• Hello there,

    my boy (12 months) is scared of people, especially men, when they walk towards him. He also freaks out when we come near the market place, looks in every direction and pulls on the leash like he's running for his life. He is with us since he was 16 weeks old and we socialized him very well. When he was little the crowds were no problem, we could take the subway and walk downtown. He was always shy with men until he got to know them. Our male friends were going in and out but he never got used to men in general. And I don't know what to do with the crowed places. We have been walking nearly every day to the market place and the shopping center, sitting on a bench, giving him treats, to get him used to people but it hasn't been successful yet. And now in the puberty it's even worse. Does anybody have tips how to desensitize him? I'm really getting desperate...

    Thanks in advance!


  • Possibly something happened during a "fear period" to cause this. I wouldn't "flood" him with crowds at this point. I'd go as close to the crowded place as he is comfortable, but no further. Take a little time to let him observe from a distance, don't force him to stay at a distance where he is anxious but retreat to a comfort zone and let him get used to seeing the hustle and bustle. Gradually work to getting closer but try to stay where he isn't getting anxious. It may take some time or it may not work. When a man comes to your home never force contact. Let your boy stay at whatever distance he prefers, and if the man can cooperate and just sit still and ignore the dog, the dog may at some point come to check him out. You need to be as casual as you can when you work with this dog. Don't try to reassure him, just be "matter of fact". He will pick up on any anxiety you are feeling and misinterpret it.

    Is there anyone else with an experienced dog who could accompany you so that your pup would have a model? That might also help, but again, don't force him to stay where he is anxious, and keep the visits to scary places short.


  • I agree completely with @eeeefarm. Don't force the issue. Just go into crowds or among people as far as he can cope with and then back away. Let him set the pace. Somewhere along the line he has lost confidence and this is what you have to rebuild. It may take time and you have to be patient with him. Have male visitors ignore him unless he seeks their attention.


  • The only thing I can think of to add is that when someone asks if they can pet your dog, tell them that it's up to him. Let them know that you don't think your dog would hurt them, but he might need a minute to learn their smell. I do this and many people will stop and be very still to allow doodle to decide if she wants to check them out.... works for strangers of any age!


  • @elbrant - At first Elbrant, I would just let him stand there and "watch" the stranger... after a few times of doing this if he seems OK, let the person talk to him, but do not reach for him.... and never have someone be overtop of him and reach for him to pet. IMO, the next step would be to have the person get down to his level and judge how he responds. Remember to praise and reward for calm behavior.


  • Thanks for your answers!

    I tried out the things you wrote but maybe not long enough. And maybe I force the boy too much into the scary situations.

    When it comes to people want to pet him I always say they should get done on his level and let him first sniff a bit. He is also very curious so it's not so much of a problem. It's more men that walk by or behind us. He wants to escape and run away. If he still walks nicely he gets a treat.

    We also have to work on leash walking again since puberty hit hard. When he is overwhelmed by the stimuli he pulls very strongly. When I stop it takes forever until he looks at me because he is staring at something. I always wonder if should let him stare so he can process everything or if I should get him to walk because I'm the leader. Any ideas?


  • @sarahmiri said in Scared of people / crowds:

    When I stop it takes forever until he looks at me because he is staring at something.

    Teach him to look at you on command. Very easily done with clicker training. You want eye contact and you want to put it on cue. My own word for it was "eyes".

    When he pulls he goes nowhere until the leash is slack.

    Greeting people should be entirely his prerogative. They should stay out of range of the leash and you watch his behaviour. If he wants to approach them, allow it. If he doesn't, or he moves away, take that as your cue to resume your walk.

    Men walking towards you or overtaking you, put yourself between them and your dog so he feels protected, and continue your walk unless he pulls. If he does, stop and wait for a loose leash as you would normally do. The trick is to not make a big deal of it. You could alert him to oncoming men by conversationally mentioning that someone is coming in a normal tone of voice, so he knows you are aware and not threatened by their approach. ( I used this technique with a good result on a horse I had that was afraid of trucks. He went from jumping into the ditch on the approach of a truck to tolerating it zooming by while we walked calmly along the road shoulder.)


  • @sarahmiri said in Scared of people / crowds:

    It's more men that walk by or behind us.....
    ....he is overwhelmed by the stimuli he pulls very strongly

    It almost seems like he has a hearing problem. He can't hear people approaching from behind, so he is startled by their sudden appearance. Also, when you are in a crowd, he becomes overwhelmed and panics. He is clearly frightened, but perhaps because he can not sort out all of the noises that are, or aren't, coming through.

    Consider doing some random clapping behind him, or banging pots when he is in another room, just as an observation to see if and how he reacts. Consult your Vet if his reactions don't seem "normal" to you.

    Is there such a thing as a canine ear specialist?


  • @elbrant said in Scared of people / crowds: asked are there
    canine ear specialist?
    Yes, there are Elbrant, typically they are Dog Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders, specialists.... Sarahmiri, check with your local Vet. There is also a Baer testing for hearing in dogs. Typically this is done to check hearing on Dal puppies as that is a genetic issue in the breed.


  • Fastest way to know if your Basenji has a hearing problem, in my experience, is to drop some kibble into the dog's bowl when they are elsewhere in the house. 😉


  • @eeeefarm And I KNOW my boys do not have a hearing problem - they can hear a cake crumb drop.


  • It also catches them out in a lie when they don't "hear" your recall command but are there in an instant at the sound of food falling!


  • @eeeefarm said in Scared of people / crowds:

    Fastest way to know if your Basenji has a hearing problem, in my experience, is to drop some kibble into the dog's bowl when they are elsewhere in the house. 😉

    He does hear when I prepare his food even when doors are closed 🤭 he seems to hear everything and his ears are constantly turning when we are outside. I think he is just very sensitive when it comes to people. He also gets startled easily. And it's not a problem of noise because he has no problem with cars driving by. Just a bus or motorcycle scares him sometimes. I tested it with noisy videos from YouTube. He can sleep on the couch while a jigsaw runs in TV. But outside would be a problem I guess. Apparently he is a very sensitive little guy.


  • Not unusual to be sensitive to selective things. My first boy was deathly afraid of the central vac. I cured that by feeding him in the opposite end of the house while it was running, then gradually moving it closer as his anxiety eased. Move the hose first, vacuum off, then after some time to get used to that, turn it on in the new position. Over the space of a few weeks we went from it literally scaring the shit out of him to him being able to eat his dinner with the hose coiled around his dish and the vacuum running. These things take time, and I never pushed him past his comfort level. If you take it a step too far, go back to the last known comfort zone (or further, if necessary) and eventually you will get there.

    I should add, I adopted him at just under 2 years of age, and he arrived with this phobia.


  • @sarahmiri - Usually the "fear" period is not at his age, but earlier...... It can't hurt to make sure that his hearing is normal... always good to scratch off any possibles...


  • @sarahmiri said in Scared of people / crowds:

    He does hear when I prepare his food even when doors are closed

    oh good... well, then. Perhaps helping him by describing what the noises are?
    "There's a noisy truck coming down the road", or "It's ok, it's just a motorcycle."
    -- I'm only thinking out loud.


  • I talk to him with a calm voice but it doesn't help. I think he needs to built up his selfesteem. Any tips?


  • You need to build up his confidence, @sarahmiri - This is not something he can easily do for himself. Don't push him out of his comfort zone at first, but then very gradually and if he gets things right, LOTS of praise and cuddles. Let him know how clever he is at each step and take things slowly. You will need to be patient, but do have his ears checked, sudden loud noises rather than something continuous could be upsetting him.


  • @sarahmiri said in Scared of people / crowds:

    I talk to him with a calm voice but it doesn't help. I think he needs to built up his selfesteem. Any tips?

    Calm is good. Also, radiate interest rather than alarm at anything that is happening around you. Here is a chance to hone your acting skills. Adopt the attitude that whatever is approaching or whatever you are approaching is a special treat, something enticing, not threatening. If you can make yourself "feel" that, your dog will pick up on your emotions and hopefully adopt the same attitude. OTOH, if you are apprehensive about anything, he will pick up on that too, so it's important to try to really feel positive instead of concerned.


  • I watched him closely today. It's always humans that scare him. When one appears he just looks (interesting enough to pull on the leash). When it's two or more in different directions he is overwhelmed and looks panicky from one to the other. Sometimes he walks a bow and sometimes he pulls to them. How should I behave when he panics?

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