By Raising Canine

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted.

I have a 3½ year old staffie I rescued when he was about 6 months old. We still do not know if he was hurt in anyway but gets really scared if you shout and if you’re banging (say hammering a nail). He gets really scared of loud noises. He seems to have calmed down a lot.

It’s always tempting to assume a rescue dog was mistreated, in some way; however, it’s not always the case. For instance, a lot of dogs are naturally afraid of men because of things like, beards, hats, boots, deep voices, and more height. So, a dog showing submissive behavior to these circumstances does not necessarily mean he’s been abused by a man.

Is it possible your Staffie was mistreated? Yes. But it’s equally, perhaps more, likely that he was under-socialized. He could have been raised in an environment where he wasn’t exposed to these types of loud noises. Another possibility is that he’s just a naturally submissive dog and when he hears loud noises, he displays submissive behavior.

Regardless of the origins of the behavior, dogs like this simply need patience. You can do confidence-building exercises, such as playing tug and letting him win the majority of the time, making sure he gets lots of praise and treats for good behavior and good decision-making, generally creating lots of opportunities to “get things right.” If he does have a strong genetic predisposition to submission, he’ll always have these tendencies, and because of his age, this may be the case.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.