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The Fearful Dog Thread

48706 Views 903 Replies 55 Participants Last post by  KBLover
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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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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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.
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.
It was a very good day. He didn't run from my car in the driveway either. Winniec, How are you working with Poca on the thunderstorms? My future in-laws have a lab mix who has to be drugged for most storms. I'm looking for ways to help the poor girl.
Actually we haven't been doing anything about storms because yesterday was the first one Poca has experienced. So I'm not sure what would work. We just acted like nothing was going on yesterday and it seemed to work for the mild storm we had.

I have a book by Nicole Wilde ("Help for Your Fearful Dog") that has a chapter on thunderstorms. I think if Poca does develop a fear of storms when the bigger ones start hitting, I may try some of the suggestions there, including talking to my vet about giving her melatonin and using sound desensitization.
I'm so encouraged by Marge's progress. I've been reading about the CGC and think I might try training Poca to take the test if I can figure out how to get her enough interaction with strangers to get her over this last hurdle she has.
MM -- we've had strangers doling out treats to her and that has been helping. I'm also training her to accept a hand reaching towards her head. I can see I need to get more systematic about it as you've described, though.

It is strange asking people to pet your dog, I agree, esp. since I feel I need to tell them that she's not crazy about strangers. Frankly, I would hesitate to pet a dog I didn't know and hadn't had the chance to observe before approaching. Plus there's the worry that the person will just barge in with a full frontal approach, arms flapping, loud voice exclaiming "Ooooohhhh! WHAT A PRETTY DOGGIE!!!!!" Poca would recoil for sure. So I have to find the right people who know how to approach a dog and don't ignore or aren't offended or scared off by my coaching. Once she's ok with them, she'll be ready for the more unpredictable types. Baby steps :).

Unfortunately, Poca had a few bad experiences in Pet Smart when she was young and I couldn't even get her in the door without forcing her. So we're avoiding it for now. Once she's better with people, I'll go back and work with her on that.

Jesirose - that sounds like a great plan for Sadie. I wish we had kids around I could work with but all the "kids" I know are in high school and college now! Poca doesn't mind kids as long as they don't run up to her. She doesn't love them, but she's not real afraid of them.
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hehe. A Fearful dog convention would be rock, MM! I don't know about anyone else, but for me driving 3 to 6 hours isn't out of the ordinary...we have nothing up here.
Count me in! Just drove to FL & back. Road trips are fun!!

...Ok, the hotel part is not fun for Poca.
...And the gas station part with the disgusting bathrooms - that's not so much fun.
...And all the dog poop left in the rest stops -- that's not fun either, at least not for the humans ("leaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveitleaveit...and...oops, another pile...leaveit").

But seeing and smelling so many new things and getting to eat McDonalds and meet new dogs? That rocks Poca's world. And by extension, mine!
Huge test coming for Marge. Today (Sunday) we're having at least 7 or 8 people over for company. Hope it goes well.
I hope it went well - post and let us know! We had people over, too, but the ratio of people she loves vs. ones she's not sure of was 2 to 1, so it worked out well. She did bark at my nephews a bit and scattered if they got up to move around. They're near/over 6 ft, late teens with loud voices so she's taking some time to warm up to them.

I made her a little hamburger of her own and cut it up for them to give to her. Within an hour she was licking my one nephew's elbow and ankle, trying to scam some more hamburger from him. And she ate all of her dinner - kibble and canned - with a house full of people here! Normally she won't touch her food when people are here. Yay!

And a new puppy moved in with the family next door. They have five children aged 2 to 11. The puppy is going to be our ace for getting Poca more used to children. I have all summer....;)
Yay Marge! I take Poca outside when people are coming over, too. Give them hot dog pieces to throw at her. Helps a lot. Giving breaks is a good idea. I went overboard the first time we had people over to the new house -- I kept Poca separated from them, but it was a mistake. She was more stressed about the noises she heard and not being able to keep an eye on them. The next time I let her mix in with everyone but left her an out. Occasionally she would go lay down on the upstairs landing and play look out. And DH would take her for a short spin up the block if she was looking too worried. Today she had free run and while I was a little nervous of her barking at the boys, she handled it well. Think I'll have them come over separately and just let her hang with them for a couple of hours.

Sounds like Tiberius is hitting his stride as well. It's a good feeling when you see progress, isn't it? :D
3rd night this week of mild thunder & lightning. Not a twitch to be seen from the sleeping Poca. She looked mildly annoyed when a particularly big boom woke her up. But she just went back to sleep like nothing happened.

I really thought storms would have her running for cover since she's never experienced them before. I wonder why some dogs develop fear of them and others don't. I had a schnauzer years ago who never had a problem with storms until she ran away one day and we didn't find her until the next day. There was a bad storm the night she was gone. Every time we had a storm after that she would shake and try to hide under the bed or under the covers. Easy to figure out the source of her fear. Other dogs I've known didn't seem to have anything happen in their lives to create the fear. In any case, I'm hoping she keeps up this total lack of interest in our crazy weather.
MM - I'm sorry Marge seems to be regressing. Maybe it's like an extinction burst -- it gets worse just before the behavior disappears? I might not be understanding the concept properly, but it's a good thought to hang on to, no?

Dunixi - I hope Tiberius does well at your mom's. Good that he has a pal to hang with while you're gone.

CocoaCream - that is real progress with your husband! I can deal with my dog being afraid of things. With things, I know that I can work with her to get her over it pretty quickly. It's when she's fearful of people that I get discouraged. That is so much tougher to fix. So I'm voting and I say that 1 pet from your husband wipes out 10 fearful responses to other stuff. The math is on your side!

Guess my glass was half full today. :)
MM - the neighbor dog situation stinks. I hope Marge is ok - let us know what the vet thinks. It certainly sounds like the situation could be making her reactive.
MM - great & appropriate quote. Another Churchill quote that applies: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I selected my forum name because I'm a great admirer of Churchill. If I ever feel down or like I just want to quit, I look to him for inspiration. Glad Marge had a good day. Here's to hoping Sunday goes well, too.

Speaking of new things that may be causing a reaction....Not sure if this is an example but it's the only explanation that I can come up with: Poca wouldn't pee this morning. She went the night before around 11:00 pm. I got her up around 9:00 (lazy work at home day) to eat and go outside but she wouldn't go potty. She just stood there. Took her on two walks + 2 other chances to go and she still wouldn't go. She did finally go around 2:00-2:30. This is a dog that gets up and goes potty every day in the same spot, no problem.

What was different today? The windows were open. We finally had a warm enough day to open a few windows. Hard to believe but we've been in this house for 8 months and this is the first time we needed to do that. So she went from window to window to window to window, just looking and listening, barking a little. It was like she felt she had to keep an eye on all sides of the house at once. And she didn't like it. She was suddenly hearing neighborhood noises she had never heard before, which I think was making her nervous. So nervous that she didn't want to pee.

Or not, LOL! Maybe she just didn't have to go. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...We'll see how it goes (or not!) tomorrow.

W8ing4rain -- I think that sounds like a great idea! A little mickey-Ds goes a long way with Poca.

CocoaCream - yay Brenna! Getting over movement + loud sounds is big. Let us know how the clicker thing goes. I've tried it a little with Poca but not enough to know whether it will help her. I'd be very interested to know how you progress with it.
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I'm sure he missed you, too! Is he pretty vocal? I love the throat rumbles Poca makes - cracks me up every time. And earns her treats, so of course she does it whenever she wants something now.
I have to wonder if poor Brenna had ever even been to a park before today, by the way she acted. So sad.... And what's worse is that I really don't know how to help her overcome these fears. I mean, if she won't take treats, and she doesn't really seem to be all that comforted by petting and talking to her, what else can I do? Should I just keep exposing her to these new places, even though she doesn't like them, in hopes that she will learn that they are not so scary? I am feeling a bit discouraged now. :(
I haven't found any magic cure for this. Poca is great at parks but around strange buildings, strip malls, & other busy places she acts just like Brenna. I usually take her somewhere I know she's going to be shy and start walking her and doing basic obedience with great treats as far from the commotion as I can. I keep moving closer and closer, pulling back whenever she won't obey a command or take a treat. It's a slow process but it seems to be working. Keeping her in one spot and forcing her to endure doesn't seem to work for her - backing off to a distance that is less stressful works better. Maybe others will have better ideas.

On the plus side, he was good with a group of strange kids around him. Got more work to do around the dogs, though...I can't really pick out too much of a pattern of why some dogs Wally will want to approach and others, not so much.
That's good news about the kids! Any progress is good, right? I understand what you mean about it being hard to read other dogs. Dogs throw signals at each other so fast that I can't predict what's going to happen when we meet them. I've been studying Brenda Aloff's book of photos of dog behavior, which is helping. I just need to get around more dogs to start connecting the dots. I'd like to go to the dog park, but I won't take Poca there and she would never forgive me for going without her - lol!

He was an absolute angel while both girls were petting him, then he jumped right back in my car. :) I am proud.
I would be proud, too! Some day...

Today, the electrician showed up and was in the house while Jonas and I were in the bathroom. We walked out and I thought "ohh noooo." and Jonas followed up by doing NOTHING. No lunging, snarling, submissive peeing, ANY THING. He approached the man, smelled his shoes for a bit, and then followed me while I prepared his lunch.

Also, big step, he ate while the guy was in our house. Normally, he would not touch his food with someone other than my boyfriend and I around. I feel like he's finally becoming a happier dog.
I would love to know how you got Jonas to this point. What techniques have you used? I've done the greeting/hotdogs outdoors before they come inside, which helps. Anything else you can recommend?
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The circle greet/treat sounds like a great technique. Did you leave an opening in the circle, a visual "out?" Poca always wants to be on the perimeter of every situation. Putting her in the middle so that she would be surrounded may be too overwhelming for her to start. Maybe if I make it a wide, irregular circle so that she wouldn't see the obvious pattern. Definitely something to think about. Thanks!!
That's amazing. What a transformation. Poca's progress is so slow, I wish I had kept a diary so that I could check her current state against it. Oh well. Congratulations on your progress. It must feel great!
Oh wow.. GREAT day today.
That's awesome! It's such a boost to have a good day.

Jonas started barking defensively, and I turned and started to explain for him not to approach, he's a fearful rescue, and the man leans down and shouts "SHUT UP." in his face. He rolled and urinated, something that hasn't happened in months.
OMG - I'm so sorry you ran into that jerk. What a total ___hole! Wonder if the jerk would have been so brave with a 70-100 lb dog. People do seem more abusive to smaller dogs, IMO. I hope Jonas recovers soon from this. :eek::mad:
I was standing at the door waiting and calling him with a treat (they all get threat when crossing the threshold) he comes up the stairs and ZAP! right out from under the stair tread a Wasp nest had formed and one zapped him on the nose 2 stairs down away from me.. He yelped and went down running.. ran to backyard to my shop and wouldnt come within 30 feet of me....Sad thing is..he looks at me as if I did that to him still..
This story breaks my heart. It's the perfect storm example of exactly what you don't want happening with a fearful dog. Pork loin = good thinking! Is he still acting fearfully?

On another topic: A short WOOT! WOOT! for Poca....We had a power outage this morning and I called my dad to come over and look at our electrical box. Poca has always liked my dad but she is still wary of him, esp. when he's standing (he's 6'3", talks loudly, has a large presence). I've never been able to get him to cooperate with our don't look at her, don't talk to her, don't approach her protocol, so it's taking longer than it needed to for her to warm up to him. She actually bit him (no damage) last fall when he loomed over her in a tight space, so it's been a little dicey between the two of them. But she's been coming around and he will do some of the things I ask, like giving her yummy treats.

So fast forward to this morning. He rings the door bell, Poca goes on alert and...as soon as he comes in the door and she realizes he's one of her people, she's booing and acting all excited to see him. Later, he sits down on the couch and she goes over to him and buries her head in his lap, licks him, and keeps talking to him. Not an ounce of hesitation in her the whole time he's here!!!!! HA! I'm so pleased with her I could bust. Extra peanut butter for the girl today!! Any maybe for Poca, too - LOL!
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