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I just brought home a newly neutered, 55-pound 1.5 year old Afghan-hound mix. When he's out in the open living room, he barely knows what to do with himself. He turns in circles or else glues himself to my side. He only lays down for some much needed sleep after neutering when he's in his crate. He probably spent most of his life in a cage.

When outside, everything scares him: cars, the train overhead (we live in a densely urban part of Chicago)... understandably so. He came from a shelter in the south and likely was some kind of farm or suburban dog before that.

Will lots of love and attention build his confidence? What else can I do? My heart is absolutely breaking when I see that he doesn't even know how to handle having a little free space. He's already piddled on the floor either because it's a submissive gesture (or maybe he had to go really bad -- he was WAY too scared to potty outside with all the noise).

I already love my big buddy and I just want him to feel happy and safe. Any advice is appreciated.
 

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Sighthounds have been known to be very sensitive dogs...sounds, movement etc.

If he just came to you I would recommend waiting a bit to see if he settles and to just remain as calm as you can around him, no coddling, just let him get his senses around where he is, who you are and why he's there.

You may want to check out the the website www.fearfuldogs.com for information on how to desensitize your new boy to his new environment. It takes time and patience and lots of counterconditioning to adapt. Thank you for rescuing. Do the research and then start the work, it will not be a quick road for you and him but he CAN learn to manage.
 

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Welcome to DF. I would 2nd the suggestion of the fearful dog site - it's very helpful. Two other resources I've also found helpful are "Cautious Canine" by Patricia McConnell and "Help for Your Fearful Dog" by Nicole Wilde.

The hardest part about having a dog who reacts to so many things is breaking it all down and deciding what to work on first. It is a long process but it does get better. My personal choice would be to work on the things that can make help you make life more livable for both of you the soonest, e.g. if there are a lot of people in your life and you need a dog that can handle being around them, make that the priority in your training. So make a list of all the things your dog seems to be afraid of, prioritize them, and start working on desensitizing him to them. The resources mentioned will give you step-by-step details on how to do that.

The good news? I've known several rescue dogs that acted just the way your pup does and within 6 months to a year you would not know there had ever been a problem. So there is much hope. Patience is the key.

Good luck & let us know how it's going in the fearful dog thread on this forum. And post pictures - I would love to see your pup!
 

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It takes some time. One time I took in a male Dalmatian. He was a good little dog(smaller than the female Dalmatian I had). That dog was super strong. I thought I should enter him in one of those dog pulling contests. Anyway when I first got him, every time I would raise my hand he would cringe. His eyes would be squinting. So I figure someone had been beating him. He was a sweet dog,not aggressive to people or other dogs. I started raising my hand and then giving him a piece of hot dog. Shortly after the cringing stopped. Then a little longer and he quit squinting. He could still pull you down in the yard if you were not careful. He had very big feet for a small dog and he could grip the ground. I believe he could pull a pickup truck in neutral if you needed a tow. David
 

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We've adopted several shy, undersocialized and downright spooks. A spooky dog will always have spooky tendencies - in greyhounds there are some bloodlines that are known to throw spooky dogs. So, if you're dealing with a genetic component/personality trait you will see less progress than a dog that's just shy/undersocialized. At home, our spook Stella is pretty much a normal dog. Take her away from home and away from the pack and she becomes much more unstable and spooky again.

We don't really treat our shy dogs any differently. We don't overcompensate with tons of affection - you don't want to reward or reinforce that undesirable shy behavior. It can take a few months to earn the dog's trust and once we have that, we start giving the dog challenges, slowly working them up to the really big social challenges like a busy petsmart or park with kids. The most important thing is not to push them too far, too fast and making sure the dog is set up to succeed.

I truly believe a pack is the best way to "heal" a shy, undersocialized dog.

You don't see too many afghan hound mixes...I'd love to see pics of your boy!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've been dying to take pictures to post on Facebook, and I'll post them here, too. As soon as I can find my camera! The problem with those things is that manufacturers keep making them smaller and smaller... so they're like trinkets getting lost in all my stuff!

Thanks for the advice! I'll be sure to post pics of him, he's a beautiful boy.
 

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Aw, poor little guy. :( I'm so glad he has you to love him!! You've gotten some great replies, so I just wanted to give you some encouragement that he CAN overcome his fearfulness. Our older dog, Dixon, spent her early puppy months in a home with a woman who is VERY loud, screechy, she stomps around a lot, etc. (She happens to be my mother-in-law. :D) Every dog she has ever had ended up being a nervous wreck.

Dixon was definitely no exception. She was the most skittish dog I'd ever seen! She's 7 now, and even up until earlier this year, the slightest sound would make her jump/send her cowering. We worked with her so much on it, gave her lots of love, and although it got a little better, she stayed fearful of loud sounds.

Then, in January, we brought our two new puppies into our lives. I never expected this, but those little puppies helped her overcome her skittishness. The two puppies are confident and fearless... seriously, nothing phases them. And Dixon has been picking up on their confidence! It's amazing. I always dread the Fourth of July because Dixon freaks out and hides under the bed, but although she stayed inside with my husband and me for the most part while the puppies went out (totally unphased by the booming -- they would cock their heads curiously then go about their playing), she wasn't trembling and cowering like she always had.

So, I guess I'm saying that lovemygreys is 100% on the money with this:
I truly believe a pack is the best way to "heal" a shy, undersocialized dog.
Of course, I realize it's not always practical to bring another new pup into the home, especially when you just adopted one, but there are other ways to give him this confidence-building. You could seek out a confident, well-behaved dog in the neighborhood and let them gradually get to know each other. With regular play dates and maybe even walks together, it could only be good for your pup. Obedience and/or agility classes are another great confidence-booster.

In the meantime, giving him plenty of love and positive attention can only be good for him. He's so new to your home, part of his anxiety is probably the anxiety of being in a completely new place. As he gets used to his surroundings and gets love from you, he will relax a bit.

I feel for you... I know it's heart-breaking to see a dog being so fearful... but I know he can get better... I'm so glad he's got a great, loving Mom now to give him the wonderful life he deserves! :)
 

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Hello, thanks to everyone for their kind responses! Gatsby is already gaining confidence. :)

Here's my big boy. The shelter said he's part Afghan hound, but who knows. 020.jpg
 

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Wow!! He is gorgeous!!!


LMG & MrsJ -- you are not helping me avoid the temptation of getting another dog AT ALL! If I could talk my husband into it, we would get one right away. Oh well.
 

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Wow, very handsome! I definitely see the Afghan. Best of luck working through his issues, and hang in there.:D
 

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The best thing you can do is be a strong leader. It will give your dog more confidence and that can help them to be less fearful. The worst thing you could do is give "love" in the form of petting or telling the dog "it's okay" when they're afraid. That is actually praising them for being fearful.

I would teach basic obedience, because that can also give the dog more confidence and help them see you as the leader. You could try some mentally stimulationg games (a treat ball would probably be really good) to give your dog something to do when he would normally be turning in circles or glued to your side.

You can also teach your dog "place". It's basically a down stay at a specific spot, like a blanket and you can give them something to keep them busy like a kong stuffed with peanut butter or a bone to chew on. That will give him something to do that will be positive.
 

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The best thing you can do is be a strong leader. It will give your dog more confidence and that can help them to be less fearful. The worst thing you could do is give "love" in the form of petting or telling the dog "it's okay" when they're afraid. That is actually praising them for being fearful.
Being a strong leader and giving love and comfort are not mutually exclusive. I do both and the result is extremely confident dogs.
 

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Being a strong leader and giving love and comfort are not mutually exclusive. I do both and the result is extremely confident dogs.
I agree with that. I put quotes around love because reassuring and praising the dog is often the way people try to help their dogs. I've seen it many times and they don't even realize that they're encouraging the fearful behavior. I did specify that in my post also.
 
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