...even new ones. We'll keep working on it ;)
 
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