Dog behaviour with Gwen Bailey - homepage
 


 

 
Dog Behaviour with Gwen Bailey - homepage
Home
Gwen Bailey
Your Feedback
Shop - buy online
Dog Behaviour Problems
& Cat Behaviour Problems

Dog Behaviour Problems: Your dog's behaviour

Fears & phobias (cars, fireworks, thunder, baths, going out etc):

Question: My Jack Russell/whippet cross, Minnie, will not go outside because she is frightened of the loud bangs fireworks make. I downloaded some firework noises from the internet and played them loudly in the house and she continued playing without showing any concern. However, when she is in the house and hears a firework go off outside she is scared and hides behind chairs. It would appear that she is not frightened when I play the same noises from a tape, but is scared when she hears them outside. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Any treatment programme for firework phobia takes months of gradual desensitisation, rather than weeks. I can only suggest that you keep her inside on bonfire nights, turn up the TV as loud as possible to drown out the noise, and try to keep her as calm as possible.

You could also try blocking her ears with large pieces of cotton wool, but ensure small pieces do not go down inside the ear canals.

When the fireworks have finished for this year, you can work on desensitising her to loud noises slowly. This involves teaching her to associate the taped noise with pleasant experiences during every day life – a walk, titbits, dinner, play etc.

Play the noises just before anything pleasant happens in her life every day until she begins to wag her tail and get excited when she hears them.

Then you will need to take the noises outside and repeat the process. Finally, you will need to play the noises and arrange for a real bang to happen outside, sufficiently far away for her not to panic.

This will need to be repeated until she not only tolerates bangs happening closer, but looks forward to them because they cause good things to happen.

The process is rather complicated to describe well here, so if you need help, please contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: My 15-month old dog, Harvey is afraid to go out on walks and will not venture far from the house. He does not like to walk near roads and pulls back if he hears noises such as traffic, people or children playing. How can I help him to overcome this fear? I really want him to enjoy going out on walks.

Answer: Dogs that have not got used to the outside world and all the things it contains as young puppies can have a lifelong fear of them that can be very difficult to cure.

Depending on the genetic make-up of your dog (sensitive breeds such as shepherds and collies are much harder to cure), this may or may be possible.

To stand any chance of success, it is important that you take things slowly. You may like to give him a week or two’s rest from going out at all to let him recover and to get rid of all the stress hormones he has built up.

During this time, play lots of games with him in the garden and develop a love of playing with a favourite toy. When you do begin to go for walks again, never pull or make him go further than he wants to.

If this means that it takes weeks to get to the end of your road, or even your path, so be it. Forcing dogs to confront their fears usually makes them worse rather than better, so take things at his pace.

Just before you have got to the point where you think he may have had enough, reward him well with lots of praise, a handful of tasty treats and a quick game with that favourite toy (if he is not too afraid to play).

Then take him home. In this way, he should begin to realise that walks are not quite the ordeal he thought and can actually be quite rewarding instead.

It may be a long process, particularly at first, but should get quicker eventually as his confidence grows. Something else that may help is to play him tapes of the noises he will hear on a walk that may scare him.

The Blue Cross have a good tape for sale as part of their Headstart for Puppies programme. Send a s.a.e. for an order form to The Blue Cross, Shilton Road, Burford, Oxon OX18 4PF.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: How can we encourage our 15 week-old English Bull Terrier puppy to go for a walk? He freezes every time we try to walk him. We have tried giving him treats to encourage him to walk and we have taken his toys to the park so that he enjoys himself when he gets there, but he just doesn't seem to want to walk. He plays very well in the house and garden and is very healthy.

Answer: I would take him to the vet to make sure that all is well with him physically. If he is truly healthy and has no joint problems, it is likely that he was not habituated to the outside world when he was younger (the critical time is up to 12 weeks), or he have had a few unpleasant experiences when being taken out for his first expeditions into the outside world.

This is, unfortunately, quite common as some breeders do not put enough effort into socialising puppies or getting them used to the outside world. The best thing to do is to take things very slowly.

Don’t pull him anywhere or he will get worse. Let him take things at his own speed. Forget going for walks for now and instead just try to get him to be happy about standing on the path outside your house. Be jolly rather than sympathetic and use toys and food to get him to have fun.

Don’t try to coax him out, just keep playing – on the doorstep if you have to, until he gets brave enough to step outside by himself. Use a long line and let him run back into the house if he gets scared.

Be patient and, eventually, he will learn that there is nothing to be afraid of.

Gradually, he will begin to get interested in going further and, eventually, he should be happy to walk to the park. If you have difficulty with this or need further help, please try The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: We have had our rescue dog, Prince, since last November. The only problem is that he won't have a bath. We've tried dry shampoo and putting water on his back with a sponge but he goes crazy. At the moment we're using dog bath wipes but I'm not sure this is enough. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Prince may have had a bad experience with water in the past or someone may have been rough with him when they tried to bath him which may cause him to panic whenever he thinks it is going to happen again.

If you are going to get over this problem, you need to go very slowly. Change the associations by starting in the garden rather than the bathroom. Begin by wiping his paws with a damp cloth.

Have a bowl of warm water close by and when he is happy with this, try dribbling water down his legs.

After a very small success, praise him and give him his dinner or take him for a walk. Do this as often as possible each day, drying him thoroughly each time. After several sessions, you should see him beginning to relax.

If not, go more slowly. If you continue with this process long enough, gradually getting him used to small amount of washing, you will soon find that he gets used to it and allows you to do it all over.

He may never enjoy baths, but you should be able to get him to the point where he tolerates it.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & your dog's behaviour.

Question: My German shepherd, Casey is now 11 months old. She was rescued through the NCDL at four months and has been with us ever since. I am at home all day and have a close relationship with Casey. I only leave her for short periods of time to go out shopping and for other essential trips. The problem is that when we leave Casey on her own in the house, she rips up the vinyl tiles on the floor and chews the wooden doorframe and steps.

She also barks and whines. We have been told that this might be separation anxiety and are keen to sort it out before it gets any worse. We have already cut the protein in her diet on our vet's advice and she is well exercised. When I leave her, she is confined to the hall for her own safety and has her bed and plenty of toys to play with. Please help ñ we feel as though we cannot leave the house as it upsets her so much. Is this something she will grow out of or is there something we can do?

Answer: If it is fear that is causing the problem, she will not grow out of it. The symptoms you describe point towards fear being the cause and there may be a number of reasons for this.

She may be frightened of something in the house (e.g. heating turning on/off), or something outside the house she thinks may be coming in to get her while you are not there, or, more likely, she may just be afraid of being alone.

The solution lies in either desensitising her to her fears, thereby reducing her anxiety, or teaching her to be left alone by doing it slowly and gradually, firstly when you are there in the house with her, and then by going out and leaving her. NCDL have their own in-house behaviourist who can help you, so please contact the centre where you got her.

Also, a leaflet called ‘Alone at Home’ is available from The Blue Cross. Please send a s.a.e. (and a donation) to: The Blue Cross, Shilton Road, Burford, Oxon OX18 4PF

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Question: Our German shepherd, Murphy is terrible in the car. He whines and screams while pacing up and down on the back seat. After 5 or 10 minutes of this noise and pacing, we get cross with him. Nothing seems to calm him down. What are your thoughts on car safety harnesses? And is there anything else we could try?

Answer: Car safety harnesses are a very good idea to stop him flying through the windscreen, injuring you in the process during an accident, but they are unlikely to stop the problem.

It depends why he is doing it.

He may be excited at the prospect of a walk, be terrified of being in the car, be trying to get your attention, or may be having fun ‘chasing’ things that go past. Finding a cure relies on you deciding what the reason it.

Try tying him so that he cannot see out of the windows, or putting him in a large cage covered with a blanket. If he settles (it may take several long journeys for this to happen), this will tell you that it is probably a ‘chase’ problem.

Otherwise, taking him on ‘boring’ journeys and taking him for walks from home for a while may help reduce the excitement he feels about being in the car. If he is frightened, gradually getting him used to very short journeys will help.

You may like to read Good Dog Behaviour has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Please also see Gwen Bailey's article on Indoor Kennels (Wire Cages & Crates)

Question: I have a 4 year old rescue border collie who is very nervous and sensitive to noise. Are there any homeopathic remedies that might help him overcome this? He is also shy of people but we are slowly rectifying this problem.

Answer: I have never found homeopathic remedies to be useful in cases of extreme fear, but lots of people have used them successfully for reducing general nervousness.

If you would like to go down this route, I suggest you ask your vet to refer you to a recommended homeopath who can give you the proper remedy, rather than trying to do it yourself by buying ready-made preparations over the counter.

Fears of noises and people and other fears are best overcome by slow, gradual exposure to the things that are causing them. It needs to be done carefully and the dog needs a choice and a reason to come forward and face the small amount of fear that you have arranged.

It sounds as though your collie may not have been socialised properly, which often leads to many fears and general nervousness.

This is more difficult to tackle than a specific fear caused by a single bad experience, but it is possible to resocialise if you are gentle and careful.

If you need help with this, please contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: I hope you can help. Many good walks suitable for a setter are a short car journey away (5-10 minutes). Our 15 week-old setter, Rory, hates the car. We have to lift him in, and then, after a couple of minutes of the journey, he begins to salivate and is often sick. After this experience, he is not keen to go on the walk that the car journey was about. Do you have any advice?

Answer: Many puppies are worried about being in the car and their anxiety makes them drool and be sick. This is because breeders do not take them for short journeys in the car when they are young and, often, their first car journey is traumatic as it is the first time they have been away from their mother, litter and home environment.

The best way to tackle this is to gradually desensitise him to the car, taking things at his speed. More patience now will pay off in the long run. Begin by feeding him close to the car and playing with him with toys around it.

Over several sessions, encourage him to move closer to the car and even jump inside for treats and games. Sit in with him and make it a very pleasant experience.

When he can cope and is happy, close the doors. During later sessions, drive a few hundred yards, let him out and play or feed him. Put him back in, drive home and repeat. Gradually, over many weeks, increase the distance that he travels, never going further than he can cope with before he begins to show signs of unease.

You should gradually begin to see an improvement and eventually, you will progress much faster. Keep a diary so you can monitor your progress and stay motivated and, eventually, you will have a dog you can take anywhere by car.

Question: We got our Labrador cross, Arnie, from the RSPCA and whenever there is a loud bang or thunder, he becomes a jibbering wreck. He will scratch at doors to get to myself or my wife, or crawls into the smallest places possible (some of which are quite dangerous) and pants hysterically. He will continue to shake for hours afterwards and there is nothing we can do to calm him down. Do you have any suggestions? We are especially concerned with Bonfire night just around the corner.

Answer: Noise phobias are common, especially in dogs that were not acclimatised to loud noises as puppies (The Blue Cross sells a ‘Sounds Familiar’ tape for desensitising puppies to noises – send a s.a.e. to Headstart for Puppies, The Blue Cross, Shilton Road, Burford, Oxon OX18 4PF).

Noise phobias are also common in sensitive dogs that have just been through a traumatic experience, such as losing their home as Arnie has.

This is a difficult problem to cure but it is possible if you are very persistent. You will need taped sounds of the noises he is frightened of or a cd (BBC sound effects cd’s have very realistic noises).

Play these noises at very low volume (too low to worry him) often thoughout the day and, as the sound is playing, make his tail wag by offering his dinner, toys, titbits, a walk or attention.

Continue with this until his tail begins to wag when he hears the sounds. Then turn the sound up a fraction and repeat.

Continue until, when he hears the sounds being played loud, he wags his tail in anticipation of a reward. This can take a long time and it is unlikely that you will have him cured before November.

During the evenings around bonfire night, keep him inside, play loud music to mask the noises outside and arrange a safe place for him to hide.

If you get stuck with the treatment, it may help to contact a member of The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors who will be able to help you though it.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: My 15 week-old Staffordshire bull terrier is fine when we take him for walks in the park, but refuses to walk around our housing estate, pulling back and whimpering. I presume that he is frightened of traffic noise, but don't want to isolate him from such everyday sounds. I have tried coaxing him with treats, but this doesn't seem to work any more. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: You need to find out exactly what he is frightened of first. It could be traffic, or children, or other dogs in the area that scare him, or something else. Take him out in the car to other areas where you may encounter these things one at a time to test which one it is.

Once you have found out, you can help him get rid of his fear by playing with him at a distance. Keep as far away as you need to make him feel comfortable and offer lots of fun with tasty titbits and games with toys.

Don’t be sympathetic if he shows anxiety, but move a bit further away before trying again. Over a period of weeks, gradually take him closer, never going beyond what he can cope with.

It will take time, but, eventually, he will realise that whatever used to worry him wasn’t so scary after all.

Repeat this process in other areas before finally asking to walk around your housing estate.

In the meantime, don’t force him to go there until he is better able to cope as this will compound his fear and, long term, make the problem much worse.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: Our Doberman/collie cross is 4 years-old, and was attacked when he was two. Up to that point he was friendly with all dogs. Now, he is very aggressive towards any new dogs he meets, but is fine with dogs he knew prior to the attack. What can I do to try and turn this anti-social attitude around?

Answer: He needs to build his confidence with other dogs again, but because of his aggression and because this has been going on for two years, you will need skilled assistance to help you do this safely.

Please contact your veterinary surgeon and ask for a referral to a behaviourist, or visit the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for a list of clinics in your area. A good behaviourist will come up with a detailed programme of treatment to follow which will help him to realise that unfamiliar dogs are safe and will not attack him.

Meanwhile, keep him well away from other dogs as aggressive encounters will compound his view that they are all dangerous and can be ‘seen off’ if he behaves aggressively himself. In addition, he will be making himself very unpopular with other dogs in the neighbourhood and this will make it more difficult to treat the problem once you have learned how to do so.

The treatment will involve gentle methods of teaching him an alternative behaviour to the aggressiveness he is currently showing and, later, if possible, gradually resocialising him with other dogs.

Question: My dog, Toby, used to go out for a walk every morning and always really enjoyed it. But for the last two weeks he still looks around for his lead but when we get to the garden gate he stops and refuses to go any further. I'm worried in case there is something wrong with him - what do you think?

Answer: It is likely that he has had a scare while he was out and is mistrustful of going any further. This could have been a loud noise that frightened him, a dangerous encounter with another dog, a brush with a big lorry or something similar.

If he is getting on in years, or is unwell, frightening experiences will have more of an effect, just as they do in people who are elderly or ill. Take it easy with him for a few days, varying your route or perhaps taking him to the park in the car for a while.

Don’t force him to walk if he is too scared, but try to be jolly and encouraging, taking out toys and tasty titbits to take his mind off his worries. If the problem continues or begins to escalate, contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

Question: Jake is a 1-year-old GSD. We rescued him four months ago & he had been kept in a small kennel and we believe he had been beaten. He is great with the family, but would eat anyone else! He is very close to my husband, Billy, and behaves more aggressively when they are together. A behaviourist has been working with us for about four weeks now and there has been some progress. She is trying to lessen the bond between Billy and Jake, and teach Jake to accept new people more readily. Sometimes we seem to be winning with him, then suddenly he seems to go backwards. The behaviourist can only work with him when he is muzzled and says that we cannot rush things. What do you think?

Answer: Unfortunately, there is not quick way to overcome fears, especially those caused by lack of adequate socialisation or mistreatment during puppyhood.

Slow, but sure is the only way. You can expect little setbacks along the way, so don’t raise your hopes too high too quickly.

As long as you have made some progress at the end of each week, that is enough. Muzzles are necessary to start with to prevent injury, but your dog should never be pushed so far that he is forced to show aggression.

The only way to overcome fear-based aggression is to systematically desensitise Jake to the things he is scared of, pairing small amounts of concern with lots of pleasant experiences to help he realise that people are good news rather than bad.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding more about this behaviour.

Question: Why does my Lhasa Apso Butch tremble with fear when it’s raining or going to rain he tries to get into the car as if it is safer to be there than in the house he is 10 years old and otherwise in good health

Answer: Air pressure changes or the sounds and smells of rain on the air may trigger memories of scary experiences associated with bad weather. These can be anything from the loud bangs of a thunderstorm to the noise of heavy rain on conservatory roofs.

Usually these things are associated with being inside a house which is where the frightening experiences have taken place. This is why dogs try to get somewhere that they consider to be a safer place, such as inside a car or outside in the garden.

Getting advice from a behaviour counsellor on how to desensitise your dog to whatever it is he is afraid of will make him feel a lot better during bad weather.

This type of problem is common in older dogs who are beginning to slow down and become a bit more anxious about things generally.

Question: Every time I try to brush my Yorkshire terrier's tangled fur he goes for me, becomes very upset and shakes a lot. How do I solve this problem?

Answer: The hairs in their coat are usually fine and easily tangled and their skin very sensitive. So you probably frequently hurt him without realising. Since he cannot say ‘oi, that hurts!’, he has to put up with it until it gets too much. This is why he shakes – he will be anticipating the pain, be upset that he has to be aggressive with his friend, and probably also be worried that you will get cross too.

To overcome this, try to groom him little and often, perhaps 2-3 times a day for a few minutes. Be very gentle and hold the base of the hair firmly if you are teasing out a knot so that you don’t pull his skin. Do a very small patch at a time but keep the sessions going until you have groomed him all over.

Start with the easy bits first and gain his trust before you tackle the difficult bits. If he is very knotty, you may have to consider having him clipped out by a vet or groomer. Once this is done, it will be very easy for you to brush him and win his confidence.

The secret is patience and trying to imagine what it feels like to be him. You could also try bathing him with shampoo designed to prevent tangles in children’s hair or spraying on a coat conditioner that will make the hairs slip over each other more easily, making him easier to groom.

Question: We have had an assortment of dogs over the past 50-odd years, and for the first time we are baffled.

Cody, who is very dear to us is a ‘rescue’ Golden Retriever who is five years old. He’d obviously had some training, and is well behaved, friendly with people and other dogs, comes when called and good on the lead. When we got him eighteen months ago, he was terrified of men, but now he is my husbands loving companion and quite confident with male strangers.

His only problem so far is with the car. We got the impression he’d not been used to a car, and to begin with I always sat with him. Now he jumps in eagerly but he barks continuously. We have tried taking him straight out again and going off without him, but he’s not really bothered, as he never minds being left.

We have on occasions given him tablets from the vets, this had some effect, as has an herbal tranquilliser but we don’t like doing it, and it’s not the answer is it?

We have taken him on several caravan holidays. He loves the caravan and is perfectly behaved in it, but it makes the journeys hideous and exhausting.

We thought that with time he would get over it, but no! We live in the country and have to use the car a lot, and we want Cody with us. Please what else can we do?

Answer: It sounds as if you have worked hard to overcome his problems, and I can understand how journeys in your car have become so difficult. It seems that after Cody’s initial apprehension in the car you have successfully taught him to enjoy the benefits that car travel can bring and now it is likely that he barks in excited anticipation of things such as ‘going for a day trip’ or a ‘favourite walk’.

Repetitive barking that is not directed towards specific objects is usually a way of venting excitement, frustration or anxiety. As well as being excited about where you are going, it is possible that Cody is still a bit anxious about the motion of the car, but now has the confidence to ‘say’ so. His behaviour is also ultimately rewarded by arrival at the destination of your journey and all the fun that it brings.

To help you better prepare for the problems you are having, it would be a good idea to practice a few things away from the car. Dogs are better able to bark when they are standing and are less likely to bark when they are lying down. So begin by teaching Cody to lie down on a ‘special’ mat (this can be an old sheet or blanket big enough for him to settle on comfortably).

Once Cody has learned to lie on the mat patiently, start turning your back to him and the mat, and ask him to repeat the same behaviour. As the only time we usually show our backs to dogs is when they sit behind us in the car, it is not surprising we have difficulty communicating with them when we are not looking directly at them. Once this has been achieved, begin changing the location of the mat and start increasing the amount of time that Cody is asked to lie down. Each session should end with Cody being rewarded with something that makes his tail wag.

When you are ready to proceed always make sure Cody has been well exercised half an hour previously to any involvement with the car. Tired dogs are more likely to want to lie down and are less likely to bark in anticipation of exercise than energetic, unexercised dogs. As Cody’s main reason for barking would have already been satisfied, he will be less likely to exhibit the problem behaviour.

Place the mat in the back seat of your car, which should be stationary, and practice the same routine as previously mentioned, but this time you will be sitting in the passenger seat. Make sure he is comfortable and not in a position where he can roll or feel vulnerable when the car moves. When you are ready, progress to practising when the engine is running and then driving to the bottom of your road, stopping to encourage the ‘down’ again every time it is necessary.

Finally, double the amount of trips in your car, ensuring that more journeys result in the destination being less exciting than a trip to a walking place; for example a short drive around the block and coming straight back home. With the added ‘boring’ journeys Cody will become less excited by the prospect of a journey in your car, and more familiar with what is expected of him when he does travel.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Question: I hope you can help me? I have a 14-week-old Jack Russell pup. She was very nervous when I bought her from what I thought was a breeder, but when I arrived they seemed to have lots of different breeds all in separate pens. My pup was in a pen all on her own, and just sat there shaking. There were no parents of the puppies to be seen, but I fell in love with her and decided that I couldn’t leave her there. She was only 12 weeks! Now at 14 weeks she is bold as brass, especially in doors, and loves my children to bits.

My problem with her is that she wont walk on a lead at all, not even indoors. I’ve tried a choke chain, a harness, just calling her or offering her food, but she just sits there. I even tried putting her on an extendable lead but she still wont move.

I take her out in the car every day in the car to take my children to school, but even when I carry her to fetch my children out of class, she just shakes. She is a totally different dog when out of the house.

I don’t know if anything unpleasant has happened to her in the first 12 weeks of her life I hope you can give me some advice, I am desperate.

Answer: The environment in which your puppy was kept, before you collected her, sounded very poor and was probably an outlet for puppy farm breeders who are not fussy who they pass on their pups to. Sadly, this is unfortunately how life begins for so many young dogs at the hands of unscrupulous people who are in the puppy business just for the money. Without the essential benefits that a warm loving, safe environment can provide, puppies from these outlets adapt less well in their new homes, and find it more difficult to cope with any form, or level, of stress and fear.

This may have something to do with the high stress levels of their mothers while they were in the womb, or could be the result of poor conditions they were born into, or the panic and stress caused by being taken from the mother too soon and transported long distances. Often decent people like yourself are emotionally blackmailed into paying good money for these pathetic pups since they feel sorry for them, and so the cycle continues.

Good breeders will ensure that both mother and puppies are kept as stress-free as possible and will make sure that the puppies are exposed safely to a vast range of different experiences from between the ages of 3-12 weeks; commonly known as the socialising. The more the puppy learns about the world during this time the better it will be able to cope with day to day experiences in juvenile and adult life. It is likely that, in addition to all the fear and stress your puppy went through, she also missed out on adequate socialisation too.

Now that she has found herself a loving home with you and your family it sounds as if she is catching up quickly, as the phrase ‘bold as brass’ clearly illustrates. However, poorly socialised puppies have only a thin veneer of confidence and are okay with things that they have learned are safe, such as life at home, but become upset when placed in a situation that is new and unfamiliar.

I think the problem of her not walking on the lead may be connected with going outside. She has probably learned that wearing a lead means that she has no control over where she goes and that, when the lead is attached, you take her to places that scare her. If you tackle her fear of going outside, I think the lead problem will probably clear up quite easily.

The most important thing to remember while you are working with her is not to force her to do things that make her worry or shake. Watch her body language and stop when you see her tail and ears begin to go down. This also applies to when you are carrying her as she has no control over where you take her. Care must be taken not to overwhelm her. If she is shaking when you take her into the school to collect your children, it is a sure sign that she has become extremely distressed. A car ride followed by a visit to a school may just be too much. If you live near to the school it may be best leave her at home for a while until she is a bit more used to going out.

Try to concentrate on taking her to places that she enjoys and gradually build up to nosier and busier places. It may be that you have to start with getting her happy to be in the garden at first. Once she can cope with this, try walking her down the street, taking it at a pace that she can cope with. Produce tasty titbits and quick games along the way to make it fun and exciting, and be as ‘jolly’ as possible (rather than reassuring) to help her see that everything is okay. Don’t pull her on the lead. Use it as a security in case she runs off, but, otherwise, put no pressure on it at all.

At times when you are not tackling the problem of overcoming her fears outside, attach a lightweight lead to her collar and let it trail along the ground indoors. This will enable her to become familiar with the new sensation of what it is like to wear a lead. Make a list of five rewards that make her tail wag e.g. being fed a bowl of food or playing with a favourite toy. Her new lead should be attached to her collar one minute before each of these rewards are given, and then taken off when the reward session has finished. This will teach her to enjoy and look forward to having a lead clipped to her collar, as she will associate the line with happy and exciting things. When she is used to this, hold the end of the lead and lead her gently to each of the five rewards so that she gradually learns to accept being led in the direction in which you want her to go.

If you are not making progress, please get help from a good pet behaviourist as time lost during puppyhood is very difficult to make up later. Good luck with her. She is lucky to have found someone who cares so much after such a bad start.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: We have an 8 year old rescue dog that had previously been found roaming. He is obedient when in the house, but out in the open tends to be deaf to all commands. He is, therefore, mainly kept on a long lead.

Living in the New Forest, there are plenty of ponies about. He started by ignoring them, but I now oddly petrified of them and will bolt when off lead. The same happens when spotting people, even as a considerable distance.

He greets people happily when they call at the house. He is terrified of certain noises, for example, sneezes and coughs, but is okay with thunder. We have started giving him treats when passing a pony and we are trying to get him gradually nearer and nearer.

Answer: No many dogs are raised in places where ponies can wander freely and so it is unlikely that your dog had a chance to get used to them as a puppy. If dogs are not familiarised with things when young, it is easy for them to view them with suspicion when they meet them in later life.

If your dog was slightly concerned by their presence, it would only take a few encounters where something happened that caused him to be alarmed for him to form the opinion that they were not to be trusted.

This could be something that you may not of noticed, such as a pony close by snorting or sneezing, or suddenly appearing from behind a tree, or snapping a branch by stepping on it. Usually it takes about two or three scary encounters of this type for a fear to become established.

Once established, the fear could then easily become generalised to anything moving in the distance whether it is ponies or people walking. Sometimes, if the dog is in a particularly vulnerable state such as they are when they are adjusting to a new home, the fear can easily turn into a phobia.

In order to sort out the problem, it is important to know more about whatever it is that scares him. It is, for example, confined to ponies and people at a distance? Is he okay with either close up?

If you can give him treats when passing a pony, I suspect it is those in the distance that he is not happy with. It would be useful to do some tests with him to find out exactly what it is that he is frightened of. Is it ponies and people on the move? Ponies and people in woods? Is he okay with them if they are out in the open? Is it the noise of ponies snorting or sneezing that particularly scares him?

If we could find out exactly what it is that causes him to worry, we could begin to gradually desensitise him to it. This may mean using sound tapes played at home while something good is happening, for example, to desensitise him to sneezes, snorting and other startling noises. It may mean hiding family member in the woods who can appear and be recognised.

Or it may mean getting people with tame ponies who can be walked close by and then further away until he overcomes his fear. Problems like this are not always easy to deal with and you may need some professional advice to help you decide how to proceed.

Although he should be kept on a long line until he is cured, make sure he has a name tag on his collar and that he is microchipped – just in case he gets away from you and runs off in a panic.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: Our 11 year old border collie has always been afraid of loud noises, fireworks and gunshots, but the situation has become more profound. We moved house 4 years ago into a quiet village and she seems to have found the move disturbing. She has become terrified of vehicles reversing and unloading, rain on the roof and windows, wind blowing, and washing machines. When she is afraid she trembles and digs at walls, doors and has pulled a gate of its hinges. We have given her a secure dark space and tried homeopathy and herbalism, but nothing seems to work. We cannot leave her alone without her damaging herself. Even when we are at home, we are unable to help her. We have the constant worry that she will mange to escape one day. Do you have any advice?

Answer: As dogs get older, their fears intensify and increase as do ours as we age. In sensitive border collies, it is not uncommon for a concern about noise to develop into a full blown phobia in later life. Your dog’s problem seems to have been triggered by the move. We know that human phobias often develop after a physical or emotional trauma or upheaval, or when people are at a low ebb. Four years ago, she would have been seven, which, strangely, is a particularly common age for dogs to develop noise phobias. Whether their hearing changes slightly at that time or it is just that they are getting older, I don’t know, but I have heard of many dogs that develop such problems at this age.

If your dog was scared by loud noises when out on a walk, she may have become agoraphobic and wanted to stay in the house where she was safe. However, it seems as though her biggest scares happened when she was in the house and garden – hence her desire to get out of the house and run off. Once these problems have started and become so pronounced, it is normal for dogs to begin to generalise so that they become afraid of other loud and unusual sounds.

Since she is 11 years old, this problem will not be easy to treat, although if you are prepared to put in lots of effort, you should be able to make considerable progress. You may need help from a pet behaviour counsellor (contact The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) who will support you through the programme of treatment.

What is needed is a gradual desensitisation to the noises she is frightened of, especially the sudden onset noises such as gun shot, fireworks etc. You will need CD’s or tapes of these noises so that you can control the volume and they will need to be played at very low levels at first.

These noises will need to be associated with something pleasant, such as eating or playing. Later, when she is comfortable with taped noises, you will need to use real noises that are muffled and later, the real thing.

All this takes time, but it is very worthwhile, particularly as she is so distressed and is causing the family such distress. Fortunately for you, since she associates the noise and fear with your house, at least all of the treatment can be done in the comfort of your own home!

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: I am writing to ask advice about a situation with our Border Collie bitch who is eleven. She has always been afraid of loud noises, fireworks, gunshots etc but the situation has become more profound. We moved house 4 years ago into a quiet village, and she seems to have found the move disturbing. Most of the time there is little sound but sometimes there are gunshots, vehicles reversing and unloading etc, and she is terrified by these sounds.

Gradually the situation has developed and she now afraid of the rain on the roof and windows, wind blowing, washing machines, dishwashers and even someone building a stonewall. When she is afraid she trembles and tries to escape from the sound, this includes digging at walls, doors and even pulling gates off their hinges. We have tried to give her a secure dark space but she continues to try and escape, we have also tried homeopathy and herbal remedies but nothing seems to work.

She seems to spend the day in a sensitive, nervous way and we are finding the situation very difficult, as we cannot leave her alone with out her damaging herself, by trying to chew or dig her escape. Also we can’t ask someone to take care of her because of her desperate need to escape noise. Even when we are at home we are unable to help her and just have to restrain her by holding onto her lead until the fear passes.

I have heard of something called fear desensitising but don’t know how it would work, when I cannot control the sounds that occur. We really want to help her as we have the constant worry that she will manage to escape one day. Do you have any advice as to whether we can help her overcome her fears as I know we can not continue with the situation as it is, its just to stressful for everyone.

Answer: It must be a difficult time for both you and your dog and it is important that you do something to help her quickly. Since you explained that your dog has always been afraid of loud noises, it is likely that her problem has been exacerbated by a decrease in her sense of security due to your house move 4 years ago and her increasing age.

Familiarity is essential to the feeling of safety that we need to help face the worries of everyday life and middle-aged collie are especially sensitive to changes in their lives and surroundings. Dogs, like people, are less able to protect themselves as they get older, and become more fragile, and, consequently, get more concerned about their personal safety.

In addition, it seems as though your previous home was in a busier, more built up environment.

Loud noises usually occur more frequently in a more populated environment and blend in to the constant hussle-bussle going on outside. Your new home in the quiet village will be a direct contrast to this, and individual noises will be heard more clearly through the background silence.

We can all appreciate the fact that when watching scary movies at the cinema, it is the silence that creates the tension before the action (usually accompanied by a loud noise) that makes us jump out of our skins.

Border collies have exceptional hearing (necessary for hearing directions from shepherds a few fields away on a windy hillside). In the wild, it is natural and useful to be afraid of loud, unfamiliar noises and many puppies grow up without hearing enough loud sudden-onset noises, such as gunshot and fireworks, to get them used to them.

Usually, dogs learn get scared after two or three frightening experiences with loud noises and this quickly develops into a phobia where the response is out of all proportion to the degree of danger.

Dogs usually learn a set of associations that accompany the loud noises and, gradually, they can become frightened of these too. If your dog has mostly heard the loud noises in the house, she may associate them with being in the house and, when she hears something scary, her first thought is to leave the house. This causes her to create havoc trying to escape or to bolt if she is able to find an open door.

Over time, as the phobia develops, it is common for dogs to generalise to a wider selection of loud or unusual sounds, such as washing machines, or sounds that sometimes act as precursors of loud noises, such as strong winds.

Before you can start treating your dogs problem with loud noises, it is important to provide her with as much security and freedom from loud noises as possible, although I appreciate that this is not always easy in a world filled with noise. For the time being, try to provide her with company all the time from yourselves or from a relative or close friend if possible when you cannot be with her. This will provide you with a window of opportunity of reduced stress levels in which to attempt desensitising her to the loud noises that first frightened her (once she is no longer scared of these, her fear of other noises will diminish too).

To begin with, you will need a good recording of sudden-onset noises, including gunshot, thunder, fireworks and hot air balloons. BBC sound effects CD’s are a good source of good quality sounds like this.

Once you can control the level of sound that causes the fear, your dog will need to be exposed regularly to very low levels at first, and taught to anticipate a fun tail-wagging experience during this time. Set the volume control low – remember that their hearing is far more sensitive than ours is.

After a few seconds of the noise, play with your dog, feed a few tasty treats, give plenty of fuss and fun, or time the noise to coincide with the arrival of her dinner or the return of a family member. Do this as often as possible throughout the day and do not increase the noise level until the sound becomes associated with something positive and your dog’s tail starts to wag when she hears it.

Then, slowly, increase the sound, repeating the above after every increase. Once your dog is wagging her tail and getting excited when she hears the noise at a level that would be comfortably loud for us, use the recorded noise to overcome any fears that may result from real noises. If you can, control these noises so that she gradually gets used to them, and even begins to enjoy them.

Helping your dog to re-learn positive associations with specific noises at this stage can be complex.

If you do not make steady progress, seek professional assistance from a member of The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. They will provide you with the essential support and assistance that is difficult to give in a letter like this.

The important thing is that you need to persevere as it can take a few months, particularly in an older dog. However, it will be worth it in the end and you can both return to a more peaceful life.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Good luck!

Question: I have a two-year-old Westie bitch called Gemma, who has lived with me for five months. I knew little about her when she came from the RSPCA, but all the training she had had was toilet training. I also expect that she was kept inside, as she did not know that grass was safe to walk on!

Developmentally she seemed to be about six months old, so I have started her training and socialisation as if she were a puppy. She is coming on well and is gaining confidence, although she will always be rather cautious.

However I have been unable to sort out her fear of the bath. No dog really likes the bath, but when Gemma feels water or shampoo on her skin she screams. She hates the shower and using a sponge and baby bath hasn’t been successful.

She is small and near the ground, loves to roll in manure and has a skin allergy, so needs to be bathed regularly. Can you suggest any other ideas to make the experience less distressing for her?

Gemma came to me via the Westie breed rescue who were asked by the RSPCA to re-home her and her two companions. This was a contact that you gave me. Many thanks; she is helping heal the pain of loosing my two other dogs.

Answer: Poorly socialised dogs and puppies meet new situations with fear and apprehension, and always take time to trust and learn new things. I think your current strategy of re-socialising Gemma as if she were a young puppy is a very good one, and I’m sure the good progress you have made has been a result of this thoughtful approach.

Dogs that receive little or no contact or handling as puppies may not acclimatize fully to the sensation of leaving the ground when people pick them up. This can be a terrifying experience for an unsuspecting puppy which has only seen the world from the safety of ground level.

Unfortunately this is how many introductions to veterinary examining tables, grooming tables, baths and car travel are first made, and many undersocialised puppies are often in a fearful state when they are first exposed to these different experiences.

Being up high on a table or in a bath with a slippery floor and high sides may prevent your dog from coping with her fear as she would do naturally on the ground. If she is feeling venerable without the option of escape, her last resort will be to cry out desperately for you to rescue her.

It is also likely that due to her sensitive skin, previous baths may have been painful for her, or may even have caused irritation to her skin afterwards.

It would be a good idea for you to consult with your vet to make sure that any water to skin contact is not going to cause Gemma genuine pain and also to ask advice about finding a mild shampoo that may help her condition.

Remember, also, that dogs with sensitive skin may not be able to cope with a water temperature that is comfortable for us, so keep it on the cool side.

When helping her to overcome her fear of the bath, always keep in mind have slow your re-socialisation techniques have needed to be that you have used so successfully in the last 5 months. This will mean that you will need to stop bathing Gemma for a while if you want to get her over her fears completely.

Begin by playing with Gemma little and often in the bathroom using some of her favourite toys. This will help teach her that this area is a fun place to be rather than just a place for unpleasant experiences.

Once she is happy to come into the bathroom with a wagging tail, start placing her in a dry bath on a non-slip mat that she can dig her claws into and asking her to sit for a favourite titbit before lifting her out again to have another fun game with you.

Soon you will be able to build up the time that Gemma is sitting waiting in the bath and you should notice that she looks less stressed each time. When Gemma has become familiar with this routine, prepare a large jug of warm water in advance and place it beside the bath.

When Gemma is concentrating on getting to the tasty titbit held tightly in your closed fist, dip your other hand in to the warm water and then run it along Gemma’s back. Try to ignore any initial panic from Gemma, and wait for her to settle before proceeding.

Reward Gemma randomly with the tasty food so that you always hold her concentration. After a very small amount of this, wait until she is calm again and lift her out for a game with the toy.

Make sure that Gemma is hungry before you start each session. It may be best to pat Gemma dry with a warm towel rather than rub her down, as this will help avoid further irritating her skin.

Try to keep your attitude light-hearted during these sessions and make them fun for both of you. If your aim is not to get her bathed, but just to do the next stage in a planned desensitisation programme, you will be more relaxed and so will she.

In time, you should be able to drench Gemma in water using your hand while she is concentrating on the food, and, eventually, bath her properly. Meanwhile, try to keep her away from that manure!

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Question: Shotzee is a hunting dog who is kept in an outdoor/indoor kennel. Several months ago, he had a barking fit that lasted about two hours. These barking fits are now becoming more and more frequent and do not respond to anything my husband and I do for Shotzee. What could have caused these barking fits in an otherwise quiet and obedient dog?

Answer: I suspect that something has scared him sufficiently for him to try to seek protection from his owners. Barking that lasts for two hours is usually driven by anxiety, unless an ‘intruder’ is prowling for that length of time, and he would have been trying attract your attention in the hope that you would make him feel more safe.

What scared him is up to you to find out, but it could be a noise or someone or something that is worrying him. Usually, it takes one or two incidences with something scary to cause a dog to become anxious. Now that he is sensitized to it, a smaller amount of the stimulus will set him off. Each time, he will become more anxious, which is why the barking sessions are getting more frequent.

Generally, problems like this are accentuated by illness or old age. I would suggest a vet’s visit just to check that all is well.

I would also recommend that Shotzee comes into the house to sleep for a while so that he feels he has the protection of his ‘pack’. Failure to do this is likely to accentuate the problem and the problem will continue to get worse.

Once he has settled down and got his confidence back, he can be reintroduced to his kennel gradually, but you may have to desensitize him to his fear of the unknown thing first.

Question: Why is our golden retriever, Niki, so nervous of people both inside and outside our home?

Answer: The socialisation period for puppies is between the 3rd and 12th week of life.

During this time, puppies should meet and have pleasant encounters with many different types of people if they are think of everyone they meet as new friends.

Since this is such as short period of time and breeders are sometimes unaware of the importance of socialisation, many dogs grow up frightened and shy of anyone outside their immediate family.

It is more difficult to socialise an adult dog, but not impossible. Use toys and food to speed up the process and gradually get Niki accustomed to people.

Give her the freedom to approach in her own time and ask people not to stare at her or try to force contact on her, but instead to offer toys and food for attempts to approach.

If you need help with this, please contact the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: We got our rescue dog when he was about seven years old. We have had him for five years. He is very nervous and terrified of bangs, strangers, journeys in the car, my son's toys - basically anything out the ordinary.

Usually we cope well with this and it took months to successfully house train him. Occasionally in the past five years he has gone to the toilet (urine and faeces) in the house, this is usually due to him being scared.

However, since bonfire night he is now using the bedroom carpet as his toilet four to five evenings per week, despite there being no apparent triggers to scare him and him having been out for a walk/to the garden and performing when out. What can we do?

Answer: Poor dog. The reason for his fear is that he did not get enough exposure to everyday sounds, sights, smells and experiences as a very young puppy. He may also have had parents who passed on a reactive nature that is easily scared as well.

Consequently, he has a tough time living in our world, and it is no surprise that he finds firework night, and the time surrounding it, very stressful. It is likely that he heard a firework go off in the garden when he was out there one evening, and he probably used the carpet then because he was too afraid to go outside.

Once done, the scent will attract him back there as it now smells like a toilet to him and is much more convenient that asking to go outside. Also, although you say he is performing outside, he may not feel relaxed enough to go completely.

To try to overcome the problem, the first thing to do is clean up the area he has soiled very thoroughly with a solution of biological washing powder. Rinse and leave to dry, then rub the area over with surgical spirit (do a patch test first to make sure the dye won’t run).

Close the bedroom doors for a week to break the habit and then all should be well. Meanwhile, work on those fears.

Choose one thing that scares him and work out a way to reduce it so that it is only a little scary for him.

Then pair this with games with toys and treats so that he starts to enjoy himself instead of being worried.

Then gradually increase the thing he was worried about until he can cope easily. Then begin work on the next thing he is frightened of.

It’s not easy, and does take quite a time, but, from your dog’s point of view, it is well worth it. Gradually building his confidence in this way will make a great deal of difference to his life and he will also become an easier pet to live with.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & helping correct this behaviour.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Question: I have a 14 week old Jack Russell pup. She was very nervous when I brought her from what I though was a breeder but she just had pens of puppies all different breeds, my pup was in a pen on her own shaking, there were no parent dogs to be seen but I fell in love with her and couldn’t leave her there. She was 12 weeks old. She is now bold as brass indoors and loves my young children to bits.

My problem is she won’t walk on a lead at all, not even indoors. I’ve tried a choke chain, a harness, just calling her or offering food, but she just sits there. I’ve even tried an extendable, but she won’t move. I take her out in the car everyday to take the children to school, but even when I carry her to fetch my children out of class she just shakes. She is a totally different dog when out of the house. I don’t know if anything happen in her first 12 weeks but her inoculation card which was stamped at 11 weeks was stamped in County Cork, Ireland and I bought her in Kent. If I had known what sort of place it was before I went, I have gone elsewhere, but I couldn’t leave her there. I hope you can give me some advice. I would live to take her for a walk and I am due to start puppy classes in about 2 weeks.

Answer: From your description of how she came to you, it is likely that she came from a puppy farm (common in Ireland as well as Wales) as I’m sure you now probably realise.

Sadly, puppy farmed dogs usually have some form of neurosis which becomes apparent as they grow up. The stress of the mother affects these puppies before they are even born and this, together with being taken away from the mother too soon, followed by a long journey to the point of sale all take their toll.

It sounds as though she has developed a fear of the outside somewhere down the line. Perhaps she was kept inside until she was 11 weeks old and the first time she was taken out she was taken away from everything familiar and perhaps put in a vehicle to begin the long and terrifying journey to Kent.

We will never know for certain, but an experience like this can scar a puppy mentally for life. Luckily for her, she found you.

At least you haven’t tried to force her to confront her fears by dragging her down the street. If you had done so, this would have compounded the problem. I suspect that the reason she doesn’t want to walk on the lead inside is that she has quickly learned to associate it with going outside.

Firstly get her used to having a thin lead or a piece of cord permanently attached to her collar (take it off when you leave her and use a flat collar, never a choke chain). Pick up the lead occasionally and without tightening it, offer a tasty titbit or a game with a toy. Gradually gain her confidence until you can gently lead her around the house, keeping well away from the front door.

Once you have got her over her fear of being held on a lead, she needs to learn that going outside is fun rather than scary. This is more difficult and may take a considerable amount of time.

Play a little indoors and then while she is still keen, move closer to the open front door. Hold the lead but do not let it tighten. If she wants to move away from the door, then go with her, but try to work her back towards it gradually.

She needs to learn that playing in and around the doorway is fun and results in a good game and tasty titbits. Be jolly rather than sympathetic so she realises you feel there is no danger. Arrange for someone in the family to walk towards the house so that there is a reason for her to go out to greet them. Gradually, over many session, use this process to get her to go out of the door and away from the house.

The secret lies in not rushing this process, no matter how much you would like to take her out. Patience now will break her fear and teach her to trust you as well as teaching her that life can be safe outside.

Continue with this routine, trying for a little bit more each day but only going at a speed she can cope with, and you will make steady progress. If you live in a quiet road, expect progress to be set back when you encounter traffic, but work through this in the same way.

How long it takes will depend on her and have deep-rooted her fear is. The damage may be so great that she will always be anxious when out and you will have to keep her on a lead to stop her bolting for home when something scary happens. Hopefully, the damage may be less severe and she may recover completely if you take things slowly, encourage her, but let her make all the moves.

You may find other things in her life that make her worry, for example, the puppy classes. I hope not, but if you do, you will need to take the same practical approach to these, desensitising her slowly, letting her take her time, and using games and, later, responses to commands for titbits, to help take her mind off what is scaring her.

Please also see Training for Life (everyday life) easy & fun training classes you can do at home, including:
  • Audio tape of noises your dog must learn to be unafraid of
  • Video on how to raise a friendly, well balanced dog that can cope with everyday experiences in the modern world
  • Explanation of training using rewards, toilet training, learning to be alone, chewing, adolescence, setting boundaries and saying ‘no, solving behaviour problems, tricks, games and having fun.

Back to Dog Behaviour Problems


Click on a picture to learn more ->
Click on a picture to learn more ->
Training for Life - Puppy/Dog Training Classes in a box!
The Rescue Dog/ Adopt the Perfect Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
What is my dog thinking? by Gwen Bailey
What is my cat thinking? by Gwen Bailey
Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey