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  1. #1
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    Apr. 29, 2008
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    Houston, TX
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    Default 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.

    Her background:
    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.

    Her issues:
    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 = )



  2. #2
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    Apr. 29, 2008
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    Default

    Wow. That was so long. Really needed to put that all out there I guess - stressful situation for everyone I guess = )



  3. #3
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    Nov. 3, 2006
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    Maine
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    Default

    Read Control Unleashed and everything from Patricia Mcconnell. Go to training classes.



  4. #4
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    Apr. 29, 2008
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    Houston, TX
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marshfield View Post
    Read Control Unleashed and everything from Patricia Mcconnell. Go to training classes.
    Was wondering about Control Unleashed - I've actually been meaning to add it to my library anyway. I have a couple of Patricia McConnell's books as well - good stuff. Training classes = YES! Must convince him to budget for them, le sigh...



  5. #5
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    May. 4, 2006
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    You are taking on an awful lot with this dog. I do not think a muzzle is going to lessen her anxiety and may very well increase it. I am not at all an advocate of clicker training but do not want to distract from the discussion to explain why. She needs lots of socialization in new situiations, she might be able to benefit from covering her crate so as not to have these guarding situations when she is in it, but nothing is going to happen until and unless you get the owner involved and understanding how much ground she needs to make up for lack of socializing and being in too small a crate for too long a period of time.

    You are very kind to take in a person in need who has a dog like this and unbelieveably patient to try and work through all of this. If you can find a good trainer for him where he can work to socialize this dog outside the home first, I think you will have better ground to work on the inside stuff since that is where all fear aggressive, or just timid and unsocialized will have the most difficulties. She needs to start to meld into a pack and learn appropriate behaviors and will be able to do this best outside first. The idea you had to reduce the rent in exchange for him going to a trainer is the best idea to start. Is your house generally well organized with times in/out, exercise times, going to bed and getting up? The reason I ask is that a routine is very, very helpful to instilling confidence as she will know what is going to happen when. When he leaves and she howls for half an hour, does he know this? If he does, and he has not asked what he could do to make it better, I think he himself needs a little counseling. He is traumatized too it sounds like and has somewhat transferred some of that to the dog of course.

    Does he exercise her at all with walks, and somewhere where she can get some off leash walks?
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Calamber View Post
    You are taking on an awful lot with this dog. I do not think a muzzle is going to lessen her anxiety and may very well increase it. I am not at all an advocate of clicker training but do not want to distract from the discussion to explain why. She needs lots of socialization in new situiations, she might be able to benefit from covering her crate so as not to have these guarding situations when she is in it, but nothing is going to happen until and unless you get the owner involved and understanding how much ground she needs to make up for lack of socializing and being in too small a crate for too long a period of time.

    You are very kind to take in a person in need who has a dog like this and unbelieveably patient to try and work through all of this. If you can find a good trainer for him where he can work to socialize this dog outside the home first, I think you will have better ground to work on the inside stuff since that is where all fear aggressive, or just timid and unsocialized will have the most difficulties. She needs to start to meld into a pack and learn appropriate behaviors and will be able to do this best outside first. The idea you had to reduce the rent in exchange for him going to a trainer is the best idea to start. Is your house generally well organized with times in/out, exercise times, going to bed and getting up? The reason I ask is that a routine is very, very helpful to instilling confidence as she will know what is going to happen when. When he leaves and she howls for half an hour, does he know this? If he does, and he has not asked what he could do to make it better, I think he himself needs a little counseling. He is traumatized too it sounds like and has somewhat transferred some of that to the dog of course.

    Does he exercise her at all with walks, and somewhere where she can get some off leash walks?
    Yes, she is a lot! Luckily, the situation is temporary, and I'm hoping I can give him just enough knowledge and push to get them on the right track. The other "lucky" thing is that she at least is pretty safe around humans, so I think she is very workable and "maintainable" in an only pet home. I'm asking for the advice in hopes that I can pass it along to him and it will STICK! Not so that I can try to retrain the dog in 2-3 months (HA!)

    As for the muzzle, thanks for a response. I asked because we use them a lot on greyhounds as a "safety net" of sorts during the track to home transition as they are super comfortable in them. For one as fearful as her though, I can see how it could backfire and be a trigger for anxiety.

    I know clicker training isn't for everyone, and I'm open to all types of training because all individuals and situations are different, so no worries about getting into a pro/anti clicker derail, haha.

    Relating to his schedule: I feel the same way about getting her on a routine, but I think he might take some convincing. Since he's currently not working and is going to school part time, his schedule is erratic. Still, I see no reason why he can't at least have a regular morning and evening walk time. She's always dealt with a very irregular schedule (his last job was in medical care, so he had strange shifts), so right now I think he's just decided she's used to it and that's okay despite her world being upside down right now.

    He does take her on at least one good long walk a day (an hour plus), but I'm not sure where she could go off leash, unfortunately. Most of leash places in the area are heavily used by other dog owners. I'd like for him to at least convince her the yard is okay so my husband or I could get her to go to the bathroom when he's not home...

    I have told him how she behaves when he leaves, and have mentioned multiple times giving her something distracting when he leaves, but he seems resistant for some reason. Not sure if he feels uncomfortable using "our" things or is balking at me giving advice about his dog? We have 3 basically unused kongs and a Costco size jar of peanut butter that is mostly for the dogs.

    He was also VERY resistant at first to use one of our larger crates despite us having two large ones that are basically unused. His is SO small that I may sneak it out of the house and donate it so he never tries to use it again.

    I do know a trainer I've had good luck with who also works with a lot of our more challenging greyhounds at the kennel, so that might be a start. He will do home visits too, which might be great so he can see her at her worst. It would be great for a neutral party to lay down some facts - maybe I'll just go ahead and spring for it, early Christmas present!

    I just think he's so ignorant about dog behavior in general that he really has no clue the perpetual state of fear his dog lives in when he's gone. Perhaps I will video her so he can really see her - that might help drive the point home that I'm not just being a nosey know it all... He's so empathic and great with humans (going to nursing school), just has no feel for the critters yet.



  7. #7
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    Dec. 31, 2000
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    El Paso, TX
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    Default

    Books -I'll be Home soon (from Sep anxiety)

    Institute NILIf- It'll make her more confident.
    Play "Trade up " games with high value treats, to eliminate resource guarding.

    Lots of brisk walks will help reduce anxiety.

    When you walk past her, drop a treat. It'll help make her less fearful of you.



  8. #8
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    Dec. 14, 2006
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    VA
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    Quote Originally Posted by bort84 View Post
    Not sure if he feels uncomfortable using "our" things or is balking at me giving advice about his dog? We have 3 basically unused kongs and a Costco size jar of peanut butter that is mostly for the dogs.

    He was also VERY resistant at first to use one of our larger crates despite us having two large ones that are basically unused.
    First, bless you for taking him and his dog in. How temporary is temporary? Is there a known date? This guy's own problems may be eclipsing his pup's problems. He may be feeling inferior, insecure, scared, depressed, etc. Don't know, just hypothesizing about a man who is jobless and homeless depending on the charity of friends.

    Second, spell it out about the kong. "Jimmy, I'm putting the peanut butter and kong on top of Cujo's crate. Give her a kong every time you leave so she doesn't scream. There are more kongs on the kitchen counter."

    Third, cover her crate. "Jimmy, I've tossed a sheet over Cujo's crate [the crate size you feel better about ]. Cover the crate when you shut her in." Is the crate in Jimmy's room? Can it be put there so the bedroom door can be closed so no animals can walk by her?

    It is your house so you can set some ground rules without invoking feelings, favors, etc. Just be matter of fact and upbeat about it.

    Fourth, I suggest Cujo drag a leash so anyone can safely move her and safely interrupt any dog-to-dog friction/fight.

    Finally, she will probably get more comfortable using the yard and walking with you as she lives there longer but I don't know how long she'll be there. Do you? Maybe I missed that part.

    Again, bless you and hugs. This sounds like a huge disruption in your life and the life of your pets. Lots of patience and good luck!



  9. #9
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    Dec. 14, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by jetsmom View Post
    When you walk past her, drop a treat. It'll help make her less fearful of you.
    This is easy and effective unless other animals are milling around and will go for the same treat triggering the resource guarding aggression.

    Ditto Control Unleashed if there is time and commitment. If not, just manage safely with crate&rotate, leash, and lots of patience.



  10. #10
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    May. 4, 2006
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    Probably he thinks you are being oversensitive to the dog and it is really no big deal. That is what I meant about his trauma. For kickers, you brought him in when he is unemployed and I assume homeless? For him not to be at least receptive to your suggestions since a howling dog in a house is a very big deal, no matter how long it goes on, it is a major disruption and a very unkind thing to do to someone who is supposed to be a friend? Do not concern yourself with being upbeat etc. You have to get him to understand at the very least that he because of his lack of attention to this dog's problems is biting the proverbial hand that feeds him. You don't want to make him feel backed in a corner but really, if you had not taken him and the dog in, what exactly does he think would have happened to the two of them without such an understanding human being to help? Are you really that concerned to lose his friendship?

    Not to make you feel self righteous but he is being a bit of a jerk. So, on to the dog solutions. I am also not an advocate of treating dogs to death but certainly hand feeding this dog with a tasty treat, if this makes her relax is a good idea. If she shys from your hand, use a spoon, then you will need a wet food so be careful what you use, no need to cause digestive uproars too! Being calm and not overly focusing on the dog will help. Can you put yours away in a safe place and just let the dog be with you? Classical music I find always helps, you know more Bach less bark? Or just letting the dog be with you when you read or are writing something like your treatise on this situation. You have to be conscious about any levels of tension in the house and you will find that the dog will start to gravitate to you, you are one level of socialization that the poor creature needs.

    As far as the crate, is he not aware that the dog needs to be able to stand up with head upraised and at the very least, lie flat out if she is going to be in that crate in excess of four hours? If not, he has some problems that you wil be hard pressed to address in terms of his understanding of simple physiology, nevermind the so called emotional question of why would one do such a thing to a living creature.

    Again, try to be clinical with him, non emotional regarding the dog but simply say this is not acceptable to you as a human being. You are making things very simple for him, do not let him use you as a doormat for his problems. The dog issue really is secondary. He has to want to learn, he has to want to acknowledge that he is not doing right by the dog, otherwise, you might want to suggest he get a stuffed dog.
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  11. #11
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    Jan. 3, 2003
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    St. Louis, MO USA
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    I fostered a Corgi who was similar to this one - super fear issues and guarding. What worked for us in this situation was clicker training. Now, I know it is not for everyone, but for her little brain, it gave her enough of a "jolt back to reality" that it got her back on track. The book, "Click to Calm" is a good resource to use.
    My new mantra - \"Life is too short not to eat ice cream.\"
    ReRiders Clique



  12. #12
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    Apr. 29, 2008
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    Thanks for the responses.

    Not worried about losing the friendship really, because if he keeps up with the dog in this fashion, he'll be losing the friendship anyway (seriously, leave dirty dishes around, wet towels on the floor, but GET YOUR A** BACK HOME TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR DOG!) His other option was to live with his parents, but his dog couldn't come with there... I'm just trying to craft a solid plan so that he's receptive to the discussion and continues working with this dog once he's not in our house any longer. It's just so frustrating because about everything else he's such a reasonable empathic kind of guy. He just seems to have a block about this dog.

    I thought some books might be a good resource so I could talk to him and then hand him some supporting materials/how-tos, if you will.

    As for her resource guarding, she hasn't shown any issues with people at this point. It's the other animals she gets snarky about. So right now we're just trying to keep all food out of the picture unless all animals are in their own safe places. She also is on a crate and rotate plan currently since she's been shown to be a little too unpredictable with the other critters.

    He did start crating her in his room while he's gone, which helps her. BUT, I just found out today he went back to using the SMALL crate??? We have TWO that are large and unused (greyhound sized). I pulled out our old plastic one today and swapped it out with his - it is now folded up in the closet. It's a start. She seems to like the closed in nature of it, so that's good.

    As for her response to me, I actually give her some of her meals and treat her often. She will eat the treats when she's not overly anxious, but she's just so unconfident in her surroundings when her owner's not around, there's still not much I can do with her. She will walk nicely on a lead with me outside of the yard, but she is too nervous to sniff much or go to the bathroom. Baby steps = )

    With people besides her owner, it sometimes seems like she is torn between being anxious and wanting some attention. She'll sometimes even come up for pats, but then she gets all nervous again and isn't sure what to do. Poor girl.

    I gave her a bully stick today and sat with her out in our yard, but after about 3 minutes of happy chewing, she started to get anxious to get back inside (and it's SO gorgeous out today, ah well.) These are the things I'm trying to encourage Roomie to do so that she can make use of some of the courage he seems to instill in her and learn.

    Timing wise, I'm guessing he will not be here longer than 3 months (all my meddling will surely encourage a quicker moving out I'm sure, haha.) So I'd like to get him to be receptive and on a path of enlightenment, ha, before he moves.



  13. #13
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    Apr. 26, 2009
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    I'm too medicated to really type a big response, but just a quick thing about the muzzle. I do recommend it not all the time but some of the time using a box/cage muzzle. The dog can freely open her mouth, eat, drink, bark but because it's basically a cage around her mouth she won't be able to grab any unsuspecting animals or people. And kudos to you for trying so hard and being so awesome with this!
    The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.



  14. #14

    Default Fearful Dogs

    Wanted to share information about the website I created to help people understand the most effective and humane ways to work with dogs with fear based behavior challenges.

    fearfuldogs.com

    It's helpful to understand the concepts of triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization. These are in play with all the behaviors discussed about this dog.

    The problem with muzzles is that 1) people rarely go through the DS/CC process so the dog is not additionally stressed by the muzzle 2) it allows dogs to be put into situations which are more than they can tolerate, i.e., over threshold, because the worry about them hurting someone is alleviated.

    The goal is to never put the dog in situations in which they are inclined to repeat the inappropriate behavior. In other words, the muzzle should never be used in place of management and training.



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by fearfuldogs View Post
    Wanted to share information about the website I created to help people understand the most effective and humane ways to work with dogs with fear based behavior challenges.

    fearfuldogs.com
    Terrific website! Thanks so much for posting this, what a great resource!!!



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