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My little Jasper is very, very timid. He hates new places, new people, car rides...pretty much anything outside of our house and yard. I think he was kept in a kennel situation as a puppy until I got him at about 5 months (He's a little over a year now).
Any ideas on how to help him? One of the reasons that I wanted a small dog was to be able to take him places like camping or vacations. We can't do anything with him though because he is so nervous that he almost shuts down.
We are going on a short trip later this month and I'm going to have to try and find someone who will stay at our house the whole time with him. There's no way he'd make it on the car ride (he gets sick after about 15 minutes in the car and we are going 12 hours). I can't imagine boarding him some place because he's scared of everything as it is. I'm worried that if he went to someone else's house, he'd be so scared that he'd run off if he got the chance... I'm hoping that my sister can stay with him.

He loves us and he REALLY loves our kids. He will still hunker down and run if something scares him but he doesn't seem scared of the kids at all. Just adults, even me and he's completely my baby. :( He follows me around everywhere (he's next to me right now). Most of the time he's not scared of us, it's just when we make a loud noise and a sudden movement towards him. Like I said though, the kids can run around screaming and he's happy as a clam right in the middle of them. It's just grown ups or older children who scare him.

I have to talk softly to him in a sing song voice when I pick him up or else he will start peeing in the air. It makes me really sad that he's so nervous. We've never hit him or anything (he'd probably keel right over if we did).
 

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Try NILIF. It will help him build confidence, because he will know what to expect. Any type of training you can do with him will help. Learning tricks, commands, jumping over small objects, will build confidence. Walks with your other dog (or a confident dog) will help. Gradual desensitization will help.
Be sure not to coddle him, as you can increase his wariness of new situations. Instead try to very gradually expose him to new things from a distance just slightly at his discomfort zone. Teaching him "Look at THat" can help. There's info about it on the training forum.
 

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I would refrain from "cooing" him in situations. Dogs feel secure and confident when their owner is in control of the situation, and that builds confidence, and by you "cooing" him, you essentially are nurturing that fearful behavior.
Take him out on walks to get him comfortable outside, if he ever seems like he's gonna shut down, don't pay a lot of attention to the behavior, but say something that will get him moving, if his recall command is "come" then say "come", when a dog knows what they should do they feel safer. You don't wanna be frustrated, or feel bad for the dog, you just wanna be calm, and treat it like it's no big deal that your dog is shutting down, and instead just coax him to continue following you, or if it's getting real bad just walk in another direction for a few seconds, and then turn back around, this will just get him up and following you. The more he follows you, the more relaxed he will get. If he's out in front of you, trying to run away, you obviously don't want to force him back or anything like that but you do wanna guide him back to the correct spot next to you. Insecure dogs benefit from being next to you, not only does it relax them because they are with you, but knowing that all they have to do to be safe is stay next to you, it keeps them thinking about staying next to you, which doesn't let them focus on anything else really.
 

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Awwwwe .... poor thing. :(

Eddee was a bit scared when I got him three months ago. If I would walk too quickly or reach out too quickly ... he would hunch over and pee. I could not pet him either without him having an accident.

I have been training him with things that earn him a reward. I also have learned to speak a bit more softly to him and to approach him slowly. He still will hunch over a bit ... then look at his back end to see if he peed. But he has made progress and is no where near as scared as your poor guy.

Another thing I did at first was to have a small treat in my hand every time I approached him so that he associated myself and my coming towards him with something good. I did the same thing when I tried to teach him recall. I made sure I gave him a treat whenever he came to his new name. I used tiny little pieces of cut up hot dog ... I made like 100 pieces out of one hot dog. :)

I definitely hope you can get someone he is familiar with to watch him while you are gone ... so he is not scared even more and confused.
 

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Look for a shy dog class in your area. Some of the humane societies or local dog clubs may offer them. They teach you how to build your dog's confindence in a controlled situtation and bridge that to a normal enviroment. Good Luck to Jasper and you. He is a QT!
 

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Poor Jasper! He sounds a lot like Kabota. Kabota loves children, the smaller and louder the better. Adults he's gotten much better about, but he still cowers and runs if anyone shouts.

I honestly don't believe that coddling is the problem. People told me that about my old dog's fear of thunderstorms. "Ignore him and it'll get better, coddle him and you're just training him to do it more." Yeah, well ignoring him for 2 years' worth of storms didn't accomplish a darn thing, cooing and petting him through one storm helped a lot. He was still scared, but he wasn't trying to dig through drywall.

Anyway, check out fearfuldogs.com. There is a lot of great information there about helping the fearful dog. By the way, don't feel guilty. This sort of thing is largely genetic. You can make it better or worse through what you do, but you didn't cause the problem.
 

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Thanks everyone. I do need to get him out more. It's hard because he gets stressed, which stresses me out.... So it's never a fun outing. Even just going to the park (which is like a one minute drive) can be stressful because he sometimes won't walk on a leash very well. It's like he gets antsy or something.

He's really a great dog. Most of the time he's a super sweet, fun little guy. He loves to play fetch and tug and he's a cuddly cute lapdog. It's just when he gets scared, he gets really scared. If someone new comes over he slinks around the walls and refuses to come anywhere near them. I wouldn't mind if he was just standoffish but he acts terrified. We've had family members tell us that there must be something really wrong with him and that he's probably going to bite our children since he's so skittish, but they don't get to see him playing ball with our 3 year old or licking our 1 year old's face while she squeals and laughs. He's very good with them.

I love him to pieces! He's my favorite (don't tell Buttercup).
 

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When friends come over, have them ignore him, and not even look at him, and just toss him pieces of cut up hot dog, or really high value treats. If the dog starts to come near them, have them just drop pieces, while ignoring him. If he sniffs them, tell them to ignore him. Let the dog just sniff.
 

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I would second www.fearfuldogs.com site - lots of great advice there. You can also check out Patricia McConnell's "The Cautious Canine" and Nicole Wilde's "Help for Your Fearful Dog" -- both are excellent books about dealing with fearful dogs. You can get both on Amazon for a few dollars. Well worth the price.

The key things you have to learn are (1) what are your dogs triggers? and (2) how to desensitize your dog to the things that scare him. Understanding triggers requires careful observation - you will be surprised at what you learn. Ex: Maybe you think he's afraid of Uncle Jared, but what he is actually afraid of is Uncle Jared's big cowboy hat! So observation + learning about dog body language are key to understanding what is happening. When you know what is happening, you can deal with it.

Desensitization involves very slowly introducing him to the scary thing, using treats to create a positive association, and keeping him below his fear threshhold so that he can still learn that new things aren't scary. If he starts acting afraid, back off, give him an out. Don't force him to face it or to stay near the thing that's scaring him. That just will shut him down and he'll be unable to learn any new positive associations in that state. The two books I mentioned above have desensitization protocols that are easy to follow.

We used a lot of cut up chicken and hot dog with a very gradual approach and managed to get our fearful dog comfortable in most situations. She is still barky when new people come over and she is not great at the vet, but we still work on it. The vet situation wasn't improving, so we decided to give her Xanax before appointments (Xanax does not sedate, so it's a good tool for training - the dog can still learn and make good associations while on it). What a huge difference it made! We walked her right in the front door the last time, something we haven't been able to do in 4 years. My hope is that she will eventually be able to go without the medication, but I'm ok if that doesn't happen.

Good luck with your pup! He sounds like a sweet dog and is lucky to have found a good home.
 

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Lot's of good advice. I agree that expanding their world helps. You just need to do it slowly. Find a quiet spot and just sit there, maybe read a little, or maybe even read out loud (conversational tones can be beneficial). Leave little bits of treats around for him to find. Sometimes, having a friend with a dog go on a walk along side you makes a difference. Have your guests ignore him and randomly drop treats as Winnie suggested. Enroll in classes, learn the "look at that game"etc. As you make his world bigger, his confidence gets bigger. And if he is still way too fearful, there are a variety of meds, from herbal OTC to Vet RX to help him relax so you can continue desensitizing.
 

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I would refrain from "cooing" him in situations. Dogs feel secure and confident when their owner is in control of the situation, and that builds confidence, and by you "cooing" him, you essentially are nurturing that fearful behavior.
I agree with half of this (Wally was a fearful dog). I agree that fearful/anxious dogs feel more stable being near you, which can help them relax and actually read the situation instead of just reacting on the "OMG" moment of the trigger occuring. I don't agree that cooing nutures fear behavior. The dog doesn't think "I get cooed, let me act fearful" - if something scares the dog, it scares him and he's going to go into "fear mode" before you even start cooing.


Take him out on walks to get him comfortable outside, if he ever seems like he's gonna shut down, don't pay a lot of attention to the behavior, but say something that will get him moving, if his recall command is "come" then say "come", when a dog knows what they should do they feel safer.
Assuming the fear response doesn't overcome what the dog knows to do. If he is over threshold (i.e. the fear is so strong that it overrides his rational side of his brain, which is what will allow him to process that recall instruction (or even acknowledge that he even heard it), then the behavior needs to be VERY strongly conditioned, almost to the point of being a reflex. If the dog never had to perform the behavior in a panicked/highly anxious state - he might not be able to, literally (emotion is a context and changes in context can change/disrupt known behaviors)

You don't wanna be frustrated, or feel bad for the dog, you just wanna be calm, and treat it like it's no big deal that your dog is shutting down, and instead just coax him to continue following you, or if it's getting real bad just walk in another direction for a few seconds, and then turn back around, this will just get him up and following you. The more he follows you, the more relaxed he will get. If he's out in front of you, trying to run away, you obviously don't want to force him back or anything like that but you do wanna guide him back to the correct spot next to you. Insecure dogs benefit from being next to you, not only does it relax them because they are with you, but knowing that all they have to do to be safe is stay next to you, it keeps them thinking about staying next to you, which doesn't let them focus on anything else really.
This I agree with 100%

The only thing I would add is doing some classical conditioning on the fear trigger in hopes of lowering the fear response and turning that trigger into a predictor of possible good things instead of a threat that needs to be evaded/defended against. I would do this before he gets so worked up he can't respond (at that point, moving away from the trigger is definitely a good idea). Once he notices the trigger, start with the good things. For example, Wally used to fear kids when he saw a kid, I immediately marked and rewarded it. "You looked at a kid! Good!" type of thing. Over time, this makes seeing kids predictions of good things happening. The "Look-at-That!" game in Controlled Unleashed is one application and can be used on any trigger.

The other thing is giving a behavior to do. This follows along with what you're saying about if they know what to do, it helps them. For Wally, it's sitting. In fact, it became a communication tool. He would paw my legs and then sit looking at whatever is worrying him. If he's sitting, he can't run away (can't sit and run at the same time, incompatible behavior), plus if he feels sitting = getting to safety, he will stay sitting, waiting for the opportunity for us to move away. Meanwhile, I'm marking and rewarding him sitting while looking at the trigger, further reinforcing both the sit-stay behavior and counter-conditioning the trigger.

If we're walking along and he just sits suddenly, or he stops sniffing and comes to me and sits "out of context" (i.e. he was looking for a place to mark, but then just comes back and sits and looks at something), I know something has him worked up and I need to see what it is. If he's "concerned, but uncertain" he'll stop and look at me for what to do. If he's "slightly worried", the tail goes down some, but he keeps moving/doing whatever. So giving behaviors might also make for a way for your dog to say "I'm getting a bit scared here, please help" without trying to snap the leash in two in an effort to get the heck away.
 

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KB that is a great description of why giving a behavior to do is such a good idea. Long before you might notice something amiss the dog gives you a crystal clear clue (sitting).
 
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