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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Our dog (Rusty) likes to play tug-o-war with his little stuffed animals and the occasional sock, so we got him a toy that would be more suited to a good game of tug o war. It was just one of those rope toys made specially for that activity. As soon as he saw the toy he cowered and laid his ears down and started breathing heavy. Turns out he's pretty well terrified of ropes. It's been an hour and he still hasn't really recovered. I haven't seen him this scared or uncertain since we brought him home. I hate to think about what somebody might have done to him with a rope.

I hope this hasn't set us back too much.
 

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:( How sad is that? Poor Rusty. I'm so, so glad he ended up with you as his family. I'm sure he will rebound quickly from this 'setback' since you are so tuned in to his emotional reactions & respect what he is telling you.

Still, it's heartbreaking to imagine the previous experiences that would trigger such a visceral reaction, isn't it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
:( How sad is that? Poor Rusty. I'm so, so glad he ended up with you as his family. I'm sure he will rebound quickly from this 'setback' since you are so tuned in to his emotional reactions & respect what he is telling you.

Still, it's heartbreaking to imagine the previous experiences that would trigger such a visceral reaction, isn't it?
I know. Makes me sad for him and furious at someone I don't even know. He's just such a good, well-behaved dog. He really does have the best manners in the house. Makes me feel all of those manners were drilled into him with a rope and the shock collar I suspect he wore now.

Hopefully he'll be somewhat recovered tomorrow. Maybe a good night's sleep in a safe place will help.
 

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I think you are doing great by him and being attentive to his fears is important.

I wouldn't 100% say though that he was ever hurt by a rope intentionally. Dogs can create associations between objects and scary or confusing instances without a direct connection.

What I mean is, while it is good to recognize his fear of the rope toy and not to push an interaction with it, it could be not the rope but the look of a rope or something else all together.

If you think he was shock collar trained, for example, he might have been given a less than skilled snake avoidance training (dunno if venomous snakes are a risk where you are)

Or he was playing once with a rope toy and ran through an invisible fence and got shocked.

It doesn't diminish his fear but just a suggestion to consider various causes of the fear as you work through it and any other fears that crop up
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think you are doing great by him and being attentive to his fears is important.

I wouldn't 100% say though that he was ever hurt by a rope intentionally. Dogs can create associations between objects and scary or confusing instances without a direct connection.

What I mean is, while it is good to recognize his fear of the rope toy and not to push an interaction with it, it could be not the rope but the look of a rope or something else all together.

If you think he was shock collar trained, for example, he might have been given a less than skilled snake avoidance training (dunno if venomous snakes are a risk where you are)

Or he was playing once with a rope toy and ran through an invisible fence and got shocked.

It doesn't diminish his fear but just a suggestion to consider various causes of the fear as you work through it and any other fears that crop up
You're right of course. He seems very disturbed though. I would prefer to think it was something minor, and as to the shock collar, I should clarify that I actually think he lived someplace where there was an invisible fence. The way that he approached some of the boundaries in the grassy area at the vet's office was kind of weird and the vet seemed to think he was testing those boundaries in a way that suggested he had been inside one of those fences at some point. That's a little different and I probably should have been more clear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
According to the SPCA ours is his third home, and it sounds like the previous two were very different types of situations, so who knows. He does seem to be very afraid even now though.
 

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My favorite example of a dog associating something weird with fear is from... I think Dr. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. She worked with a dog who reacted with fear aggression towards random visitors, but not the same visitor every time. They couldn't figure it out until she started getting lots of details from the visitors, and all the ones the dog reacted to had eaten pizza recently. Turns out there was an incident where a pizza delivery person had kicked the dog, and now the smell on someone at the door was a trigger for the fear response.

So what I'm saying is it's impossible to say why the toy's eliciting the response it does - smell or the way it moves could easily be involved as much as the shape itself. It could even just be a case of there's something novel - new to him - about it that freaks him out because he's never experienced it before. But now you know, and you can either work on desensitizing your boy to ropes and rope-like object, or just be informed to avoid them in the future. Good luck!

PS my boys say that socks are the best tug toys, lol. We've sacrificed a couple that are old or don't have matches to them so they don't have to steal the ones we actually wear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My favorite example of a dog associating something weird with fear is from... I think Dr. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. She worked with a dog who reacted with fear aggression towards random visitors, but not the same visitor every time. They couldn't figure it out until she started getting lots of details from the visitors, and all the ones the dog reacted to had eaten pizza recently. Turns out there was an incident where a pizza delivery person had kicked the dog, and now the smell on someone at the door was a trigger for the fear response.

So what I'm saying is it's impossible to say why the toy's eliciting the response it does - smell or the way it moves could easily be involved as much as the shape itself. It could even just be a case of there's something novel - new to him - about it that freaks him out because he's never experienced it before. But now you know, and you can either work on desensitizing your boy to ropes and rope-like object, or just be informed to avoid them in the future. Good luck!

PS my boys say that socks are the best tug toys, lol. We've sacrificed a couple that are old or don't have matches to them so they don't have to steal the ones we actually wear.
Yeah, I think we'll just stick with the socks for the time being. He's got a lot on his plate right now as it is. I feel kind of bad for the guy. It's his third home in two years and every time he ends up somewhere new he has to adjust to new rules and new expectations and figure out how to behave.

He was pretty sedate and fearful for a while last night but then we went out to the patio to enjoy the late weather and there was a possum poking around. That seemed to take his mind off of whatever he was worried about. He's doing better with those possum sightings too. He seems to be learning that if he doesn't maintain a certain level of composure he will be removed from the patio and asked to do boring things like sit or lay down or shake. He still gets excited, but he's learning.

I hope I'm doing right by the dog. Honestly he might have been better off in a home with kids and other dogs and a fenced in yard, but then again maybe those people wouldn't have had the time that I do to devote to helping him. He's here now and part of this family, so here he will stay. We do enjoy him.

Thanks for your suggestions!
 

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I think a quieter home is often better for nervous dogs, gives them space to decompress and learn things at their own pace.

Just make sure he doesn't try to eat the socks and you're golden!
 

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the Zogoflex Bumi is a really nice tug toy that is not rope-like but has some give/stretch to it and is pretty safe in terms of chew risk. Products are guaranteed too.

Even if he was not scared of it, rope toys are fine for tug but very dangerous if its something left available to the dog to chew on unsupervised even for a short time frame.

Braided fleece is a soft option for a homemade tug toy that is, while NOT a chew toy, fairly safe for brief chewing and is sorta sock like but not actually socks that might get confused for the socks waiting in the laundry, ya know?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
the Zogoflex Bumi is a really nice tug toy that is not rope-like but has some give/stretch to it and is pretty safe in terms of chew risk. Products are guaranteed too.

Even if he was not scared of it, rope toys are fine for tug but very dangerous if its something left available to the dog to chew on unsupervised even for a short time frame.

Braided fleece is a soft option for a homemade tug toy that is, while NOT a chew toy, fairly safe for brief chewing and is sorta sock like but not actually socks that might get confused for the socks waiting in the laundry, ya know?
Oh, nice, I hadn't heard of this company they have some neat things.

Good call on the socks. I probably shouldn't give him the idea that socks are toys. I've already had to put away a couple of the fleecy blankets we had on the bed because I guess they were too similar to the fabric his stuffed toys are made of. I think I might just roll up an old towel and tie it off in a couple places and see how he feels about it.
 

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Oh, nice, I hadn't heard of this company they have some neat things.

Good call on the socks. I probably shouldn't give him the idea that socks are toys. I've already had to put away a couple of the fleecy blankets we had on the bed because I guess they were too similar to the fabric his stuffed toys are made of. I think I might just roll up an old towel and tie it off in a couple places and see how he feels about it.
Fleece is a safer fabric than towels. Cotton towels will shred into long strings (which is the same danger of ropes) and if swallowed, can wind into the intestines. Fleece comes apart into pieces rather than strings.

Its all pretty low risk if the toy is only actively played with a human on the other end, but my personal preference is to avoid ropes, towels, rawhide and other higher risk toys completely for that one time you forget and leave it on the floor.

Firehose toys are good tugs, the material is super strong. Some have squeakers inside too.
 
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