Author Topic: Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?  (Read 4021 times)

Offline LotusWolf

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Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?
« on: September 02, 2013, 09:21:04 AM »
My boyfriend and I finally made our move!!  The trip went well and the dogs and ratties made it safe and sound.  :thumbsup2: This small-town girl is now living in the nation's capitol!  ;D

I took Dally for a walk down the street early this morning and as we got near the busier street, she started panicking slightly and pacing on top of trying to turn me back toward the house. My Pomeranian, Bear, just doesn't care. Not much phases him. But Dally, my dachshund/basset hound mix is a fearful dog anyway from her abusive past. I lived on a really quiet back road and Dally never got exposed to much traffic before now. I've seen different desensitization tips and re-conditioning but I'm not really sure what method is the best to go with her. I want to be able to take her down the road to the dog park since she loves other dogs, but I can't do that til she gets used to traffic.

Has anyone dealt with this sort of situation or know of a good place to start? Dally's happy here in the new house, but I'd like for her to enjoy her long walks, too.  ???

Offline bit-bit

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Re: Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2013, 09:52:20 AM »
Welcome to DC!  I grew up in the area, so feel free to PM me if you need general tips, though to be honest I avoided the city as much as I could.  I think I share some sensibilities with Dally  :yelcutelaugh:

My dog, Muffin, was scared of anything loud, which included cars and especially trucks.  When we moved to a new neighborhood next to a major shipping route, he had some of the same issues - probably not as big of a change, but he went from never seeing a tractor-trailer to having them pass nearly constantly on the main road.  I walked him on a very short leash, and when I could see him starting to react, I'd put a hand on him - head, shoulder, or rump didn't seem to matter to him, so I went for what I could reach at the moment.  Of course, it meant pausing nonstop on our walks, but eventually he did get better about it.  If some teenager drove by with thumping bass, I may have to go as far as holding his head (to make him look at me and not the road) and rubbing his ears until it was gone, but thankfully there weren't too many of those.

If Dally's reaction is stronger, she may need something more and perhaps another member can chime in.  But for Muffin, just a reminder that his human was there seemed to make him feel a lot safer.

Offline LotusWolf

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Re: Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2013, 10:13:19 AM »
Thank you bit-bit!! My bf grew up around here, too, so with him and people like you, I should be okay!! :hyper: Got to start job hunting this week when we get settled in better.

Just got back from taking Dally for another walk. The bf went with us and she seemed to have calmed down better this time. We're working on her behavior as well as teaching them to sit at crosswalks so they don't dart out into the street.

I feel like Dally in most situations. I'm loving the area and proximity of things to do, something that didn't happen back in my home town. If you didn't have a car, money, or both, you didn't have much of an opportunity for anything. But I'm sure not used to the traffic or amount of people. We'll both have to acclimate, though I think I have it easier than my mutt-butt.

Bear's already growled at everyone coming and going, including a german shepherd that passed by. He doesn't really seem to think it through that the dog is 10 times his size.  :doh: He's getting better as well, though. This last walk he let a runner go by and a guy on a bike without making a sound or dragging me to them.


Offline slynx

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Re: Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2013, 12:37:52 PM »
Generally, you want to teach a fearful dog that the thing that scares them actually predicts something wonderful.  The best way to do this is to expose the dog to a very low level of whatever scares them while providing a ton of positive events (food works well, especially if it is something amazingly wonderful that the dog gets nowhere else).  It's incredibly important not to force the dog to get closer to scary things...if the main road is too overwhelming for now, wait until you can build positive associations to a solid level before trying to walk along it.  Being patient, and letting the dog set the pace, is incredibly important.

In practice, there are a lot of ways to do this.  You could take hot dog bits (or something equally delicious) on your walks and, as soon as Dally notices the scary road (or every time a car passes you, if that's an issue on side streets), pop a hot dog in her mouth.  Never get to a point where she's panicking, just do it all at a good safe distance until she learns that cars=amazing hot dog machines.  You'll know you're on the right track if your dog starts looking at you expectantly every time she sees/hears traffic!

If she does start looking at you when she sees traffic, you can give her an amazing reward (and build considerable trust between you) by immediately turning around and walking her away from the scary traffic.  It might sound counter-intuitive, or make you feel funny as you become the weird back-and-forth dog walking lady in the neighborhood, but it pays of hugely in the long-run...it builds trust in you, and nurtures a ton of confidence.  It also helps you avoid the pitfall of using delicious food to lure your dog just a little bit closer to traffic than she's currently comfortable, which is a mistake that can backfire impressively.

Hope that helps, and congrats on the move!

Offline HowlsOfAngels

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Re: Country Dog Scared of City Traffic - Help?
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2013, 06:33:13 PM »
Generally, you want to teach a fearful dog that the thing that scares them actually predicts something wonderful.  The best way to do this is to expose the dog to a very low level of whatever scares them while providing a ton of positive events (food works well, especially if it is something amazingly wonderful that the dog gets nowhere else).  It's incredibly important not to force the dog to get closer to scary things...if the main road is too overwhelming for now, wait until you can build positive associations to a solid level before trying to walk along it.  Being patient, and letting the dog set the pace, is incredibly important.

In practice, there are a lot of ways to do this.  You could take hot dog bits (or something equally delicious) on your walks and, as soon as Dally notices the scary road (or every time a car passes you, if that's an issue on side streets), pop a hot dog in her mouth.  Never get to a point where she's panicking, just do it all at a good safe distance until she learns that cars=amazing hot dog machines.  You'll know you're on the right track if your dog starts looking at you expectantly every time she sees/hears traffic!

If she does start looking at you when she sees traffic, you can give her an amazing reward (and build considerable trust between you) by immediately turning around and walking her away from the scary traffic.  It might sound counter-intuitive, or make you feel funny as you become the weird back-and-forth dog walking lady in the neighborhood, but it pays of hugely in the long-run...it builds trust in you, and nurtures a ton of confidence.  It also helps you avoid the pitfall of using delicious food to lure your dog just a little bit closer to traffic than she's currently comfortable, which is a mistake that can backfire impressively.

Hope that helps, and congrats on the move!

Be very careful if you choose to do this, inappropriate timing may have you rewarding her fear/panic and will only drive her to become more upset.

Personally, I'm a bit of a jerk when it comes to things like this. I'd walk the dog toward what I know will frighten it and when we get close enough that there is an obvious (to me) fear response, I'd stop and sit the dog. Then I'd wait until the dog is no longer worried about the traffic, maybe walk the dog around (without moving away from the trigger), cue the dog to engage in simple behaviors (lay down, shake, etc) then treat for executing simple behaviors while the dog pays no mind to the traffic. Slowly increasing the time the dog must ignore the traffic before being treated while also lessening the distance between the dog and the traffic.

This method works well for green horses as well.

Different methods will work for different dogs, do what works for you and your dog without overly stressing either of you.
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