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I have a miniature dachshund puppy (10 months, 9lbs.) that is easily frightened by loud noises, such as trucks passing by. Walking in any urban setting seems to be a negative experience, but she enjoys walking in secluded areas, such as state parks, that are away from roads.

She also shows fear when there are loud noises at home, such as watching a movie at home. The volume is not turned up to an extreme level. I realize dogs have significantly better hearing than humans, but other dogs I have been around do not exhibit this trait.

I live in a very urban area, so it is not always convenient to exercise my pooch in a secluded park area. Is there a simple method for overcoming this fear? It is to the point that she runs away when I get the leash, even when offering treats at the same time.

I got her from a respected breeder and she has not experienced any trauma in her short life that I am aware of.

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    Steve D's answer should get you most of the way. For the reaction to noise, try to desensitise your dog using sounds on low volume (YouTube has lots of noises for this purpose). Find a volume your dog is comfortable with and feed it lots of treats and attention. Gradually increase the volume and keep rewarding. If your dog gets a fright, dial the volume down again and start over. – ThomasH Oct 8 '13 at 23:39
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Because the dog is so young, I think it is very likely you can slowly accustom her to urban walking. I think a natural response when you see a small dog cowering or wimpering in fear is to console them, or pet them. This is not an effective way to dissuade fear. It is better to ignore your dog and not feed into its fearful emotions. [see below]

I think the best bet is to teach your dog that walking in urban areas is fun. Bring treats and toys, walk in a zany unpredictable way, go for short burts of sprints, etc. Your dog will eventually begin to associate urban walks with fun times and an owner in good spirits.

  • This is not universally agreed-upon among trainers. Some believe this to be true, others believe petting a fearful dog does no harm to the training procedure. I personally subscribe to the theory that you should only pet and praise your dog when she is doing what you want her to be doing.
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    +1 Associating good things with the behaviours/situations you want should always be the first option. – ThomasH Oct 8 '13 at 23:36
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Try to break up your problem into a set of small easy steps and work on each one separately.

For example, to try and get your dog to overcome the fear of noises from the TV start with the TV set to very low volume. Play a movie, and hang out with your dog, feeding her yummy treats repeatedly. Make sure you start out with a very low volume level, and a very high frequency of rewards. At this point you are trying to get your dog to focus on the food and not the noise, so it is fine to give lots of treats (use something cheap, and break it up to small, pea sized, bits. One good option is string cheese cut to small pieces). Slowly decrease the rate of rewards. Can you get to a point in which you only give her a treat once every 10 seconds? 30? 60? Then increase the volume a bit, and go back to fast rewards. Continue until she is ok with normal TV volume.

If at any point she starts showing signs of stress/fear (cowering, lip licking, etc) go back a step - reduce volume and give more rewards.

For walking outside. Again, break the problem into small steps. Getting the leash, getting out the door, standing close to the house and watching cars drive by, standing on the sidewalk, walking on the sidewalk, and so on. reward heavily for each 'small step' at first.

You are trying to build a connection in your dog's mind between these strange (possibly scary) noises to good things - namely treats.

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I've seen on the "Dog Whisperer" that dogs can sense the anxiety that an owner has. The first thing you need to be aware of is your own anxiety when walking your puppy.

As far as your puppy goes, its still a puppy, so fear isn't too unnatural. You will want to acclimate it to walking in urban areas by first training it to walk on a leash well. That means you are walking and your dog happens you be accompanying you. Keep your eyes forward, and heel walk the puppy. If the puppy wanders, give the leash a small yank.

As your puppy gets accustomed to this, it should be a lot calmer, and you can try for more noisy environments.

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    -1 Just training the dog to walk to heel does nothing to address its anxiety. Leash jerking it, on the other hand, should help to quickly heighten its anxiety and make it even more afraid of walks. While Cesar Millan is certainly good at getting on television and, therefore, into people's awareness, his actual knowledge of dog behaviour is rather limited. It's a bit like Chinese medicine. Some things may work, but that doesn't make the explanation behind it correct. – ThomasH Oct 8 '13 at 23:34
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    The heel walking is meant to focus the dogs and also address any anxiety that the owner may also have. Getting the dog to focus more on what you are doing (in order to heel walk) will reduce the amount of time it thinks about other stuff (loud noises). The post explicitly said small yank, which means enough for you to get the dog's attention, not enough to make it uncomfortable. You are absolutely correct that what works for me, or other people may, not work for the original poster, which is why you can post your own answer. – ton.yeung Oct 9 '13 at 0:41
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    No disrespect intended, apologies if it came across that way. I simply disagree with but respect your opinion. Personally, I think behaviour corrections should only be used as a last resort. Also because I've noticed that, once you recommend them to people, they focus almost exclusively on them and usually correct overly harsh and rarely at the right time. Getting your dog's attention can also be done via command, which is less likely to cause the dog any anxiety. Steve D's answer already contains any advice I might offer, so I upvoted his rather than posting my own. – ThomasH Oct 9 '13 at 0:50
  • @ton yanking at a puppies neck will only make the puppy unhappy – Yvette Colomb Oct 18 '13 at 14:17
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There was a trick Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer) used to break a puppy of their fear of living in an urban environment: hold their tail up.

When dogs are afraid, their tail tends to go between their legs and their heads bow down. When they're comfortable with their surroundings they'll put their tails upward. Simply (well, not so simply with a dachshund) holding their tail up while walking them might help them to feel more confident. It seems silly but it worked for Cesar.

If you have Netflix, I recommend watching episode 2 of The Dog Whisperer: http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Very_Best_of_Dog_Whisperer_with_Cesar_Millan/70270440.

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In addition to other answers, a major concern should be the ability to maintain control of your dog. Do not use one of the retractable string/cord leashes which are contained in a plastic distributor handle. Purchase instead a strong, six-foot leash. This type of leash will not only give you proper control, but will prevent a potential issue with nervous dogs that I will now explain.

Our skittish dog had the distributor leash, and when it accidentally dropped one time, it landed with such a clatter that he ran down the sidewalk to get away from it. Since it was a heavy block of plastic and the sidewalk was uneven, the handle continued to make noise behind him as he raced away, further and faster. We did eventually catch him, but we've sworn off those leashes for all dogs.

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