I want to regester Clue as a therapy dog once he is old enough, he's really great with people for the most part, however he gets spooked!

I took him to the dog park the other day and there was a family with their young kids. It was cold, so their little boy was bundled up in a heavy jacket and hood. I think it was the jacket that freaked him out because he just went crazy. He was barking at he poor kid, running up to him with his fur raised then running away. I alpha trained him, told him no, then showed him the kid was alright. He seemed okay after that.

Another example, yesterday I took him for a walk. i live next to a high school so there are teens running around all the time. Well yesterday we were on our way home when a woman with two kids in the special ed program were walking. The two kids were pretty loud and I guess Clue just hasn't seen a person behave that way. Any way, he would stop, stare then walk next to me, stop stare, then walk next to me until we got to the kids. They were excited to see clue and one of the kids shreaked. I couldn't tell if Clue was spooked, or excited but he started spinning circles then ran a head of me, yanking his leash, then turned and tried to run after the kids, again yanking his leash then he tugged all the way back home.


I don't know what to do really to help him stay calm around things he is not familar with.

Anyone have any trainning tips?

Views: 234

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'd look into taking some classes that focus on obedience, preparing for therapy work or even just his CGC. They do require you to pass a test to do therapy work (as far as I know) so you'd really have to work on exposing him to a lot of new things. You can try working on counter conditioning and desensitization for the things he gets worked up about: http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/14/Desensitization-and-Counte... Has he been around walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, etc? He also needs a really solid "leave it" because if someone dropped a pill on the floor you wouldn't want him snatching it up.


I'm not sure what you mean by you "alpha trained him"?

Clue sounds a lot like my Pazu.  My Pazu is easily spooked, but he's improved immensely (and agility has helped a lot with that too).  I am not sure what you mean by alpha training him, but if you mean by rolling him over, I don't think that's a good idea.   Clue sounds like he's barking because he's afraid, not because he needs dominance training.  I usually keep a pocketful of treats in my pocket for instances where Pazu will bark at something.  Pazu's fearful body posture when he barks looks as if he's bracing himself in case the thing he's afraid of runs towards him.  In those instances, if it's an unmoving object, I will put a yummy treat on the floor near it.  Pazu will sniff and step a foot towards it - his head low, his tail nub down.  Then I will put another treat on the floor again closer this time... until Pazu has reached whatever he's afraid of and given a good sniff.  Then we move away from it and move towards it again and again getting a treat. Sometimes it's a stationary balloon or a large machine that makes funny sounds or something.


Now in the case of moving objects or moving kids, you can't do that.  Make sure Clue has good bite inhibition if he's prone to nipping and the kids are shrieking and running towards him.  If you have a park, I would recommend hanging out far from where moving children are but where Clue can still see/sense but not react and asking Clue to sit or down.  Then reward Clue.  Do this numerous times. Also pair this up with a good "leave it" command.  Again do this closer and closer until Clue is within the vicinity of moving children and doesn't feel a need to race ahead of you and yank the leash and chase after the kids.  If he's already yanking, he is already too close to the stimuli. 


As a puppy, I often took Pazu to our local park where there were multiple soccer games going on - lots of moving children and moving balls.  Now he can comfortably sit and watch the game. :)

I just checked your profile.  Is Clue still a puppy?   If so, then you can continue to expose him to lots of new situations and people and activities, and reward him calmly but happily for being good. Never, ever, ever punish him for being nervous.  Carry little treats, talk to him happily and pop him some treats for acting nicely.   You can't even test for therapy dog til he's at least a year old, so you have plenty of time (and very few dogs are ready for being therapy dogs at 1 year).

I want to stress, though, that being a therapy dog is asking a lot of dogs.  We are asking them to basically be calm and well behaved in noisy, busy, stressful situations where people don't always behave around dogs as they should.  The majority of dogs are not good therapy dog candidates.  I would say one of the main requirements is a bomb-proof dog who is not prone to being spooky when the unexpected happens.   The unexpected is to be expected in therapy work.  I have had people grab my dog and not let go (once by the neck).  People in nursing homes move strangely (from a dog's point of view) and have big equipment and make strange noises.  Kids move erratically and sometimes get scared or excited and shriek.  Kids might pat your dog right in the eyes or, conversely, scream and run.  Adults in group living situations might be the size of adults but behave like much younger children.  The list goes on.  Do make sure you are finding activities for your dog based on the dog's strengths.   An ideal therapy dog will politely and calmly walk away from situations that he feels put him at risk, look to his handler for assistance, and tolerate a wide range of behaviors that we would not consider "proper" behavior around dogs. 

There are CGC and therapy dog classes out there that can help.   I would not dream of trying to pass a therapy dog test without a class.   Be prepared though that only a small percent of dogs who do well in basic obedience are of the ideal personality for therapy work.  

Yeesh. Being a therapy dog sounds harder than being John McClane on Christmas Eve. At least I know that Ace will probably never be cut out to be one - there's no way he could develop an iron-clad will to an overload of stress stimuli. Are therapy dogs usually one type of breed or another? I'm sort of envisioning a mellow Labrador wearing a therapy jacket as I type this out.

Many labs are just too bouncy when young but good when older.  You really see all breeds, but lots of Golden Retrievers.   A fair number of bully breeds (boxers, bulldogs) because they tend to be pretty easy-going with people once they've had some basic obedience training.  Lots of shelties.  A fair number of setters.   I've seen mutts and some breeds that you would not expect.   Basically a steady, confident dog is the key.  There was a sheltie in one of my classes who was friendly, sweet, and beautifully trained but he was a bit sound-sensitive and spooked in the test when they dropped a metal tray behind him.  And so he failed.  (The dog is allowed to startle but not run or panic).

Alright. I didn't know there would be so many shelties - I find them to be pretty yappy, hyperactive dogs but I suppose that's because many owners here just take them on for their small size and collie looks, without actually exercising them.

By the way, every dog has some things that scare him.    Jack is a certified therapy dog and great with just about everything (big people, small people, screeching kids, people in hats, people with equipment, etc).   However, he got the pants scared off him by a guy in a Santa suit. He was fine from behind, but when "Santa" turned around and Jack saw the beard, he was out of there.  Similarly, when he was a puppy he hated anything with wheels (bikes, strollers, skate boards).  I used desensitization to get him used to that.    His response to being scared, though, was to high-tail it out of there.   So I would not be at all concerned that people in big coats and kids behaving strangely spook him, especially not at his age.    What I would watch is how he handles the things that spook him.   He may very well outgrow this behavior.   If he continues to want to bark and chase the things that scare him, once he reaches adulthood, then you may find he does not enjoy the type of activities involved in therapy work.  If he matures into an adult who handles scary situations more calmly, he may like it.  Good luck!

Rebecca, how old is your pup? Your profile says he was born  08-11 and that you got him in Sptember at 9 weeks old, so it does not add up.  Age does make a big difference in pups. Also what exactly do you mean when you say "I alpha trained him"? Some of these techniques spell real trouble with dogs, especially with pups.

Clue was born on 08-11, all his paper work says that. 

I honestly don't remember the exact date I got him though. I think it was the last week of September, so he was about eight weeks then. He was a pretty big pup though. 

Alpha training is just simply rolling him on his back and holding him there. I never hit him in any way. He's very well behaved, doesn't have any behavoral problems other than typical puppy stuff. Loves people. 

 I'm just trying to train him while he is young. I'm in no rush, just something I would love to do in the future. 

Thank you everyone for your advice. 

This is one reason I hate Caesar Milan, the belief that rolling a dog on its back is a good idea. You should NEVER roll a dog on his back, especially when he is scared. A maneuver like that should be left to the professionals, and in fact if you ever watch professionals (besides Caesar) you will almost NEVER see a trainer do this. Basically by correcting him in this way you are punishing him for showing fear, which in essence is just going to make that fear stronger. You should do as some other posters have suggested and use reward based training to help him develop confidence and not use punishment because you will get NOWHERE doing that (and rolling him on his back is a form of punishment). An obedience class at this point would be excellent to teach you and him some basic skills and help him with socialization. Take him all over the place to different strange situations and encourage him to investigate scary things with lots of praise and treats. The key is building his confidence in himself and in you as his leader. 

Agree with Melissa, the bond that needs to develop between dog and owner is one of trust, love and mutual respect.  Dominance is not shown by physically being able to roll a dog over (this is crude), but by genuinely being in a position to take the leading role in the dog-person relationship through knowledge and understanding, caring and a sense of responsibility, love and consistency.  Rolling a dog over is easy, the rest takes years of applying oneself.  I am sure you are well intended, but somehow got pointed in the wrong direction.   You will find that a class with a trainer who employs positive methods will be a more rewarding experience for the both of you.

I agree with the other posters, don't roll him over, especially when he's scared. It's probably having exactly the opposite effect you were hoping for. He should be able to look to you for stability and reassurance, not be afraid he's going to be rolled onto his back and made totally vulnerable whenever something frightens him. Rolling him is basically punishing him for being afraid, which will make him even more wary of that scary thing next time. Definitely enroll him in a positive based training class; as others have said therapy work can be very difficult for the dog and he will most likely need a lot of professional training before he can pass the test.


I'd also start carrying a treat pouch and if he starts to get spooked by something, immediately get his attention and start feeding him treats. You want him to associate the scary thing with something wonderful happening: cheese, chicken, etc. If he's too worked up to even take a treat, then you need to just remove him from the situation and try again when there's more distance between him and the scary thing. If there's a kid he's wary of you can see if the child will toss him a few treats (with the parent's permission).


Rescue Store

Stay Connected


FDA Recall

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Recall

We support...



© 2023   Created by Sam Tsang.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report a boo boo  |  Terms of Service