Hi all.. I picked up two catahoula pups from a high-kill shelter yesterday. Both sisters about 4 months old. Both are extremely shy, but one is starting to come round. The other, however is frozen stiff with fear. Like never had a pet or kind word in her life...Im going slowly, lots of praise but am worried about her having reached a point of no return, mentally. Anyone had success stories to share? Advice?
I have had some success, but the first step is one that many people aren't willing to take. Simply put, they need to be separated. The timid pup needs the room to learn how to relate to people and other animals without the more outgoing one filling in her gaps and the more outgoing one needs to learn how to relate to people and other animals independent of the other one. The response I often get is someone saying, "Oh, I can't separate them, they depend on each other too much to do that". But separation is really the best thing to do. It helps with training, it helps with building confidence and it will help get them adopted when that time comes. They should not be adopted into the same home.
So, crate and rotate. Give them limited, supervised play time. But other than that, work with them separately. Find the one reward that they both respond the best to (food or toy) and use it to acclimate them to the wider world. Start in your home, work your up to being in the back yard, then the front yard, then the sidewalk. Short, short sessions multiple times a day. Don't try to soothe the timid one when she is actively fearful. It is all positive, upbeat interaction.
And remember, too, that dogs are like people in that they have innate personalities. This puppy could just be timid. You can socialize her and work with her to the point where she is better able to handle her timidity, but she might always be less outgoing and confident than other dogs.
I agree with much of what Idahorider said but I would amend a few things. I would separate the girls with either a wire crate or a baby gate so Timid can see her sister. I would also put a collar and 8 foot lead (or 2 4 foot leads) on Timid and insist the follow me around the house. She can stay 8 feet behind, but it will take more time if she is allowed to hide. This will probably require either a limited slip collar or the dreaded choke collar. If you use a standard choke, when the lead gets tight, stop, turn so that you are sideways to her and just wait, don't keep going, don't speak, don't encourage her. Often our talking confuses the issue when a dog is trying so hard to figure out what will work. It's the same as teaching a horse pressure/release. If she can figure that out, and takes even one step to release the pressure toss her a small very, very high value treat (chicken is my go-to). If she can come one step closer yet, repeat the high value treat then move away from her again (double reward). I think before long she will move a few steps toward you and you can toss the treat part ways and move away again.
Also, she would have to be working for a small amount of her daily ration. If she gets 1/2 c of kibble per feeding, she would have to work (come near me) for 5 kibbles or so each feeding. I'd probably put her on the 8 foot lead, sit in a chair in front of the TV, put the food dish at 4 feet and the kibble in my lap. I would toss a kibble into the food dish and ignore Timid. When she ate that one, I'd toss another, till she had gotten 5, then feed her somewhere much further away where she was comfortable for the remainder of her food for that meal.