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The Fearful Dog Thread

48713 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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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.
I posted in this thread once in the passed about Jonas being extremely fearful, but we have been seeing a behaviorist for the past few months and there are obvious leaps and bounds that our group sessions have changed. Before, a man entering the house was the worst thing that could ever happen to him. Normally I would take him to a different floor with me to avoid how overwhelmed he could get. 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?
Loooong process that I was skeptical about at first! We got together twice a week with a group of people, and stood in a wide circle outside, Jonas and me in the middle. No one was to look at/touch/reach for him. Just stand still, and if he approached someone, drop a treat. Since he has such a low threshold for people coming near him, we wanted him to learn that if HE approaches people, something great will happen and nothing else. After a couple weeks of this, he stopped just grabbing the treat and running back to me. He'd actually approach someone, stare at them and wait. So we stepped it up to people calling him over and then dropping the treat. After a couple weeks of THAT he actually upped it for us by going up to a group member and jumping on her legs, so we allowed people to kneel down and actually hand him treats/pet him and he accepted.

Then we started inviting people over, and when they walked through the door, like you said, they would immediately greet him and hand him a treat. Accepting people in his house was a bit harder, and while he would settle after the initial greeting, he would bark/growl at them if they walked around or sat too close to me/him. I just had to make sure when he did that to correct him by setting him on the floor and not reinforce his behavior like I was previously, by picking him up and cooing to him.

He was so fearful we had to take these baby steps. He would get overwhelmed easily and urinated/flee/bite. Now he can walk passed people without showing any signs of fear. :)
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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!!
It was VERY wide, and there were gaps between every one, but I was in the middle and I was his safety net. Usually if he feels uncomfortable, he'll run right for me. He also would let me know he was done or overwhelmed by staying at my side the first few times we did it.
He's really coming around! He is a much happier dog, and you can tell by his body language. No more flattened ears or submissive peeing. In fact, he hasn't rolled over and peed in at least a month, maybe two, now. I've even caught him trotting around and smiling, which I had never seen in the passed year I've had him.
As long as Jonas is happy, I'm happy. We still have a way to go, and we're not sure how far he'll come, but as long as he isn't living his life absorbed in fear. Jack McCoy started out extremely fearful, abused, and almost feral. It literally took nothing more than meeting a few people to turn him around. You'd never know where he came from now.

You can always start a diary with Poca now! It's never too late to log progress. :)
I have a question that's be getting at me lately.

They always say dogs have a socialization "window" or period where "all" a dog's socialization takes place.

If that's true, why is it that...

a) we can socialize them to things they fear/have no exposure too

b) we have to continue socialization throughout life?
Oh, I wonder the same thing, especially with Jonas who spent his life in a crate with very little contact, and Jack, who was outdoors for nearly a year with NO human contact and bolted from us when we were trying to take him home. Jack is somewhere between 6 and 8, and Jonas is nearly 4, and Jack is pretty much a normal dog now, and Jonas is making great strides. I certainly missed the window with them, but I don't think it ever ends.
Jonas had a bad day/major set back completely not his fault on Saturday. We took a short walk down to get the mail, and a man came out of the house across the street and walked up on us while I was not paying attention. 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. I felt threatened myself, so I told him he had two seconds to get away from us or I was calling the police. Now he's been rolling onto his back when my boyfriend has approached. Also something that hasn't happened in months. :mad:
Wow, that totally sucks!

I'd be beside myself - what a horrible way to lose progress :( I'd be SO tempted to just let Wally go and "tell him off".

People just don't understand fearful dogs, and that guy just doesn't understand dogs period. I mean, what if Jonas really was aggressive? That man would be missing a nose right now, I'd bet.

I'm starting to think that "tv trainers" don't either.

Saw an episode of Me or the Dog and VS said she never saw a dog stand and hold on to her owner's leg. I was think, that's SO Wally. Even jumped down and sat right at her owner's feet, just like Wally. Something she says she's never seen is something I see every day (or used to). Just made me think.

I guess people, even trainers, aren't used to seeing dogs actually be scared or think they can bark out of fear as much as out of alertness or aggression.
I feel like I have to be afraid of the whole world along with him. He can only get so far before someone does something senseless to ruin it. Even when I get a chance to say "He's fearful, please do not pet him or reach for him" people will do it anyway. Jonas WILL bite, especially when startled and clearly over his threshold, and quite frankly the only luck this man had was that he's a 11 lbs and I quickly scooped him and backed up.

I just don't understand it.
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:
:( Thank you. I took Jonas to his favorite quiet family owned pet store to make up for it, and the only other person he responds to positively other my boyfriend and I is the woman who owns it. He perked up, loved on her, and socialized with some other dogs, which is generally not something he does either. We saw this guy today while working on the yard with Jack supervising ;) and all he had to say was "that's the one that'll tear you up. He's the guard dog." Apparently we're in the vicinity of crazies.
Yeah, I never understand why people just disregard an owner's wishes. I mean, it just seems like simple respect. Such angry people, I'll never understand. Seems like the kind of person that would get mad because a baby cries or because kids want things. Just over-the-top hostility.

I'm fortunate in the fact I've not run into many people like that. Just that one guy who said he'd kick Wally if he bit him, which was just as stupid because Wally was sniffing the air just to take his scent.

Hopefully, Jonas will be able to shake it off over time and remember the good things he's learned. Try not to be too wary, even though it's natural in general with fearful dogs (because we want to head off things before they trigger the fear), but especially after an event like what you went through.
I get the over whelming desire to pet a dog and get excited when you see a real cutie like Jonas ;) but randomly being mean to something so harmless, especially 11 lbs of harmless in our situation.

Why would someone kick Wally? He's just a fuzzy little man! :mad:

As I posted above, he turned around at his favorite shop. And this afternoon we went to visit the parents and my boyfriend's father was sitting on the deck, and Jonas actually approached him and jumped up on his legs, begging to be picked up AND happily danced on his lap when he picked him up. It lasted only a minute, but I could not believe it. He's showing me that he's a tough little guy and is learning that maybe not every guy is so bad.

That's wonderful! He is learning and that one event just rolled off his back.

I'm SO glad dogs suck at generalizing. I think a lot of times, that's our one trump card. Yes, it gets in the way sometimes when we want them to hurry up and learn that those good things, but when stuff like what Jonas went through happens - I'm grateful for their moment-by-moment view on life.

Yeah, with Wally I seem like I'm in a no win situation with a lot of the adults (the kids just see OMG LOOK AT THAT CUTE LITTLE WHITE DOG!!11!!!1, especially the girls). If he's off leash, they look at him (and me) suspiciously. If he's on leash, they look at him suspiciously. It's like off leash "what's he gonna do to me" and on leash "I wonder what he would do to me if he wasn't on that leash" :rolleyes:
Amen! Jonas runs into tough situations all the time, and I keep thinking we're going to completely lose every thing we've worked for, and a day or so later it's like nothing happened.

Jonas has one huge thing working against him: He's so darn cute. I may be biased, but judging from the reactions he gets, he's one of the cutest doxie's I've ever seen. People just want to touch him. Combined with the fact people are often rude/don't ask/don't handle dogs appropriately in the first place public outings have to be planned carefully and not around a lot of people otherwise he'll either shut down completely, or get snarly.
LOL to scary dads. My dad is 6'5'', deep voice, and a large hockey player. Jonas is NOT a fan. Every time we went by with the dogs he'd just bark and stay far away from him. My dad would always joke "I love your dogs. Just not that little one." until our last few visits, where Jonas has approached him for a pet and taken treats from him. We're winning in the "Men AREN'T so scary" battle.
MM & TWAB - maybe we should start a scary dad/fearful dog club. Wonder how many takers we'd have?? ;) Actually, my brother and his son fall into the same category - apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But it sounds like all of our pups are making progress. On the way home from a party this evening, Poca gave my dad a face washing every few minutes. Oh yeah.
LOL. Jonas is especially fearful of men, and big giant guys like my dad are NOT his cup of tea. We've had some good meetings, though. We went over for Father's day and Jonas did not bark at him once. Even quietly sat on the couch by him and let him pet him. He only looked uncomfortable once, but only because my dad was messing with his scruff (he's got a lot of it) but instead of losing it, he got up and moved to me. I let my dad know he's sensitive about his neck/face being messed with, and Jonas went back to him later with no problem.

No new progress. Unless you count today as a set back. A friend of mine came over, whom he's met before, but he just wouldn't stop barking at her. He did run and jump right practically in her lap on the couch, but the minute she moved he went nuts. I had to take him out of the room for a bit before he'd stop.
Ugh. My boyfriend's dad turned Jonas' world upside down again. Well, he's fine, but this sort of stuff is ridiculous. I knew I shouldn't have let him come over. Despite being warned each time he comes (which is just about never anymore until he can respect our dog rules) he walks right up to Jonas, gets down in his face, and starts rubbing his head/neck (and too roughly, in my opinion) even though Jonas is just going nuts. I picked him up and said "he does NOT like people in his face, and he does NOT like to be pet so hard." (I was curt, because we've discussed this before) and we spent the afternoon outside until he left.

How do you have to be so dense that you will stick your face within two inches of a snarling dogs face? Let alone put your hands all over him while he's snarling and has his hackles up. And when you KNOW the dog already and that he HAS bitten people in the face.
So it really is being very careful about pinpointing the EXACT cause of the fear and then working within the DOG'S parameters (what works best for them) to help them get past it.
Best advice as far as fearful dogs go, IMO. When we adopted Jonas he was a wreck of fears, and it took (and is still taking) a lot of time to figure out exactly what triggers his fear and what his threshold was for various things.
We're having a small house warming party this weekend (MAYBE 10 people. I severely limited the guest list because of Jonas + new environment) and I'm nervous. Every one coming is extremely respectful of dogs (the dog rules I put on the guest list make me sound SO uptight :p) so I'm hoping the low keyness of it all won't be upsetting, otherwise I'll end the party quickly.

Does anyone have a super protective dog like Jonas? He's extremely protective of me, and fearful. If people are calm and quiet, he only goes nuts on their entry and stops for the most part once they hand him a treat and sit down. However, despite our work, he does have his set backs and if someone moves towards me or sits down near me too quickly, he goes bonkers (hackles up and all) and it's NOT a matter of handing him a treat that will stop him. I'm not worried about biting, he'd much rather flee the scene, but typically in these situations I pick him up and leave the room for a bit. Is this the wrong way to handle that? I don't want to reward him for guarding me, even though I'm only intending to remove him from a stressful situation so he can calm down. I don't pet or praise him. Just a quick scoop and walk out of the room.
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I guess if it was me, I'd feel more comfortable crating him or putting him in another room. Less stressful for Jonas and you can relax with your guests without always worrying if something or someone is going to set him off (and your guests can also relax without worrying if they're going to upset your dog).

If you want to use the opportunity to help socialize him, maybe you could make a party game of it with your guests. "And now we've come to the 'help me socialize my fearful dog' portion of the evening!" Give everyone yummy treats, give them some rules to follow, and then bring Jonas out for a few minutes. If anyone breaks the rules, they've lost and they get a bag of dog poo or something. Ha! (I'm just joking about the last part.)
Jonas is terrified of crates, so we don't crate him. He was kept in a crate at a "breeder" the first three years of his life. He DOES however, enjoy digging under and hiding under a blanket, so we have a little fort area he can go to if he gets overwhelmed.
Jonas is an odd duck. He likes to see people, and if someone has food he'll actually sit by them. He just doesn't like them to touch him, make any loud noises, or come at him, which thankfully none of the company I keep would do. So far we've come a super long way, and he's done well with a group of 5 at our house. He's also much more social if Smalls is right there with him, and she's his exact opposite. Crazy in love with attention. :p
If you check back in the thread, the game you suggested is actually just like the therapy he has with our behaviorist, LOL. It has totally turned his life around.
The party went great. There were about 10 people there, and Jonas hardly let out more than a few barks when they came in. He took treats and eventually just fell asleep in his tent.

We went to woofstock, also, and that went great. Jonas showed some dog aggression (though, I'm hesitant to call it that. he was just barking at the first few that approached.) which was surprising. But, a strange lady offered him water from a bowl in her hand and he DRANK IT. I bought him a bully stick. I never give those to the dogs, but he was just so good he deserved it.
New shocker. Jonas is showing dog aggression. Never happened before. He shows interest in dogs for a moment, sniffs, and ignores them. The last three walks or so we've encountered other dogs, and he's starting going bonkers, hackles raised and every thing. It's like, when I finally have him figured out, he throws me for a loop.
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