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Hi everyone,

I'm a first-time poster so wasn't sure if this should go in the Training or Rescue forum, but this seemed to be the better fit! This may be a bit long, so I apologize for the length up-front...

I rescued a wonderful dog from a rescue society in Washington DC about ten months ago. Buffy was about 1.5 years old when I got her; she is very sweet but has some abuse in her past and is terrified of EVERYTHING (I'm talking from pots and pans to beeping noises to fluffy feather dusters...) She also has severe separation anxiety, to the point where I've reluctantly had to put her on anxiety medication out of fear she would hurt herself (to date, she has torn her way through three metal crates -- still not sure how she accomplished that -- and jumped out of a second story window). Since getting her, I've moved to San Diego and now work from home, so the separation issue is slowly getting better. I've had rescue dogs before so know to be patient and take it more slowly with training than if I had raised her from a puppy, but none of my other dogs have been so scared of just life in general.

My biggest problem in terms of training is getting her to Come. She knows the command but a lot of times is too afraid to obey. If something has spooked her (whether it's something in my hand, a noise she heard earlier, whatever), she just shuts down -- slinks off into a corner and rolls over onto her back or literally runs away from me and hides. If she knows I have a treat for her, then she's all about it, but the problem there is that my roommate's dog, while they get along perfectly in other respects, is food-aggressive, so I can't just carry treats around in my pocket like I otherwise would.

I'm totally fine being patient and giving her as much time as she needs to learn the more "fun" commands (shake, bring, leave it, etc.) but this one freaks me out because it's a matter of her safety -- if we're at the dog park or she gets away from me on a walk somehow, and is too afraid to come when I call her, I'm worried she could get hurt.

Any suggestions?? Thanks!
 

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First, kudos to you for adopting that dog... really. How is she doing in dog parks? If something there makes her shut down I'd avoid that place. I would definitely not issue any obedience command or even dog's name if it's in a panic attack, my focus would be on preventing those scenarios instead. If you call the dog while it's in a really bad state of mind you could associate the word with bad experience. You enforce recall by only using it when the dog is in drive, happy and at least somewhat engaged with you.
 

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Thanks for the reply! She does really well at the park -- she's a little timid if a whole bunch of big dogs run up to her at once but she warms up quickly and loves to chase and wrestle! I was actually amazed at how well she does with other dogs. It's more human interactions that she's terrified of.

The problem with your suggestion to focus on preventing scary scenarios is that I never know what's going to freak her out. Example -- yesterday we got back from a long walk and she was totally happy and engaged with me; it was hot out and I wanted her to get some water to cool down, so I filled her water bowl and as I was putting it down on the ground, called her over ("Buffy, come!" in a high-pitched, excited voice). She was in my sightline and for some reason either the sound of running water or the sight of the bowl in my hand scared the bejesus out of her, and she just froze, dropped to her back, and refused to move for a good five minutes. In that scenario, I just left her there and let her recover. When she started showing signs of relaxing a bit, I put my roommate's dog outside on the patio so I could try the command again with a treat; that time, she was fine -- came running to me happy as could be. So maybe the trick is to never have anything in my hand when I call her other than food! :laugh:

Your advice to not call her or say her name when she's so scared is a good idea. I admit, there have been times in the past when she's done this and I've tried to coax her over to show her there's nothing to be scared of, and it just gets her more terrified. Clearly someone in her past used to do not nice things to her when they called her :mad: Thanks again for replying. I guess I need to remind myself of the three Do's of rescue dogs -- patience, patience, patience!!
 

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Rectifying your roommate's dog's food aggression may be a wise first course of action.

Perhaps you can both work together on this issue ?
 

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You're right, it would certainly help a lot if the food thing were no longer an issue. Unfortunately, Cheyenne (his dog) is about 11 years old and not in great health, so I don't know how realistic it is to retrain her on this issue now? I've never worked with training a dog that old, so I really don't know! We do feed them separately, and they're fine being around "people food" together, like if we're having dinner they can both be in the room without any issues. I will talk to him, though, and see if he's willing to maybe talk to a trainer about it. In the meantime, I've been putting Cheyenne outside for some time every day to work with Buffy on her training -- I guess I can keep doing that!
 

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I recomend getting a 20' to 30' lead. Let the dog play while you hold the end of the lead. When the dog is having a good time get on your knees and call the dog to you while claping your hands and acting like your having a fun time. Dogs always want to be where the fun is. If the dog does not come when you call on time real him/her in with the lead. Once the dog is to you praise the dog, you may also use a treat if you want. Then tell the dog okay and let them go about playing. Work on this a couple times a day. Never give your dog a command that you can't backup. If you do not have a lead on the dog and you know the dog will not come to you then don't spoil the command. Walk to your dog and place him/her on a lead.
 

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Try using and teaching the command "front", it means the same thing but not associated with some things dogs might consider bad....whenever a dog misbehaves we always say Buffy come here, when its time to get the nails or grooming done Buffy come here, when its time to go into the cage Buffy come here, etc. Dogs learn to associate a simple word like come to mean something not good is going to happen if they come. Front will bring the dog right to you and in a sit position. It works great:) Front will now replace come for good things...since you don't know what the word come was associated with before you got the dog.
 

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Wow, that is a brilliant suggestion, thank you so much! I'm going to start on the new command right away! Thanks again.
 

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With my dog I changed the cue and started over from scratch. I now use the cue "here" instead of "come".

I strongly recommend getting a copy of Leslie Nelson's Really Reliable Recall dvd if you can. If not, here is a link that sums up some of the rules that should be followed in teaching a recall. I drill these into my clients every class. But they are important!

http://www.brisbeethewhite.com/id26.htm

It can be done! I worked with a Great Pyr in Jan-Feb that is dog aggressive. The dog had slipped her lead and attacked another dog. In addition to starting a desensitization and counter-conditioning program, we concentrated on her recall on the off chance she ever got off-lead again. In her first lesson, her recalls were slow, sometimes non-existent, and her body language showed that she was NOT happy about returning (head lowered, plodding gait, pauses and finally veering off just before reaching her owners).

I started them from scratch with the really reliable recall program, and by the end of the 7 weeks, she was doing recalls outside, amid distractions, with owners blocked from view etc. And she was ENTHUSIASTIC. We are talking full-out running, happy face, tail up, could not WAIT to get back to the owners recall.

Not every dog will progress that quickly, but it can be done if you are consistent.
 

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With my dog I changed the cue and started over from scratch. I now use the cue "here" instead of "come".

I strongly recommend getting a copy of Leslie Nelson's Really Reliable Recall dvd if you can. If not, here is a link that sums up some of the rules that should be followed in teaching a recall. I drill these into my clients every class. But they are important!

http://www.brisbeethewhite.com/id26.htm

It can be done! I worked with a Great Pyr in Jan-Feb that is dog aggressive. The dog had slipped her lead and attacked another dog. In addition to starting a desensitization and counter-conditioning program, we concentrated on her recall on the off chance she ever got off-lead again. In her first lesson, her recalls were slow, sometimes non-existent, and her body language showed that she was NOT happy about returning (head lowered, plodding gait, pauses and finally veering off just before reaching her owners).

I started them from scratch with the really reliable recall program, and by the end of the 7 weeks, she was doing recalls outside, amid distractions, with owners blocked from view etc. And she was ENTHUSIASTIC. We are talking full-out running, happy face, tail up, could not WAIT to get back to the owners recall.

Not every dog will progress that quickly, but it can be done if you are consistent.

The only problem with Here is that lots of people throw that come in there, its a training process for both the human and dog..I find it difficult not to say "come here":)
 

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Try using and teaching the command "front", it means the same thing but not associated with some things dogs might consider bad....whenever a dog misbehaves we always say Buffy come here, when its time to get the nails or grooming done Buffy come here, when its time to go into the cage Buffy come here, etc. Dogs learn to associate a simple word like come to mean something not good is going to happen if they come. Front will bring the dog right to you and in a sit position. It works great:) Front will now replace come for good things...since you don't know what the word come was associated with before you got the dog.
This is such a spectacular idea. Patricia McConnell told a story in one of her books about changing a cue for a dog and it worked brilliantly to undo an owner's training mistakes.

OP, best wishes to you and your pup! Abused rescue dogs can regain their confidence, they just need our love and patience. A couple days ago ours tucked his tail between his legs and hid from hubby b/c he saw hubby eating a belvita in an unexpected place. I mean really? sorta makes me want to go find the mope that had Emmett before us, and give HIM something to be afraid of.
 

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Agreed with changing the cue, but don't limit yourself to words. I have a dog who is shy and when we first got him he was afraid to recall as well, he would just shut down. He loves squeaky toys, so we just started using the squeaky as his cue to recall, it worked wonderfully because it wasn't scary, got his attention, was good motivation to recall, and was a reward all rolled into one. Over time, we transitioned to a whistle. Eventually, we reintroduced verbal cues and hand signals, but he still recalls quickest to the whistle, which is fine with me.
 
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