Fearful dog

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slomoe
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Fearful dog

Postby slomoe » Thu Feb 19, 2009 6:59 pm

Alright, I don't know why I waited so long....I thought I could fix it myself, but I really don't know how. I didn't want to be considered a bad owner so I never brought it up here, But I need help.

I have a very fearful pup, Lola. I got her from a woman in southwestern VA who said she rescued the litter from a BYB in NC. I'm assuming that she was neglected in some way or another. When I recieved her she seemed a little underweight but healthy, and had a mild bout with mange. When I picked her up I was given her vet records with her age listed at 4 months.

She is now a little older than 3 years. She has not gotten any better with her fear. She is the sweetest girl, not agressive what so ever except when there is a stranger in the house. She growls a bit (I believe to make us aware, and to tell the stranger to stay away from her). I've had friends who come over frequently and after a while (many visits) she warms up to them. Once she trusts them she will allow them to do anything to her.

The problem is outside of the house, she is afraid of EVERYTHING. Trash cans, bikes, even a flag blowing in the wind let alone another human. She is terrified of children. This is particularly upsetting to me. Lola is a beautiful, sweet girl whom I want to share with everyone, especially children. It breaks my heart to tell a child "I'm sorry, she's very shy". And I think this is also part of the problem. I feel like I am protecting the kids, but I also know I am doing Lola no good.

Outside of the house she have NEVER growled at anyone, children included. But this last weekend really concerned me. We went into PetSmart so I could buy her a treat. She was stressed as always (probably because the vet is located there as well). Then there was a young boy who prompted by his father, asked if he could pet her. Again I said "I'm really sorry, but she is very shy". The father said "Oh wow, you'd think it would be us who should be scared but look" and I looked down and she was really shaking.

I know my dog pretty well, but I wondered what would have happend if the boy just came up from behind and grabbed Lola. I don't believe she would have bitten, but just tried to get away. I know though if she had, I would have to do something I can't even think about.

I've been able to get her to heel, but only with a prong. I think I just need to walk her in more populated situations with the prong but it makes me nervous she will hurt herself. I'm pretty sure I would benifit from a trainer, but I don't know what to look for. I'm very protective of Lola and this is not helping.

I have learned a lot from this forum, and I thank you for listening but this post was made to ask for help, please don't bash me for being a bad owner, or for waiting so long.

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JurisMyDiction
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Postby JurisMyDiction » Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:03 pm

subscribing for updates

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Stormi
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Postby Stormi » Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:09 pm

Would you be willing to see a qualified professional? Myself or forum member Red may be able to recommend a behaviorist in your area.

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slomoe
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Postby slomoe » Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:11 pm

Stormi wrote:Would you be willing to see a qualified professional? Myself or forum member Red may be able to recommend a behaviorist in your area.


That would be great. Thanks.

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Postby Stormi » Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:17 pm

Give Veronica a call:

http://www.cooperativepaws.com/

It looks at though she covers most of the north virginia area, and has the qualifications to be able to help you.

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slomoe
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Postby slomoe » Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:27 pm

Thanks Stormi.

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tiva
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Postby tiva » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:06 pm

Please please please don't take her to petsmart, or to other places that stress her! At least, not until she has learned to calm herself down, and to associate crowds, noises, etc with good things. Many dogs can NEVER handle petsmart, or other places that are crowded with people and smells. The best way to teach your dog that new people are nothing to fear is to work slowly, respecting her fears, and making sure that you set up situations where she can stay under her stress threshold, and also control the timing of her approaches to new things.

Start by counterconditioning her to new people--have a trusted new person appear 200 yards away, making sure your dog is able to stay calm and happy. Give her treats and praise while she is calm, and only reduce the distance very very slowly, always keeping your dog under her stress threshold. The instant she stiffens or seems the slightest bit tense at the new person, let her calm down, then give her treats. Eventually, let her slowly approach things she once feared. Don't have new people toss treats to her, at first; you have them appear at a great distance, while YOU toss treats to her. Slowly reduce the distance, always making certain that she can handle it. Good luck!

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tiva
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Postby tiva » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:08 pm

I've been able to get her to heel, but only with a prong. I think I just need to walk her in more populated situations with the prong but it makes me nervous she will hurt herself.


Please! Don't even think of this. It will only terrify her more, and make her much more unstable and fearful (and potentially a risk to others, since dogs who are terrified and in pain will naturally bite). She'll learn to associate new people with pain, which will be exactly the opposite thing you want her to learn.

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Roxers
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Postby Roxers » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:10 pm

I am hoping Luvnstuff will chime in here! I know she has worked with some pretty fearful dogs and always has great advice. :)

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tiva
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Postby tiva » Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:14 pm

Working with a positive trainer is best, but other good options are Patricia McConnell's little booklet, the Cautious Canine, and Nicole Wilde's Help for Your Fearful Dog.

Good luck!

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Postby merriterrier » Fri Feb 20, 2009 12:16 am

Visit the behaviorist. Take a step back, and don't force her into situations she can't handle without the help of someone more knowledgeable than yourself (ie: behaviorist or trainer). Working with a fearful dog is a big job, but very rewarding when they start making improvements.

For the time being I would stay away from the more populated areas, and keep it all low key and positive.

If you need to talk, or let it all out, you can pm me. I have been working with my fearful guy for about a year and a half and I'd be happy to listen.

Good Luck! :thumbsup:

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slomoe
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Postby slomoe » Fri Feb 20, 2009 6:27 am

She is a great dog who I feel is very responsive to training. It's just hard for me to understand teaching a dog not to be scared.

Thanks for all the positive suggestions.
:thumbsup:

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tiva
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Postby tiva » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:08 am

I'm sure you'll do a great job with your adorable pup. Here's a wonderful site with loads of information on working with fearful dogs in a positive manner:

http://fearfuldogs.com/guidelines.html

The site has links to support groups, and most importantly, links to positive trainers skilled in working with fearful dogs. The guidelines above are really helpful too. Targeting, for example, is a simple exercise that can instill a huge amount of confidence in your dog, and give her structure that can reassure her in tense situations.

Good luck.

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slomoe
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Postby slomoe » Fri Feb 20, 2009 11:36 am

Very cool site, thanks Tiva.

It seems like Lola is not the most fearful dog out there lol and according to that website, i've been doing a lot of the right things. I was just expecting results too soon.

When we have company and Lola does not know the person, she will not get near that person unless they are not looking at her. So I just ask guests not to look at her and just hold out their hand. As long as they are not looking at her most of the time she will go right up and sniff their hand. I usually praise her. This is how she's gained comfort will the few of my regular visiting friends.

Recently I had my brother in law come over, and he brought his 1.5 year old son (Shawn). Lola was very weary and I made sure I was VERY aware of what was going on at all times with her. Shawn would take a step forward, Lola would take a step back. As soon as Shawn got distracted and looked away, Lola quickly walked up and licked the cookie crumbs off his face lol

I guess I was just getting frustrated because I wasn't seeing any immediate improvement. I know I will need to increase the positive reinfocement, because I will admit that I haven't been too good at that in regards to her fear problem. I also need to be patient, and I will definetly be looking into that behaviorist that stormi mentioned.

Thanks again everyone.

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Postby hwillm1977 » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:32 pm

slomoe wrote:I guess I was just getting frustrated because I wasn't seeing any immediate improvement.


I just wanted to say congrats on working with your fearful dog. It's a long slow process.

I have one too, Marley is scared of EVERYTHING... and it seemed to be getting worse as he got older, not better.

Red gave us some exercises to work on and I was hoping it would take a day and he'd be better lol... it's been a few weeks and now he's finally showing some improvements.

Our exercises were for the window blinds (which cause him to run in terror when they move up or down, from the upstairs bedroom you would find him in a corner of the kitchen downstairs). He can now sit in the same room calmly when the blinds move, but that has taken us WEEKS. We're going to slowly apply the same clicker stuff to every single thing that makes him scared. :thumbsup:


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