Although it is not possible to know what is going on inside the mind of a dog with any real certainty, we think that dogs see the world very differently from us. Their understanding is not language based as ours is, but rather sensory: visual (see), olfactory (smell), auditory (hear) and tactile (touch). We believe that dogs see and understand the world in images/smells/sounds and are not able to conceptualize the way humans are able. In other words, Dogs don’t see the world …as we do. We can understand concepts
Dogs never bark and lunge at “nothing”. There is always “something” that causes this behavior. Behavior does not happen in a vacuum. As a human, it is sometimes difficult to understand, but it is our role to try to figure out what is making our dogs react this way and to help them work through it. Dog owners are often perplexed when their dogs apparently start to bark at “nothing”, see “imaginary” things in the car, or see something benign, like a flag fluttering in the breeze, and react by barking and lunging.
Just because we can’t see, hear or smell something doesn’t mean the dog can’t. There may be some small change in the environment, a new fluttering flag on a neighbor’s lawn, a new scent that is reminiscent of a bad experience, the distant sound of a car backfiring, all of which could spark fear in your dog. So be empathetic, give your dog some distance from what is scaring her, increase the distance by jogging away with her or by taking her inside. Then pause and take a moment to really look at the environment. What was it? Take a closer look to see if you can figure it out. Then work to help her cope. This will help build a bond of trust that will carry you both into a long and happy life together.
There is only ONE RULE regarding puppy socialization that must ALWAYS be respected. Socialization means not only increasing your dog’s experience and exposure to new and novel stimuli, it means that your dog must form POSITIVE associations with all of these new things! This is the KEY!!! Your dog must ENJOY all of these new experiences. If your dog is fearful or unsure in any situation, DO NOT push your dog towards the scary thing, it will only INCREASE her fear. Instead, work to make your dog change her mind about the situation, sound or thing. Do this by pairing something your puppy loves (chicken, liver, etc.) with what she finds scary at a distance or volume that will allow her to be aware of it but not overly concerned about it.
By working to give your dog a really big “catalogue” as a frame of reference, your dog will be better able to cope with novel situations later in life