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My dog, Pippa, was rescued from the side of the road at about 5 months old. The vet told us most likely she was abused because she was scared of everything especially humans. The vet thinks she is a beagle-dachshund mix. She is now about 9 months old and has came a long way. She is comfortable around me and my wife while we are all at home and has learned to sit and give a paw. She also responds to her name well. The some of the issues we are having with her are potty training, walking, listening outside our home, and fear with strangers. The latter two are our biggest issues. Once we leave our home she rarely will respond to us or sit for us. And while walking anywhere if we come into contact with a person or even withing eye sight of a person she freaks out. If the person or people are close enough she will defecate (she even does this when people come into our home) and she will try and run away and pull away in any direction. We have tried keeping the leash short so she can't do anything, sitting her down, holding her, telling her it is ok but nothing will calm her down. After passing or seeing a person she is even scared of us and doesn't want us petting her. Please help!
 

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This is a socialization thing. She needs to slowly learn that people are not mean, but in fact they are friendly. One method is to take her to a fenced area or in your house and have a gentle person come and ignore the dog. After the dog gets upset, ask the person (still ignoring the dog), to toss a small piece of hotdog or boiled chicken over the dog's head, behind the dog. And wait. If the dog takes the bait, throw another. After 4 successes, throw one in front of the dog. After she eats it, Then, throw one between the dog and the person. Then, wait. Her hunger and curiosity may get the better of her. Regardless of the response, have the person gentle get up and leave.

Repeat the process the next day. But this time, at the end, have the person hold small treat in an opened hand on his leg. If your dog takes the treat, try to repeat this with other people... It'll take a few months, but she'll learn...
 

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I agree with hanksimon. I would definitely let her do it in her own time. I wouldn't try to force interaction. Let her become comfortable and confident with the situation, and THEN she may feel brave enough to try.

We keep a jar of treats by the door, and let guests toss treats to our foster pup, who is also very afraid of people. We have them toss them in her general direction, but not really talk to her, or hand feed them to her. That way, she will start thinking that every time people come in, she gets something good!

On walks, I would recommend keeping her under her threshold. If you see people coming, cross the street, or go down a side street, or whatever you have to do to keep her at what SHE feels is a safe distance (her threshold). If you keep her at her safe distance (threshold) she will be more likely to remain calm, and you can give her a treat from remaining calm.
Gradually, you'd work on "shrinking" that safe distance (threshold).
 

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Thank you. That is what we have been doing before in the house is just have people ignore her and put food down near her bowl or bed. She has improved over the past few months with being in the house or even being at other peoples houses. But the walking is still the same. She will not accept treats while on a walk and even if the person is 50 feet away she freaks and we do cross the street and stuff but she is still freaking out and she doesn't even recognize us when she is in that state. When at home or another persons house if she gets scared she hides by us or behind us or comes to us but when we are out she tries to run and wont even let us pet her.
 

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.. What Doxie said... "under her threshold" even if it's 100 yards or half a mile away. And very slowly reduce the distance each day. Yes, it may take 6 mos (it won't, she will "get" it...), but you've already made significant progress over the past 4 mos... another 6 mos will pass quickly.
 

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.. What Doxie said... "under her threshold" even if it's 100 yards or half a mile away. And very slowly reduce the distance each day. Yes, it may take 6 mos (it won't, she will "get" it...), but you've already made significant progress over the past 4 mos... another 6 mos will pass quickly.
We have a very similar situation with Ruby who is now 9 months old. She is a staffy something cross and was dumped on an industrial site. We adopted her from the rescue association when she was 5-6 months. She is fine at home with my son and I (boisterous, playful, a touch naughty, cuddly, etc), but absolutely scared of everyone else - even the next door neighbor who she sees every day over the fence. We're gradually introducing her to different people coming in to our home and with a lot of patience from all involved she is improving at home. However when we take her out, she 'freaks' at people, particulary noisy young children, and is just frantic to get away. I understand the 'threshold' theory and am grateful for having found your advice. What I'd like to know is: What is the best action to take when she is in the middle of 'freaking'? Usually we try to get her to a quieter spot away from whatever was scary and try to calm her before walking her home. Any suggestions of what is the best course of action when she's in the middle of a 'freaking attack' would be appreciated. Thank you.
 

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I will tell you what to do to fix your problems, as well as why it will work:

1) Don't nurture your dog by telling him it will be ok and holding him. When you give any kind of affection, you are just saying to your dog that whatever he is doing at that moment is good. Is he scared? Are you giving him affection? Then you are telling him, it is good to be scared, and more scared he will be. Ignore him when he is scared.

2) Do not pay attention to your dog when he is scared. This is not a mean thing to do. You want to carry on with whatever you are doing, and remain calm. Dogs mimic our states of mind. If we are excited, so are they. If we are worried about them, they will worry. When you are walking and he gets scared and pulls, don't look at him, don't change your state of mind or thoughts, stay calm and confident, chest up, look forward, and keep walking. He will learn from you that there is nothing wrong.

3) Control the people your dog meets. Do not let them interact with your dog at all for now! Don't let them even look at your dog. The proper way that dogs meet a newcomer is to GO TO THEM, not for the newcomer to come to them. Dogs are naturally curious, and if they are ignored by a newcomer, they will come to him out of curiosity. Instruct anyone who your dog goes to to not talk, look, or touch your dog still. Just let your dog sniff the newcomer for a few minutes, which is the way dogs greet each other. The new dog stays still, and the dogs go and sniff him. Then if your dog seems to rub up on the new person or show affection can the new person look your dog in the eyes for a second and pet him.

4) Go ahead and expose your dog to his fears all he wants by walking near people. Just ignore him and he will get better. The only way to get rid of your fear of flying is to actually fly!
 

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Recent research by Ian Dunbar has shown that the older suggestion of not comforting a fearful dog, is no longer valid. Once a dog goes into amygdala hijack, you cannot accidentally reward that feeling. Otherwise, the other suggestions are OK if you are mindful of the thresholds.

Treat fear the same way that you treat growling - respect it. Once the dog is freaking out, remove him or the stimulus, otherwise it can escalate. Think of it like a phobia - it is completely irrational and emotional. And, once you go below threshold, you may not even need to calm the dog. What you've described is more like a phobia than a simple fear cycle reaction, so continue to be aware of when the dog is fearful, and notice as he slowly increases confidence.
 

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Recent research by Ian Dunbar has shown that the older suggestion of not comforting a fearful dog, is no longer valid. Once a dog goes into amygdala hijack, you cannot accidentally reward that feeling. Otherwise, the other suggestions are OK if you are mindful of the thresholds.

Treat fear the same way that you treat growling - respect it. Once the dog is freaking out, remove him or the stimulus, otherwise it can escalate. Think of it like a phobia - it is completely irrational and emotional. And, once you go below threshold, you may not even need to calm the dog. What you've described is more like a phobia than a simple fear cycle reaction, so continue to be aware of when the dog is fearful, and notice as he slowly increases confidence.

Thank you! I understand about not encouraging fear, and this is the last thing I want to do. However "When you are walking and he gets scared and pulls, don't look at him, don't change your state of mind or thoughts, stay calm and confident, chest up, look forward, and keep walking" is simply not possible. I would quite literally be dragging her dead weight towards whatever she is exhibiting extreme fear of. When Ruby hits "amygdala hijack" she is just frantic to get away - not some mild "I don't know" fear, but absolute "Get me out of here NOW!" frantic panic. My thoughts behind calming her before taking her home or continuing the walk in another direction is so that she learns that exploring (while scary some places) is good/fun still in other places - as opposed to learning home is the only place thats safe. The thresholds theory makes all kinds of sense to me and we'll continue working with positive reinforcement and encouragement while narrowing the threshold down - even if it's to be step by step, day by day. Shes' a gorgeous dog and I love her to bits. I really want her to learn that the world outside our gate is "okay". Thank you again for your thoughts and advice!
 

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How is it outdated if it works so well? If you remove a dog from a phobia, he just learns that running away takes away the fear. Same with humans. Best way to get rid of fear of flying is to fly. Best way to get rid of fear of cockroaches is to have a cockroach crawl on your skin!

How about this idea: since your dog stops walking, just stand there. Maybe you have to stand in one spot for 30 minutes, but he will calm down. If you go in the opposite direction, he will just learn that running away from people takes away the fear, which makes the fear worse. It's a cycle. If you just stand there, don't comfort him, stay calm and confident, he will get better.

Another idea: get him exhausted during the walk in places where there are no people. It will be much easier to get him near people if he is exhausted and you use the momentum of the walk; maybe even try running!

I had a dog who was afraid shoes for many years. One day I carried him over to a bunch of shoes and held him there. He cried, breathed heavily, and drooled like crazy, but I just held him there and stayed calm. 20 minutes later, he was no longer afraid of shoes!

20 minutes of extreme stress vs a lifetime of fast heart rate and high stress whenever someone with shoes walks by!

Also, check him out at the vet too. Good luck! :rockon:
 

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Stevej9 - with all due respect you are just blazingly wrong. Forcing a dog to stay near something that scares him only makes things much much worse. It dramatically increases the level of stress hormones, which take days to return to normal levels. Worse, the dog can't learn in a fearful state, so all you're doing is terrifying your dog for no reason. And forcing a scared dog to do anything can easily escalate to a bite. I've seen it all too often.

To Stickers & ballja: check out the fearful dog threads on this forum -- lots of good advice there from people who have extensive experience with fearful dogs.

Some other terrific resources:

http://fearfuldogs.wordpress.com/
A short book - The Cautious Canine, by Patricial McConnell
Longer book - Help for Your Fearful Dog, by Nicole Wilde

These three resources have been immeasurably helpful to us as we've worked through our dog's issues -- I can't recommend them highly enough.

And just an aside -- a fearful dog does not necessarily mean the dog has been abused. My dog is afraid of cardboard - that fact does not mean that she was threatened by it at any point in her life! You can blow a lot of time thinking like that and making wrong assumptions that lead you down one path or another. Learn to deal with the behavior that is right in front of you and don't be tempted to start looking for reasons or motivations -- you will never be inside your dog's head to know for certain what is happening. Just watch and learn and respond to what you're seeing, not to what you think or what some other well-intended bystander thinks he or she sees. Stick with what you can observe and leave the suppositions to the psychics. :)
 

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Once a dog goes into amygdala hijack, you cannot accidentally reward that feeling.
With food or toys you can't but you can if you pet the dog or verbally reward him while he's focused on the stressor. For example petting the dog and using calm, soothing voice like "yes, good boy, it's ok, good boy, good job" during the unwanted behaviour is of course counter productive. This may look like common sense but a lot of people do exactly that.
 

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When my pup gets fearful of random things, I use my ridiculous overenthusiastic "This Is SO Awesome!" voice, which gets him all waggy and excited. He's starting to startle a little when the doorbell rings, and will bark once (great guard dog, right?), and I respond with "Who's here?! Who is it?! Let's go see who it is! Come on! Let's go see!!" and instantly he gets all jazzed up again about what's going on. If your dog gets all happy when you use your "good stuff" voice, maybe you can try that to try to encourage her that good stuff is going to happen when other people are around.
 

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I agree with Hanksimon and Doxiemom. Look to see if your local training club or humane society offers a "shy dog" class (many of them do). We have one at the club I belong to and the trainers there have helped many a fearful dog. Good luck to you and thank you for rescueing.
 

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I agree with Hanksimon and Doxiemom. Look to see if your local training club or humane society offers a "shy dog" class (many of them do). We have one at the club I belong to and the trainers there have helped many a fearful dog. Good luck to you and thank you for rescueing.
Now that's a great idea! I will definitely do that. We live in a semi rural district but there are plenty of dog owners around, I will check with the Animal Rescue organization and also for a local dog club and see what they offer.

We have used the 'over enthusiastic' method to encourage Ruby to go out the gate and start being walked (to begin with she wouldn't even step foot out the gate) and also we've used my son who walks ahead and I walk behind with Ruby saying "Where's Dane? Lets go get him!" and that works to an extent too. However once she's spooked and freaking out, she stops listening in her blind panic 'Get me out of here!" state. I'll also check through the links here - thank you for the suggestion WinnieC. I really appreciate everyone's ideas, thoughts and suggestions!
 

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My opinion is, when the dog is freaking out, remove her from the area. You may not have to comfort her, getting her away will probably be enough. If that means you have to drag her, do it.

Stress hormones can take several days, even a week or more to totally dissipate. So, it's a good idea to have some very mellow walks and activities after the freaking out happens.

When I realized Harper was reactive, and found out what would help, kind of settled on a plan, I started by avoiding people and dogs on all of our walks. When that was first recommended to us, I thought it was stupid, like avoiding the issue, but, we were told that by avoiding his "triggers" we were allowing him to calm down, and get some experience having calm, peaceful walks, and let the stress hormones dissipate.

Then, armed with the threshold mentality, we could gradually walk where we might see people or dogs, because we would know how to react (i.e. be on the lookout so we could see the trigger and move away before he reacted, etc). If he occasionally has a bad walk, we take an easy walk the next few days. This may mean walking at odd times, or different routes, whatever, so that we avoid his triggers, to give him a break.
 

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P.S. Do a search for the "Look at That" game - it can really help your dog start to make positive associations with things that bother her. And good luck!
 

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Hi, guys. So I've got this 9 month old rottweiler named, Kovu. Okay, so, Kovu is afraid of people. He dodges everytime someone tries to hold him, he does not want to eat when somebody is near him or looking at him, and when I pass by him with my bike he goes crazy and really tries to avoid me. I don't know what to do already, I've tried walking with him, I've tried giving him treats, and I've tried the suggestions here. I am really sad and really scared. Sad, because my dog is afraid of me and basically everything else. Well, he gets along with my beagle, Snoop. I'm scared because he is sp unpredictable. I tried walking him and when I tried to pet him he nearly bit my hand. I am concerned because I have 2 baby neices who visit me and Kovu might try to bite them as well. Please help. Thanks guys.
 
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