Advice for the Very Fearful Dog... Warning, LOOONG intro...
We have a temporary roommate (he got laid off so we offered him our spare room), and his dog is chock full of issues... Being a dog loving soul, we offered her board as well, because her other option is to get rehomed, and that is NOT a good option for this girlie.
He found her wandering in a bad neighborhood when she was about 3 months old and decided to keep her rather than take her to a shelter - she is a pit mix, and Houston shelters are not kind to pits (they get put down in very short order if they are not sprung by an owner or a bully rescue.) He's had her for 3 years, and she's spent an inexcusible amount of time in a crate and has minimal socializing.
If you'd seen the crate he'd been keeping her in, wow... Way too small. We have an extra one that is much larger, so I immediately switched her to that, but our friend clearly had no idea it was too small ("that's what the people at the store recommended...")
His training has also mostly consisted of, well, almost nothing. But when he does something, it's usually a short terse vocal correction that she doesn't seem to understand much - she just gets excited and wags her tail and comes and jumps around him.
She's only been at our place for a week, so she's still in a state of adjustment (not doing very well). We have a very laid back greyhound who is used to having new dogs in the house (we pet sit for friends and often foster for our local greyhound group) and we have 2 dog savvy cats.
I'm certainly not a dog trainer, but she has some serious fear issues. She's terrified of almost everything and only gets confidence from her owner. She displays fear aggression towards other dogs, and she rolls over and shows her belly (and sometimes urinates) when new people come near her (in the house, in the yard, outside of the yard). Example: I've been giving her some of her meals and also give her treats and take her on walks - she still often rolls over on her back when I just walk past her in the house. She's so unconfident without her owner around, she won't even go to the bathroom with me on walks or in the yard. Instead, she'll dart to the bathroom to pee on the rug when given half a chance...
She's afraid of our yard (I'm guessing because it smells like so many different dogs - our upstairs neighbors have two), and she's only comfortable in it if her owner is around. Otherwise she goes and cowers by the gate or by the front door.
Separation anxiety: She also is very unhappy when her owner leaves, and I can't seem to drill it into his head (yet!) that he needs to work on alone training with her. She eventually calms down and never gets destructive in her crate, but she will cry and scream for a solid half an hour after he leaves. Fun! A peanut butter kong seems to help quite a lot, so I'm trying to get him to always give her one when he leaves (why is he resistant to this? Why?)
Beyond the fear issues, she is a resource guarder. Humans can take stuff from her no problem, but if any other animal even looks her way, she completely loses it. Obviously all the animals in the house eat in safe confined spaces, but even in her crate if a cat saunters by, she gets very upset. While we were still letting her out in the house with the other pets out, under supervision, she also has turned out to be a couch/chair/bed guarder with other animals (even if she's not in the place she's guarding... No one else can have it.)
I realize the immediate answers to many of these things are all preventative maintenance, and that has been in place since day one, as I suspected she would have issues from what I had learned of her background. It has increased as she's shown her issues. She now is basically on a crate and rotate plan and only is allowed in the rest of the house if the other animals are elsewhere. The rest of the time she's either in her crate or in the room with her owner. She's just too untrustworthy with the other animals.
I'm preparing a longer heart to heart discussion with our friend because I truly don't think he understands his dog has so many issues. She's semi-okay about her fears when he's around (though still is unsafe around other dogs), so I don't think he knows the extent of her problems. He's also not very educated about dogs. I'd like to offer him a month of not paying rent (the very small amount he pays) if he uses the money to see a pro about her behavior.
So onto the advice part, are there any really great books you'd recommend for a dog like this? I have a decent library now, but they are all more general books. I'd like to have something to offer him to read to add some support to my "heart to heart" chat.
Another thought, do you think getting her a muzzle might be an option to help during training to keep the other animals safe? She has thus far never escalated to biting, she could certainly be pushed to that point, though I think she'd avoid it unless really pushed. So would a muzzle perhaps be an option as she settles in and works on getting used to other critters? I use them all the time on our greyhound fosters to help with the off the track transition, though I realize she would need a little intro training time with it as she's not used to them.
Are there any temporary fixes that might help? For example, our grey wears a thundershirt to help with storms, and I have a friend with a very shy dog that had great luck using one to help him accept new people in the house. I've also had some luck with melatonin to help curb anxiety a tiny bit - could that be an option in this case?
I've dabbled in clicker training, seems like that could be useful for her to help have a very consistent idea of when she's doing something "good." Thoughts? Has anyone read the book "Click to Calm?"
Anyway, I just feel so bad for this poor dog, and I am trying to help educate our friend without losing him as a friend. He truly is just ignorant - inexcusible, but he's not intentionally cruel and clearly loves her (just needs to learn what she actually needs beyond cuddling), and this dog has almost no other options for a home... Ugh. I'm also trying to save my sanity and feel less awful for this dog by doing something positive in her life.
I do think this dog is very very manageable in an only pet home (which our roommate will have within the next couple of months), but I'd like to see him address these issues now that they are so much more obvious.
Sooo, there's my vent and request. Putting it all out there to help cleanse through the power of CoTH knowledge = )