American Bulldog Puppy is Scared of Everything

My American Bulldog is 5 months old and he terrified of everything. He is scared of boxes, bags, my hands. I try to play with him and he run away with his tail between his legs. I don't know what's wrong but I am worried about him. If I try and ignore him he starts panting and crying. I don't know what to do. Will he grow out of this?



January 18, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

I'd suggest getting your dog in a training class right away. You need a class that has puppy play and socialization, as well as formal obedience. This guy sounds like he needs confidence boosting, so a class using positive reinforcement is a MUST. You don't say how long you have had the dog, but you need to try and make up some ground QUICKLY!! Start slowly and start doing things that are not too overwelming. Teach the pup to sit on your lap and jump slowly pet and massage him while talking softly. Use small food treats to make the experience a positive one. Small sessions several times a day are best and never force him to do anything. You want his experiences to be positive and confidence boosting, not scary and overwhelming which will make the problem worse. Does he walk happily on a leash? If not work on getting him to walk on the leash using the food treats as a reward. Avoid any harsh words or stearn tones and instead use a happy upbeat praising voice. Once you get into the class you might be suprised at his improvements! I'm sure the trainer can offer helpful suggestions to help him. I would also contact the breeder and ask some questions. Are other pups having this problem? The breeder needs to know to better understand their breeding program. Goodluck!

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January 18, 20080 found this helpful

You could also ask your vet.

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January 20, 20080 found this helpful

I have to say, I agree with leshia27, to a point. I agree that getting him into a puppy training class would be a great thing, but it sounds like you should work on his confidence and socialization some before you actually start the training classes. I would be concerned that a class would be a bit scary and overwhelming for him as he is now. I'm curious as to whether this is a temperament/ personality thing, if this is due to some kind of abuse or neglect early in life or if this is simply due to lack of proper socialization?

If it's a temperament/ personality thing it could be due to poor breeding or it could just be how he is. In that case you should still be able to socialize him and get him to get over his fears (or at least most of them), without too much of a problem. If it's because he was abused and/ or neglected that would most likely be a bit harder for him to get over. It wouldn't be impossible, but it might take a while. One of the many wonderful things about dogs is that they don't live in the past like people do. They live in the moment, and they are very forgiving. They can get over just about anything with the right help. If this is simply due to lack of proper and/ or early socialization (socialization starts with the breeder), it should be fairly easy to correct, especially since he's still so young.

Good breeders will start to socialize their pups as soon as they can, normally around 3-5 weeks. My husband and I breed APBTs (we have a litter of 7, 5 week 2 day old puppies now), and we start to socialize ours as soon as their eyes and ears are open, and they are up running around, checking everything out. When the puppies are that young, they are forming their first (and most important) opinions of people, and pretty much everything around them. It is very important that they are around people and only have good experiences with people. If the breeder that your puppy came from didn't socialize him well/ properly when he was younger, that might have a lot to do with how he is now. Again though, if it is just a socialization thing it should be easy enough to correct. You will just want to socialize you puppy basically.

Now, normally the best age to socialize a puppy is between two and four months. After four months the socialization window starts to close and it's much more difficult to influence a puppy. But, it's definitely not impossible. It seems that a lot of people think having a puppy around new people and new animals is socializing them, but that's not true at all. Puppies need to be introduced to everything they will be around on a daily basis, and things that they might eventually end up being exposed to. With our puppies we don't ever try to keep things quieter than normal or calmer than normal. Obviously we don't want them to feel scared or threatened, but we want the environment to be as much like it is in a "normal" home on a "normal" day as absolutely possible. They are exposed to our other dogs, the TV and all of the different sounds that come from it, the garage door opening and closing, the car being cranked up, the car horn, the door bell ringing, pots and pans making noise, sounds from the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer, plastic and paper grocery bags, trash bags, various delivery people coming to the door and the different things they deliver, the trash truck coming to take the trash, the mail man/ lady delivering the mail, running water, umbrellas opening and closing, the vacuum, broom and mop, skateboards, roller-blades, bikes, etc, etc, etc. Once they have had their shots and are able to go outside of our home and be around new people and animals, we make sure they meet as many new and different people as possible, including children of all ages and activity levels, as many other dogs and cats as possible, we make sure they see birds and squirrels, they see cars, trucks, vans, etc, they ride in the car, they get use to being on a leash, just everything they would, or could, encounter on a daily basis.

With your pup, because he is already over 4 months and he is so fearful, you will just have to be very patient and persistent. I would suggest that you introduce him to everything! Since he is very fearful of everything you will need to make sure you don't scare him and make it worse. Use a lot of treats and positive reinforcement. You will need to expose him to one thing for a while and then another thing for a while, then switch it up some. Does that make any sense? lol! Okay, for example, you said he's scared of boxes and bags. Get a few different boxes and introduce him to one of them. Don't comfort him when he gets scared, but don't force him to be by the box either. When he realizes there's nothing to fear and he starts to calm down around the box, you praise him and/ or give him a treat. Do this for a while until he is okay with that box. Then do the same thing with a different box. Once he's use to that box, go back to the first box and do the same thing over again. Just do that over and over again, using different boxes, two or three of the boxes together, etc. Once he is okay with the boxes for the most part, move on to the bags and do the same thing. Then try a box and a bag, two boxes and two bags, etc.

It is important to remember to not comfort him when he's scared. I know that sounds horrible and it can be the hardest thing in the world to do, trust me, I love my three fur-babies as if they were my children and I want them to always feel safe and be happy. But it is very important to not comfort a fearful dog. If you comfort him, or give him any attention at all when he's in a fearful state of mind, you are nurturing and/ or almost rewarding that state of mind. He needs to be rewarded when he's in a normal or calm state of mind. Nurturing a fearful state of mind will keep it from moving forward and getting over the fear, and for a dog to be fearful causes him a lot of stress which is absolutely miserable for him! Plus, fearful dog can eventually become fear biters, which is obviously not a good thing at all.

Anyway, I won't keep rambling on and on, but again, to really get him over his fears of everything, and get him to be a well socialized, balanced, confident, happy dog, you will just have to be extremely patent and persistent, don't comfort the wrong state of mind, always reward the right state of mind, and make sure you stick to your guns. Don't give or give up, and when it gets hard just remember that socializing him is what is best for him. I will say that some people may not do things the same way, and even though this has always worked for me and my dogs some people may not agree with what I have just suggested. I personally don't think there is one best or right way to do everything when it comes to working with dogs. It all depends on the individual dog, the owner, and the situation. You will just have to figure out what works best for you and your pup. If you feel that it's going to be too much for you to handle on your own, I would strongly suggest that you get a professional trainer to come work with you and your dog, I would think in your home would be best for your dog at this point. And then once he starts to open up and come out of his shell some, then a good puppy training class would be wonderful.

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January 20, 20080 found this helpful

you COULD spend a lot of money taking him to classes or u cud just accept that he is a timid dog. my dog who ive had for 7yrs is exactly the same. long as im in her line of vision, she's ok coz she knows nothing is going to hurt her if im around.took a while to get her to trust in me, but we got there after a few years. wen i need to go out, i put her on her blanket where she normally sleeps, cuddle and pat her for a bit, and go out. when i return, she goes crazy coz she so happy to see me but in the main, she's perfectly happy to be on her blanket, which spells security. she's fine when i take her out on her lead, long as im close. she's just happy to walk by me and if she happens to be ahead of me in a narrow space, she always turns around to make sure im still there. my dog is the most loving thing i have ever had in my life and i wudnt change the way she is for anything on this earth.

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January 22, 20080 found this helpful

Oh boy, sounds like my dog. I don't know anything about Bulldogs, but my Cocker was like this from the time I got her at 12 weeks old. The only thing I will say that she liked was people, any kind of people and she'd be in heaven but another puppy or dog, a strange toy, object, or attempts to pick her up sent her into a dither. I did as the others suggested. She went to puppy school and I'm afraid even the trainers said they were surprised she was still afraid of the other pups even after 8 weeks. I took her to 'communications' classes and that helped me understand her issues more, how she was signally when she was afraid etc. so I would know when and how to calm her. What killed me was I had the feeling she didn't even trust me and since she had a few weeks in life before me I had no idea what got her so afraid of everything.

One thing I learned that had never dawned on me was how many dogs regard our hands as mouths and feel threatened when we look straight into their eyes. So when we offer them our hands to say 'come play' and wiggle our fingers they see two big mouths and become afraid. I started keeping my fingers together and just made sweeping type motions. A clicker worked to get her to follow directions better than hand movements. I also took it slow and easy. Let her approach, me looking away, petting with no sound, etc. so more and more she got more comfortable. Mine is also very sensitive to tone of voice. Boy one harsh word and she seems put off for weeks so I have to watch that too.

I also took mine to beginner agility. She loved it (although she wasn't happy with the other dogs being around she did get more interested in the activities). Going through tunnels, over jumps, around poles, etc. really got her confidence up as she learned that things that move or are unfamiliar can be okay. She also learned to trust I wouldn't lead her into anything that would hurt her and she got good and pooped out too.

What I did do was just take it all slow so she got more confidence in me and therefore more in herself. I found a doggy daycare that would work with her and took her in once a week or so just to get more confident with the other dogs. That took about a year but now she isn't squealing like she's being killed everytime another dog is around.

She also had extreme separation anxiety and basically I had to take it so slow, leaving her for a couple of minutes at a time and then increasing. Now after doing that for a few months she will actually let me know she'd rather stay home than come in the car (I have never had a dog before that turned the car down but whatever makes her happy I guess).

One other thing that is controversial but I have come to think might have something to it is that some breeds are sensitive to some vaccines. When I mentioned my dog's issues on a Cocker forum a lot of owners said they noticed fear (and other personality changes) in their dogs after their rabies shots. There is no actual scientific proof either way but I can tell you my dog no longer gets any shots and won't until they do the proper studies on them. She had only her puppy shots but that can be enough.

Anyway, get the pup into some classes with a good trainer and see what they suggest since they have an opportunity to watch both you and the pup. As I mentioned, a lot of the progress my dog has seen (she's nearly 4) is because of things I had to change in what I was doing (even though they had worked with my other dog, no problem). Even at nearly 4 we're still working on things and slowly but surely, she's behaving more and more normally...although she still seems to think puppies are creatures to be avoided at all costs.

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January 28, 20080 found this helpful

You really need to socialize your dog. Fear can turn into bad aggression if left unchecked. The dog might be fine with you in you home as it is now; but if heaven forbid there's a change 3 years from now and you need to find a terrified dog a'll be horribly out of luck. It's also no way for your dog to live. Training and socialization are the key. If the cost of classes are prohibitive; you can take the dog out to populated places and go through training exercises on your own.

Exercise is also paramount. A lot of what you see as fear can be an overabundance of untapped energy. You might think a fenced yard will provide enough exercise but it doesn't. You may enjoy a very leisurely stroll with the dog but if you aren't breaking a sweat; your dog isn't getting the exercise it needs.

Some shelters offer beginner classes at a reduced rate. Check around. If certain things really scare your dog; you need to introduce them slowly. Do NOT avoid them. This takes a lot of patience and more time than you probably think is necessary. Your dog needs to learn that they can ignore the things that are now scaring them.

Don't try giving praise and treats to get a dog over fears. All that does is reinforce the behavior you don't want to see. YOU need to be calm and remain so; no matter what the dog does. If you start getting anxious because you know the dog will cower or whine; you are actually silently telling the dog to start cowering and whining.

DON'T get another dog until you have done the work this dog needs. Unless the other dog is 110% trained and well behaved/emotionally adjusted; you risk having two out of control dogs.

Set yourself a schedule of the things that scare your dog. Start with the least scary things and go through routine walks and exposure to those things. When the dog start acting up; order the dog to sit or lay down and stay there until the dog calms down on their own. DON'T rush the dog away and who cares about your embarrassment.

It may seem to take a long time and could easily take a few minutes for him to calm down with each new exposure but it will get easier if you are calm, consistent and patient.

Only give praise and affection when you are away from the training situation. Praise at the wrong time reinforces bad behavior. You have to be the leader and a leader is calm and almost indifferent to new situations. If you get all anxious and try to prepare your dog; you're telling them they really need to be scared.

Plan on daily reinforcement (or better yet twice a day) and Good Luck!

P.S. Forget about all the nonsense people will tell you about socializing at different ages. Dogs change depending on their surroundings and the actions of their leader. Any dog can be trained. Any dog can be helped to become calm and content. It takes a LOT of patience and consistency but you can do it!

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January 28, 20080 found this helpful

Yes, the dog will pant and cry some but if they see that their leader is confident enough not to be concerned and focused on the offending item; they WILL come to realize the thing that's scaring them is nothing to be concerned about.

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