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Leerburg Dog Training Q&A Archive Q&A on Soft Dogs (Weak Nerves)

Q&A on Soft Dogs (Weak Nerves)

Q&A on Soft Dogs (Weak Nerves)

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german shepherd dog

I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

  1. Since I have moved into an apartment, my dog has lost its self-confidence. How can I help her re-gain self-confidence?

  2. I bought a puppy from another breeder and I think I made a mistake. Can you tell me if I should return the puppy?

  3. Can you ever trust a weak nerved dog?

  4. My 5 month old Husky/ Shepherd cross seems to be afraid of my husband when I am not around. What can we do to get her to like him?

  5. I accidentally shut the car door on my dog's tail and now we're having problems with him getting back in the car. What should I do?

  6. I'm trying to socialize my pup, what signs should I be looking for to tell me that she has had enough exposure to noise, people, etc?

  7. My nervous dog won't take a treat, no matter what it is, making it really hard to train. What can I do so that he will take treats?

  8. My daughter's pup recently became very fearful of everyone and everything sense something happened at my daughter's work. How do you suggest we make him feel better and get past this?

  9. I have read about submissive urination and it doesn't seem to be very common in adult males. Am I wrong here? My main question that I wanted to ask you was whether I should have this dog neutered.

  10. When our pup was 5-6 months old on a visit to the vet had a traumatic experience with a stranger. Is there anything we can do to help him? Or is this going to haunt him forever?

  11. My Corgi had and incident with my fiance and he evacuated his bowels, his bladder, and his anal glands onto the tile floor and I have a few questions about what happened.

  12. I have a 2 year old Border Collie mix rescue that is extremely nervous and fearful.  I got her at one year old, and have been working with her for the entire year we've had her. Any advice?

  13. I've been training my dog in schutzhund, but she is terrified of the starter pistol noise. What would you suggest I do to turn this around?


Hi, you have a FANTASTIC website! I suspect the answers to my questions are available on your website. However, I haven't been able to locate them yet, but if you could point me in the right direction I'd be very grateful. I have a 3 1/2yr old female GSD (DDR bloodlines). As a pup she was very self-confident, over the past 2 years I feel her self-confidence has gone. I know it's my fault... 2 years ago I had to sell my house, since then we have lived in a little apartment which is part of a 4-apartment house. So there's all the stress of living in a situation that is not suited to a dog... no barking in the building, there is no yard for her to go in - EVERY time she needs to go out to the bathroom, etc., we drive over to the Town Garage where there is a huge field. She is VERY friendly to people she knows when in familiar surroundings, but if we go to someone's house that she doesn't know and I take her out of the truck to meet them, half the time she tucks her tail, trembles, and tries to slink back into my vehicle. She's not in least bit aggressive in these situations. My reaction was just to hold her and talk to her calmly and then let her get back in the vehicle within a minute or two. Seeing how it upsets her I try to avoid these situations, but realize that is not dealing with the issue. I know our living situation is a big problem, and I am trying to find somewhere more suitable, but also I strongly feel a key factor in my dog’s reaction is due to a TERRIBLE experience at the vet's office she had last summer... needless to say I will NEVER allow that vet to touch any dog of mine ever again! I want to help my dog re-gain her self-confidence, but am not sure how to.

My second question you'll probably wonder if I'm talking about the same dog... as a young adolescent she & I were attacked/chased by loose neighborhood dogs when we were out walking on several occasions. Result, my dog is very aggressive if she sees another dog when we are out walking. So I tried having her sit quietly to the side of the trail when a leashed dog would walk past... she was getting the hang of it and sitting very quietly, just watching the other dog. I was thrilled! Then a few days later, some idiot with a loose dog comes charging and barking at us ferociously. I feel like shooting these irresponsible people! (Of course my reaction just makes it worse!) All this work I was doing with my dog was in parks that stipulated dogs had to be on a leash - so much for enforcement. Since then I have resigned myself to avoiding, as best I can, situations were my dog & I will encounter other dogs. I feel this isn't fair to her, that again it is just avoiding the problem, there must be something I can do? Lastly, regarding prong collars, wouldn't using a small prong collar with extra prongs (links) be more effective on a dog then using a collar with bigger prongs therefore less actual number of prongs (links)? Looking forward to any insight or suggestions you can share.

Thank you so much for your time,


Sounds like your dog has weak nerves. I write about this on my site. This has nothing to do with your new home. If a dog had good genetics and good nerves it would adjust. Many many many DDR dogs are very very soft. I was one of two Americans going into the DDR on dog business before the wall came down - I know what I am talking about here. I do not like 99% of the DDR lines because of this.

You need to carry pepper spray - warn people once - if they do not control their dog - spray it and tell the police it was attacking YOU (not your dog).

You are wrong about the prong collar.

If you would like to learn more about the principles of obedience training a dog, read the description for my Basic Dog Obedience video. You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog must go through before it can be considered fully trained. You can also read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. I think if you read the testimonials on that tape you will see that my customers feel the same way.

Get this tape and a normal extra heavy prong collar - the tape shows how to train with it. Sounds like you are doing some thing right.

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Mr. Frawley,

I recently purchased a puppy from a breeder (when I say recently I mean 5 days ago). She is five months old and supposedly from excellent lines. I suspect that I inadvertently bought from a bad breeder. The dog is definitely what I would call "soft."

When we first brought her home (for the first 4 days), she was peeing and pooping in her crate (all over herself). She does seem to be improving now though. She is also a very quiet/laid back type of dog. She does "spook" easily though and mostly when we are outside.

Is there hope for this dog or do you feel with the proper socialization and training she can be "saved"?

If not, I fully intend to do my very best to get my money back. She was $1000, if I had of been aware of your dogs at the time, I would have waited and spent a little more money for a quality dog.

I appreciate any insight.

Thank you!


This is almost an impossible question from the little amount of information in this email. For me the deciding factor would be how much prey drive the dog has. If it has no prey drive then it is not worth keeping. You can have soft dogs with good prey drive – they can be trained. But soft dogs with no prey drive are PETS.

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Our rescue dog has weak nerves - is easily frightened but less than we we got him 3 mo. ago. He is 10 mo. old. We are now doing GW per your article and he is living, eating in his crate that is in the dining/living room. I bought your Obedience video and prong collar and am doing all I can to train him right. Doing well with marker training, learning to sit going in and out of doors, etc. I have switched to natural meat and bone diet per your article, give Vit. E , Vit. C and Fish Oil, and am ordering kelp, alfalfa as well as Probiotics from you. (Read it can help the temperaments of dogs.) I am the only one dealing with the dog right now - am establishing a bond with him and he likes the marker training for food treats. His eyes follow me when I'm in the room. Will have the dog on prong collar and leash and supervised at all times after initial GW first few weeks when he is allowed in house out of crate. Am ordering drag leash, etc. from you as well. Am trying to follow your instructions to the T. Everything you have taught works just like you said. Truly wonderful!

Question: We want a family dog we can trust. Is it unreasonable to think that could happen with this dog, or can you never trust weak-nerved dogs? Only aggression shown yet is growling at son 2x over bones he was (foolishly - my fault - son was not supervised) trying to take away. I don't want to worry when the dog gets mature. Can you recommend any good books on learning more about pack rules and applying them to be pack leader?

Also: Do you have any advice on fleas? Do you use natural products or Frontline, Advantage?

Again - your training and web site have been a godsend. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you know what a huge contribution you have made to our life. I have told numerous people about you and your site.




I always like to get emails like this. It’s nice to see that people are taking the information and making it work for them.

A couple of points here.:

1 – I don’t know the level of nerves of your dog so I can only guess. My gut feel is that after training this dog you will know his limitations. With this said these kinds of dog respond to training. You sound like a very responsible person so I think you can control the environment of this dog and live with it. You are going to have to be careful around the baby – probably for a long time.

2- We use Frontline here. It's very good and should not be confused with not vaccinating the dog – don’t do that. Read what I have written on vaccinations.

3- I am currently working on a book and DVD on Dealing with Dominant an Aggressive dogs. I hope to have them out in a month or so. The book will first be released as an e-book but later in print. The DVD will be first. The information in this work is far more detailed than it is on my web site. I think that will also help you.

Best of luck to you and keep up the good work.

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QUESTION on Soft Dogs:


I have a 5 month old female Husky/Shepherd mix. When I leave for work on Thursdays she stays with my husband, most of the time I leave her in her kennel and she will not come out of the kennel when he is the only one home. If I leave her outside she will not come in the house. Also, when he tries to let her out when I am home, she runs and hides behind me. Just to keep in mind I am with her Sun-Wed then with him on Thurs and Fri she is with me at work and on Sat with me. My husband on those days gets home about 4 in the afternoon. I just do not know what to do to make her like him?? When I am around they get along great, play, and cuddle all the time. Please help. Thanks.



Odds are the dog is a soft dog – I have written about hard and soft dogs on my web site.

The corrections given a medium to hard dog would make a soft dog go into avoidance like you are seeing. Men who don’t have training have a difficult time toning down corrections. In fact they may not even think they are correcting the dog when in fact the dog sees it as that.

I recommend that you go to my web site and read the article I wrote on my philosophy of dog training. I think you will get some good ideas there.

You will probably find that you have not had the full picture on the steps of training a dog. Your dog must go through training steps before it can be considered fully trained.

You will read why I am not a fan of taking an untrained dog to obedience classes. No professional dog trainer would ever take his dog to an obedience class with 15 or 20 untrained dogs and try and train it there. Its crazy. The dogs cannot concentrate with the distractions.

I think if you read the testimonials on my DVD you will see that my customers feel the same way.

If you make the decision to learn to train - get a prong collar. You can read about it on my web site. There is an article I wrote (with a number of excellent photos) on how to fit a prong collar, you can also read about the different types of prongs.

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Hi. I have a 6 year old lab, never had problems going in the car, loves car rides. Today we got in the car and I was talking him to the duck pond for a walk on a nice day. On the way we saw one of his dog friends so we stopped to see him. Well, as I was getting him back in the car after he saw his friend I accidentally closed the door on his tail. One I saw what he was yelping about I opened the door and got him out to see if he was ok, and he was. He was acting happy, but wouldn't get back in the car. One of my friends stopped to help me, we got him in her car once. Then we took him back to my car and got him in with a lot of praise. I took him out to see if he would do it again, but no. ... So I decided to walk him back home since he wouldn't get in the car, I was only around the block. On the way back my mother drove by who has the same model car as I do. I told him to get in and he did. Twice. Without any hesitation. Took him out, walked him back to my car and he wouldn't get in. So I took him back home, went back to my car and drove home, and decided to get his leash and see if he would go in, and he did. ... I praised him, decided to take him out and try it again, but he wouldn't go back in. It seems like he'll only go if his mind is on something else, like going to the park or whatever. How can I train him to go in the car again?



Since he had a negative experience with the door slamming on his tail, I don’t really blame him for being reluctant to get back in the car.

I would use positive reinforcement to make getting in the car a fun thing to do.  I would work on getting in and out, without having a plan to go anywhere.  You will basically just want to build his confidence back up until getting in the car becomes a fun thing where he gets lots of treats and praise.

I would  suggest you read the article Ed wrote titled Training With Markers.  There are three phases of training, the learning phase, the distraction phase and the correction phase. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training.  I also use markers whenever I am trying to get the dog to like an activity that he may initially resist (like cutting nails, or getting in the bathtub or car).

Hope this helps.


Dear Cindy,

My mal puppy I have written to you about is fear/aggressive, and I am trying to socialize her.  Sometimes I think she is improving well, and other times she is scared of such little things. What signs should I be looking for to tell me that she has had enough exposure to noise, people, etc?  She is 3 mos old and I would like to train her for personal protection some day.  I have been watching all of the DVDs but the only thing I have seen is letting strangers give her treats.  This is not enough information for this puppy.  Can you tell me anything more? 



All pups go through many different phases of development. it can be really frustrating because it's like you don't know from day to day which pup will be coming out of the crate in the morning.  Will it be the confident one, or the shy one?

With dogs or pups that show unsureness around people, I don't even go with the treat method.  I teach the pup that people are neutral (like a rock or a fence post) I don't care if my pup is friendly with others, I merely want indifference.   Don't push her closer to people or objects than she is comfortable, because that's what will create a long term issue.

Use her food and toy drive to keep her focused on you.  I would be using marker training for EVERYTHING. I would mark (or use the clicker) for every single positive behavior she offers you and absolutely ignore anything negative and try to redirect her to something she likes to do and is successful with.

At 3 months old, she has a long way to go before she is mentally mature.   Just keep working with her and try not to worry.


I am having a problem with my dog and since I have seen some of your videos before, I know you are the expert to come to.  I adopted a 10 month old Caanan breed dog.  The dog has been in shelter and rescue his whole life until I got him at  9 months.  He is a typical Caanan, will do circles around you constantly.  He is very fearful.  He has warmed up to my husband and I, but he will bolt if he gets scared.  The problem I have with his training is he won't take treats.  I have cooked hot dogs, tried real turkey, freeze dried liver treats, expensive treats from the pet store, regular meat and he won't take anything like it.  How do I successfully train my fearful dog?  He tenses up when you pet him.  I am trying to use positive reinforcement and I also do not baby talk him when he is fearful so I don't make it worse.  I have trained other dogs before, but he is such a challenge. Please Mr. Frawley, give me some advice.  I appreciate your time. 



Have you tried limiting his meals so the only way he gets his food is by taking it from you? This is probably the only way to get a dog like this to take treats.  Many dog with really weak nerves will not take food or play when they feel stress.   If I had to train a dog like this, he would never eat anything unless it came from my hand. 

This dogs needs very strong leadership, I would follow our groundwork program and control his every move. He would be on a leash with me all the time, he would not ever be allowed the option of bolting.   Dogs like this blossom with extreme structure because it makes them feel safe.

Please read this article about becoming an effective pack leader.

I would also suggest our new Pack Structure DVD, we just released in a couple of weeks of ago. 

I hope this helps.


My daughter has a 6 month old Black Lab X puppy, (probably part Border Collie), which is the runt of his litter. He is sweet, eager to please and very quick to learn his commands. She got the pup at 2 months and all went well until just recently.

My daughter works as a massage therapist and as teacher/leader of a steel pan band. As both activities are done in the same space and her husband's business is just across the parking lot, the puppy has routinely accompanied her to work. He is crated when she is working, but she can play with him between clients and classes and either she or her husband can walk him in the surrounding rural environments for his outside duties and exercise.

One month ago, a male family member of one of our band came to our practice session. The puppy was in his crate, but this man took it upon himself to take him out. Realizing immediately that he shouldn't have done what he did and that the puppy would probably begin running around during our practice, he attempted to grab the pup and put him back into the crate. At that point the pup let out a high-pitched, blood-curdling scream, (in my opinion), as if he had been pinched or hurt in some way. He was definitely frightened, if nothing else. For some time after our practice ended, the pup has a distinct odor about him which we attributed to fear glands.

Since that time, the pup's demeanor has changed, especially around men and in the environment of the pan yard. His usual confident, social behavior has been replaced with tail between the legs, fearful, behavior, frequently accompanied by barking. Even with people he knows, he is now cautious about accepting a treat. He will take a treat from an open palm, but then quickly back away.

I had always advised my daughter to follow your suggestions about protecting the puppy from lots of people, but she felt that since she couldn't leave him home alone and he had to be at work with her, it was important for him to be confident and friendly with her clients. But it took only this one occasion, which lasted just a couple of minutes, to create a real problem. After a month, the pup is still exhibiting fears which do not seem to be abating.

He does have two other fears I should mention. One is to ramps of any kind. He refuses to go on them. The other possible fear behavior, (or could it be herding behavior?), is barking and attacking either the carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner when they are being used. These are not as troublesome, of course, but if they are fears, we would like to address them.

The pup will begin an 8-week obedience class tomorrow night.
Hopefully, that will be a help and not a hindrance to getting beyond his fear.

Can you please suggest a remedy? We do not want this wonderful pup to wind up being one of those problem dogs we see so many of at the local shelters. And as my daughter is also hoping to begin a family soon, it is imperative that we rehabilitate the puppy as soon as possible.


I think the best thing to do for this puppy is to not make a big deal about it. Dogs read us like a book, and if you are all now feeling upset and shook up about this incident the dog will continue to behave in an unstable manner.

Tell your daughter to be a good pack leader, and go forward like nothing happened. If the puppy shows insecure behavior, ignore it. Reward calm and confident behavior and work the dogs' mind. Don't focus on the past, and go forward.

Obedience classes are a good idea for this dog, BUT don't let people get into his personal space unless he is acting like he is interested in meeting them. The same goes for other dogs. Many times people think that they need to have strangers approach dogs with fear issues, and in most cases this just makes it worse. Have people ignore this puppy, don't try to force it by asking people to give treats. All this does is reinforce the fearful behavior.

As for the ramps, that will just be an exercise in desensitizing him. Use food (a very high value reward) and reward any forward attempt to go near it. Too many people try to rush these things. The vacuum chasing is prey drive, I would give him a leash correction if he needs it. This behavior can become really bothersome, some dogs actually tear up vacuum cleaners as they get older and more bold.

Pack leadership is the key to all of these issues, your daughter's dog needs to know she is in charge and she will protect him. The past doesn't matter, so I would quit dwelling on it and go into the future with a different attitude. The worst thing you can do with dogs like this is to try to soothe or reassure them when they are nervous. This is actually rewarding the fearful behavior.


Hello Ed,

I want to see if you can give me some advice with an american line GSD. I know you do not prefer American line GSDs and it is not what you specialize in but I respect your many years of experience and would like your opinion on something. I am the owner of a 3 yr. old male american line GSD that is a SOFT dog. He is not a fear biter, but becomes "nervy" and has a problem with submissive urination. I have read about submissive urination and it doesn't seem to be very common in adult males. Am I wrong here? My main question that I wanted to ask you was whether I should have this dog neutered. I would like to calm him down some as he has an extreme prey drive and eats like a horse, but I didn't know if getting him neutered might make an already soft dog even softer. The last thing that I want to do is make this dog even more submissive. Pardon my language, but he needs to grow a pair and not lose them. Can you let me know what you would do in this situation?



Having dogs neutered doesn’t change their prey drive or their temperament UNLESS both of those things are linked to their sexual hormones.

Dogs that are still submissively urinating as adults are extremely sensitive and have most likely been dominated a lot as young dogs, or corrected for the submissive peeing in the past. Realize that what you perceive as a correction and what this dog perceives as a correction maybe 2 very different things. This is why we tell people who have dogs
who do this to IGNORE it and not to lean over the dog, or greet the dog when he first approaches. At 3 years old it has most likely become a habit for your dog.

If you are annoyed with your dog for this behavior, you can bet he picks up on it and he will behave even more submissively so it’s a vicious circle.

He’s trying really hard to be a good pack member and be submissive to the leader. He’s doing what his genetics tell him to do - Be a follower.

I would ignore this dog, no direct eye contact and no leaning over him. I would not pet him except maybe occasionally under the chin when we were outside or when he is feeling confident. No stern tone of voice, no physical corrections. Just looking a dog like this in the eye can be construed as a correction.



I have just googled for information on how to train puppies to not be afraid of some people, and one website made reference to your website.

I am so hopeful that you can offer advice for our beloved puppy. We have a French bulldog/Pug mix that will be 1 year old in January. We bought him when he was 8 weeks old and he has been a wonderful puppy, maybe sometimes a bit hardheaded, but the sweetest most loving and personable dog we’ve ever had. He started out very friendly to everyone. But last summer when he was perhaps 5-6 months old on a visit to the vet (where Eli has always loved to go), a man also visiting the vet with his pet was very excited to see our puppy. The man was very physically expressive to Eli but seemed to evoke fear in our puppy that day toward this stranger. I may be wrong, but we seem to think that we can trace his fear of certain males back to that occasion.

Over this Christmas season, our daughter’s friends from college stopped by at different times. Sometimes there were several friends, both male and female, here at the same time; but, 1 or 2 of the young men totally left Eli very fearful of them even though they did nothing to evoke fear. We gave the young men some treats to offer Eli, but Eli still seemed afraid. Of course, at the same time there were other strange young men here in the house who Eli was very excited to see so he would run up to them, lick them and want to spend time with these fellows. We could not figure out why the other fellows made Eli so afraid.

Tonight my husband and I left the house for a short while and Eli was here with our daughter and one very nice young fellow. He was hoping to enjoy Eli but Eli was very fearful of him. Unfortunately, the young fellow chased Eli around the sofa and our daughter said that Eli cowered in a corner of the kitchen shivering which just breaks our hearts for our puppy – and sad for any friends who drop by.

We’ve not yet taken him to obedience school. I’ve thought that perhaps that might make a difference. We hate for Eli to be so fearful of certain people. Is there anything we can do to help him? Or is this going to haunt him for the rest of his life? We sure would love to be able to help him.

We would certainly appreciate your wisdom and look forward to hearing from you.

Matthews, NC


I’d recommend you read some of our eBooks. There is one on Who Pets My Puppy.

Most people mistakenly think that everyone and anyone should touch, pet and play with your dog. I find that this causes many problems. Our dogs look to us as leaders (or they should) and when we let them down by allowing strangers to get in the space and scare them then they lose confidence. When I see people approaching me and my dogs, I say “Please Don’t Pet or Stare at my dog, he’s in training.” That usually does the trick. Eli will begin to relax because he will realize that you are not going to let people from outside the family pack get in his space and make him feel worried.

I’d recommend reading on our website about Pack Leadership and Structure. I’d start with our Groundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Having confidence in your leadership will help Eli with his fear, not putting him into more stressful situations when he isn’t equipped to cope with them. If you do decide to go to obedience classes I’d recommend teaching him all the exercises at home first. We would never take an untrained dog to classes full of other dogs and people and expect him to learn there. We only use group classes as a training tool ONCE the dog is already trained. Basic Dog Obedience.

I would direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website for any additional questions you may have.. If you type in your key words it will guide you to articles, Q&As and posts on our forum. This is a very common issue with dogs, especially young dogs.

I hope this helps.




I have a 10 month old Pembroke Welsh Corgi male that seems to be doing very well. He was neutered around 6 months and is usually very obedient. He's been crate trained since 8 weeks old and generally spends 4-6 hours out of the crate over the course of the day in 1-2 hour periods. To me he feels like a soft dog where only a verbal correction is necessary to get him to respond in most cases. A smack on the butt is usually more than enough to correct other more persistent things such as continuing to bark at something outside when he's already been verbally corrected. He does not show aggressiveness towards people except perhaps if someone is being too rough with him, which I think any dog would respond the same way. When he is out, I only need to call him once and he will come running to where I am and sits beside my feet. He will do this as well when he is corrected by my fiancee, although I consciously do not attempt to coddle him when he does this. I will just allow him to come to where I am sitting and sit by my feet.  He is the dog in the house which is "mine" while my fiancee also has a 1 year old Chihuahua (who is also very well trained). She normally handles much of the training but does leave many things with my Corgi up to me. She also does training with an experienced dog trainer she works with who I also believe to be a good trainer based on seeing her work. I have done a lot of reading on your site and read every newsletter e-mail you send. All this being said, once in a while I will disagree with my fiancee on her methods of training. Usually because it seems harsh to me or that it feels too aggressive towards the dogs. Normally though our views coincide, most of my views coming from your training articles and philosophy. It is definitely true that more corrections and more harsh corrections come from her than from me.

One of those times was the other day when my Corgi and her Chihuahua were peacefully chewing on some cow hooves in their bed. She had just taken a dose of her inhaler and made an audible exhaling sound afterward. Suddenly my Corgi starts barking very loudly which she said was directed towards her. At this point she didn't realize it was due to the sound she had just made, it seemed to be out of nowhere. Usually if one of us mimics barking, the Chihuahua will bark but not the Corgi, so we don't know why this set him off. She does not tolerate much barking from the dogs and normally a verbal correction is all that either require to get them to be mostly, if not completely quiet. She called his name loudly but he did not stop barking, so she threw a bag of potato chips at him. While I am not sure that you would agree with this correction, normally this simply serves as a distraction for the dog to snap their mind out of whatever it was that was causing their bad behavior, normally barking. Of course he runs from the bag flying at him but continues to bark.  At this point she chases him into the corner which he had run to and either put him on his back or he rolled to his back. I know that her intention was certainly not to hit him or issue any kind of harsh correction, just to get control of him. Either way the worst part was that due to her running after him, he evacuated his bowels, his bladder, and his anal glands onto the tile floor.  He never usually had an issue with submissive urination, as our Chihuahua sometimes does, so his reaction was very shocking to me. Also while she was reaching for him and while she had him on his back, he turned his head towards her hands 3 times indicating he wanted to bite. I don't believe he actually made any teeth to hand contact though. At this point she picked him up and put him in his crate in the bedroom. Through all of this, the Chihuahua remained in the bed and did not join in the barking at all. 

So, the outcome of this situation was that we discussed the fact that he appears to be scared of her in some respect, and not just for the events of that day, but for past events as well. It's possible that he was corrected too hard at too young an age when he was a puppy and that fostered some kind of fear of her. He is normally just as friendly towards her as towards me though, and she gives him plenty of affection, so I am not sure if this is the case. My questions would be

1. Was this manner of correcting him harmful to his training rather than helpful?
2. Was his response (the bodily fluids going everywhere) indicative of an extreme level of fear beyond that of simply having something thrown at him?
3. Is running to sit at my feet after corrections (even verbal corrections from me) a behavior we should not allow? 

Thank you so much for your time



A couple of things jump out at me. There is conflict between the two humans in the house over how the dog should be handled. This is not good for a dog. I might say that your dog at only 10 months old should not be allowed to be in a position where he needs a lot of corrections. A smack on the butt is not something I would recommend for teaching a dog anything.

Personally I think your fiancee way overdid it. Dogs don’t express their anal glands and pee and poop unless they are extremely terrified. Why would a dog like this be rolled over on his back?  Of course he acted like he wanted to bite; he was cornered and scared out of his wits.

I wouldn’t allow your fiancee to correct this dog anymore in this way. Everything should be handled via a leash and collar and I think it would be wise to re-establish clear leadership in a fair and non confrontational way. I’d keep the corgi on a leash at all times when he was not in a crate. By keeping him on a leash he won’t be able to run to you if he’s with her and it will avoid the whole flight/fear thing that happened with your fiancee 

I’d recommend working with him with this video Pack Structure for the Family Pet and I’d use marker training to teach him what you want from him.

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

I think this is a relationship problem that can be repaired if you both are willing to change a few things.



I have a 2 year old Border Collie mix rescue that is extremely nervous and fearful. I got her at one year old, and have been working with her for the entire year we've had her. We do not have any history of her before we got her, other than she was very underweight. She now weighs a healthy 65 lbs, and is on a raw diet (with Honest Kitchen).

While we have made some really positive progress, and she has gone from a dog that was almost impossible to live with to a (mostly) very enjoyable companion, I have one problem that I simply have not come up with a solution to. She is EXTREMELY distrustful of humans in general and when approached from behind on walks she just loses it.  In the beginning any approach (and when I say approach I mean anyone in her line of sight which could be 5 miles) set off a tantrum like a hooked marlin. She has progressed to where she is still very tense and nervous, but can hold it together to pass people as long as they just pass, and I am between them and her.  But when approached from behind she hits the ground like a bag of bricks and tries to disappear.  I have tried putting her in a sit or down, to let people pass, and she shakes like she's going to come apart. The closest thing to a positive solution I have been able to come up with is that if I see the approach first I can reverse and pass them head on and then once they are a distance away we reverse again and follow them, instead of them following us. This is not always doable, and if she sees them first (I've worked hard, with limited success, on getting her to stop checking to her rear all the time) all bets are off as once she hits the deck, she's not moving until they pass.  She will not play with a toy, or take food once she has seen the approach. I initially tried to desensitize her by staying at great distances while trying to distract her with food (she will ONLY take cheese when away from the house- I've tried everything), but there just doesn't seem to be an acceptable distance for her. I'm very reluctant to discontinue walking her entirely as she really needs the exercise, but am concerned about the level of stress she undergoes. I do walk very early in the morning now (I walk her daily for an hour), to minimize the numbers of events she has to deal with. I'd like to walk her twice a day, but later in the day and evening there are simple too many things for her to deal with.

I realize that much of this is likely genetic, but don't want to give up on her as she has made so much progress in a year. I don't want or care if she ever wants anything to do with any other human ever, I just want to not have her undergo so much stress just seeing someone, or trying to pass by. 

When I first started working with her it quickly became apparent that any neck correction was a trigger to terror. Literally. I tried every collar imaginable, and she would not take any neck pressure at all. So I resorted to the horrible Halti, and her ability to walk on a leash was much improved. She would take a head correction without freaking out. After about 7 months I transitioned back to neck collars, and now she walks with a dominant dog collar and a prong collar (rabbit chasing!), with absolutely no problems, with the exception of the above.  She is very obedient when she is not terror stricken, though she does seem to have somewhat of a long learning curve, likely aggravated by  the fact that everything is a distraction. 

I have purchased three of your videos, Basic Obedience, Pack Structure, and Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs (my other dog!). I am currently saving for e collars for both dogs along with your video on that, and the Training with Food video.  Any advice or recommendations for ways to deal with the above issue would be most welcome.  I'm willing to try anything in order to improve things for her.

Thank you for a terrific website and an invaluable resource. I could not find anything addressing this specific question, if it's there please direct me.

Thank you again. 


I think you would benefit from watching this 3 part free video on fearful dogs & puppies.

since you say she won’t take food once she’s seen someone on the horizon the best advice I can give is to ONLY feed her daily rations while out on your walks.  Make food more important than the ‘scary’ stuff out there.

I would HIGHLY recommend The Power of Training Dogs with Food. I think this type of training is excellent for dogs that are nervous or fearful as it gives them something positive to focus on (as opposed to giving a correction which in many cases makes them more worried).

Cindy Rhodes



I have a 3 year old dobie female that has incredible drive (ball, food, prey) and loves praise. She received her CGC, ATTS, 1st & 2nd leg in herding, going for her AD this year and maybe her BH. I built her confidence throughout the last year or more on the sleeve. When she first started out, she was very defensive and now we both work as a team and she loves it. Even though I still get a reminder how fast she is with her excitability and get it in the leg sometimes.

One the other hand, if she hears fireworks, gunshot, or a back fire, she is trying to climb me like no tomorrow!! At schutzhund training, my TD told me to go out there as she set of the starter pistol. We both didn't expect what she did. We had to have another handler out there with me with her on 2 leashes. She even tried biting me to get us to leave. It almost "killed" her out of bite work even weeks later. New Years eve she almost broke out of her crate. You get the point.

I've talked to a couple of trainers and wanted to get your idea. I've been told to chain her up extremely hungry and feed her as I set off a starter pistol. I've been told to correct the h*ll out of her until she stops so she is more worried about my correction than the noise itself. I've been told to crate her and set shots off until she is desensitized. I understand this, and will do it....but something inside me is telling me there has to be a better, more effective way.

Have you turned a dog around like this, or do you think I'm stuck with a nervy dog? How would you turn a situation around based on what I experienced?

Thank you for your time, much respected and appreciated! Take care and talk to you soon!

Cindy's Response:

It looks like from your signature that you are a professional dog trainer?  How would you handle this?

At 3 years old it will be a long road to desensitizing this dog (if it’s possible at all). If anyone I trained with advised me to chain my dog up and only feed her when I shoot the gun, correct her for being scared, or crate her and shoot the gun around her I’d run the other way.  That’s awful. 

Personally , I would find activities to do with this dog that don’t put her in situations that she is so scared. I don’t feel it’s fair to put this dog in that state of mind. The stress that she would have to go through wouldn’t be worth it in my opinion.  Find a sport that fits the dog and her ability, drive and temperament. 

If you want to desensitize her, I would do it from MILES away.  A rough road to go and not at all practical.

I have witnessed trainers that want to pursue a specific sport with their dog, but the dog doesn’t really want to participate.  You can actually make a dog sick by trying to work them in a sport that they are not really enjoying. My goal is to do something with my dog that they have an aptitude for. If I want to pursue Mondioring or schutzhund and my dog is afraid of loud noises, sticks or is reluctant to bite a tug or the sleeve, it’s time to find a new sport or get a dog with the proper nerves and temperament.  Don’t put your goals in front of your principles. I think most people love their dogs, but may lose sight of that at times and put the dog in a position that is unfair

Find a sport you can do with your dog---rally obedience, agility, continue with herding, dock diving, etc…

Good luck with your dog.

Cindy Rhodes


Thank you so much. I very much had the same thoughts. I am a dog trainer by profession for over 10 years and have worked with many dogs with issues. But when a problem occurs that I question, I feel getting a third party's thoughts is better than being naive or pride full. I've seen many trainers mess up dogs or not give the dog or owner a chance because their pride gets in the way. Thank you very much for the advise, and will pursue activities SHE wants to do.



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