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Hello! I have had my girl, Bella, for 4 years now. I got her when she was 4 months old.
While she has come so far from the timid, shy dog that would not let anyone touch her; she still does not trust me or anyone fully. She still cowers when approached, or if one of the other dogs are being disciplined, or when I offer her food...etc, etc.
She constantly(and I am not exaggerating the constantly) wants attention. If one of my other dogs is getting attention, she pushes her way into the mix. She will paw me (which hurts badly) if she is not getting attention.
I do not hit, scream, kick, or in any other way abuse or neglect any of them.
I do not know what else to do to help her become more confident or to get her to understand that she is safe with me. She does listen to commands, gets along with my other dogs, not strange dogs though. She does not take to strangers so she has not been socialized alot. She can be unpredictable at times. There have been 3 people, besides me, that she has taken to almost immediately in the 4 years I have had her.
Any help would be appreciated.
 

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Unfortunately, I am not a young person and have a few health issues that prevent that. I do not believe she would do well under those conditions. I appreciate the help though!!
 

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I've seen a lot of older people out there, they rock it. I've even seen it done in wheelchairs. My Mentor is 71.

Does she like tennis balls? Flyball might be an option. No running needed from your side.. Also dock diving if she likes to swim, no running needed there.

You start with a class, private or with a few dogs as well. Will help alot with a nervous dog gaining confidence at a slow pace
 

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Unfortunately, I am not a young person and have a few health issues that prevent that. I do not believe she would do well under those conditions. I appreciate the help though!!
What mental stimulation do you do with her? Training? Enrichment toys such as Kongs and other out food dispenser toys?

Scentwork -, hide a treat or a toy and encourage her to Find It -, a very versatile game which can be played just about anywhere. Start off with one room and work your way up so that you're playing it on walks, too. As she learns with treats, switch up to things like key, socks, gloves, the paper - etc.

"It's Yer Choice" by Susan Garratt
Sit in front of your dog with a handful of treats. When the dog leans in to grab them, close your fist. The dog will likely nudge and paw at your fist to get the treats, but eventually she should lean back - that's what you're waiting for. Open your fist. If she leans in again, close it. When she leans back, open the first and give her a treat.

A similar game is one I'm currently teaching my dogs: The Bucket Game by Chirag Patel. This one puts the dog in charge.

Place treats in a bucket big enough for the dog. (I'm actually using a mug, but the premise is the same). Put the bucket to one side. When the dog looks at the bucket, feed a treat from it. Let the dog look away, walk away, take a break/get a drink, or end the game by lying on her bed or leaving the room. As you will see from this link, you can then use this game to move on to other areas, such as the ear check/clean as demonstrated:

A stuffed Kong will give you both a bit of time out.

Look up Kikopup on YouTube. Especially her Capturing Calmness video.

Hope that helps. :)
 

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First off - cut yourself some slack. The title of your post, which labels her as 'abused' is misleading. If you've had her since 4 months of age, her fearfulness/anxiety is most likely genetic - NOT caused by something in her environment or anything you have done (or not done) I'd suggest looking into getting involved in Nosework. That's a wonderful way to help shy or anxious dogs gain some confidence, while demanding much less physical activity on the part of the human partner. Even if you don't pursue 'formal' classes, just Google 'nosework games for dogs' and you will get TONS of ideas to put her nose to use in creative & positive ways.

I will also encourage you to look up Debbie Jacobs. She has a book, website & facebook page all dedicated to working with fearful dogs. I guarantee that you will find some positive guidance there.

Also, have you talked to your vet - in depth - about her level of anxiety? She might be a good candidate for anti-anxiety medications along with a good, positive behavioral modification plan. Do you have a trainer that you are working with? If not, you would probably benefit from finding someone to help guide you along this path with your sweet, shy pup. Just make absolutely certain that they are highly qualified & only use positive reinforcement in working with timid dogs.
 

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Thank you everyone for the great ideas! She has been this way from the moment I got her. She was abused by the breeders, there was evidence gathered and reports filed. It may be some genetics as well. I have looked into that too. I will give these a shot.
 

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At four months old, puppies are like clay - you can mold them into anything. Either 1, you didn't do enough confidence building and socilization (this isn't to bash you, just facts), or 2, its genetics. Their is a crucial period between for socilization is 3-16 weeks of age. this is because the puppy is so young and can soak up anything new and register it as the new normal.
 

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Even a four month old puppy can be impacted by their environment. There's even evidence that high levels of stress in the mother while she's pregnant can produce puppies who have more extreme stress responses for their entire lives. My own 17-month-old (or is it 18 now? This year has been such a mess) had an accident at 8 weeks at the (excellent and caring) breeder where his head got stuck in a wire grate, and I do believe that it's contributed to his weirdness about wearing anything that feels restrictive - harnesses included. If I had to guess, I'd say this girl probably has both early environmental and genetic factors contributing to her nerves. I'm not one to jump on 'if a dog acts anxious it's been abused', because that's usually not the case and impossible to prove for most dogs, but here it does seem like there's solid evidence that she grew up in a stressful environment.

I'm going to second nosework! It's an enormously confidence building sport, and one of the most accessible 'sport' options out there for people with mobility or space restrictions. We've done a lot of training just in our small apartment during lockdown. It's dog driven and super positive, and many dogs find it inherently rewarding. It also employs behavior (sniffing) that's naturally calming and rewarding to many dogs. It's way easier to do using a book or an online class as a guide than many other kinds of training/sport, in my experience, and you certainly don't have to make it a goal to compete! It's just as useful to practice finding kibble and treats around the house and yard when it comes to trying to build confidence.

And I'm also going to second consulting about behavioral medicine. It can be an enormous benefit to dogs who are so anxious that they cannot function, even in a home environment. A poster here has a thread documenting her own dog's journey with anti-anxiety medications (Medicating Molly) which may be worth a read-through - the dog in question is now off meds entirely and competing in agility/going to dog events and handling life so, so much better than before, because the medication allowed her to learn how to better cope with the world. I also love this article on the topic: Behavior Medication: First-Line Therapy Or Last Resort?. This is definitely something to discuss with a vet or veterinary behaviorist, but I think it's an option a lot of people overlook or are resistant to when it really can change an anxious dog's life for the better.
 

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Thank you everyone for the great ideas! She has been this way from the moment I got her. She was abused by the breeders, there was evidence gathered and reports filed. It may be some genetics as well. I have looked into that too. I will give these a shot.
Oh, that is so incredibly sad. Poor little thing. Many people immediately jump to the conclusion that a dog who shows extreme fear (in general or to specific things in the environment) has been 'abused' in the past, when very often the problem stems from genetics and potentially a lack of early socialization. It seems that your little one has all the strikes going against her.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to helping her be the very best she can be.
 

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Oh, that is so incredibly sad. Poor little thing. Many people immediately jump to the conclusion that a dog who shows extreme fear (in general or to specific things in the environment) has been 'abused' in the past, when very often the problem stems from genetics and potentially a lack of early socialization. It seems that your little one has all the strikes going against her.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to helping her be the very best she can be.
At four months old, puppies are like clay - you can mold them into anything. Either 1, you didn't do enough confidence building and socilization (this isn't to bash you, just facts), or 2, its genetics. Their is a crucial period between for socilization is 3-16 weeks of age. this is because the puppy
Oh, that is so incredibly sad. Poor little thing. Many people immediately jump to the conclusion that a dog who shows extreme fear (in general or to specific things in the environment) has been 'abused' in the past, when very often the problem stems from genetics and potentially a lack of early socialization. It seems that your little one has all the strikes going against her.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to helping her be the very best she can be.
At four months old, puppies are like clay - you can mold them into anything. Either 1, you didn't do enough confidence building and socilization (this isn't to bash you, just facts), or 2, its genetics. Their is a crucial period between for socilization is 3-16 weeks of age. this is because the puppy is so young and can soak up anything new and register it as the new normal.
I am fully aware of how to socialize and build confidence. She came to me a broken mess. She has made so many positive changes. Socializing her has been a struggle. I appreciate the context of your remark, I am also offended.
 

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I gave two options of what the issue could be- yet people always pick out the wrong bits instead of pick out the statement that relates to them the most shrugs
 

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She constantly(and I am not exaggerating the constantly) wants attention. If one of my other dogs is getting attention, she pushes her way into the mix. She will paw me (which hurts badly) if she is not getting attention.
I had a dog that was like this (she's since passed away) and one thing that really helped was teaching her a bunch of stupid tricks. First of all, I think the one-on-one focused attention involved in the training itself, even though we were only doing it for maybe 15 min per day, helped meet that need. Secondly, when she'd start going into LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME mode when other dogs/items/people/etc. were getting attention, I could ask her for a trick to...earn, I guess?...the attention, rather than having her nudging and pawing at me. Eventually when she wanted to steal attention she'd offer a trick rather than physically badgering me. It didn't totally cure the attention hog issue, but it did make it less intrusive and less incessant.

If you're looking for good ideas for tricks, check out "Do More With Your Dog" - they have lists of tricks leveled by difficulty, and lots of youtube clips on how to teach various tricks step-by-step. The nice thing with trick training is that you can just skip or modify any that are physically difficult for you or the dog, or that just don't seem fun or feasible.

I gave two options of what the issue could be- yet people always pick out the wrong bits instead of pick out the statement that relates to them the most shrugs
I think the problem is that your premise - "At four months old, puppies are like clay - you can mold them into anything" - is simply factually incorrect.
 

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I am fully aware of how to socialize and build confidence. She came to me a broken mess. She has made so many positive changes. Socializing her has been a struggle. I appreciate the context of your remark, I am also offended.
I'm sorry you're offended by some of the comments made.

We don't know how many puppies you've had, how many you've raised, your training/socialisation style, or whatever. We don't know how aware you are of genetics in puppies, or how much you know about stress and the effects of it on unborn puppies. We can only go by what you've told us.

You say this dog was abused. You literally put that in the title. What if the dog has never been abused, and it simply is a mix of stress in the mother and genetics? Put yourself in the breeder's and/or first owner's shoes, How offended - how hurt, would you be if you saw a thread like this, put two and two together, and realised someone was accusing you of animal abuse?

And that's the thing with forums. It's not just members who can read the threads. People for various reasons, can choose to read the thread (known as lurkers) without signing up. Sometimes it's to get a feel for the place before committing, sometimes they just enjoy reading and learning without getting involved themselves.

(To the Mods; I hope this isn't backseat modding. If so, please accept my sincere apologies).
 
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