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Discussion Starter #1
Some of you may have seen my post on the General forum about the stray dog who has apparently (unexpectedly) made himself mine.

Well, since we've decided to keep him, we've also decided to look into some private one-on-one training for him. He's incredibly, incredibly fearful. He will come to us if we have food in hand, he loves being taken out for a walk, he's very happy to play with my other dog, and when we pet the other dog, he hovers nearby as if he wishes he had the courage to try it himself. However, if you so much as move in his direction, even by accident, he sprints for his crate. I've never seen a dog this terrified of being touched, no matter how slowly you move or how much you wait for him to come to you.

So, we feel a little out of our league trying to deal with him alone and have decided to enlist professional help. I called the top two trainers in our area, as rated by an annual local poll by a local newspaper (their ratings are usually pretty reliable). One is very focused on positive-only clicker based training, which sounds great, but she's incredibly, incredibly expensive - someone prohibitively so. We could afford her group classes, and might try them out when we reach that point, but right now I don't think he can handle that many people at once. The other trainer seems happy to do positive based training and clicker type training, but they (a married couple) also advocate using a very low level remote collar. I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of using the "shock collar," even though they claim it's at the lowest possible setting and it's just enough to get his attention, nothing more. I mean, I can't even tap this guy with the tip of my finger, and they think he'll be okay with a tap from a collar? Other than that though, they sound fantastic, they come really highly recommend and well reviewed with great results, and they seems very passionate about what they do. Additionally, they do a free hour-long consult with no obligation for more sessions, which, honestly, compared to the high price of just one session with the other trainer, sounds like it's worth at least giving a try.

So... what would you do? This isn't an expense we were expecting (he literally followed me home while I was walking my other dog, and basically I just couldn't turn him out), but we feel like we need help. On the other hand, I don't want to screw this up and just make him more fearful. Would it be acceptable to ask these trainers to try trying him without the collar first, and only add the collar if they really feel that it's necessary, or is that the amateur questioning the professional? They seem friendly and were very understanding of our concerns about the collar, but also very persistent in trying to convince us that the collar would be fine and wouldn't frighten him. Right now we have a consultation scheduled with them for Monday when they will come to the house, meet the dog, and discuss with us what plan they would recommend. I doubt they'll try to put the collar on him on the first session (especially since we're not trying to discourage any bad habits, just build good ones), so I figure it's worth meeting them at least, since it's free, but I'm still nervous.

I mean, anybody who mentioned things like dominance, alpha dogs, or smacking him on the nose would automatically be kicked unceremoniously out the door, but this I'm less sure about.

Also, just generally... any advice for acclimating and training a fearful new dog? We're doing all of the moving as slowly as possible, not forcing him into anything, giving him his space so he feels comfortable, definitely no pouncing on him or grabbing at him, sitting on the floor so he can come to us, etc., etc. Books to read? Websites to peruse? I know much of it will be a matter of time, but any tips or success stories would be much appreciated!

Thanks!
 

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I would start off yourself. You only need to enlist a trainer if this dog bites, or gets in shape to take group lessons.

I got from the shelter a very fearful dog, we have enlisted a trainer to help us, but we do most of the work. A fearful dog needs love, a warm place to sleep, a home, regular walks and a ton of excellent treats. No harsh words, loud voices, shock collars, or force used. One of the most freeing things for my dog was when I let her run off-leash at a local park, not a dog park (she is fearful of other dogs). I appreciate what you say about kicking trainers out the door, we sound similar minded about our pooches.

I would recommend getting a hold of "Help for your Fearful Dog" by Nichole Wilde and a good book on clicker training: The Idiots Guide to Dog Training, 3 Ed, or "Train Your Dog Like a Pro" by Jane Donaldson are two good ones.

You sound like you are doing well. When you are ready, it will not hurt to train him, sit, down, touch, attention to start off.
 

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I wouldn't use a shock collar on any dog, let alone a dog that fearful.

My advice is, give it time. He needs time to acclimate. Kabota was very fearful at first, so I didn't train anything. I just rewarded interaction, looking at me, getting off the couch, responding to his name.

I think you just need to give him time, that's all. It took Kabota 6months to truly adjust and show himself.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I would start off yourself. You only need to enlist a trainer if this dog bites, or gets in shape to take group lessons.

I got from the shelter a very fearful dog, we have enlisted a trainer to help us, but we do most of the work. A fearful dog needs love, a warm place to sleep, a home, regular walks and a ton of excellent treats. No harsh words, loud voices, shock collars, or force used. One of the most freeing things for my dog was when I let her run off-leash at a local park, not a dog park (she is fearful of other dogs). I appreciate what you say about kicking trainers out the door, we sound similar minded about our pooches.

I would recommend getting a hold of "Help for your Fearful Dog" by Nichole Wilde and a good book on clicker training: The Idiots Guide to Dog Training, 3 Ed, or "Train Your Dog Like a Pro" by Jane Donaldson are two good ones.

You sound like you are doing well. When you are ready, it will not hurt to train him, sit, down, touch, attention to start off.
I would definitely be doing most of the work - we'd meet with the trainer maybe once a week, just to give us some direction and organize the training a little bit. My husband and I tend to have different approaches, and I know that can be confusing, so I'm hoping that a professional trainer can get us all on the same page and give us an effective way of working with Jameson that won't just scare him more.

I don't even really care about most of what people train their dogs to do. Mostly, I want him to come when he's called so that I can let him play in the yard with my other dog without worrying that we'll never get him back in the house, because this little guy wants to RUN, and while we've been taking him with us on our runs, I'm nowhere near fast enough to satisfy him. Other than that, "stay," so he doesn't run out the door on us, "leave it" so he doesn't eat our shoes... that kind of thing. But, again, there's no rush on it, and if it looks like it's doing more damage than good, I'll abandon it immediately. I'm actually kind of hoping doing some low-pressure training might help him bond with us, but if that sounds like a horrible, horrible rookie mistake, I'm hoping someone will stop me! Our other dog was so easy to deal with in comparison that I'm definitely in new territory here.

I just found a Nook version of Help for Your Fearful Dog and downloaded it - thanks! Just as an aside, it's $9.99 for the Nook or Kindle version and $24.99 for the hard copy on Amazon or dogwise.com... ridiculous.
I'm going to head to my library and check out the training books, but they didn't have the Wilde one so I figured it was worth buying. Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I've been doing what you suggest - rewarding any sort of positive behavior (mostly, any time he voluntarily wanders out of his crate or comes within treating distance of me), and I'll keep it up. The appointment we made for the free consultation is a little short of a week from now, so it will give us more time to work with him on our own first. If it really feels like he's not up to it, I'll cancel it. I know with Melonie it was about 3 months before we really started to see her personality, and definitely at least that before we could get her to even touch a toy, so I don't expect him to be in our laps after a week or two. Patience isn't my best virtue, but I try! :)

I wouldn't use a shock collar on any dog, let alone a dog that fearful.

My advice is, give it time. He needs time to acclimate. Kabota was very fearful at first, so I didn't train anything. I just rewarded interaction, looking at me, getting off the couch, responding to his name.

I think you just need to give him time, that's all. It took Kabota 6months to truly adjust and show himself.
 

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Some basic low-pressure training can be absolutely great for forming a bond and building his confidence. You'll just have to play it by ear on how receptive he is to "working" for treats. If he doesn't seem interested/willing to "work" for the treats then I'd give him some more time. If he is interested it could really help him overcome his fears even faster. Really depends on where he is mentally right now.

I've hardly gotten anywhere with any basic training with my foster other than basic household manners and overcoming some fears. Though I can mostly blame that on my own dog (on top of my laziness to work around this) who can't stand to be left out of "the fun" and makes it hard to spend individual time with the foster trying to train. Haha I have to hide a bag of treats downstairs so that I can do some training with the foster dog when I go downstairs with him and my own dog decides to stay upstairs, if he knew what was going on downstairs he'd be barking and carrying on wanting to get downstairs.
 

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When considering a difference in expense, "a man cannot afford a cheap lawyer" often comes to mind, as food for thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
When considering a difference in expense, "a man cannot afford a cheap lawyer" often comes to mind, as food for thought.
While I certainly agree, the "cheaper" trainer isn't exactly all that cheap either. While I'm willing to spend the money I need to spend, I can't spend money that I don't have. It's not going to help anybody if I put myself in debt for a trainer and then can't afford the vet bills! It's frustrating that the other trainer is outside of my budget, but I do have to be realistic, especially since I don't think it's really a life-or-death kind of situation. Life-saving vet bills: worth going into debt. A trainer who may or may not actually be better: not worth it. At least, in my mind. I mean, we're talking about the number 1 recommended trainer in the area vs. the number 2 recommended trainer in the area - it's not the difference between Blue Buffalo and Alpo, you know?
 

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Wondering ... have you tried just sitting down on the floor during the day at different intervals to be at his eye level and just allow him to wander on over to you? Then treat accordingly with something really yummy ... if you have time ... as I do not know your schedule.

Sometimes this helps.

I had a severely abused dog ... I think I mentioned it in your other thread. This helped Kokomo to see that I was not towering over her as a threat. It took her an entire year to overcome her abuse.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Some basic low-pressure training can be absolutely great for forming a bond and building his confidence. You'll just have to play it by ear on how receptive he is to "working" for treats. If he doesn't seem interested/willing to "work" for the treats then I'd give him some more time. If he is interested it could really help him overcome his fears even faster. Really depends on where he is mentally right now.

I've hardly gotten anywhere with any basic training with my foster other than basic household manners and overcoming some fears. Though I can mostly blame that on my own dog (on top of my laziness to work around this) who can't stand to be left out of "the fun" and makes it hard to spend individual time with the foster trying to train. Haha I have to hide a bag of treats downstairs so that I can do some training with the foster dog when I go downstairs with him and my own dog decides to stay upstairs, if he knew what was going on downstairs he'd be barking and carrying on wanting to get downstairs.
This made me laugh a little bit because we're having the exact same issue with Melonie. I'm thinking I might have to send her out into the yard to play a little bit more so that we can spend more one-on-one time with Jameson. At least that way she thinks she's getting a good deal and doesn't know that she's missing out! Poor lady - she's gotten a little chubby, and she does doesn't understand why the skeletally emaciated stray is getting more food and goodies than she is...

In other news, we had our first in-house accident. I'm hoping I handled it okay - I just basically picked it up and ignored him, since I didn't catch him at it. I don't want him to do it again, but correcting him on it didn't seem like a good idea. It was kind of funny though - on the rare occasion when Mel has an accident, she's always for some reason gone right on the living room rug, which is kind of a nuisance to clean. Jameson picked the most ideal spot ever to poop in the house - on the little bathroom rug about 3 feet away from the toilet. I picked the whole thing up, dumped the poo in the toilet, and threw the rug in the washing machine (which happens to be right next to the bathroom). In fact, I threw in our other bathroom rug, just to get everybody clean, since I was running the washer. I have to applaud him on his excellent planning.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Wondering ... have you tried just sitting down on the floor during the day at different intervals to be at his eye level and just allow him to wander on over to you? Then treat accordingly with something really yummy ... if you have time ... as I do not know your schedule.

Sometimes this helps.

I had a severely abused dog ... I think I mentioned it in your other thread. This helped Kokomo to see that I was not towering over her as a threat. It took her an entire year to overcome her abuse.
Yes, thank you, I've been doing a lot of that - and offering a treat every time he comes near me. The timing on this has been great for me, because I'm a teacher, so I have a few weeks right now where I'm not working, which gives me plenty of time to just sit on the floor and read a book or work on my laptop and let him get used to me. It will be tougher when school starts again at the end of the month, but I'm hoping these next couple of weeks spending lots of time with him will help to cement the relationship a little bit. The downside is that I also don't get paid from June to September, so we'll have to dig into our savings for vet bills, but... eh... worse things have happened.
 

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You might find this site helpful: fearfuldogs.com

There are some really good tips that have helped me in training with Gally to get him over his noise phobia.

ETA: The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell is also a good resource.
 

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i would give this dog time. Don't pressure him to interact, don't pressure him to learn. If he's not too stressed to take treats simply toss treats to him without interacting. Allow him to drag a line (supervised) so you can get ahold of him if you need to. At this point, unless he has some serious problems that you can't live with (like biting) I would put off classes until he has become more comfortable with you. If you want classes on down the line, I'd save up for them so you can afford someone who isn't relying on shock collars to teach. Since I am a trainer, I tend towards encouraging people to take classes, but first the dog has to be in a place where he can learn or you may be wasting your money.
 

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I've been doing what you suggest - rewarding any sort of positive behavior (mostly, any time he voluntarily wanders out of his crate or comes within treating distance of me), and I'll keep it up. The appointment we made for the free consultation is a little short of a week from now, so it will give us more time to work with him on our own first. If it really feels like he's not up to it, I'll cancel it. I know with Melonie it was about 3 months before we really started to see her personality, and definitely at least that before we could get her to even touch a toy, so I don't expect him to be in our laps after a week or two. Patience isn't my best virtue, but I try! :)
Yeah, I know. I had my last dog 12 years. We were soulmates and knew each other inside and out. So the adjustment from that to scared new rescue was tough. Kabota's all "what is going on?! i don't understand anything and i'm scared!" and I'm all "I'm a good person, love me, play with me!"

We worked it out.

ETA: I noticed that he had an accident. You did good there. However, you really need to remove "correction" from your vocabulary. For one thing, it has no place in housetraining, for another, I really don't think this dog can handle any level of correction at all. I don't like corrections, but I do admit that some dogs are "hard" enough to take mild corrections in stride. This dog is not that dog.

For example, a few times I had to yell "NO!" at Muggsy to get his attention to stop him from doing something actively dangerous. He would stop and look at me to see why on earth I was making that much noise. (I never shout.) It didn't upset him in the slightest, it just caught his attention.

Kabota, on the other hand, well. My husband was making croutons, opened the oven door and then realized he didn't have oven mitts on. He leaves the oven open and walks across the room to get the mitts. He turns around to see Kabota about to stick his head into a 350F oven. He yelled "NO!" and Kabota ran out of the kitchen to hide under the coffee table and would not come out until I came home.

Some dogs cannot handle any correction.
 

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I'm definitely on the same page with you with corrections, but I'm not sure what to do as a replacement in a situation like that where he really is doing something dangerous. Obviously I don't want to scare the pants off of him, but I also don't want him to do something dangerous. I'm trying my best to keep the house safe and avoid any situations like that, but sometimes things just happen that you can't foresee. What is a good alternative that will keep him safe without scaring him? (keeping in mind, of course, that if I so much as turn my body a little bit when he's coming up behind me, not even suddenly, but just enough so that I can see him, he bolts for the crate, so "not scaring him" seems almost a little bit impossible, especially because sometimes I don't even know he's there!)

Yeah, I know. I had my last dog 12 years. We were soulmates and knew each other inside and out. So the adjustment from that to scared new rescue was tough. Kabota's all "what is going on?! i don't understand anything and i'm scared!" and I'm all "I'm a good person, love me, play with me!"

We worked it out.

ETA: I noticed that he had an accident. You did good there. However, you really need to remove "correction" from your vocabulary. For one thing, it has no place in housetraining, for another, I really don't think this dog can handle any level of correction at all. I don't like corrections, but I do admit that some dogs are "hard" enough to take mild corrections in stride. This dog is not that dog.

For example, a few times I had to yell "NO!" at Muggsy to get his attention to stop him from doing something actively dangerous. He would stop and look at me to see why on earth I was making that much noise. (I never shout.) It didn't upset him in the slightest, it just caught his attention.

Kabota, on the other hand, well. My husband was making croutons, opened the oven door and then realized he didn't have oven mitts on. He leaves the oven open and walks across the room to get the mitts. He turns around to see Kabota about to stick his head into a 350F oven. He yelled "NO!" and Kabota ran out of the kitchen to hide under the coffee table and would not come out until I came home.

Some dogs cannot handle any correction.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
i would give this dog time. Don't pressure him to interact, don't pressure him to learn. If he's not too stressed to take treats simply toss treats to him without interacting. Allow him to drag a line (supervised) so you can get ahold of him if you need to. At this point, unless he has some serious problems that you can't live with (like biting) I would put off classes until he has become more comfortable with you. If you want classes on down the line, I'd save up for them so you can afford someone who isn't relying on shock collars to teach. Since I am a trainer, I tend towards encouraging people to take classes, but first the dog has to be in a place where he can learn or you may be wasting your money.
Thanks for your advice. That's basically what I've been doing with him - leaving the leash on when we're in the house with him, tossing treats to him whenever he comes within range, etc., although I've managed to scare him just by gently tossing a treat to him when he's not expecting it. I'm going to see how the next week goes with him and then make decisions on any further training. I'm definitely not going to plow ahead if it doesn't seem like he's ready for it.
 
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