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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My boyfriend's dog is a cute, pitbull mix of some type.

He did not socialize her well when she was young, and now she is afraid of everything. For example, if the concrete path we're walking on has different colored or textured stones, she freaks out.

She freaks out at storm grates and cats that we pass. There really isn't a whole lot that she's not afraid of.

I guess my question is this- when she meets other dogs, she snaps at them and lifts her lip. She has never attacked another dog. She acts like she just wants to be left alone.

She won't let children pet her, and runs away when they try to approach.

My boyfriend against my advice has taken her to the dog park on several occasion, and rarely does she have a positive experience. What he considers a positive experience is when his dog doesn't try to snap at other dogs.

However, it's obvious to me that she's terrified when meeting other dogs, even if she doesn't snap. I don't think he can read her body language and so when she doesn't snap, he thinks she is happy about meeting the other dogs.

How can we make this dog more relaxed in the presence of other dogs? Is it possible?

Should we continue taking this dog to the dog park? Everyone else at the dog park encourages us to come, and says that after a summer there this dog will be much better.

The only dogs she's comfortable with are three dogs that she grew up with and occasionally she's tolerant of smaller dogs.

Is her reaction fear based or aggression based? Is it intermixed?
 

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All aggression is fear based, unless the dog is just wired wrong. In either case a behaviorist would need to assess the dog and the chances for behavior mod. If your bf insists on taking the dog to the dog park, chances are likely zero.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I guess that is a good point about the fear. She is fearful about everything, so it makes sense also that she would be fearful of other dogs.

Thank you for your input. That's what I kind of thought, too re: the dog park. I think that my BF thinks that if he forces the dog to be around other dogs, that eventually she'll get used to them and even like them.

However, we've been going to the dog park for about 2 months now, and the dog has really shown very little improvement. In fact, she's gotten a bit worse regarding the snapping.

I have other questions:

is it worth trying to socialize this dog? she's not a young dog, and I worry that it just stresses her out.

If we do try to socialize her, how would we do it? I'm not sure this dog would be able to handle a training class- new surfaces and people and animals scare this dog.
 

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The question you're asking is, is behavior modifiable? Your answer is a resounding YES! However, how long the process takes or whether the effort is worth it depends on the dog, your commitment, and how well your behaviorist can apply the principles of learning. The process would be some form of systematic desensitization and counter conditioning. Read patience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the response.

I showed him your post, and I think he understands now that trying to force socialization on the dog isn't the best way to go, though it is obvious that something needs be done to help the dog and him, too. He isn't able to travel, because the dog freaks out in new circumstances, and it's hard to find anyone to watch her because she has issues with other dogs.

We were going to try to go to my parents this weekend, but my mom still has a few keeshonden, and his dog would have to be in close proximity to them if he were to go. He decided it would be in the dog's best interest to stay home, because again, he couldn't find anyone willing to watch his dog.

He's also very leery of boarding kennels, which is understandable. It's not a good environment for a dog like his, who has trouble adjusting to "normal" every day occurances, let alone being caged by people she doesn't know with strange dogs all around.

*sigh*

Ah well. I was kind of hoping for a quick fix to this situation, but it's apparent that there's no easy way on this one.
 

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We ALL wish there were a quick fix. I have a fearful dog who wasn't NEARLY as bad as this dog when I first got her, and one year later there are still things I have to work at making her comfortable with.

You've got a good dog underneath all of that. I definitely suggest a behaviorist due to the severity of the issues. Medication might be something you want to think about with the guidance of your vet. Herbal/natural supplements may be an option, too, but her fear may be too extreme for it.

I'll give you the link that I've given almost every fearful dog owner I've spoken to: http://www.fearfuldogs.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks again for the replies.

I guess maybe it would help to get some background:

The dog is 6 years old. My boyfriend got the dog with his ex wife from a local rescue when she was 6 months.

The ex wife didn't want to take the dog to a dog park, and my boyfriend went along with her wishes. However, they didn't make any additional effort to make the dog socialized.

AT that time, she was growing up with the other family dog, whom she was fine with. Due to that, they felt that this dog was "ok" with other dogs.

When my boyfriend got divorced from the ex, they split the dogs. It was only then that it was discovered that this dog had issues. My BF was trying to take the dog out for walks and have events where friends would come over. Some of these friends had children and other dogs. It became very apparant that his dog didn't like kids, and didn't like other dogs.

Now, that's where we are.

His dog due to the loss of her companion is also exhibiting separation anxiety. When left alone, she has to be kenneled due to the fact that when she is left alone she tends to destroy anything she can find. This is the reason that he has had to crate train a 6 year old dog, who had never previously been kenneled. This is not something she did before the divorce.

When she is kenneled, she barks constantly. When we come home, she is exhausted and has lost most of her voice due to the barking and anxiety. When we let her out of the kennel, she is impossible to handle.

She jumps and barks and is unable to calm down. Giving comands does not help this situation, because she is so excited that she ignores them.

We take her on "safe" walks to calm her down as soon as possible after letting her out of the crate. Usually, as soon as the crate door is opened, the leash is on her and we're out the door.

Then, you know how she is on walks due to my previous posts.

Again, this isn't a bad dog. She's just been through alot. She's not well trained or socialized, and due to those things it would be nearly impossible to try to rehome her. Besides, my boyfriend really loves this dog alot.

When the cirmstances are "correct" for this dog, she is a very nice doggy. She's not fearful of most adult people and is quite friendly towards them.

I wish that I didn't get frustrated with the situation. Im' not used to dogs that act like this. At first, I didn't understand. But, we'll continue to work and take the suggestions we've been offered.
 

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Two books you might want to look into, both are short, practical reads that I've found very helpful with our scared dog:

The Cautious Canine: How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears, Patricia McConnell

I'll Be Home Soon! How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety, also by Patricia McConnell

You can get them on amazon or here:

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/category/dog-training-books

BTW - a dog park is the last place I would take a fearful dog. It's too overwhelming and no dog can learn a positive association (e.g. dogs = good) when in a heightened fearful state.
 

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Two books you might want to look into, both are short, practical reads that I've found very helpful with our scared dog:

The Cautious Canine: How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears, Patricia McConnell

I'll Be Home Soon! How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety, also by Patricia McConnell

You can get them on amazon or here:

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/category/dog-training-books

BTW - a dog park is the last place I would take a fearful dog. It's too overwhelming and no dog can learn a positive association (e.g. dogs = good) when in a heightened fearful state.

I have no idea or any clue how to handle a fearful dog, but I do have an Idea and wonder if it will work.

Is it possible to take a fearful dog to a neutral place, such as a park, BUT at a very quiet park or with no one around. The park I go to has a lot of open spaces, so there's bound to be one place where there's no one there.

And the fearful dog is around a well-trained laid back type of dog. Will that help alleviate the fearfulness if it was at a neutral place?

I'm just wondering because my pup gets a little territorial if a dog walks by or strange person walks by while she does her business (she has to go in the front...I have nothing in the backyard). However, she's SO sweet and really good to everyone at the dog park and never barks...since this is a neutral environment.

So I wonder if that can also help a little? Anyone - feel free to correct me, I'm learning various behaviors as I go along.
 

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These articles are by a friend of my, they are based on the work of Pamela Dennison (whom my friend works with) and Patricia McConnel and their work with reactive and fearful dogs. Print them up for your boyfriend.


Desensitizing A Dog To Inanimate Objects Or Noises

Meet Me in the Middle – The Best Way To Introduce Dogs

The key to both of these excercises is that you don't want to allow the dog to tense up or start into a reactive situation. Once a dog starts reacting it's nearly immpossible to get them to stop and focus their attention on YOU.

I do highly reccomend that you work with a behaviorist or a trainer htat specailizes in fear ractive dogs. They can give you guidance by observing the dog and help you recognize the earliest stages of a reaction. They will also help you with timing which can be EVRYTHING when trying to amend a behavior. You can find highly qualified people here...

www.iaabc.org
www.apdt.com
 

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Please do check out the fearful dogs website that Miss Mutt gave you above. It's got great info and there's a yahoo group you can join that has been SO helpful to me as we work to socialize our newly adopted fearful dog. Lots of very knowledgeable, supportive people who have lots of experience dealing with issues like this.

I'm also reading Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde and it's a gold mine of useful info on how to desensitize and counter condition your dog, how to be a good leader, etc. Highly recommend it!
 

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There's some great information that's already been posted here. I would suggest that you also look at your behavior when this is going on. Dogs pick up a lot from their handlers. If the dog is uneasy and therefore you're uneasy also the dog picks up on that and feeds off of it and you've got a cycle going on. My dog is not fearful usually, but occassionally we go places he's completely unfamiliar with and I can pick up from his body language that he's uneasy. I've found that just by being calm myself and acting as if there's nothing to be afraid of helps him immensely and before long, he's calm in the situation as well.

To be fair though, my situation is a little different from yours. My dog is not normally afraid of everything. I still think it'll help though.
 
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