My working bred Australian Shepherd Tommy came to us as a worried dog, not sure of anything, afraid of vehicles, and if you look at him wrong or lift your arms, he freezes with his ears back, and puts his head down in a cower. It doesn’t really matter how he got that way, but it did matter how he learned to stop being that way. Simply put, clicker training saved him, and MY sanity.
When he came to live with me 4 years ago, I had the intention of finding him another home, as he was the product of a breeding kennel that was being divided up. I was helping someone out who has no where else to put him and wasn’t going to send him to a rescue. However, he became my buddy and now we are a working partnership.
His shutting down still happens, but with much less regularity. If he feels threatened in anyway he actually freezes and won’t move. This can be caused by someone walking towards him normally, by raising your hands above your waist, or by talking in an excited voice. He just shuts down and won’t move or interact with anyone or anything. So obviously correction based training is out of the question, not that it would happen here anyway. So, using food rewards have made him into a more confident dog and he has found his voice recently, a by-product of the confidence.
When I am able to catch him with his ears forward, I have to take a bunch of pictures. In this picture he is relaxed and checking out the environment.