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The Fearful Dog Thread

48709 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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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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Dunixi, hope Ti's stay at your mom goes well. :)

Sorry about your setback, MissMutt. There are always good and bad days. The bad days seem so much tougher after a run of good days, don't they?

I've been thinking ahead . . . I'm still new to this whole dog-owning thing. And the Fourth of July is coming up. I don't know how Cupid will react to fireworks. He does tend to bark at strange sounds. Any thoughts on how to prepare him (and the new puppy) for the sounds they might hear?
A rather remarkable thing happened today. I live near an elementary school, and this morning I took the boys for a walk. A young girl stopped and asked if she could pet them. I said yes, if they allow it, fully expecting Cupid to shy away.

Instead, the girl held out her hand, and Clayton AND Cupid leaned in to sniff. Cupid went right up to her hand. He retreated after that, but I was so proud that he was curious and willing to try.

This girl had a very nice manner with dogs. Wish more kids were like that.
I could use some advice.

Cupid had a pretty strong reaction earlier this week to another dog--an APBT puppy. Here's what happened. My friend and I went to check out a chihuahua that was being rehomed. This family also had a pit bull puppy, and Cupid was sitting on my lap when he caught sight of the pup. I saw the hair literally rise on the back of his neck. Much barking and growling ensued, and he'd do the same later nearly every time he noticed the dog.

He did something similar another time, when he was startled by a dog when I went to pick up Clayton.

So now I'm trying to figure out what caused the issue. Both dogs were bigger than he is. Did he growl because he was startled? If so, why did he continue to growl at the puppy after he (presumably) knew she was there? Do I need to try and desensitize him to bigger dogs? Handle introductions better?

How would you start to identify the core issue and address it?
ColoradoSooner, the puppy was acting surprisingly unpuppylike. She was pretty well behaved, in fact. I do like the idea of offering treats to help him make a positive association.

To be honest, I was a little stressed when I saw the other dog because I was worried about how he would react. I'm sure he picked up on that.

MissMutt, I would probably say he's fearful of other dogs, but his response really varies. That's why his positive body language (tail up) and interest was so encouraging when he met Clayton. He is reactive on leash. When we went to a six-week dog-training class, he pretty much kept his tail down. It's making me a little sad to remember it, although he improved a bit over time. I did learn a few things like "touch" and "watch me" that I use to get him to focus on me.

He has been to doggy daycare (they also do boarding) a few times. Each time I was told he kept to himself for the first day, and would play a little with other dogs by the end of the boarding. He is good with dogs once he is familiar with them.

I'm not sure if he was resource guarding. I actually brought him to my lap because he growled a little to begin with, but I don't think it made the situation any better. The weird thing was there were times when he could look at the puppy and have no response. I praised him highly for that. But then he would go back to growling.

I wish it could have been recorded. Watching it play out would be very enlightening. It's certainly reinforced that I need to be more aware of what's going on in the room. He could have been resource guarding me, he could have been trying to protect Clayton (who loves people and dogs and was trying to interact with the pup), he could have been guarding Clayton, he might have just not liked the dog . . . I'm just not sure.

I appreciate the input, though, and would welcome more comments.
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I love this thread. I feel so bolstered by reading other successes and it's comforting to know other people understand how I feel.

This week I had an upsetting incident at the groomer's. The last time I took Cupid to this particular grooming place, they asked if he had ever been groomed before because he seemed very skittish and shy of everything. I explained that he was a rescue and I didn't know his history.

Since then, I've taken him to the grooming place at the place where he goes for boarding. But this week, I took him and Clayton to the first place because they are so close to my house. When I got there, they pulled out Cupid's card, where I noticed VERY DIFFICULT written at the top in all capital letters. And highlighted. It made me feel bad, because that wasn't the impression they gave me before. It just gave me a really bad feeling. Plus they gave Clayton a really bad haircut--different from what I told them.

Anyone have any suggestions for finding groomers that are good with fearful dogs? I would just take Cupid back to the boarding groomer, but they don't do ear cleaning, nails, or other extras.

In upcoming news, I'm taking the boys to my cousin's birthday party on Saturday. It's being held at a park, and the invitation states that "leashed friends are welcome." My aunt has been wanting to meet the boys, and I want to give this a try. Trouble is, Cupid and Clayton (to a lesser degree) are a bit leash reactive.

I'm planning to take lots of treats and try things like "touch" and "watch me." I'm also going to try "find it," which is one my trainer told me about, where you throw treats on the ground and thus keep the dog focused on something positive.

Any other tips? And good thoughts would be appreciated.
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Great Day!

Might want to close off a few rooms too so she can't get in them.
I agree with this. I would definitely shut off a few rooms.

I posted last week about a birthday party at a local park. I was worried about how Cupid would do. In fact, this morning I asked myself if I was crazy to be trying this, but I decided to give it a shot anyway. And . . .

Cupid did GREAT!

I took the dog to my parents' house first, and Cupid nuzzled the hands of my mom and dad with his nose without prompting. They held out their hands, and he went right over. It was such a wonderful thing to see. I praised him for doing it.

We went to the park, and there were about 30 people there and one other dog. My two dogs met the other dog (a yorkie-chihuahua mix) without incident. For the first 20 minutes or so, Cupid's tail was tucked. He got more comfortable as time passed. We went for several small walks when he started to seem stressed, and they helped. We walked by a stream and he peeked through the wood slats of the fence to watch the geese.

This was the first time my aunt has met the boys. Clayton went right to her, but I had to lure Cupid with a treat. I told her that he was shy, and she said she understood and talked about her experience with one of her dogs. It's so nice to meet dog-savvy people who understand what I mean when I say that a dog is shy. Some people hear that and completely disregard it, acting like they know my dog better than I do. But that wasn't the case here.

We settled into a bench a little separated from the rest of the group. This wasn't deliberate--it was just that the other tables were taken--but it worked out quite well for us. People came over a couple at a time to talk to us, and that was just the right speed for Cupid. He would approach some people and stay distant from others, and it was all OK.

After an hour, someone came with a couple of papillons. Cupid growled at one of them, so I redirected his attention to me, and then he was fine. As the party continued, I would have them do obedience commands for treats when they seemed restless. And by the end, the boys had settled down on the ground by the bench.

Clayton enjoyed the event as well. He is not fearful of people or other dogs--in fact, I need to work with him on proper greetings, because he is all too likely to jump on people to say hello.

I'm thrilled that it went so well, especially after my initial concerns. Cupid did great, and he wore himself out. In fact, the boys and I all came home and took a nap. And after being up for a few hours, they are napping again now. I wish this park were a bit closer so I could let them wear themselves out more often.
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I was a bit sad last month when I saw that my favorite dog trainer at the Humane Society was leaving. Both of my dogs have taken one class from her.

I just got an e-mail invitation to her new training facility. Instead of offering five or six classes, she now offers twenty different types. One is called Shy Dogs, and she's offering it beginning mid-November.

This class is limited to four socially shy dogs. We will address some basic manners, but will focus mostly on how to help your dog become more comfortable in new situations as well as confidence building. Class is six weeks.
I wrote asking for more info about what the dogs do in the class. The cost is $125, which is a little more than $20 per session. I’m definitely interested, but we’ll see what info I get about the class and whether I can get the money together before November.

Has anyone taken a class like this? If so, how did it go?
The holidays are coming, and I’ve been thinking about something Cupid does that I’d like to work on. A little background: normally my home is pretty quiet. I occasionally have a friend or family over, but that’s maybe once a week, so the boys don’t usually get a lot of guests. I tend to do more socialization with them by taking them out. They love going to see my parents and a particular friend, and we go other places as well.

Anyway, I had a Halloween party at my house on Saturday. Cupid tends to get very barky when people come over. Usually, I have the guest throw the ball for him to fetch a few times. It’s the perfect “icebreaker” for him, because anyone who will throw a ball for him is his friend. :) So we did that, and it worked pretty well. Sometimes people will keep throwing the ball. If not, I distract him with a toy or treat (the boys love a new rolling treat dispenser I save for times when company is over).

OK, so now we get to the issue. Cupid does fine in groups until things change. For instance, at the Halloween party, my brother-in-law left the room with the baby, and when he came back in with her, Cupid barked again. At Christmastime last year he did the same thing—he would bark when people would return to the living room after going to the bathroom, getting something from the kitchen, etc. I think it startles him, and he always reacts to being startled by barking as if to say, “You don’t scare me,” but he really is scared.

I have explained what I think is going on to my family, but I’m sure it’s disconcerting to have a dog barking at you rather loudly just for going to the bathroom. I also don’t want my sister or brother-in-law to worry that he would do anything to their baby. I can get him to calm down again (usually through distraction), but it’s always a struggle. Does anyone else experience this? How do you work on it?

2) He paces most of the night. It used to be he only paced until I went to bed, but the last week or so he has spent almost all night pacing the house. I just set his bed and pillow up in my room at Mom's so I am hoping this stops the pacing.
Could there be a medical reason for this? Or did you recently move and maybe he's trying to get his bearings?
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I hadn't posted in a while because Jonas was doing, well, just fine. He was almost normal. We kept working, but in the last two weeks every thing has just gone down the drain and he has not had a single good day. I honestly think it's because of Magpie being in the house (he just has not accepted her, and I don't think he ever will). We're still on the fence about keeping her, but she has a months worth of medication to finish before she's going anywhere.
Neither of my dogs are on medication, but I wanted to say I'm sorry to hear Jonas is doing so poorly. I hope medication can help him get away from the threshold.

Any ideas why Jonas accepts your other dogs but not Magpie? Is it her behavior, or that she was the last dog in?
The next day I decided to take Brenna to Petco for the first time. I've been putting it off for some time, and I finally decided that I just had to jump in and take her. She was very shakey at first, so I took her right to the back corner of the store and just sat with her for a bit, trying to reassure her. But she was pacing so much that I decided she might be happier walking around the store and checking things out instead. So we did...and of course, did some shopping in the process. When we went to the checkout line, a couple of ladies were in front of us, so it was a good time for Brenna to get used to just standing quietly beside me while I talk to people. She did well, and let one of them pet her quickly. As soon as we were out the door, though, she wanted to jet across the parking lot and get in the car.
I can relate. Petco and Petsmart are tough places for Cupid. He tucks his tail quite low and even walks closer to the ground, if you know what I mean. And if we're anywhere near a door, he pulls quite hard in hopes that he can leave ASAP.

We went to Petsmart last week for the Halloween party, and he was too anxious even to take treats from the employee. I took a small cup of doggy ice cream she had available and fed it to him in a quieter part of the store. He seemed to enjoy it, so I'm hoping that might help create a semi-positive reaction. I'm not really counting on it, though. It's going to take time.

Everything she'd learned and was doing so well with she seems to have forgot. It really set us back. She's barking at strollers, men who aren't even making eye contact, and even showing strange behavior around cars (which I can understand). It's back to square one for me and Hallie.
I'm sorry Hallie has had such a setback. Hopefully as you continue to work with her, she will remember things a little, and maybe it won't take as long to make progress. Fingers crossed.
I signed up for a Shy Dogs training class that starts in January. It's for Cupid. We took a first-level obedience class last spring for small dogs. He did great with commands but did not love the class itself. Check out the poor guy's body language. We were doing "touch," which he did just fine, but his tail was often like that for much of the class.

Anyway, The Shy Dogs training is a positive-based class that will include some obedience, but it's more focused on building confidence and helping dogs learn how to encounter new things/people. Or so the class description says. LOL.

I hope it isn't cancelled. It's at a new training facility, and one of the three trainers is the one I liked so much at the Humane Society. They initially scheduled this class to start in December, but there weren't enough people signed up. Hopefully it will work out for January. I'll keep you posted.
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Dunixi, I love that photo of Tiberius! He looks so sweet and content.

TWAB, that's a great pic of Jonas. I'm glad he's making progress.

On Tuesday I attended the orientation for Cupid’s Shy Dogs training class. It’s limited to four dogs. The first day was for humans only. I did get homework, though.

  • See how he reacts to the clicker (some dogs are afraid of it) and load the clicker. She gave us each two clickers: one loud and one softer one. I’ve done a little clicker work before, so I knew Cupid wouldn’t be afraid of it. We are using the softer clicker, and I have been clicking/treating a little each day. What’s funny is that my poodle is as much or more interested in it as Cupid is. He comes running when he hears the clicker.

  • Try a variety of treats and bring three that he really likes next week. This is a bit trickier. Cupid is on a special diet due to past bladder stones. (He had to have surgery to remove them.) So he has one kind of food and one kind of treat. He is food-motivated, does fine with his treat, and seems to enjoy it. But I suspect training would be easier if he could have something a bit more high value. This is a tough one, though, because I don’t want to see a return of the stones. I let him have a bully stick on occasion but feel guilty about it each time. So I’m probably going to stick with his usual treats.

  • Hand feed at least one meal a day. This is apparently to build a connection and to show Cue that my hands bring good things—food! Since he’s such a fetchaholic, I think he likes my hand and throwing arm already, but I figure it can’t hurt to do this. I’m doing this with the evening meal because the morning is a bit too hectic for this.
Based on what the other dog owners said, I think my dog might be the least fearful of the four. I wasn’t expecting that. Two of the other pups were kept outside with little or no interaction for months or years. One was kept in a chicken coop with six other dogs. Unbelievable. Only two of the four dogs (Cupid included) go on walks; the others are too fearful on walks. Another woman took in the dog of a man who has gone to a nursing home. He sounds very fearful. She already uses a clicker with her other dog, and this dog runs away at the sound.

The class is held in a big, open room with lots of space for four dogs. If the dogs become overwhelmed around each other and all the people, they will put up L-shaped gates. I am looking forward to next week’s class when we bring our dogs.
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Cupid and I are three weeks into the six week Shy Dogs class. It is going well. In the latest class, we worked on going through unfamiliar thresholds, getting them to sit and down in unfamiliar places. We spend a fair amount of time at the beginning of each class just clicking and treating when they look at the other dogs and people in the room.

Last week we talked about massage, and Cupid is getting used to that. Sometimes he thinks I'm going to brush him (which he hates) and doesn't enjoy it. When he realizes the brush is not part of the activity, he calms down and enjoys it more.

My instructor said something interesting this week. She said that you can't reinforce a dog's fear by comforting it. I had always heard the opposite. I like the idea that it's OK to give comfort your fearful dog.
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