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Categories: Fear Aggression , Socializing Dogs

Q. My dog gets so hyped up and anxious around people that she loses all focus and doesn't follow commands. Do you think I should just not take her anywhere for a period of time and start over? I don’t know what else to do.
Hi Cindy,

I have an 8 month old spayed Doberman. I follow yours and Michael Ellis? videos for training, especially The Power of Training with Food.

Here is the problem. Sami doesn?t like people, acts very afraid or nervous and is uncontrollable when they approach when we walk at the track or in a store. She will not hold a sit or pay attention. I have used a variety of high value treats but she ignores them when she gets like this. She either sees them and then it is hackles up, sometimes barking, sometimes a very low growl or starts frantically jerking around on her lead to try to hide behind me. She sees people and starts jerking her head in all directions in a very nervous way. It almost seems like panic to me. At this point she shuts down and really doesn't seem to be able to listen to what I am saying or doing.

I have tried just walking past the people, continuing the training and talking to her while offering her rewards. She still will ignore me and act up.

I have tired moving off the track when I see a person coming and do some focus exercises but she still gets upset. When they are gone she is fine. When there is no one around she walks very well on leash with a lot of focus.

I took her to the vet to weigh her and she was a nervous wreck due to all the people around, I had them all ignore her. She was dancing around on the end of her lead looking frantic in all directions. The vet suggested that I put her on Ace when I take her out. I won?t do that but am telling you this to explain how nervous she gets. Once we were out of the building she was fine. In the waiting room, no people, she was calm and easy to handle.

I have taken her to 3 training classes, not for the training but for the exposure to different things, since I follow the training on the videos I have from Leerburg. I take her out 6 mornings a week to places like the track for a walk, Petsmart, Lowe?s and walk her in front of the grocery store. This past Saturday I took her to a farmers market so she could see people. All of this is with the intention of making her less afraid of people.

I started her on an e collar this week, the Dogtra 280ncp, but she completely ignores the vibrate.

We work on the focus training daily. All goes away when she gets hyped up.

She works very well when we are at home or when there aren?t any people around. Really good focus and does well with our training sessions. She is very high energy but is a nice dog with no other problems. Listens very well.

I am in favor of food rewards and would like to start using the e-collar for corrections for the behaviors she already knows.

I would love your advice on solving this issue. I plan to show her in competition obedience but if we don?t get past this it will be impossible.

Do you think I should just not take her anywhere for a period of time and start over? I don?t know what else to do. This problem isn't getting any better.

I have CHF and must walk daily and would really like to take her with me to the track.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for all the help you give me.

A. In my opinion, correcting a fearful 8 month old dog for not being attentive or responding isn’t fair. There is nothing wrong with conditioning her to the collar now, and using it in situations where she’s thinking clearly but I would not pair it with situations that make her worried.

You are pushing her into situations that she clearly can’t handle. Add to that her age, which can be challenging even for a dog without temperament issues. I had a very hard time getting Rush to pay attention in the face of slight distraction at that same age.

Walking a fearful dog past something that makes them worried is only going to push them farther into fear. You need to put distance between you and what she’s worried about. If you try to advance to fast, you will continue to push her into the wrong state of mind. You may need to be FAR away from the distraction at first, there is no quick fix for this.

I would also recommend this 3 part video series on fear periods in dogs, it explains how to condition the dog to things that make it nervous.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes


Loved the Michael Ellis fear information.
I will certainly change what I am doing.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.
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