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Agoraphobic male Shiba
  • I feel my dog is really agoraphobic. As a puppy (and still today), my husband and I tried to socialize him as much as possible. For the first 3 years of his life we lived in a town center, so we would literally walk out the building's front door and be in the middle of shops, restaurants, etc. and tons of people all the time. As a puppy, we would attract large crowds of all ages, especially children who would line up to pet him. As our dog got older, like 6 months, and the more we socialized him, the worse he got. During the winter they had an ice rink in the town center and our dog couldn't stand waiting out by it while we just people watched. He was completely freaked out.

    When in public, and even at home a lot, if there are people just out and about, my dog freaks out, shaking excessively, crying some times, and has even "pooped" himself a few times depending on the situation. He seems to have severe social anxiety which only got worse with the more socializing we did.

    The other problem is whenever we have people over, and they've never met, my dog howls/barks non-stop for the first 15 minutes. He won't attack, just "verbally". And God forbid the UPS guy rings the bell and leaves a package on the doorstep, or the pest guy goes around the outside of the house. My dog just freaks out.

    He is fairly good with other dogs, and seems to have the opposite problem, a little too cocky. Loves big dogs.

    Trying to get my shiba a little more "normal", at least not so ridiculously scared about people. He came straight from the breeder at 9 weeks, is a ball of fire. No abuse, but you sure would think so with the way he acts!

    Suggestions on the first step in fixing him?

    [mod edit: re-categorized due to addition of new category]
    Post edited by sunyata at 2013-06-06 15:32:28
  • It sounds like your dog was traumatized by something during the socialization process and you maybe weren't aware of it. If this occurs during a formative development phase it can have a lasting impact. It may be the dog was not really comfortable in an open environment to begin with. Also inherently he/she just may not have an outgoing personality, it is hard to say not knowing your dog personally. Shibas are all different though, and some are shy even if they are exuberant as puppies.

    The reality is, at this point down the road (2.5 yrs later) you may be able to ease some anxiety but you really can't make a dog that does not care for strangers fully like them. Forcing a dog to interact when they do not want to or it is not mentally ready to is extremely stressful, hence you see all sorts of residual side effects.

    I would consult with a training specialist to help you so that you can work together to maybe ease the problem in a humane fashion appropriate for your particular case. The behavior most likely will be something you will have to learn to manage, and understand that you many not necessarily be able to eradicate the fear fully. Patience and kindness go a long way with a good trainer however.

    If you are here in the U.S. I would take a look for a trainer at the link http://www.trulydogfriendly.com/blog/?page_id=4
    Also on this forum is a book section and I would search the list for ones related to shy dogs.

    Good luck
    Snf
    Post edited by StaticNfuzz at 2009-12-23 02:08:33
  • ljowen123ljowen123
    Posts: 3105
    Post edited by JessicaRabbit at 2009-12-23 10:33:59
  • "Stress in Dogs" by Marisa Scholz and Clarisa von Reinhardt is the book you should read first. It's at Dogwise. Then go into your Pat Millers, Ali Browns, Nicole WIlde and so forth.

    This book helped me see that all that I did to "socialize," enrich and exercise my boy actually overwhelmed him, because he was NEVER the type to love that stuff to begin with and I thought all puppies were very shapeable. Daily off leash dog field, 360 days a year for an hour and a half- heaven to Reilly, horror to Sage. Reilly coudl keep going and enjoying this now (she did for 5 years, 360 days a year, not kidding- and she thrived), but in the 8 months or so that I brought Sage, he has met enough new dogs for two lifetimes, and he hates car rides (most of the time) and is not comfortable going most new places. The same program for both dogs, but they are different people- if you will. Sage is not a fan of dogs, but loves people, but hates going places. He loves guests to our home and playing in the yard.

    Caution about reading books about fearful dogs, however: you must balance your WISH that you can fix it against your dog really just wanting to be left out of it all. I have all these books, and I very much got caught up in trying everything possible to fix Sage (I still slip into it) training and teaching and medicating and classes and diets, and more books- and I think all that allows us to be a little bit better than he might have been BUT working on it is really just torturing him, and trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. And every book tells you HOW to work on it, but none of them tell you when to bother and whos best interest is at hand in the effort. They don't tell you the joy of finding or constructing a square hole. It was sad to ME to give up the Field scene, and group agility classes but I had to once I realized how much he sincerely is emotionally, mentally, chemically, physically tormented by those scenes, I had to follow HIM and do what HE is comfortable with.

    ITs like having a child who would rather stay home and play legos with you, or his best friend down the road, and allowing that for him or saying he doesnt get out enough, how can I get him to enjoy little league and scouts and programs at the library so he can be a well rounded child and a member of the community? Rediscover who the dog is as a person and accept him that way. DO work on changing the association with the UPS guy (ours leaves biscuits and brings orders of dog toys we placed- even my scaredy dog loves UPS and the mail carrier because those things = something great), DO work on guests at your house, but spare your pup the social outings if it causes him so much stress.

    If he's so upset he poops, you are asking far too much of him. Been there with Sage, I understand.

    And, I totally understand as the owner of one of these dogs myself- how you beat yourself up and feel like things shouldnt be this way and what did I do, what am i doing wrong, and how bad you want to share your dog with all these people. How much everything tells you "Dogs Need Socialization and Exercise! Too much is never Enough! Socialize, Socialize socialize and then when you think youve done enough, do it some more." I think perspective is DEFINITELY missing in the literature and culture. Every magazine tv show etc tells you HOW to repair something with your dog, and they arent WRONG, but there is no disclaimer saying "this advice is for social types who need help getting over a hump" or "it is not actually natural for most adult canids to enjoy making new playmates and welcoming strange dogs."

    Overwhelming a sensitive-by-nature dog is detrimental, and you must learn to honestly read your individual dog and believe him at the earliest signs of discomfort. Read Turid Ruugaas "Calming Signals" to find out what these are. Young puppies learning about their environment are what most people are talking about when they talk about socialization, exposing them to a Variety of new things in a calm and positive fashion and not over coddling them when they are timid. Socialization should be safe and controlled, NOT overwhelming. Once their socialization window has closed, that clay pot is fired, and you can paint it, but continuing to try to reshape it's basic form only causes it damage.

    It is OKAY to have a best friend who likes to stay home and read and has a few favorite friends, be they people friends or dog frineds. Those are great dogs too, despite what the world is presenting to you- that "if you are a smart kind good dog owner and raise your pup right, your dog can enjoy going places with you, and doing things, livng a full life" I had to STOP reading the dog-life "Bark" magazine becasue I felt I was just rubbing my own face in it- all the things Sage "can't do"- but really its "Sage woudl hate that. Sage is glad I dont make him do that. If he coudl read this magazine, he'd say Mom, Go God, PLEASE, No! Put down the magazine, pick up the frisbee and meet me in our fenced yard! THAT is fun- a walk to the dog beach with a stop at a cafe is NOT!" It is HARD to take yourself out of the game. There are several of us here who have dogs whos idea of hell is meeting new 25 friends at a dog park, or walking in the city center with cars and so much going on, or taking an agility class and getting stared at by border collies waiting for their turn to show off. It really helps to know we're out there. :)

    Its just the way some dogs are, and we love them to bits anyway and can meet them in that place. Its not all about what WE want for them, but how well we can our selves to their real selves a craft the relationship together. You can do this for your guy! :)

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