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I got my pup, Nixie, about five and a half weeks ago. She's about seven months old now, and is a terrific, fantastic dog. She's a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix who's very bright and surprisingly mellow for such a mix of breeds. She's medium-large, weighing about 40 pounds. When I got her, she was spending most of her time in an outdoor kennel with one of her more dominant littermates, had received little to no training, didn't get to meet very many people, and was not housebroken.

Since then, I've taught her many basic (and some not-so-basic) commands, gotten her used to walking calmly on a leash and reliably able to be off-leash playing fetch at the park, and housebroken her via crate training. She's obedient and eager to please. She used to act somewhat aggressive towards my cat, Abby, but through gradual introductions, she now likes her (although Abby still doesn't like her!).

Nixie's weak point is that she's very, very nervous around other people and takes a very long time to warm up to them, if she does at all. I take her in to Petsmart regularly, but she acts very skittish when other people get near her. She's a good girl and has never growled or bared her teeth at anyone, but today while at the vet, she snapped at the tech who was about to give her a shot. I had to hold her head and reassure her while she got the shot. No harm, no foul, but it got me thinking that I really need to socialize her and get her more comfortable with people.

Furthermore, she's either standoffish or even slightly aggressive towards other dogs. She didn't care about my parents' dog (she literally didn't even acknowledge her), but with certain dogs, she bristles and growls and stands very close to me. Other times, she just tries to avoid them. She's a wonderful dog, but it's plain that she didn't receive the kind of socialization she needed in her formative months.

I'm not really too hung up on having a really social dog--she's special whether or not she enjoys the company of other people or dogs--but I don't want her fear-biting a well-intended stranger (or friend!), be they human or dog. What are some safe ways I can go about socializing her? I want her to get comfortable with other dogs and people, but in a way which won't put her or others at any kind of dangerous risk!
 

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Best thing you can do is find a local behaviorist that you can work one on one with. They will see so much spending just 5 mins with you and your dog. It always blows my mind.

Here are my thoughts. When you take her to petsmart watch how people approach her. People greet dogs in ways that can be very disturbing to dogs. If I bend over towards you, hands in your face and staring you in the eyes you might get weirded out too. Don't be afraid to ask the well intended stranger to ignore her for a bit when they come up to you. I have had good luck with people inside pet stores. Most are happy to help and understand. You want her to be willing to approach them and get out of that defensive mind set.

Take her with you to as many places you can. Quick trips at first and not when it would be busy. Where I live, dogs are allowed in many different business. Trips to the hardware store are an awesome place to train since it's so noisy in the lumber area ;) We go out to many of the restaurants that allow dogs too. Again go when it's slow and later the crowds won't be scary.

Behaviors that you reward are the ones that get repeated is what my trainer always says. Out at the restaurant I offer treats when they lay down on their own or ignore the waiter going by and even the dog on the other side of the patio. I want them to make the choice for themselves and not have me directing their every move. My big guys are very relaxed and will often nap while I eat. Same goes for when we are out in the general public. Treats for ignoring the dog barking through the fence as we walk, waiting calmly as I try to get the bags in the car ect... I never ask them, I just wait until they offer up the right behavior.

Fearful aggression can be an issue which is why a good behaviorist is worth the money. My sweet little (70 lbs 5.5 month old) is very scary when he gets to resource guarding. He is never off leash with other dogs when food is out. We are just not far enough in redirecting that behavior.

There are so many great books that can be of use if you like to read. These are a few I've gobbled up the last 6 months. They all touch on shyness and fearful aggression. These are not how to guides but they have helped me see things in a new perspective.

Inside of a Dog - Alex Horowitz
The loved Dog/30days to a well mannered Dog - Tamara Geller
For the love of a dog - Patricia McConnell http://www.theotherendoftheleash.com/
Don't Shoot the Dog -Karen Pryor
Bonding with your Dog - Victoria Schade
How to speak Dog -Stanley Coren
Mine - Jean Donaldson
 

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Thanks so much for the help and advice! I'll definitely look into some of those books and try taking her to some of those places you suggested, and think about finding a good local behaviorist! Thanks again :)
 

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Ceasar Milan's TV show on NGTV is something I would suggest for this situation. Fear of the world she lives in is not a good thing. Things change and the more accepting she is of the world the less stress it will cause her. What iff she got sick and had to be hospitalized. What if something happened to you and she had to be with someone else for a while??
 
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