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We recently rescued a little shih tzu. I found him under a dumpster. He was covered in mats and very thin. We took him to the vet and groomer. He got a clean bill of health and a shave. He's so incredibly pink now. :)

We are very interested in keeping him. He seems to be a perfect fit for our house aside from a few issues. We believe that most of these are because he doesn't trust us. We haven't even had him a week yet.

I'm wondering what kind of things I can do to help build trust? The biggest problem is that he is a very tough-to-feed dog.

Are there any things I can try that don't involve treats? I know feeding him by hand is supposed to work but until he is eating consistently that's obviously not an option. *chuckle*

Also, he's growling for seemingly no reason that I can understand. I can be sitting on the floor petting him, he seems to be enjoying himself, and then he will growl at me. It's not a specific area each time--meaning it's not every time we touch his neck or right leg--and it doesn't seem to have a trigger--meaning I don't move or go quicker.

Does this seem to be just moody dog or something else? Is he testing us? Should we continue to pet him through the growling as long as he doesn't snap or should we stop immediately?

He will also do the same odd growling occasionally while trying to pick him up or while holding him. With the holding there seems to be no trigger like the petting. There are times when I can hold him and kiss his face with not so much as a lip lift. Then there are times when I'm just holding him and he'll growl at me.

The picking up I'm going to have to watch a bit more since I'm not sure if there is a trigger. Is there a 'best way' to pick up a nervous/possibly fearful dog? Sometimes he doesn't seem to mind at all... others he growls.

Again, is this just moodiness and should we stop or continue through? When he growls when you go to pick him up nine out of ten times he stops once you're holding him. (This is not something we do regularly--picking him up regardless of his growling--but my fiance's mother did it a few times in front of us despite my warnings. He stopped once he was held.)

I'm also worried that he may become more attached to me than my fiance--which would end badly. I don't want a dog that's not interested in her. What can she/we do to help make sure he respects/trusts both of us equally?

The issue is that I am at home with him way more often than her.

Sorry for the tons of questions. I'm just really eager to help this little guy. We've only had him since the 18th, so I'm aware that some of this may just be new place jitters.

My biggest fear is ignoring something that could be a huge problem later, or making something worse.
 

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Hello,

Food-you did not mention what you have given him-try yogurt (plain) with good kibbles, oven baked fresh liver is a good treat (it can be also boiled) roast or boiled chicken is also good. Don't forget good raw chicken wings or lamb/beef bones.
Growling-i think it is a very fearful thing to be picked up by a person. Not all dogs love it. Perhaps you can show your affection by patting/rubbing his tummy etc while he get used to the new environment. With my experience, please do not treat s/tzu like a toy dog. they tend to reverse the roles very quickly and try to be dominant.
Equal trust-my s/tzu who i rescued 2 years ago follows me around like shadow and trust me more than my partner, while our minis who we brought up from 10 weeks loves us equally. Find out what treats he likes first and only your fiance can give him the treats so that relationship can improve between the dog and your fiance. I won't even be surprised if he comes between you and her. When he does this, you really need to show she is more important than him. (first do not laugh even though it is kind of cute and funny....)
Anyway... good luck with the boy. He is a very lucky dog...yes i can tell.
 

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I think the issue right now, with food and the growling, is that he doesn't feel safe, and doesn't feel comfortable yet. He is very scared, due to the situation in which you found him. He doesn't completely trust you yet, and doesn't understand that this could be a very loving, safe, "forever" home.

The growling, in a way, is like a warning. He's saying, "hey, what are you doing to me?" Even though you say sometimes you can get close with no bad reaction, I would work on keeping my distance, and not forcing him to be held or cuddled. Let him come to you! :) Just give him a safe, comfortable place, with some routine, so he will begin to feel safe and will trust you.

Chicken is a great food, also, kibble mixed with some regular PLAIN yogurt. NOT nonfat or lowfat, and no flavoring, not even vanilla. Lots of dogs react well to little bits of hot dog and cheese as a treat! :)

And, as far as favoring you over your fiancee, just make sure that she does some of the feeding, and caring for the puppy, so she will come to depend on her as well.
 

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We recently rescued a little shih tzu. I found him under a dumpster. He was covered in mats and very thin. We took him to the vet and groomer. He got a clean bill of health and a shave. He's so incredibly pink now. :)

We are very interested in keeping him. He seems to be a perfect fit for our house aside from a few issues. We believe that most of these are because he doesn't trust us. We haven't even had him a week yet.

I'm wondering what kind of things I can do to help build trust? The biggest problem is that he is a very tough-to-feed dog.

Are there any things I can try that don't involve treats? I know feeding him by hand is supposed to work but until he is eating consistently that's obviously not an option. *chuckle*

Also, he's growling for seemingly no reason that I can understand. I can be sitting on the floor petting him, he seems to be enjoying himself, and then he will growl at me. It's not a specific area each time--meaning it's not every time we touch his neck or right leg--and it doesn't seem to have a trigger--meaning I don't move or go quicker.

Does this seem to be just moody dog or something else? Is he testing us? Should we continue to pet him through the growling as long as he doesn't snap or should we stop immediately?

He will also do the same odd growling occasionally while trying to pick him up or while holding him. With the holding there seems to be no trigger like the petting. There are times when I can hold him and kiss his face with not so much as a lip lift. Then there are times when I'm just holding him and he'll growl at me.

The picking up I'm going to have to watch a bit more since I'm not sure if there is a trigger. Is there a 'best way' to pick up a nervous/possibly fearful dog? Sometimes he doesn't seem to mind at all... others he growls.

Again, is this just moodiness and should we stop or continue through? When he growls when you go to pick him up nine out of ten times he stops once you're holding him. (This is not something we do regularly--picking him up regardless of his growling--but my fiance's mother did it a few times in front of us despite my warnings. He stopped once he was held.)

I'm also worried that he may become more attached to me than my fiance--which would end badly. I don't want a dog that's not interested in her. What can she/we do to help make sure he respects/trusts both of us equally?

The issue is that I am at home with him way more often than her.

Sorry for the tons of questions. I'm just really eager to help this little guy. We've only had him since the 18th, so I'm aware that some of this may just be new place jitters.

My biggest fear is ignoring something that could be a huge problem later, or making something worse.
What is his facial expression/body posture like when he growls when you're petting him? I have a lot of 'tzu clients who will sit on my grooming table, watch me very soft eyed and do a noise that sounds VERY much like a growl. It really threw me off at first. A few of them will sit in a grooming pen and growl at me everytime I walk by, but it's a "hey, pay attention to me" chat-growl, instead of a "back away" growl. They're extremely chatty :)
And like was previously mentioned...you've only had him since the 18th. He's still figuring out where he's at, who you are, what you're about and what your intentions are. I check growls, but I don't really go ballistic about them (it IS communication, after all). If a dog I never met growls at me, it's a different story than a dog I've had for 12 years that suddenly growls over me over being picked up, kwim?
If he's not interested in treats yet, you could try playing with toys. A lot of dogs with unknown backgrounds don't play right off the bat, but sometimes they do. And if you have to teach them from scratch, it's a complete and total JOY to see them bounding down your hallway to retrieve a stuffy.
I would find his niche (food, treats, etc) and use it to your advantage. Teach him to sit and/or lie down on cue, and put him on NILIF:
www.k9deb.com/nilif
I like this program because it's extremely non confrontational and very passive, yet sends a very powerful message to your dog. A true (alpha, leader, dominant one, whatever you want to call it) uses force very little, and their OWN confidence puts others at ease. (If your doctor, surgeon, dentist, etc seemed jittery and nervous you might start getting a little antsy...if they're confident, soft spoken and "smooth", it puts you at ease, doesn't it?)
Good luck with the little fella :)
 

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All excellent advice ^^^^, my advice would be not to put your face (or anyone ) near his and/or kiss him, good way to get bit by a dog that you don't know very well yet. Also picking up a dog and hugging them in a human thing, not something most dogs enjoy or look forward too when building a relationship with them. Having said that, many dogs do learn to tolerate it and many dogs enjoy it, but that takes time. I would avoid at this point putting him into those situations until he has built trust in you. Don't give him reasons to growl, redirect if he does and train him to give another behaviour like sitting instead of growling. But you never want to punish a growl, all that does is teach them to not growl which can then lead them to silently bite when pushed past their threshold.
 

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All of this is great advice! Thank you all so much!

First we're taking big steps not to give him the 'little dog complex'. My mother has chi's and they all have it. I never saw myself owning a little dog like this but now that I'm seriously consideirng it I am determined not to let him develop like her poor chi's.

Just a bit of further information the picking up is mostly out of necessity. The one issue the vet did notice are his back legs--both of his knees pop out of their caps very easily. He even kicks when he walks to pop them back into place. The vet seemed confident that it wasn't hurting him and said that as long as it doesn't seem to be really affecting his getting around that we just need to keep an eye on it.

Unfortunately we have stairs leading down from the house to the yard. He will not go down them yet. This is mostly when we pick him up. That and the few times we have put him in and out of the car. He sleeps in his bed in our bedroom on the floor and we don't make a habit out of finding him and cuddling him. However he has once or twice approached us and we have picked him up to place him on the couch for some cuddling. He usually lays own next to me or my fiance.

I never thought of the 'talking' part of growling. I'll have to watch next time he does it and see what his body does.

We've actually found that he quite readily takes cold roasted chicken. Should we stick to just using that to feed him now or should we attempt some basic commands at this point? I've heard of NILF and am a big fan. I was planning to use this once he was a little more familliar with us. Do you think I should see if he'll sit for food now--or should I just give it to him until he learns I'm not just holding food alluringly over his head?

Thanks again so much for the great advice! I'm really looking forward to helping him adjust and become a happier dog.
 

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One great way to build trust and communication in your relationship with your dog is to attend positive obedience classes. Clicker training is a great way to build a good relationship with a dog. Having an instructor there to help you, and practicing in the sometimes chaotic environment of a class can be really good things.
 

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How long should I wait before I start that--training classes I mean?

I don't want to thrust him into new situations too quickly. Plus, having not yet had him for a week I'm still not sure about what makes him tick. I'd be nervous to expose him to other people/pets/things for long periods of time. I don't want to over-stress or set him up to fail.
 

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What you could do regarding training classes, is look around for a good positive reinforcement school, watch a couple of classes and even talk to students. When you find a place that you like, you could hire one of their trainers to do a In-Home training session with you. This is a good way to start some training until you can get him in classes. As for when to start with him in classes, a good trainer will assess him at their facility and give you a better idea as to when you should start. Good luck.
 

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All of this is great advice! Thank you all so much!

First we're taking big steps not to give him the 'little dog complex'. My mother has chi's and they all have it. I never saw myself owning a little dog like this but now that I'm seriously consideirng it I am determined not to let him develop like her poor chi's.

Little Dog Syndrome is horrible. It's just as bad when a large dog has it! We have an (infrequent) boarding dog who refuses to walk on his own, the owners carry this medium sized lab around all over the place. It's disgusting and a huge disservice to the dog.

Just a bit of further information the picking up is mostly out of necessity. The one issue the vet did notice are his back legs--both of his knees pop out of their caps very easily. He even kicks when he walks to pop them back into place. The vet seemed confident that it wasn't hurting him and said that as long as it doesn't seem to be really affecting his getting around that we just need to keep an eye on it.

My oldest (small) dog has this, in both legs. Did the vet have a grade for them? (I can't remember for sure, but I think they grade the knees 1-4, 4 being the worst. My dog has a grade 2 and a grade 3; the grade 3 leg bothers him when it's cold and damp outside. He doesn't get growly with me anymore over it, but he becomes reclusive and doesn't seek out attention nor initiate contact with dogs or people. If at all possible, discuss with your vet about putting him on glucosamine/chondroitant (I totally butchered that spelling!) I started my dog(s) on it a year ago and the results have been very, very good for them. I do also give my dog a baby asprin on really bad days, and keep him quiet (so he doesn't over-do it because he doesn't feel bad).

Unfortunately we have stairs leading down from the house to the yard. He will not go down them yet. This is mostly when we pick him up. That and the few times we have put him in and out of the car. He sleeps in his bed in our bedroom on the floor and we don't make a habit out of finding him and cuddling him. However he has once or twice approached us and we have picked him up to place him on the couch for some cuddling. He usually lays own next to me or my fiance.

I never thought of the 'talking' part of growling. I'll have to watch next time he does it and see what his body does.

It's no guarantee, but if he's got some knee problems going on it may be a grouchy-growl. Either way, it would be interesting to tell!

We've actually found that he quite readily takes cold roasted chicken. Should we stick to just using that to feed him now or should we attempt some basic commands at this point? I've heard of NILF and am a big fan. I was planning to use this once he was a little more familliar with us. Do you think I should see if he'll sit for food now--or should I just give it to him until he learns I'm not just holding food alluringly over his head?

I would make the sit make the food appear, instead of making the food make the sit appear. Don't get into the habit of dangling food over his head to get his compliance; if you have to use a lure, great! I'm sure you've read the sticky at the top of the forum about fading the lure. I've used lures before, and they really do speed things along, but fading that lure out quickly enough is the hardest part for me :) If he were my dog, the instant he knows sit would be the instant NILIF were to be started.
A word of caution though. Depending on how bad his luxating patellas are, I would consider using down instead. I've noticed Dudes sits are slower than they used to be; and I imagine bending at the knees like that can cause some creakiness and possibly some pain. I rarely ask Dude to sit...down doesn't seem to bother him. You might get a lot farther and a lot more of a cheerful, compliant attitude from your dog if you don't ask him to do something that could be causing some joint pain in the process.


Thanks again so much for the great advice! I'm really looking forward to helping him adjust and become a happier dog.
 

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Interesting. The vet didn't grade them though we did tell her we had just found him and were really just looking for the basics. Might have been why she didn't. It wasn't my usual vet--truth be told--my fiance's mom said she'd pay for us to take him if we went to her vet. We weren't sure if we were going to keep him at that point so we were honestly just interested in getting him checked out. Now that we're settled on keep him almost 100% I'm going to set up an appointment with my vet and see what she says.

The knees don't seem to bother him too very much, honestly. He's very spry. Stairs are definitely an issue however. But when he's walking he just kicks one leg up to pop it back in. When he's in the yard he's full of bounce! He loves playing in the grass. He was jumping and running and chasing us for a good while yesterday. He didn't seem to be sore or in pain afterwards, and he was quite eager to chase us around the house before bed.

The vet we took him too pretty much told us that unless it seems to be seriously affecting his mobility--or causing him pain--that we just need to keep an eye on it. This little guy marks so many firsts for me! First toy breed dog--that will be mine as I have lived with my mom and her chi's--and first time knee problem dog. I'm used to the big dogs, the working breed dogs. *chuckle*
 

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He's also a little dog, he may JUST not like stairs, having nothing to do with his legs. Our Amy didn't love stairs, took her a while to do them ok, she was a Lhasa / Maltese mix, so on the small side. He does sound cute, though, romping in the yard. I would check with your vet, though, and maybe limit how much running he does until you get a better answer from a vet you know.
 

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He tried to go down them once--he kind of leapt sideways--and then decided after that he wouldn't do them at all. He's a silly little thing.

I'll have to get him to the vet asap then. I'm still figuring him out and thus far his romping time in the yard seems to be his favorite. He's not very interested in any of the toys we have and since he's still not reliably taking food from us by hand working on training to keep his little self occupied is limited to.
 

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He tried to go down them once--he kind of leapt sideways--and then decided after that he wouldn't do them at all. He's a silly little thing.

I'll have to get him to the vet asap then. I'm still figuring him out and thus far his romping time in the yard seems to be his favorite. He's not very interested in any of the toys we have and since he's still not reliably taking food from us by hand working on training to keep his little self occupied is limited to.
You could use the chase game as a reward, as well :)
 
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