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Discussion Starter #1
My wife and I are being nice to our neighbors. They have always fed and taken care of our dog and cat when we go away for vacation, so we are returning the favor.

However, one if their dogs is extremely difficult to deal with. She is elderly and obviously has some trust issues and was possibly abused before they adopted her. She is very scared and when we approach her, she gets into a corner and growls and will snap if you try to approach her. I usually wear thick leather work gloves when dealing with her because I never know what she will do, but since they only cover my hands and wrist, I don't try to handle her because she could still grab my arm if she wanted to. I however, am the only one willing to deal with her - my wife will not. Over the years, I have learned to deal with several difficult dogs and have been pretty successful. I am patient and if I have time, I will sit on the floor about 5 feet away from her for the better part of an hour, but she still does not appreciate me trying to approach her any further.

Trying to get ready for work, I don't always have time to sit and be patient with her and I have been able to herd her outside by strategically opening doors to herd her through the house until she gets outside. However, I don't know if it's a good idea to try to handle her when she is in this state, otherwise, I would just reach down and grab her. If she can get away from me, she will run away and whine and whimper. Her tail is straight down and curled between her legs, which tells me she is frightened as opposed to just being plain aggressive and dominant. She is frightened for her life and is doing what she knows to do to defend herself.

Is there anything I can do (or not do) to prevent further psychological damage to her, and prevent physical injury to myself in the process?

She is a terrier/dachshund mix, slightly larger than a fat dachshund (about 10 lbs or so), so she could inflict an injury if I were to just reach down and touch her.

Any ideas?
 

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Is she food motivated? Maybe when you have the time to sit away from her at some distance (like the 5 feet you mentioned), toss some treats to her and see if she'll take them.

Try not to look at her too much, eye contact can be viewed as threatening, especially if she's not trusting you yet.

If she'll eat the treats when they are tossed to her, stay at that point for a while, at least you have an opening and she'll want to see where they are coming from (chances are, though, she's going to be looking at you if only to watch what you do and see if she needs to run away).

After some days, try to toss them so that she'll have to come towards you a little. Then keep that up. Basically, you're trying to get her to associate you with good things happening.

Also, just give some time for her to observe you and see that you mean no harm. She's going to have to convince herself in the end.

Granted, Wally was not that fearful (or perhaps he was, but he choose to act ultra submissive instead growl/snap in fear), but these sorts of things helped bring him around.
 

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Good advice KB. Just one note on the distance...I'd make the distance greater. Five feet is probably too close when the confidence isn't there yet. The 'magic' distance for dogs (close vs. far away) is about 8' so, I'd lean towards tossing the treats from 10' or 15' at first before getting that close.
 

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Make sure they're DELICIOUS treats too. Greasy, smelly, stuff.. think hot dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Funny, I was just thinking about the food thing while I was attempting to get her out this morning.

Milk bones, those are no different than regular dog food. Hot dogs got her attention, however. She snapped a couple times at my fingers, and she's still wary, but after a few bites of hot dog, she actually let me pet her and rub her ears, which she enjoys very much. But it will still take some time to completely win her over. She's old, but there may be hope. It's only been one night.

Too bad the neighbors are finally coming home tomorrow and I'm just now starting to win the dog over after several days! I feel bad for her and wonder what could have happened to make her this way.
 

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Sometimes it's not abuse, it's lack of socialization. Many people see a growling or fearful dog and think to themselves that the dog must have been abused. Sure, sometimes that's the case, but not always. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "oh, Marge must have been abused" when I'm pretty sure that didn't happen.. what DID happen was a cruddy start to life in a shelter with less than optimal socialization opportunities.

I am glad you made progess :) The way to a dog's heart is always through his mouth!
 

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Milk bones, those are no different than regular dog food. Hot dogs got her attention, however. She snapped a couple times at my fingers, and she's still wary, but after a few bites of hot dog, she actually let me pet her and rub her ears, which she enjoys very much. But it will still take some time to completely win her over. She's old, but there may be hope. It's only been one night.
Excellent!

There's always hope. Keep that up and she'll be sure to come around - especially if you went from snapping to petting - that's wonderful :)
 
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