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Discussion Starter #1
Would love to hear your prior success stories and current works-in-progress with dogs that have behavior problems which are fear-based. What fears did they have and what did you do/are you doing to get them through it? How long did it take to see drastic improvement?

I'll be back with mine tomorrow...
 

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The tough thing with fear is that it's hard to tell how much of it is past circumstances and how much of it is natural personality.

With my boyfriend's dog, she is a rescue that he's had for 5 years. She was 6 months old when she came to live with him, and she's always been afraid of other dogs, children, and unfamilliar situations.

Until recently, no attempt was made to socialize this dog. We've been working on her for a year, but progress is very, very slow and there really haven't been any break throughs.

However, she has gradually become more receptive to other dogs and new places. She has slowly come to enjoy places like PetSmart.

When she has a semi positive reaction to another dog, she gets a treat. She has learned how to remove herself from a situation that she is uncomfortable with. She did that on her own. We didn't teach her that.

I do not think that this dog will ever be comfortable with children. There is too much grabbing and petting and movement.
 

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A few months ago I was turning into my driveway to see a dog bolt out of the neighbors culvert, get hit by an oncoming car, get up and scurry into my fenced yard. I stopped the truck and went to try to see if he was ok and he ran away from me to another part of my yard. Hiding under a trailer I have parked out there. Wouldnt come to me..wouldnt even look at me. When i would try to approach him..he would bolt off again. Finding somewhere else to hide. I was very worried about what kind of injuries he could have and didnt know if any internal injuries will be present. I ran to find hotdogs. He was starving..And after a few minutes of coaxing.. He wobbled to me for a bite to eat. Jumping back and running every time he snatch a peice out of my hand. I did finally get him on a leash and coax him to the house for some food.

Cheyenne as I call him, If very fearful of people. I am not sure what the poor guy has been through but obviously his prior owners did some work with him. after a few days of hand feeding, I managed to see that this guy has some great obedience training, and has been neutered prior. But no microchip.

I tried to find his owners with no avail. Had him vetted to show he has some proir leg fractures that have healed up on his left leg that were never correctly fixed.

He still has issues with everyone including myself that we are working on. I have never myself owned a fearful dog and decided the best way to help him become easy in his own skin is to let him decide when the appropirate time is to approach me. Food helps but sometimes I notice he is not interested in eating just so he can stay away from everyone. He LOVES the other dogs here and the cat.. Has no issues at all with them..Just us humans.

Right now I have him to where he will stay on my enclosed front porch at night. He does not like being inside the house and will frantcally try to go through the windows to get out. It puts so much stress on the boy that he regresses each time i try for a few days.

He follows Dozer everywhere. Except inside the house. I can let all the dogs in and leave the front door open for him to peek in with us and he stops at the threshold.In the morning.. He follows Dozer to the outdoor kennel and jumps right in with him.



I imagine all fearful dog situations are different. But I am finding that patience is working here. I want this guy to feel comfy in his skin, But if I push too much it backfires

Next weekend will be his first trip to training with me.He will not be included in the training but I think it is a great oppurtunity to get him some human and doggy socialization. I think he is ready for it.
 

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Cupid and I are still working on it. I'm not sure about his history. I wonder if he was a stray at some time because he is such a scavenger. Yes, dogs are scavengers, but Cupid overdoes it. :rolleyes:

He does not like people to reach out to him. He doesn't growl or bite; he just moves back and withdraws. I am pretty pleased with the progress he's made going to my parents' house. He did growl the first time he went there. We were outside and they startled him, and he growled most of the hour or so we were there. It made me so sad, because I wanted them to see him for the sweet dog he is.

What helped was going there repeatedly and having him see that good things happen there. I gave my parents treats to drop at first. Now he will take them out of their hands. And he is always happy to go there. When we pull up to the house and he realizes where we are, he goes straight to the door with his tail wagging.

So that's one success for me, and it took time. I'm still working on his reactions in many other scenarios. With people he knows, he's wonderful.
 

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My little female GSD, Artemis, was added to our family on Feb.1st. She was a stray that was seen running around a Winter Texan RV park for a few weeks. The poor thing was too terrified of everyone to let anyone help her. She was finally caught and I got a call to see if I would take her. Of course, being the GSD sucker that I am, I brought her home. :p This poor girl was afraid of even a leaf falling from a tree. Any sound or movement would cause her to urinate and run. She never stood up straight, was always crouched down low to the ground ready to flee. When I put her in the car she immediately began vomiting, not from car sickness but, from absolute fear. For a few weeks there I wondered if I had taken on more than I could handle with her. Now though, I am so amazed with her progress. What did I do with her? Well, first of all having the rest of the pack that are all confident dogs was a tremendous help. It took nearly a week for her to stop urinating on herself every time she saw my husband walk towards her. I would watch her watch him play with the others and being the young girl she is she really wanted to play too. Eventually her desire to play overrode her fear of men. She was initially terrified of the leash as well. When ever I tried to put her on a leash she would fall to the ground belly-up. I used a coupler to hook her up between 2 others and would take the 3 (being hooked between 2 others kept her on her feet). She was able to observe how excited they were to go and she soon realized the leash was a good thing. It meant she got to go explore new places. Same with the car. OMG, she was soooo terrified of the car I didn't think she would ever get over that. After only 2 trips though she now runs and jumps in if the door is opened. :D There again, she was able to watch the other dogs and how excited they got when they knew we were going for a ride. Ditto with any grooming tools. She would drop and go belly-up when ever I walked towards her with anything in my hand. Now I can tell her to "stand" and she does just that and lets me brush her down.
It just took a little time, patience, exposure to different things, and the companionship of other already confident dogs to help Artie. She still has a little ways to go. She will still run and hide if I raise my voice around her but at least now she'll come back right away if I call her name. Before I would have to go find her and coax her out of whatever dark corner she hid in. I have no doubt that eventually with more experiences and socialization Artie will be a very happy and confident GSD.
Bottome line; The key is socialization, socialization, socialization! Dogs need to get out and experience different places, people and things to become familiar with, and relaxed around, them. The more a dog is exposed to the fewer fears (s)he will have. Hopefully. :rolleyes:

Jihad
and the pound puppy crew.
 

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As several people have already read Donatello's emotional restraints, I'll just get to the good news!

Two days ago, we went to the dog park and met a woman with her beautiful dog, whom we haven't seen in months! Nervous and wondering if Donatello would behave himself like he did before, I let him off the leash and said, "Run, Donatello!" (Gracie was barreling down on him and I feared a crash would ensue!) lol! So he did, he was nervous at first, snapped a little bit, but I stopped them both, and cuddled with Gracie, and showed Donatello that I approved.

Well today, we met two new dogs and their owner! They were completely new, and Donatello had somewhat of a blast! They were bigger and not near as active, but he romped with them as well! I let Donatello touch noses with them through the fence first, and luckily his hackles didn't raise and he started whining and wagging his tail as if he wanted to go play so bad! lol! It was adorable, so I said, "Lets give it a go." So I let him into the pen and Donatello wanted to touch noses first, but the other two wouldn't have none of that- They wanted to run and romp!

I'm so proud of Donatello! He's still scared of people, all people, but he's not DA like I was formerly beginning to believe... So all my tedious and slow-going work has paid off! : D I'm not nearly as nervous letting Donnie meet new pals now... : ) Every time someone tries to pet him, he doesn't growl like he once did, but he shies away next to my side as if to say, "Save me!"

He's still skittish with me at times, but he's a quick learner, which helps him so much. It doesn't take him long to realize that what I want him to do isn't going to hurt him, and he then learns that it's even pleasing to both him and myself!

Way to go Donnie! : D
 

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My Max was rescued from an abusive outdoor only home. :( He was scared of ppl, particularly men, and would urinate in fear at least 5-6 times every day the first few months. I think having other dogs has helped more than anything I have done. He just follows their lead, and he's learned that he doesn't have to be scared. Hand feeding him didn't hurt, either. Now, he's a changed dog. He's so happy to see us and some friends and family members. He wags his tail constantly, and he loves his dog beds. Teaching him to sit, down, speak, etc. have really boosted his confidence. He's such a sweetie. Patience is definitely the key with him. I wanted to bad just to hug him when we first got him, but that would've gotten me peed on. Now, he'll come ask to be picked up when I'm watching tv.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Great stories everyone :) You are all really special people for sticking by your fearful dogs. Fear issues are some of the hardest to overcome, so any progress really is a great thing.

My Marge was afraid of everyone and everything when I got her. Noises outside, strangers, even some other dogs. She had been in rescues her whole first year of life, so I know that definitely contributed to her fears. I don't believe she was ever really exposed to men. Out of the four siblings, she was one of the worst in terms of fear (another one was a bit more fearful but was the kind of dog who "shut down" rather than back away, growl etc like Marge does).

It took a lot of hard work to get her to where she is today. We have had lots of rough spots, and still do from time to time. We went to the boardwalk almost every day during the first summer we had her and that definitely helped. Training classes were absolutely positively the thing that got her better with people.

Now, 10 months later, she has finally passed her Canine Good Citizen, being friendly and brave enough to stand and allow petting from a total stranger. Out of all of the things we have accomplished, that was definitely the sweetest.
 

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Great thread idea! It's encouraging for those of us just starting out on the journey...

We've had Brenna for just under 2 months now, and she is already making some good progress. She was owned by a BYB for the first 5 years of her life, and she obviously had many litters there. She was kept outdoors in a kennel except when whelping, so she was probably undersocialized. After the BYB retired her, they sold Brenna to a couple who apparently expected her to majically turn into the perfect house pet overnight. They left her in her crate for up to 12 hours, then wondered why she'd have accidents in the house. It is apparent that they were at least verbally abusive with her as loud voices really startle her. She also exhibits some fear of men, so every time my husband comes home from work, it is like starting all over for her.

When we first brought Brenna home, she walked around with her tail tucked all the time and looked like she was ready to bolt at a moment's notice. She preferred to stay in her crate all the time, so we would close the door on it so that she would have to get used to other spaces in the house, one room at a time. Now she has her favorite spots to lay in each room, and she is comfortable anywhere in the house as long as we are there with her. She has not yet held her tail high and wagged it...but it is relaxed and hanging straight down unless she is suddenly frightened. She even lets it sway back and forth when we are on our daily walks!

Brenna is particularly shy with strangers...she seems to just shrivel up when new people approach her, even though she will submit to being petted. Last week I had a friend over for a few hours, and by the end of the visit, Brenna was finally starting relax and lie down rather than pace. She would even come over to be petted every now and then. The same friend returned yesterday, and I could tell that even though she was nervous at first, Brenna did remember my friend and was willing to enjoy even more petting.

Today I was especially proud of Brenna's progress as I took her to the vet for her heartworm test. She went around to the three other dogs in the waiting room and greeted them very calmly (thankfully, they were all friendly and calm, too!). She even willingly went with the vet tech to have her blood taken! She was very calm and didn't hide behind me at all, which is what she normally does when strangers approach. I think that pretty soon I will be able to start taking her out to PetSmart and other places around town, letting her have some more interaction with new people, places and dogs.

The hardest part is watching my husband struggle to gain Brenna's love and trust. It breaks his heart when she acts afraid of him. She does alot better with him when he is home all day...when he is gone to work it is almost like she forgets all the good things about him, so it is going to be a longer journey for her to bond with him, I think.
 

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Wally was basically scared of everything.

Didn't like cable boxes. Didn't like "unnatural" terrain (blacktops or panels on the ground), didn't like new objects, didn't like "old" objects in new places. Kids. Dogs. Sounds. Me. Things in my hand. Cords. 90% of this made no sense to me. Why a dog is scared of a book is beyond me. This dog was even scared of trees - I was like what the ****? Dogs and trees = natural message boards for pee mail.

He's much better now. People would probably said I did it the "wrong" ways. I wanted to "ease" into it - but he learned that he could just stay away and never interact - which was going nowhere.

So I taught him targeting, then made him target what he doesn't like. He gets praised for doing it, and he had to a REAL touch - not just a "phantom" touch. (Freaking smart dog for even thinking of trying that). I want nose snot on object.

This turned him around. It gave him a way to interact with something he didn't like and still earn my praise for it. He could stretch out his neck and nose touch something, and get a treat and praise. He started doing this on his own over time, reaching out to touch things he was uncertain of. If they rustled or moved when he touched - he didn't run away and not want to touch them. He still startles when that happens (I guess that's just natural?) but he'll keep investigating.

So basically I "forced" him to do it even though I did so via a cue that required interaction (instead of just making him unable to run away). Some might call that "flooding". So be it - I call it what worked.

I also did this training off leash. Again, I wanted him to a) not think that leashed is the only time he has to do this - he won't be leashed all his life, and b) do it on his own power - instead of being dragged/pulled/forced to do so with me pulling on a leash or him feeling that he has to because he's "trapped"

He'll try to "back up" a little if I ask him to sit near an object he doesn't like, but I don't even let that subtle little fearfulness work. Once I know he can do something, I require it always - he learned that as well, so now he'll just come where I target and do as asked. He won't be nervous as he's focused on me for his reward.

With dogs, it's harder because we don't encounter them very often. Usually, they are being walked or worked with by their handlers and I don't believe in disturbing a handler/dog team unless we just happen to meet or are invited/talked to by the other handler (or their dog in a few cases). Usually the work comes in for him looking alert-yet-confident at another dog and getting c/t for it. Any awareness that's "brave" or "non-fearful" gets rewarded. He did give a little puppy the time of day once and that was encouraging. Still, a LOT of work to go on this front.

With adults - he's FAR better. Often he'll turn around and follow them for a little while sniffing the air they just walked past (why?!) and is usually indifferent if we pass by another adult. About the only oddity that gets him a little uneasy is canes/walking sticks.

With kids - had a setback just today. He was fine to start with but some young girls came running up from behind with their shrill voices and waving arms. Forget it. He ran off then (again off leash but in a very safe place - no streets, etc). Called him back, settled him down. But then it still stuck with him.

Another girl, this time younger but actually WAY calmer - but Wally still was on "oh crap" mode. He ran off again. This time I stopped him, picked him up, and took him back to the girl. Flopped him on the ground, told him to lie down and stay. Again, people probably would say "Don't do that!" but if it has to be that he needs to learn that running won't do him any good - so be it. He laid down and was actually super calm. He sniffed the girl while she pet him softly and we had a little conversation. He wasn't so-called "shut down" he was sniffing her hand, her shoes, sniffing her breath as she talked. I was thinking, "So why was he scared of her in the first place?" If he is calm and curious about the little girl - why did he RUN? Again, makes no sense to me.

As luck would have it - kids were all over the place. So I used this as a chance to try to calm him down around them and make their appearance less negative. If he looked in the direction of a kid - c/t. I was surprised he actually took the treats. Sometimes he got a little too worried to take one, but then a few seconds later did. Lines for the ice cream truck, a kid running over to us for a quick pet before getting ice cream prompted his default behavior (YES) so click and a jackpot. About 20 feet from some families having fun in the field, click and treats for looking at the movement/people. A girl came over to play on the equipment. C/T since he looked but wasn't afraid. C/T for looking at her. She started yelling (kids!) for some odd reason, he looked. C/T since he was still not afraid. I stood up he looked at her and then me - still sitting. C/T. I ran out of treats so we went home - he had earned them all - about 20 pieces.

It's always a struggle, but he's getting more confident. I can see it. Tail doesn't disappear like someone cut it off anymore when just walking past active kids. It might drop to a little lower than halfway - better than tucked. He can work around their distraction, only looking over once in a while.

Maybe one day, he'll be more socialized - I try not to think about how under socialized he was by his previous owner/his breeder.

Then it was his fear of doing the "wrong" thing I had to overcome. Getting him to actually try different things. Getting him to communicate with me. It's almost like he was scared to make a sound or touch me or try to do something. There were times he would physically shaking and panic because I wanted him to figure something out on his own. Shaping eventually worked for this but for weeks I was thinking of giving up on it because he just refused to do anything - and then became scared.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The hardest part is watching my husband struggle to gain Brenna's love and trust. It breaks his heart when she acts afraid of him. She does alot better with him when he is home all day...when he is gone to work it is almost like she forgets all the good things about him, so it is going to be a longer journey for her to bond with him, I think.
I just want to let you know.. you're not alone. My father and Marge still aren't 100% with each other, even after all of this time. She enjoys his company as long as he's sitting or laying somewhere, and is significantly more afraid of him if he's standing up. She also will growl on occasion when he comes through the front door. They may NEVER be perfect with each other, but I'm trying. He knows how much Marge means to my sister and I so that's why we've still got her. He likes her too.. but after a stressful day at work or something, he isn't always looking to help desensitize her or whatever. It also helps that Marge is a rather busy dog and often accompanies me to places, getting her out of the house a lot of time and minimizing the amount of times that there will be some sort of fearful response towards him (not that I advocate masking the issue).

It will get better, as long as your husband doesn't overwhelm her, which he sounds like he's very understanding to her needs.
 

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Thanks for posting this thread, MM - I'm always interested in reading about the practical things others are doing to help their fearful dogs.

I don't have any amazing "ah-ha!" story to post. Just one of slow persistence. My current goal is to get Poca comfortable around my very loud, very dog-dumb (I mean that in the most loving way!) family. She's learned to love my mom & mother-in-law. She even jumped up on a chair and licked the back of my dad's neck last week! She's still leery of him when he gets up and moves around, though. He's 6'3" and has a pretty strong personality. I know humans who are intimidated by him, so I can't blame Poca for it - lol! She's beginning to not react around the other females in the family. Hasn't made much progress around the older males, though.

We had friends over a couple of weeks ago who brought their own fearful dog to visit. We met in the driveway and chatted and tossed hot dogs for 20 minutes - the dogs were scooping them up and pretty much ignoring the people. Wahoo! By the end of the evening my dog almost got their dog to play a little. I know these two will be best buds eventually since we're all committed to it.

And that's the moral of the story. Bless you all for your commitment to these wonderful, vulnerable creatures we have in our lives. Your stories are inspiring.
 

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Jonas is afraid of every one. Particularly men. He doesn't show signs of fear in public, and loves being out and about, but no one can touch him except my boyfriend and I. If someone reaches for him, he will either respond by rolling onto his back and peeing, or going ballistic.

We're seeing a behaviorist now, because we just can't break it. He has an extremely low threshold, and has been peeing primarily when I approach him, and in the past bit me in the face (my fault) and bit my boyfriend a few nights ago when he surprised him. His possessiveness and preference of me certainly is not a helping factor.
 

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Tiberius is a 3 year old husky who was born and raised to be a sled dog. His two brother and him went to live with a family in Caribou, ME where they started training the dogs to pull. Tiberius was terrified of the sled so his family decided to get rid of him. He was rehomed but returned once before I got him and he is afraid of everything. Sudden movements, loud noises, new people, new objects in the house, other dogs, leaves, everything.

Recently I took him out on our usual mile or so walk. We met with my neighbor, Sonny, an elderly war vet. Sonny and I were standing in the driveway talking and Tiberius, who normally would be trying to run, actually went up and sniffed Sonny. He even let Sonny scratch behind his ears. Tiberius has met Sonny several times before, but this was a first for my dog. :D That is how he has been with every person in my neighborhood recently (with one exception). After a few moments of hiding behind me he will very hesitantly go up and say hi.
He is also getting much better about meeting new dogs. He used to cower and hide behind me whenever we met a new dog on the street, ut now, as my neighbors realize he is a sweet boy, Tiberius will, hesitantly, go up and say hi and sniff the other dog. There is a little dachsund on our street who thinks she is the size of Tiberius, and loves to try to play with him and her owner was so suprised at how gentle he was with her.
He was also terrified of his metal food and water dishes. I decided to get him a bit larger food and water dish, and bought plastic ones. He never runs when I put down his food or refill his water now.
He is still terrified of going through doors, but we are working on that. He is also terrified of my father in law but my father in law is 6 foot 4 and very loud. We're also still working, slowly, on his fear of parked cars. Lately when he gets scared, instead of running, he will walk up to me, sit then lean his head on my leg. I just stand there and rub the top of his head until he is comfortable with the situation.
 

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It is becoming more obvious to me that as the years keep going by I am becoming more and more of a wimp. I allow things that I didn't in the past when it comes to training and or rehab. My current dog Oliver was a very badly abused little boy before I got him. He came with a broken jaw and fractured rear leg. It had been allowed to partially heal without treatment making it worse. He still has issues with his leg and has to be babied a little because of it. Usually it is best to not really dwell on the past with a dog. Oliver was so afraid of dog dishes when I first got him. He would NOT eat out of them and went days without food rather then get near a dog dish. My guess is the past owner kicked him when he went for the dog dish, breaking his jaw and leg then. I have sort of babied him through his rehab with dog dishes. He will now eat out of his dish but he still requires a few kisses on his ears while he eats. He will start eating by himself now but will walk away and come by me for attentions and praise if left alone for too long. Sometimes when he is really hungry he can now eat a whole meal without issue. It took a long time to encourage him and get him to be brave enough to face a dog dish for food or water. Stainless steel on the floor still freaks him out, but he eats great out of his raised feeder with ceramic bowls. :)
 

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Inga, I read stories like Olivers and I just want to go postal on some people. I'm glad he's gotten past the eating thing. I can't imagine how desperate he must have felt being so hungry yet afraid to eat out of a bowl. It breaks my heart.

Moving on to a happier note....It stormed much of the day today, with thunder, high winds and lightning and Poca.....had virtually no reaction!! Whew. She was a little interested in what was happening -- she used to want to sit outside and sniff the Santa Ana winds when they would blow through in CA. But that mild interest was pretty much it. Let's hope she continues to be unfazed when we get a real boomer.
 

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Yay for Oliver and Poca!!

This is a repost..I couldn't find this thread and in my excitement for my dog started a new one..so I'll just repost his good day here..

Its a warm day here in Maine, almost 80 degrees. I took Tiberius for his afternoon walk and of course all the kids are out to play. We went down to our neighbor's house because they all love Tiberius. He actually sat calmly and let all four kids pet him! He didn't run! He let both parents come up and pet him! He did so well!! They brought him out some ham, and broke it into pieces. Each child got a piece and he took the treats gently and slowly from each kid!! I am so impressed!! Yay for my shy boy!
 

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That's terrific - yay Tiberius! 4 kids at once + adults is a pretty good test. It's amazing how something that many people would take for granted is such a huge win for shy dog owners.
 
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