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I adopted my dog Basil a year and a half ago and I love him like crazy. Unfortunately he has some anxiety issues that seem to have gotten worse since I've had him. I always knew he would have some problems because he had a very troubled past but I could use some advice on dealing with them. Before he came to me, Basil was 1 of over 100 dogs living in a hoarder's apartment in NYC.

(Caution: the following story is sad and disgusting). The dogs were neglected, underfed, thirsty and very sick. Some dogs didn't make it and were left decaying in the apartment for several days. The woman who owned them was seen throwing dead dogs in a dumpster behind the building. Finally she was exposed and several shelters came to rescue the dogs. The smell was so bad that several apartments in the building had to be evacuated.
So when I adopted Basil, he was malnourished and scared. I understand when Basil has problems adjusting to new people and new dogs and noise but sometimes he gets so agitated that he violently shakes and pants for hours (during parties and lightning storms, etc) and it's very hard to calm him.

I've tried several calming supplements (Healthy Dogma Peaceful Pooch, Ark Naturals Happy Traveler, GNC Pets Ultra Mega Calming Formula) and the Thunder Shirt, and nothing has had an effect on his anxiety. My vet said he doesn't like prescribing meds for dogs' anxiety, so I'm wondering if anyone has any other ideas for me to try?
I was thinking about enrolling him in a dog class for socialization to get him less scared of other dogs, but he's displayed some fear/aggression to dogs in the past. I don't want to put him in a situation where he may start a fight with a dog because he doesn't have the teeth to defend himself if he provokes another dog (his teeth are all ground down from trying to escape his former home).
I love him and hate seeing him upset. Also, he tries to run when anxious and he once wriggled out of his harness when going to the vet and I had to chase him around the building (the harness has since been tightened :redface:).

Ok I'm finally done, sorry for the long post!
Has anyone had experience with a dog with an abusive past? Thanks!
 

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Welp, I can't say I have experience with dogs that have been in abusive situations... but I know our pup came to us with a lot of fear issues. I've heard it been said a lot that if a dog is in panic mode, he or she can't learn new behaviors; so you need to start with whatever scares your dog being very, very far away, and be prepared to work verry slowly. If no amount of distance will help with his anxiety, I have heard trainers and vets recommend anti-anxiety meds, just until the dog is more comfortable...

Anywho, here was what I did with Luna, and her absolute terror of vehicles, especially buses. I started her at home, just teaching her all the basics; sit, stay, touch, down etc. Basically, what I did was counter condition her. She would see a car, at a distance she was comfortable with, and we would have a car party. "Oh look Luna, it's a car! Here's a nice big piece of chicken!" (If your dog won't take food, he's too stressed! And if food isn't what he loves.. try other things that he loves; toys, praise, cuddles.. etc). Soon she learned to associate cars with food, so we started walking together. If she got to the point where she was darting to the end of the leash again, I would move away from the road, distract her with some training and lure her to keep following me. After awhile we were able to get onto the sidewalk consistently, and every time a car went by i'd just keep her walking by distracting her with food and training commands. You can use similar techniques counter-conditioning her reactions to dogs and people. After she's built up confidence with people you can get them to be the ones feeding her the treats. Make sure to start with calm, gentle people you know. Get them to face away from her so they're less threatening, and just have them drop treats behind them. Always start somewhere your dog is somewhat relaxed and able to absorb what's going on. I've also heard good things about rescue remedy, perhaps give that a try as well.

Again, not sure if it'll work. I know if it does, it'll take a lot of time and effort. The best thing i've learned for scared dogs is just to take it slow, give them lots of food and encouragement, and don't get discouraged. It was a long process for us, but she now walks confidently beside me. Now to work on her fear of over-bearing dogs and men carrying large objects. :3 Sorry if this isn't helpful, just thought i'd attempt to lend a hand!
 

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Hmmm... although I do suggest going as natural possible, why does your vet not like prescribing anti-anxiety medications? Depending on the behaviors your dog displays, he might need something to get him into a state where he can actually learn.

My dog has severe separation anxiety. His past is unclear. :( After I leave, food and toys hold no value. In order for him to be calm enough to learn to be by himself, he has to be medicated. Destruction, heavy panting, not eating or drinking, urinating when enclosed into too small of a space... If you have to deal with something like this, where food, toys, and other rewards don't hold enough value when he is stressed, you might need to get a second opinion on the medication part.

Other than that: reward, reward, reward. When people come over, let them give him a treat. Do not force him to interact with anyone. Its all about baby steps. Try to stay close to home until he gets more confident. Walk at quieter times during the day/evening.
 

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Try a storm shirt. My dog acted like he was going to die during storms. I didn't have much faith in the shirt at first, but we don't go anywhere without it if he's with us. I know your situation is different, but they have a 30 day money back guarantee.
 
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