Need help with spooked dog

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by vmama, Apr 23, 2008.

  1. vmama New Member

    Hi, I am new here, the training sections look fantastic and can’t wait to try some of the new tricks. I am having a problem and would like your opinions and suggestions for a solution. This is probably going to be long, sorry!

    I have a 2 year old Lab/Doberman cross that I rescued as a puppy at 4 months. She is a lovely girl, confident but very easily spooked. I have overcome her fears of many many things always by slowly introducing the objects (parked motorbikes, plastic bags, men etc etc) all with success. We started Agility in January at the only local club I could find (we are in Spain). She loves it and we have a great time.

    However, a couple weeks ago when we were practicing on the jumps I got the leash tangled on the frame and the jump fell over as she was jumping. We have to use the leash because the field the class is in is uncontained and there are horses in the pasture next to us and a very busy fast highway also very near. Her recall is good but she is prone to bolting for a fun romp about and the risk of the highway is not worth it. We had been doing ok on leash as my objective is for fun not to compete and I am promised that a fence will be installed sometime soon.

    Anyway, in my clumsiness I knocked over the jump and she was terrified. I did not make a fuss, we picked up the jump, I ignored her, and we tried to carry on. She will not jump now. She is terrified of the jumps, shuts down around them and will not even be lured over with a treat or toy. She is extremely food motivated normally. In fact she will not even accept a treat anywhere near the jump. I am so annoyed with my self for having done this.

    The instructor in the class and a couple other members that are dog knowledgeable are telling me to force her to jump…she is 100lbs and strong...not going to happen. They are telling me I must TELL her not ask her to jump. On approach she stops dead and then starts backing up and cowering. I think that I would be better going right back to the beginning and more basic by getting her comfortable around the frame with treats, maybe do some sits and downs nearby until she is at the point she will walk between the uprights, then progress to laying the bar on the ground and walking over to finally jumping again. Basically slowly build her confidence back up vs flooding her as it is making it worse.

    I would love to hear any feedback and suggestions. We have the class tomorrow and would really like to have a plan in my head that to try and need to know if I am thinking in the right direction. Obviously if we cannot over come this our agility days are over.

    Thanks for reading

  2. ella Well-Known Member


    where in Spain are you? I know some good trainers in Madrid.

    As you already wrote, I also would try to make her feel comfortable again. You did a good job with that in the past, so do it again.
    I would never ever force a dog who is so frightend. You could loose all of her confidence in you.

    I just can speak for myself, I alway aks my dogs to do something for me, and they usually do so. If they don't, they have a reason not do.

    Trust in your own good feeling.
  3. yoyopoodle Well-Known Member

    I agree with ella - I would never force something on a fearful dog, especially when the whole reason you are doing agility is for fun! 100 lbs of fear is not easy to deal with as it is, and force will only make her resist more.

    I was going to suggest just what you described in your last paragraph... go back to basics to regain her confidence :)
  4. marysia_p17 New Member

    I don't know if you use clicker training... but I find shaping as a very powerful tool in work with a dog, to say to the dog, that something is good :) I don't know how it really works, but if you shape interaction with something terryfing it stops beeing terryfing at all. Maybe because dog can chose pace of learning.
    So, if I were you I would take a clicker and shape doing a jump and I would start with a lowered jump of course. It could take a few days but it can be really worth doing.

    (My dog was terrified on the table in the vet consulting room. I shaped her jumping on the table, firstly at home, after it in my vet room, now she really enjoy beeing on the table when I only allow her jump on it :) Here is a second day of our work:
    She is not only example I know :))
  5. l_l_a New Member

    hi Vmama it sounds like you are doing a great job with your dog!

    I do not agree with your trainers who tell you that you should force her to jump, that will only ingrain her fear even more and lead to less cooperation from her.

    I think you should just do what you have done before with her previous fears (the ones she has now conquered) which is to just slowly introduce her to the jump all over again. I know it's frustrating because at one point she was fine with the jump and now she isn't so you may unconsciously be a little less patient with this jump than you were with her previous fear objects. But just try to treat it no different from her previous fears in how you approach it.

    you probably already know, but anyway try to use extra good food or her favorite games, to help her form positive associations with the object of her fear.

    The important thing is to let the dog set the pace. Don't try to get her to go nearer than she herself wants to, sometimes there is a tendency to think we are 'encouraging' the dog, and that she "should" be OK with it since not too long ago she was jumping it... whatever her threshold is, that's it for that session. she has to voluntarily go nearer and then find out that it's really OK after all, or even good (because she gets great treats and other fun stuff), using a clicker here like Marysia said, can really help a lot with this.

    So I would simply go at her pace. In the meantime perhaps in agility class just refrain from going near the jump, you can still do the other obstacles but hold off on the jump until you can spend extra time conditioning her to get over her fear of it in separate sessions.
  6. leema New Member

    I was also going to suggest shaping your dog, so rewarding your dog for getting closer/looking at/approaching the jump and working from there. Do you have a jump at home? If not, perhaps you can ask to have a jump set up for just you and your dog at agility classes for you to work on by yourself while others are doing jumps and your trying to rebuild her confidence. :)

    I don't think any force is going to bring her confidence back with a jump.
  7. vmama New Member

    Thank you to everyone who responded. I have started with a clicker recently for teaching tricks but had not thought of using it for this, good idea thank you!

    I am down south near Gibraltar. I do like the trainer normally, she just seems to me off track on this problem.

    It is a hot day here today and the class is in an open field this afternoon so I think I will skip todays class and go Saturday morning instead. She doesn't handle heat well so no point going if I am not going to have her attention.

    I do think that I was showing a little frustration with her at the last class. I was trying to stay relaxed and cheerful but know that I was stressed about it. I suspect she was picking up on that too.

    I don't have a jump at home but am racking my brain to think if there is something here i can fashion one out of, maybe i will go buy some PVC tubing and make myself one. It is easier to work with her without the rest of the class watching and waiting their turn, plus home is always more relaxed for her and me. Do you think it will matter if the jump looks totally different from class? I wonder if she would still fear the class jump as that is what fell over.

    I will let you know how we do. Thank you again for the suggestions and support. :dogsmile:
  8. marysia_p17 New Member

    I think it's a good idea to try at home. Making jump from pcv is easy, you can find some drafts about how to do this (I know it's in polish, but pictures are international ;) probably you can find similar pictures on some english websites).
    I also use (I'm not sure about the word...) pickets, with are normally use for making a fence for horses. You can see it here: [media][/media]

    I think also that if you do a good work with your dog at home it will goes much much easier on "real" obstacles. It doesn't matter that it looks different.

    Maybe you could borrow one jump from your club? You can start on home-made jump, after it works on "normal" jump at home, and finally - on "normal" jumps in club :)

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