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Hello all!

I have been the lucky human to my precious pup, Elle. She is a 2-year-old Black Mouth Cur mix. She was rescued from the Baton Rouge-area floods in the summer of 2016, having been roaming the streets and found by a dogcatcher. From here, she was driven down to New Orleans, and put into a shelter. Anyway, I'm sure her skittishness is born from these things.

In the year and change in which I've had her, she has come a long way. However, she can still be very skittish. She usually retreats fearfully. If I'm dogsitting another dog and am correcting that dog's misbehavior, she immediately comes to me with her ears down, worried I was directing those words at her.

Any suggestions on how to help my baby girl get more confident?


 

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some dogs are just that way just give her some love if i yell at the tv my dog will scrunch down and i have never raised a hand to him she is just feeding off your energy to the other dog
 

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Don't raise your voice to the other dog. If that dog is not behaving in the manner you would like then prevent that behavior by limiting the dog's options for mischief. But russhw is right, if I'm stomping around looking for something the dogs skitter out of my way and look anxious. Dogs are extremely tuned into human emotion and even though my lost glasses hadn't a thing to do with them they still worried.

Bucky's a nervous wreck. He'll bite if threatened and it is easy to threaten him. Training has helped a great deal. One program I really liked was Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. It's a down or sit stay training program all laid out for you. Really seems to help Bucky a lot. On walks where he flips out I'll wait and do some of the exercises for a couple minutes and he seems calmer. He has also learned to go to the safe bed if I'm not happy because my glasses are lost.
 

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Yeah, I try to be conscious of how I discipline. I don't yell at her or other dogs that I may watch. Instead, I do a quick buzz noise that she knows means no, or just say no. Still, even if she is in another room while I buzz/no another dog, she comes out with her ears down, looking super guilty. (My poor baby girl!)

I haven't ever seen her get aggressive with people. When she does bark at people, they are almost always men, and usually look like they may work in construction-like fields. (She hates AC and internet techs, too.)

Will def look up that Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol.

I also read about not rewarding her with cuddles/affection when she comes to me looking scared because it reinforces that she can/should feel scared, and then can come to me for comfort. Something about remaining calm showing her she has nothing to fear, so she will mimic my behavior over time.
 

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She is like this because she is genetically like this. A dog that is skittish because of circumstance typically recovers and this dog has been with you long enough to recover. She is what she is. She likely reads the people she sees and barks at as being threatening because they have "presence" and so she retreats in defense (or barks in defense).

You can reduce her stress by removing her from situations where you are working another dog and from situations where you might argue with someone else.

If she is not being worked with and you do yell etc. I strongly suggest you do not buy into her defensive posture by comforting her. Dogs will read being comforted two says (usually). They will either think something IS wrong and that is why you are comforting them OR they will escalate their defensive posture because your behavior indicates they were right and there is something to be worried about. Both reactions increase reaction.

OTOH if you don't buy into the defensive behavior and ignore it.. just keep on with whatever you are doing the dog reads you as "oh it's nothing" and will usually relax.
 

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I also read about not rewarding her with cuddles/affection when she comes to me looking scared because it reinforces that she can/should feel scared, and then can come to me for comfort. Something about remaining calm showing her she has nothing to fear, so she will mimic my behavior over time.
Common belief is that emotions cannot be reinforced. I tend to ascribe to that theory, because if emotions *can* be reinforced then your dog would likely and frequently display fear for no other reason than to be reinforced for it. And I'm sure that's rarely if ever the case. (ie: Thorndike's Law of Effect). Your dog's fear is legitimate when it happens to occur. Take her at her word, and comfort her.

As far as buzzing (whatever that is?) and saying "no" to your dog or others. Your biggest leap forward in overcoming her fear will be the removal of such tactics. Management is most often the key, and finding alternative, gentler means of communicating your disapproval if the need arises. Using punishment will only make the hole deeper.
 

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As far as buzzing (whatever that is?) and saying "no" to your dog or others. Your biggest leap forward in overcoming her fear will be the removal of such tactics. Management is most often the key, and finding alternative, gentler means of communicating your disapproval if the need arises. Using punishment will only make the hole deeper.
Interesting! The buzzing is a buzzer noise - I worked with a trainer who suggested quick verbal cues that the dog would instantly comprehend.

Your suggestion is truly unique -- if I'm understanding correctly, you're saying not to use typical corrections a la "no" or other similar pieces that let her know certain behaviors are not acceptable, is that correct? How do you correct misbehaviors and other unwanted pieces then?
 

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Interesting! The buzzing is a buzzer noise - I worked with a trainer who suggested quick verbal cues that the dog would instantly comprehend.
Dogs don't instantly comprehend words or noises. They do know that some sounds are scary (e.g., buzzing, clapping, yelling) or that some sounds are followed by something unpleasant (e.g., a shock, collar correction). For some soft or timid dogs - like yours - they may work, but can exacerbate anxiety. For other dogs, it may work for a time, but then the dog habituates to the noise or shock or whatever and the punishment needs to increase.

Your suggestion is truly unique -- if I'm understanding correctly, you're saying not to use typical corrections a la "no" or other similar pieces that let her know certain behaviors are not acceptable, is that correct? How do you correct misbehaviors and other unwanted pieces then?
management - prevent her from performing undesirable behaviors
proactive training - teach her desirable behaviors using rewards-based methods

If there are specific behaviors you'd like to address, share them (perhaps in a new thread so they're not overlooked) and we can suggest force-free ways to address them.
 

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You don't correct, you redirect and prevent misbehavior by teaching the dog what you like and using a lot of management.

Use a leash and treats and doors to manage. Outside of normal household events like mail delivery teach dog to behave when doorbell rings and knocking on the door. If a scary person gets too close use a treat to lead the dog to a safe distance and practice sitting and such while you have your conversation.

The misbehaving that happens most often here is barking. We call the dogs in and they get a cookie for coming. Ginger figured this out and will stand outside and bark hoping to get called in. She's not a very good actor so we close the door and ignore her. Bucky went a different way. He'll get peckish and ask to go outside to potty. Sure he always has to potty but then he gets a treat for coming back in when we call. Currently on a not very serious effort to lengthen the time they can spend outside without barking by allowing them outside for a given period of time and calling them in before they start barking.

When Bucky first had out of the pen privileges he would get put back in the slammer for finding not toys. He never really learned that the socks, tissues, shoes and such were forbidden though. I'd get up and call him to the frig to get a bit of cheese to trade then pop him back in the pen.

See? I didn't touch the problem but I rewarded something I like, trading and coming. Sure we are annoyed by the barking but they stop fine when called into the house, no need to take out our frustration on them. Barking intensity and frequency goes down as the dogs learn what's normal and they are able to relax. Ginger probably barks 25% of what she did when she arrived. Bucky continues to be low key about not toys and readily gives them up if he even picks one up. For a highly anxious dog he is pretty low key about possessions though.
 

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Mikee was in a similar state of mind due to lack of exposure or bad experiences. He is a Lab mix, and they tend to be robust dogs. But, he was timid, and scared of feathers and leaves sitting motionless on the ground, when he was 1.5yo. Incrementally, slowly, patiently we exposed him to various experienced in a playful atmosphere. He now thinks that moving leaves are toys, and being swatted hard with a pine branch is a fun game. He is a little wary of flyswatters and yard sticks, as well as small kids and large people. But, where he used to bark at strangers, now he pulls to go say Hello to nearly everyone. I'm hoping I can set up fun situations with kids, large people, yard sticks, and flyswatters over the next year.

Also, when I cue him, rather than raising my voice "so he can hear me" [ as some 'balanced' approach trainers have said ]. I speak very softly or whisper, never going above a conversational tone. I get excited and raise my voice when we're playing ... which makes for an entertaining interaction when other people try to command my dog to do something ;-)
 

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What worked in my case was to severely cut down on verbal communication and use a combination of body language, tongue-clicks and gestures to communicate with my sensitive 7-8 year old GSD/Collie. I'm not sure if that's an option in this case but it might be worth considering.

Chika isn't skittish but she will definitely react negatively to whatever negative energy I'm giving her. It will sometimes reach the point where I'll just frown about something completely not related to her and she'll leave the room.
 
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