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Thread: Training a Fearful Puppy

  1. #1

    Default Training a Fearful Puppy

    Hiya all. My first post here, and I'm wondering if anyone could give me a bit of help.

    I recently moved to Australia to live for a year. My family here keeps pure bred Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and breeds them, too. Towards the end of last year, their current pair (both beautiful and with the best temperaments you could ask for in a dog) bred and produced a lovely, healthy litter of... I think it was seven pups. Well, they sold all of them on except for one, because they'd wanted a blue female.

    Now she's about four or five months old, and I'm here, I've gained responsibility for walking her and what-have-you. She has a nasty habit of running willy-nilly across roads however, which is a culture shock for me since my last dog (a 17-y/o mutt who died a couple of years ago) wouldn't think of breathing without my say-so, bless his paws.

    Anyway, this brings me to the point that I'm now training this puppy who has never been trained before, and who needs to learn if she's ever going to be allowed off the leash.

    I've been doing basic with her (sit, stay, come, lay) for the last few days, and she is responding well to it, but I've noticed that she is very fearful of me when I issue the commands. I'm not sure why she ends up with her tail tucked, cowering, ears back and shaking within ten minutes. The training is like this:

    Sit: Treat above head, sometimes nudging her back end down. Pause 5 seconds, puppy sits still. Give treat and fuss.
    Down: Treat above head, gently push her back to encourage her to lay. Pause 10 seconds. Give treat and fuss.
    Stay: Treat in hand. Tell puppy to sit, then STAY. I walk a few metres and pause for 5 seconds. I then return and give treat/fuss.
    Come: Tell puppy to STAY. Walk a few metres away, pause for 5 seconds, then call her name (I want her to come to her name because that's how the family calls her). When she comes, give treat/fuss.

    I raise my voice, but only to be clear, and I'm not rough when I am manoeuvring her into a sitting or laying position, which she has started to do those herself anyway. I do the training in a long corridor with no distractions, because mum and dad get in my way and hers if I try it outside on the yard.

    As I said, she is responding well to the training (which surprised me; I've not trained a dog in over a decade), but she ends up a shivering wreck within the space of ten minutes, which is when I call it quits and lead her back outside.

    Is there anything I can do to make her more confident and less scared of me when we're training?

    (Something that might be worth mentioning is that she spends all her time with mum and dad, and I wonder if she gets anxious when I remove her from them.)
    Last edited by Laraise; 03-17-2012 at 04:30 PM.

  2. #2


    Why does she need to be let off the leash in any environment where she could come to serious physical harm like near a road?

    It sounds like she is lacking confidence on her own anyway. It would be better to walk her and train her on lead, even at home, as having her on lead causes you to be calm and confident in what you're doing with her, and that transfers to her.

    Example, if she is doing well on lead and you let her off to walk with you, she darts out onto a road and you (understandably) have to either recall her in a less than calm manner, or worse, chase her to save her, you have increased her nervousness. Probably your own heart rate too!

    If she is getting worked up over training, just walk her. Walking out helps to relax her, and you can throw in a random sit or stay etc every now and then in a much lower pressure sort of environment and manner.

  3. #3


    Why does she need to be let off the leash in any environment where she could come to serious physical harm like near a road?
    I wish I could convince the owners not to do this, but it's the only way the dogs 'get a good run', and I haven't been able to persuade them that the risks aren't worth it. The only option I have is to train her and hope it's enough if push comes to shove.

    Thanks for the advice. I have been training at home exclusively so far. I will give the leash training a shot, and report back with how she's responding to it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011


    In that case I would do more work on the recall in a less formal setting. This may help with his confidence too. Just call him whenever you can at home and outside. Give him a treat and praise then let him go back to what he was doing. Do this as often as you can. Start with calling him when he is already coming towards you. Then progress to calling him in all sorts of situations with distractions, but always let him go back to what he was doing after he has come to you for the treat. It's how I trained my dog's recall and after 6 months she will stop dead when I call her if she runs towards a road - or a kangaroo!

    Do you know if the owners have treated the dog inconsistently? I once trained a Jack Russel who I knew was being treated quite badly by her owners. They would yell at and threaten her for things she had done hours before, etc. Probably called her to punish her too and just treated her very inconsistently. The result was that the dog did not seem to understand praise at all. I think my training methods were quite rough and I wouldn't recommend them now (though they kind of worked and she did become a much happier dog - and her owners came round in the end too).

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