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Hi, my husband and I adopted a precious 2 year old chiweenie named Easter in January. We lost our previous 13 year old to aging the year before and were finally ready to open our hearts and home again. We found Easter at a small dog shelter and did not realize all of the red flags until it was too late and we were already in love with her. The info on her past was patchy and inconsistent depending on who we spoke to. She was likely a puppy mill baby, contracted and nearly died of Parvo (was given up for adoption at that time), was adopted by an elderly woman who hand-fed Easter table scraps and had to re-home the pup when she was put into a nursing home. Then Easter was passed between several foster homes until we adopted her just after her 2nd birthday. That's a ton of rehoming. She's the sweetest little pup and we adore her, but I'm very worried about her happiness. She's super healthy and eats homemade dogfood. However, she really doesn't respond to either myself or my husband after this whole year with us. She's terrified of other dogs and going for walks, hardly spends time outside and only plays with a couple squeaky toys for about 15 minutes per day. She sleeps more than any elderly dog I've ever owned. Is she potentially too depressed or traumatized to bond with us? We're determined to love and accept her no matter what, but it makes us sad that she hardly does anything and doesn't seem to want to play like a puppy should. Help?
 

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I encourage you to seek out a dog behaviorist, because there's a ton to unpack there. It sounds like she never really learned to bond with a human, or to "be a dog." If she's from a mill, chance are greater that she has some inherited temperament issues, too. But in the meantime, these are a couple of ideas. Take it with a grain of salt, because I am not an expert in animal behavior, but:
1. It sounds like she likes food! Will she perform at all for food bribes? If so, go on youtube and search for "do more with your dog" - there are a ton of videos on how to teach dogs cute tricks in a fun, positive way. Training is a nice way to bond with a dog and build the dog's confidence, and trick training is super low pressure as long as you approach it in a chill manner.
2. A family member adopted a similarly withdrawn dog, and it did her dog a lot of good to interact with a happy, well-socialized dog. It was like she saw how the other dog was having fun and interacting positively with people and being gregarious and realized, "oh, that's how this works!" Now, if your dog is really so scared of other dogs she cannot be safely around another dog, or that it's extremely distressing for her, totally disregard this. But if you could find a small, extremely calm, amiable dog for her to spend time around, she might start to pick up some happy dog behaviors?
 

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I'd also like to suggest sniffing games. Hide treats or food for her to find. Feed her from an egg carton or in a blanket or in grass so she has to snuffle around a bit. Look up simple nosework games or canine enrichment. Start really easy so she succeeds and learns how fun it is!

Sniffing is a pretty Big Deal for dogs, and we tend to forget about it sometimes. It triggers dopamine release and has been shown to increase confidence and reduce anxiety in dogs, essentially a natural stress reliever. It also requires very little pressure, so she can participate at her own pace.

Parus has great ideas too, for sure consider them. And I know 'it takes time' isn't so helpful when it's already been a year, but some dogs really do take an extraordinarily long time to find their way out of their shell and figure out how to bond with people, play, essentially be 'normal' dogs. Wishing you lots of luck!
 
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