By Pat Gilbert
Pat has been asked: “I attended your seminar and very much enjoyed it. I have also enjoyed getting your Newsletters. I do have a question for you about a new Sheltie puppy that I bought who just turned 6 months old. We went to a fun match the other day and she was very scared. Looks like she can't wait to get OUT of the ring. Runs with tail down. We also went to Show n'Go (practice conformation classes with Owner Handler Assoc). She was also very nervous there. This dog is NOT nervous at home.
I have finished my first show Sheltie myself but that dog was not like this one in that she would do anything for food...ANYTHING.
This new puppy is scared at the show and I can't seem to get her attention with anything whether it be food, toy or ball.
I will tell you that she did seem to settle down some at the fun match the longer we were there.
Do you think that repeated dog shows will get her used to the "scene" and she will settle since I don't think she is shy at least not at home. Is there something in particular I need to do with a dog like this? My home consists of myself and boyfriend and 3 other dogs. No kids. Should I begin taking her out and about among all the neighborhood kids or what? That is somewhat difficult since I work during the day. What do you think or suggest?
Your advice is sincerely appreciated.”
I remember you well. Thanks about our newsletters. We have posted some of the articles on our website at www.gilbertk9.com on the Abridged Newsletter pages. You will find articles there you may not have read as they were published in Newsletters before we added your name to our growing list.
You certainly picked a highly competitive breed! Finishing a Sheltie owner/handled is not an easy thing to do. You get a Good Girl and then some for that one. You have earned my very special belly rub for your Sheltie.
Don't laugh, but what color is she? Certain mindsets are associated with different colors. This is true of many breeds.
It is critical that your Sheltie gets as much exposure as possible right now. Don't wait.
Basic and solid obedience work is essential.
Forget food, toys or any other props. They are only for good behavior and they are what I called them, props. Giving her a treat or toy when she is behaving badly only reinforces the bad behavior. She needs to trust you completely in any situation and right now she doesn't.
One thing that drives me right up the wall and you shouldn't do it, is telling a dog "it's OK" when the dog is spinning out of control. It is not and never will be OK to behave badly.
Work with her natural inborn Sheltie instincts. Breed specific knowledge really is important here. Herding Shelties work independently and think quickly for themselves. Fortunately for you, her breed also looks to people periodically for directions while doing their job. She will look to take her cues from you. If you bond with her, she will do anything for a Good Girl and a tickle.
I don't want to give you any excuses, but I do admit that some stages of development are more touchy than others. Knowing that is important but you shouldn't make excuses for any unacceptable behavior. Whether or not this is a mental stage, doesn't matter for your purposes. You do need to cope with what is going on in her little head. Dogs don't outgrow a mental stage without guidance. The only way they get over it, in a way you can live with, is to work through it with you. You don't have to be mean but anything such as a Good Girl when she is misbehaving only teaches her that bad behavior is acceptable. Everything you do with her should be positive, matter of fact and with no hesitation. It is part of every day life and nothing to worry about. Life with you is good.
You mention you have other dogs. Do any of them behave the way you want your little dog to? Do you have one that behaves badly?
Put her in public situations, and that includes meeting strangers in your home, with the good dogs only. Make sure she is on a lead before you open the door. That way she can't run and hide. I would also remove, if you have any, not so great behaviors from the situation and put them away in their crates or another room. Dogs are pack animals and cue in very quickly on what their buddies are doing and feeling. Invariably they will chose the undesirable behavior over the good one. I think we can thank Murphy's Law for that one.
I would not put her in the ring to show for points until she is steady with people and sights. You don't want your Sheltie to associate anything negative with showing. Take her to shows, classes and whatever you can find. Do not put a show lead on her. Give her a thicker collar that supports her neck without choking her. Please make sure that she can't back out of it and escape. If she ever learns she can escape, you will have more problems.
Do you take her for walks around the neighborhood? That is a good eye opener for a dog. It is also a good bonding exercise for you and for her. Become a team in every situation. She needs to see as much is possible right now. Let her see and decide the world is a good place. Let people touch her. If she freaks, have her sit next to you. A sitting position offers less of a flee or fight posture. Also she is not in the show posture of standing.
As she settles in each venue, then put her in a show situation. A good example is if she is comfortable around a shopping plaza, then put her show lead on and let her deal with the same situations. Only tell her she is a Good Girl after people touch her and she behaves well.
Keep walking her around so she sees all there is to see. Remember that she is a baby and needs rest too. When she starts to get tired put her in her crate to rest for a while. Make sure her crate is in a place where nobody can bother her. When she wakes up, potty her and continue with the walk arounds.
Very Important Tip: If you are tired and feeling short tempered or impatient don't take her out. If she is out and you get tired, put her away in her crate with a toy or treat. It works both ways. If she gets tired, the same thing applies. Put her away for a rest.
Also Important: The crate is not for punishment. It is a safe haven anywhere in the world and is her home. It is also her personal dining/bedroom.
(I feed my dogs in their crates. They eat anywhere in the world because in their minds they are never away from home.)
Is she good on a grooming table? I had a dog that didn't want to be touched on the ground but was fine on the table. I put him up and let people touch him there. Once he was comfortable with a person, I put him on the ground and let him be touched again. Eventually he was fine for a full body exam on the ground. He was always funny about his head so I would distract him by scratching his butt while the judge went over his head.
In your case for shows, a Sheltie is examined on the table and judged on the ground. The translation of that is the one time she has to be touched by a stranger in a show ring is on the table. Still she should be confident and calm when approached on the ground. After a Sheltie is examined on the table, the judge can go over them again on the ground.
I realize that what I am saying takes a lot of work but it all pays off. You will end up with a nice long time companion that gives you unconditional love and that is easy to live with and travel with anywhere.
Warm regards and let me know how you two are doing.