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Discussion Starter #1
I looked over the forums but wasn't sure where to put this.

Anyways in early March we adopted a young (2-4 years old) Beagle who was found as a stray. At the time I had my ten year old female Jack Russell. Right away you could tell the Beagle was a good dog, but very under confident, and nervous especially but not exclusively with men. He is also sweet natured, but not cuddly or very affectionate. At the MOST when he is SUPER happy he comes up and rubs his head all over you, and he is happy to see us when we arrive home. But that's the extent of it. We figured with more time things would be fine. A month after adopting him, my female Jack was put to sleep. In the short time with her, he was using cues from her on how to behave and relying on her as she was outgoing, confident and spunky. When she died, he actually has improved as he has to do things on his own.

Examples...

Someone comes to the door. He howls a couple times, as soon as they come in though he runs but turns around to look at them. If they reach out to pet him he ducks and runs. He ends up coming up to women faster, and most of the time eventually comes up to sniff men too.

Loud noises...big improvement here over time but if you suddenly drop a broom or something, on accident, he ducks and runs. All dogs of course get scared of things like that but you can tell he is a little more scared then normal. Thunderstorms don't bother him a bit though. Go figure.

Getting on the bed...he has his own crate and bed area near my bed....but sometimes I invite him on the bed. He will listen but is obviously uncomfortable and gets down and jumps into his own bed within a couple minutes. Same thing on the couch, if I move over to his side and start petting him and loving him up a bit he eventually will get up and walk ten feet to the hall way and lie down.

Won't ever sit on or near our laps. Won't give a kiss. However he is not fearful all the time. He sits on the other end of the couch with me, is very happy when we get home, enjoys long daily walks with me etc. On the leash he is MUCH less tense, and allows anyone to come up to him and pet him. He is also exceptionally good with children, and the only kiss I've seen him give was to a kid he had met ten minutes before.

Basically we love him to bits, but what I am asking is how to I bring out a more trusting side to him? Are there any special activities or things we can do to create a stronger bond between us and him?
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Well first off, when the doorbell rings, he runs to the door and does the beagle howl. I go to the door and tell him back and he stops howling and backs off. He doesn't continue to rush the door. He usually waits about ten to fifteen feet back while the visitor says their hellos and moves into the house.

Then once the person comes in and he is ducking and running as I call it, we ignore it. If you even look cross eyed at this dog, he thinks he is in trouble. He usually stays about ten to fifteen feet away during the first few minutes of their arrival, and sometimes runs around the corner and turns back to look. If you moved towards him (the visitor) he will run and possibly howl one more time while going...then when he feels he is far enough he turns around to look more. So while I ignore what he is doing, I also tell people to please ignore him. The minute a new person starts with the high pitched "hi doggie come here" he probably won't ever go up to smell them the whole visit. If they ignore him, and simply talk with us he will quickly come up and sniff at them. After a few minutes of sniffing, they can usually pet him. He does still run from some people at this point if they reach down even slowly, other people he has gotten to know by now and he quickly stops ducking and running when they come over.

I don't want a dog that charges visitors by any means, and his distance is a welcome difference from my Jack who would push her way up to anyone new and get right on top of them if I let her. But I'd still like to raise his confidence level and trust to the point that a new person might be able to pet him normally without the ducking and running.

Another short example is the dog park. Most of the dogs there will let other owners pet them, some are eager for affection from anyone, but most will let anyone pet them. Not my Beagle! If ANYONE comes near him he runs...ducks and runs. He has never allowed anyone to pet him easily unless he is on the leash. Then he allows it.

He is NEVER aggressive when refusing to be pet or if the person is close by and pets him suddenly, he simply runs.
 

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The minute a new person starts with the high pitched "hi doggie come here" he probably won't ever go up to smell them the whole visit.
Probably doesn't like that sound level. Wally HATES high pitched sounds - be they voices or otherwise.

If they ignore him, and simply talk with us he will quickly come up and sniff at them. After a few minutes of sniffing, they can usually pet him.
Probably looks like a calming signal to him (looking away) so he feels a little more bold to approach and check out the scent. Once he's okay with it - makes sense he'll accept petting.

He does still run from some people at this point if they reach down even slowly, other people he has gotten to know by now and he quickly stops ducking and running when they come over.
Reaching over can be considered a threatening position to a dog that doesn't trust the reaching person or is still uncertain about them. How does he do if the person kneels to his level and coaxes him over?

I don't want a dog that charges visitors by any means, and his distance is a welcome difference from my Jack who would push her way up to anyone new and get right on top of them if I let her. But I'd still like to raise his confidence level and trust to the point that a new person might be able to pet him normally without the ducking and running.
When he comes to check someone out calmly, praise and reward him (and let the person he's checking out also give him a reward, like his favorite treat or toy or such). Have as many people you feel would be calm for him to meet do this as well. Try playing the Look at That game or similar. Will help him associate seeing people as a possibility for something good happening.

It will take time, but he can come around. You're doing good by ignoring his fear and letting him go away to a distance he feels safe. You can use this as a start to changing his association while he's at his safe distance.

Another short example is the dog park. Most of the dogs there will let other owners pet them, some are eager for affection from anyone, but most will let anyone pet them. Not my Beagle! If ANYONE comes near him he runs...ducks and runs. He has never allowed anyone to pet him easily unless he is on the leash. Then he allows it.
I know the feeling. Wally's the same way, especially with kids. Never aggressive, but he looks anxious, but will settle down once he sees the kid won't eat him, especially in a sit stay.
 

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While it definitely sounds like you have a nervous dog, there could also be a personality element at work here...perhaps he just isn't a cuddler! I know my Alvin isn't. He loves his Furminator and a good butt scratch, but heaven forbid I should try to give him a hug. He'll tolerate it because he's a good boy, but as soon as I release him, he's off in an effort to escape.
 

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I think you're on the right track as it is... letting him respond according to his flight distance. I would continue telling your guests to ignore him, and let him approach them at his own will. You want him to learn that people are good things, but not by forcing him over to people and having them pet and treat him. Whatever happens, let being around strangers be a positive experience. You can have strangers gently toss him treats from a distance at which he's comfortable, and squat down to pet him instead of reaching over -- those will both help. But in my opinion, if you continue in this way he will get a lot less skittish over time.

Lots of positive reinforcement training will help with his confidence... does he like food? Do short obedience training sessions with him, and reward him for good behaviour. Make him realise that he can do things right, that please you and that are beneficial for him.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thank you everyone!

How does he do if the person kneels to his level and coaxes him over?
Pretty much the same. A few people we have over are very dog friendly and they immediately crouch down and open both arms to encourage him to come over rather then reaching down, but he pretty much responds the same way.

I have some treats I've given people to give him. While he is a food hound for sure, he doesn't "fall for it" with strangers. LOL :D

I also think we are on the right track simply because he HAS improved. I basically was thinking that there might be some little tricks. Well not tricks, but some exercises and such to help. He has just recently started giving us eye contact, and watching us a little bit. Before he could have cared less and rarely gave us eye contact. He would follow along with a group of dogs while totally ignoring us at the dog park, but now we have gotten him to the point that we can say "Stay!" so that we can leash him and leave. This happened after a few five hour sessions chasing him around the park :p

Thanks for everyones thoughts, words and ideas. I really enjoy talking to other dog people to learn how to help him better. He really is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met in my life, not a "bad" bone in his beagle body.
 
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