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Discussion Starter #1
This is by no means an all-the-time thing, but I just can't figure it out (and it may well have to do with my dog's previous home which is unknown).

Most of the time, my dog is pretty nonreactive. We live on a busy block in Philadelphia so there's always noise and plenty of "scary" noise - even scary for me - and on walks, I definitely use verbal recall first to keep her at heel, which normally goes well. Sometimes she doesn't care if there's a party down the block, but sometimes she does.

This morning I woke up and found she'd messed her crate overnight. That happens sometimes - especially on nights the block gets loud, but that wasn't true last night, it was pretty quiet. While I was cleaning the crate and she was tethered nearby, she kept breaking her sit to creep over to me, low to the ground. A quick "Deirdre, sit!" had her whimpering, on her back, legs up in the air. Walking her after something like that is an event because she jumps at everything - I've seen her try to run from a particularly aggressive squirrel, although today it was just a matter of seeing that she kept up with me.

I know she was adopted for a day by a couple before me who had a dog that bullied her. I know that there used to be another roommate with me with... an issue dog, but she and the dog moved out a month after I got Deirdre. Other than that, I have nothing.

Deirdre is currently sitting near me. She tried pawing at her collar (something she only does at times like this) and I just said her name - not even sharp - and she rolled on her back again. When I said her name softly, she crept over, belly to the ground and sat under my leg, head low. I know this isn't rolling over for belly rubs and, well, my experience is with livestock, not 15lb terriers. If a horse showed this kind of distress, I'd have a been concept of managing it.

I know it's classic submissive behavior (honestly, I'm just happy she's not fear urinating, although I'm surprised). I don't know quite how to manage this level of submissiveness.

As a side note, on submissive urination, sometimes if there's a fight outside (I work at a nonprofit and the money isn't awesome - I have a nice apartment in a less than perfect neighborhood), I will find that her crate's been flooded. Normally, if she messes her crate it's not like that. Could that be submissive urination? (I do not take her outside if something's happening - which complicates housetraining but I'd rather no one gets injured and I just clean up - and she doesn't urinate if she's with me or my roommate.)
 

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Does she act that way only when you use her name? What happens if you're just disciplining her without her name? If it's only with her name, it might've been paired with a negative association for her. Trainers will tell you to never use their name when disciplining them, as you want them to associate their name with 'come' most likely, not yelling or anger. There are two options you can try:

Teach her that when you call her name, good things happen. First, have her sit down next to you. When she looks at you, click and treat. Repeat 10 times. When you're positive she's going to look at you, say her name right before she's about to, click and treat. Repeat until she's looking at you right when you say her name.

2. If all else fails change her name.

In terms of submissive behaviour, you might want to try some confidence building activities. Do some training exercises, praise her when she's being calm, and 'confident'. Don't give her pets or affection when she's being overly submissive. Just ignore that. Also watch your body language. Whenever you bend over a dog, or lean forward, it's very dominating, and they will back off (if they're submissive) - likewise, no one should ever pet a dog on top of the head or give it hugs. Those are also dominating, and potentially stressful for the dog.
 

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I agree with chubby, but I think it's a little broader.
I believe that a previous owner yelled at her, and as your title implies, she's sensitive to loud or sharp voices. Talk softly... :)
You are correct about the submissive behavior, and your horse experience may be handy. If she keeps up with this level of anxiety and fear, urination could be next.

We used to recommend not to coddle fearful behavior, but recent research has proven that comforting doesn't reinforce these emotions. So, I believe that it's OK to comfort and pet. In fact, in your case, she may think that you're angry, and comforting may help her to see that you aren't angry.

Brief side note - My dog gets ear infections, and sometimes I have to hurt him to apply the meds. I hurt him badly (no injury), and he shrieked. I jumped back and apologized, and pet him. To over-analyze, I guess he understood that I didn't mean to hurt him, b/c he then let me dig in his ears, even though it hurt. I told the Vet this, and she also apologized to him [ I like Vets who listen!!! ]

My point is that if You are the cause of the fear, even unintentionally, then comforting may help.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Thanks for all the advice.

I did actually rename her when I adopted her. (In the words of my roommate, "Conor, I know you're gay, but even you aren't gay enough to own a small white dog named Diamond.") It might be too close to Deirdre, but she also knows Deirdre means her and doesn't always react submissively, or even once a week.

Really? It's not bad to comfort her? Everything I had read said it is. If it's ok to do, then I might try comforting her and working on building confidence, like we would with the horses.

Also, chubby, I've never heard of bringing a dog to a behaviorist for submission issues. I used to live with an issue dog (a coydog, honestly, who was handled by an inexperienced owner) and know there are plenty of local behaviorists who help with aggressive/issue dogs (all of whom gave up on the coydog), but I'm not sure what to look for in a behaviorist for submission. Any suggestions?

Thank you so much!
 

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hMM it's honestly up to you. How big of an issue do you think this overly-submissive behaviour is? Is it negatively affecting her quality of life? Or yours? A behaviourist is a 'dog psychologist' - they don't just work with aggressive behaviour. They also work with a host of other issues - it could be something worthwhile. I would suggest calling a few and asking them if they can be of real help to you or not (i.e. what is their case history with overly submissive dogs). Owners often get frustrated if it's to the point where there is uncontrollable urination when overly submissive. But honestly, it's what you feel is best for yourself and your dog.

For example, my dog is timid by nature. From day 1, she gets freaked out easily. If you slightly step on her toe, she freaks out. If a bus rolls by, she freaks out. However, I figured training is the better method here than seeking a behaviourist, because it seemed there was enough out there for me to build confidence on my own. So now, when a bus rolls by, she's alright, though sometimes she still gets spooked once in a while. At the dog trail, a dog stepped on her foot, she freaked, and took off, so again, it's definitely an issue, but something I mitigated with training.

I'm not sure if submissive behaviour can be 'trained' out, or if there are specific things in your relationship with her that may be reinforcing it, or what not. Only a professional would be able to tell you that, I think.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have worked with abused horses and with fearful horses - I've been going with a lot of that theory and with it she has more good days than bad and has been getting better with some fears (like doors and cars) which has me hopeful. I'm not looking to have a fearless adventurer. I knew going in, when I went to the shelter, that if she had some problems, I want to work with her on them and her desire to please is making that easier.

Since I do want to try working with her on things, do you have any suggestions for books/styles/Youtube channels? I've been working with clicker training, which again isn't too far from what I did with horses, and I'd like to do more in that positive training vein rather than, say, the Cesar Milan dominance style.

(Also, on a whim and after talking to a friend who adopted a fearful pit from the same shelter, I bought Deirdre a Thundershirt after work yesterday. It's probably too soon to tell but she seems to take to it well. )
 
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