Freezing on Walks

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BLG119
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Freezing on Walks

Postby BLG119 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:26 am

So we are encountering a kind of strange (and incredibly annoying) new behavior by our young rescue John. He came from a very bad situation and we have been working to get him comfortable walking around people and other distractions outside. It's been going very well and he has stopped acting so fearful and trying to bolt when approached by strangers and even strollers/carts/skateboards/basketballs (which are his big triggers). He'll even approach people on the street now, from time to time.

BUT now he has started to freeze up on his walks. He will literally plant his feet and refuse to move and fixate on a spot down the block. And he will do this even if there is nothing and no one on the street. No cars, no people, no other dogs, nothing. I kept thinking that he was hearing something or sensing something that made him nervous, but then I noticed that if I could snap him out of is with either a whistle or one of his squeaky toys, he would immediately jump on Ella and want to play. :huh?: He's not trying to bolt or pull. He just has decided he's not going any farther. Usually if I go through a couple of commands and then have him release, it will get him moving, but not always.

This seems like a small issue compared with all of the other things that could be going on with him, but it is SO annoying. Especially when I am walking the 2 of them by myself and Ella is just trying to get down the block to pee. Pulling a 50 pound pittie down the street is not an enjoyable experience and I really do not want to ever force him to do anything that triggers fear or anxiety. And the there are times when he fixates SO much that he won't even go to the bathroom himself. He seems to do a little better with me, but my boyfriend has been getting more and more frustrated, and he's the one who is home with them most of the day. I think it would be easier to deal with if we could figure out exactly what is going through his mind when he does this. Any thoughts or insights?

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MikeInTacoma
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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby MikeInTacoma » Tue Jul 20, 2010 10:53 am

:huh?: Extra weird. Do you think you can post up some video of the behavior?

As always, first advice is, vet check. Almost sounds like it might be neurological? :huh?:

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BLG119
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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby BLG119 » Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:52 am

I will try to get it on video this evening if I can.

He has recently been to the vet, but it's difficult for her to evaluate him on something this subtle, because he's so wigged out already just from going to the vet. He still gets very anxious/skittish in new situations and he's already whale-eyeing everyone that passes by at that point.

I have been concerned that there could be lingering neurological problems from having been tied up in a plastic garbage bag when he was dumped and possibly being deprived of oxygen as a result. :sad: I haven't noticed any other symptoms of neurological issues - his coordination is good and he's a very quick learner.

And, I should point out that this ONLY happens on the street/sidewalk - it never happens inside our apt or at the dogpark (we go there in the early AM to play fetch and let him run, but only if we're the only ones there) and it did not happen when we were in PA visiting my parents. That's why I believe it's probably behavioral/environmental - I just haven't figured out how to counteract it or refocus him. It's also gotten noticeably worse in the last 2 or 3 weeks, but we're not sure why.

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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby Munkos » Tue Jul 20, 2010 12:10 pm

Dante did this. Dante still does this from time to time. He'll stop moving.

Initially we thought it was physical, he's missing a leg and maybe wasn't coping well. No. This dog can fly around the block like nobodies business, when he wants to. Other days, we'd make it 5 steps away from the house and that was it, he was not moving. I even dropped the leash once or twice when I knew it was safe and ran away, squeaking a ball throwing treats. NOPE. I just looked like a complete lunatic without getting any sort of reaction from him out of it.

He's also fearful and skittish so I didn't want to push him. I had the most success with keeping walks short and keeping the momentum going. We'd run out the front door all excited (and probably looking ridiculous) and keep him engaged and excited and bouncy. At this point leash manners were not of concern, those came later - we just wanted him to get going and enjoy it, no matter how that happened.

I'd pay real close attention to when he was losing momentum and we'd switch directions and go back to the house ASAP. This meant we never got very far at first....but we made every walk a success and not a power struggle.

Another thing I've noticed is that if it's not Dante's choice (or he thinks it's his choice) to move forward again, he absolutely won't and we WILL be picking him up. Sometimes all I have to do is pet him on the head and he'll get up and start going again. I've also found if I completely ignore him while he stands still, no looking at him or talking, he'll move again. I don't know why. Hubby also found keeping his leash tight and short with his collar sitting up by his ears works too, for some reason.

For Dante it seems like walks just weren't motivating, like he didn't see the point of walking around the same block every day, so we had to make them exciting. Good things come when we go for walks. He was like yours and would do fine elsewhere, it was just our street and the surrounding area that were a no-go for him.

I don't know if any of these will help you, but I just thought I'd relate what we did. We really had no rhyme or reason to why we tried certain things, it was just more that we found they worked, really.

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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby MikeInTacoma » Tue Jul 20, 2010 9:29 pm

Hmm... With John, from what you've said here, it sounds like a stress reaction. Why is this newly stressful for him? :dunno: I've become convinced that dogs sometimes can share many of the mental / emotional conditions that affect people, and from what you say, some form of PTSD would not be unreasonable. Check out the book Stress in Dogs and maybe implement a gentle form of the "two week shutdown" if you can (dogs can circulate elevated levels of stress hormones for up to two weeks following a distressing event), and start again from scratch, recognizing that you're going to have to go at his pace -- probably slower than you'd hope for at first. (But don't forget -- I'm no expert, and free internet diagnoses are worth every cent. If you can get help in-person, do.)

We went through something like this with Rocco, our deaf brindle mix. We got him at age 2.5 years, and he had never been out of his previous house and privacy-fenced yard, we were told. Everything was new and frightening to him. It was about two months before we could walk him more than 20 feet from the house on a leash. He has since blossomed amazingly, but it was tough sledding at first.

Munkos wrote:[...] Hubby also found keeping his leash tight and short with his collar sitting up by his ears works too, for some reason. [...]
Well, that "works" because it's uncomfortable for Dante, and less uncomfortable if he keeps moving forward.

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tiva
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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby tiva » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:16 am

Vanya does this on one particular road, and I think it's stress and fear related. I simply walk him elsewhere. If he does stop and freeze, I let him look for a little while, and as soon as he relaxes a tiny bit, I click and treat and walk in a different direction.

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tiva
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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby tiva » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:28 am

BLG119 wrote:I will try to get it on video this evening if I can.

....I have been concerned that there could be lingering neurological problems from having been tied up in a plastic garbage bag when he was dumped and possibly being deprived of oxygen as a result. :sad: I haven't noticed any other symptoms of neurological issues - his coordination is good and he's a very quick learner.

And, I should point out that this ONLY happens on the street/sidewalk - it never happens inside our apt or at the dogpark (we go there in the early AM to play fetch and let him run, but only if we're the only ones there) and it did not happen when we were in PA visiting my parents. That's why I believe it's probably behavioral/environmental - I just haven't figured out how to counteract it or refocus him. It's also gotten noticeably worse in the last 2 or 3 weeks, but we're not sure why.


Your poor, poor, dog. What evil people there are out in the world!

I would suggest the following:
1. don't walk the two of them together on that particular street
2. go for your walk with him, armed with a bag of super-duper treats
3. expect to only get a few feet on the first walk
4. learn the LAT game (look at that), which teaches dogs to glance at the scary trigger, then look back at you for a spectacular treat. This game, unlike the "watch me" game, allows dogs to gather information, process it, and learn a new response. Since you can't see what's worrying him, it will be a little harder, but I think you can still do. The LAT game is described in Leslie McDevitt's CONTROL UNLEASHED, which will be a very helpful book for you to own. Essentially, you start inside, teaching your dog to glance at an object for a c/t. Start by holding something small in your hand (I use a lid to a jar), and holding it behind your back. Move your hand out to your side, and as your dog glances at your moving hand, click and treat him for glancing at the movement. He should be looking back at you when he hears the click and gets his treat, so the movement goes: "object appears, I glance at it, I hear click, I look back at mom and get my treat." Do this 50 times (use tiny treats). Then transfer it to glances at a trigger off in the distance, repeat 50 times, then add the cue "look at that!". Soon your dog will learn that when scary triggers occur off in the distance, he can merely glance at them and back at you, and good things happen. He doesn't have to freeze, freak out, or otherwise get worried.
5. then, when you go for a walk, the instant you see that he might be about to freeze, point at something in the distance, say in a happy voice, "Look at That!", then click and treat. Hopefully, he'll look back at you for his treat, and then you can turn and walk in the opposite direction.
6. It's fine if you only get 10 feet before you turn and head the other way. It's fine if you go in little circles on your walk for the first month (this is why your other dog shouldn't be with you on these training walks--she might not feel it's fine!). Your goal is not to give him tons of exercise on these walks, but to teach him that he doesn't need to be stressed out there. You won't push him past his comfort level, and he doesn't need to be on high alert all the time. For exercise, play with your flirtpole inside or something!
7. And if he's that stressed, consider talking with your vet about meds to help him deal with this transition. Vanya finally went on prozac early this summer, and I should have done it years ago.

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Munkos
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Re: Freezing on Walks

Postby Munkos » Wed Jul 21, 2010 8:42 am

wegobad wrote:
Munkos wrote:[...] Hubby also found keeping his leash tight and short with his collar sitting up by his ears works too, for some reason. [...]
Well, that "works" because it's uncomfortable for Dante, and less uncomfortable if he keeps moving forward.


Actually I think it's the opposite for him. I think part of it is that it's not rubbing on or digging into his scar tissue, it's the only part of his neck that doesn't have scar tissue all over it. Dante's always got a loose collar (Loose enough for him to slip probably, if he was ever so inclined), so it's not tight around his neck, just sitting high. When the leash is slack the collar rubs up and down his neck cause of that darn scar tissue(Which is why we can't wait for our CM collars!). He seems a bit better now that he's older and his neck isn't as sensitive.

He also seems to take offense to feeling the leash on him or having it hang under his head, if it's not tight with him infront or behind, he'll sit, so we keep his leash short and with a little tension wherever he is and he happily hops along. :dunno: He's a weird little boy!


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