Puppy Boot Camp – Arthur GSD and His Fear

A German shepherd is a dog that should not fear anything; least of all little kids. When Arthur came to me about a month ago he was riddled with issues. He was terrified of moving vehicles: Being around them, being in them, even the sound of them. He was afraid of people wearing hats. He had no interest in coming when called. He piddled on himself incessantly. He was terrified, and he was miserable.

The past month has involved a very regulated schedule; crate time to teach him to hold his bladder. Outdoor time to teach him the appropriate place to relieve himself. Training time to teach him how to pay attention and give him confidence.

Sitting in heel position.

My other dogs helped a lot in teaching him how the home routine works. Nobody HERE pees in the house. Everyone HERE comes when I call. The dogs, especially my border collie Til, have set a stellar example of how dogs act. They didn’t always appreciate having to teach a boisterous, oversized, lop-eared puppy how to behave. He required so much correction! But they do it, because that’s how a pack works.

I like to think back on our progress, because it gives me encouragement moving forward. I am very concerned about Arthur’s fear of children. It is just not a good thing to have a dog that will potentially be 100 pounds, behaving fearfully around kids that can’t even reach the tops of his ears. It’s just the little ones he reacts to. He’s okay with teenagers. He is finally pretty much okay with people in hats. He leans against them for petting and sits on their feet. He is a big baby. I want to get him to the point of huggable even for the little ones.

Today, while we worked on heeling at attention, sits and stays in the farm store, a couple of little kids came in with their parents and Arthur tuned in immediately. He heard their voices and his whole demeanor changed so visibly that the little girls’ father wisely told them, with no prompting from me, “Do not approach that dog, he is afraid of you.”

Arthur did resort to his old go-to of barking the alarm at the kids as we walked up an adjoining aisle. He could see them through the spaces in the shelves that separated us. I kept walking. I had some high value treats and just resorted to simple attention exercises. Sit. Make eye contact. Heel. Step over this way. Come around. Stay. Good boy.

Once I had him a little bit grounded I put him on a down and asked him to stay. He did stay put, even though the evil children were only a few yards away.

As the family shopped, I stayed in their orbit with Arthur, encouraging him to keep up the good work and just ignore the fact that they were there. When they approached the checkout, so did we. I had Arthur sitting at heel when the last child walked right by him and out the door. She was involved in her own stuff and seemed not to notice him. Big win for him.

He survived the encounter, but we need to see a lot more kids.

His sit-stay, however, is coming along great!

About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
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