Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by k_oller, May 7, 2010.

  1. k_oller New Member

    Hello! I am hoping that someone can help me. I have recently adopted a dog that is an abandonment/abuse case. He and his litter mates did not have human contact for the first 4 months of their lives and he is incredibly skittish. I met moose when I was volunteering at an animal rescue in Texas. The shelter owner asked us to sit in the litter's kennel and simply try to get close to them. It was easier said than done. Eventually we got them warily eating out of our hands but if we tried to touch them they would bite. Moose was the only one of the litter who wouldn't fear bite, instead he would hunker down, shake and refuse to move. We separated him from his litter and got him to be a little more social and I just could not leave him at the shelter where I knew he would regress. I took him home with me knowing that he and my other dog got along and hoping that Dakota (my other puppy) would help with his healing.

    Moose has been here for 3 weeks now and things have been great. Recently I decided that he was doing well enough for me to start enforcing house rules so that the tension with Dakota would lessen and things went south. fast. He has returned to cowering in his crate and refusing to come out, hiding behind everything and running scared from everyone he used to snuggle with. All this because I asked him to wait at door and let me enter the house first. I don't know what to do. My housemate says I should let him cling to me so that he has somewhere to be grounded but I don't want him to become dependent on me. Also, she thinks I should let him sleep with me which I never do with Dakota, would that be fair? I just want him to be a healthy independent normal dog!

    I would appreciate any advice you can give.


    Kristin, Dakota :dogtongue2: and Moose:dogunsure:

  2. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Too fast too soon.
    With a dog as timid as Moose sounds like he is, dominance is enforced an entirely different way, at an entirely different pace(depending on dog, but still FAR slower than any other dog). Also, HOW did you ask for/enforce the wait? Don't allow him to become TOO clingy--you do not want to create separation anxiety. Allow him to come to you for comfort, but don't try to make him come to you for comfort. He can come to you when he is uncertain, but you absolutely cannot reassure him in any way--JUST BE THERE. That's it. Nothing more, nothing else. Don't coo to him. Don't love all over him. Don't talk in a soothing voice. Just be there, allow him to be as close to you as he wishes, and don't act any differently.

    Not to burst your bubble....but he will most likely never be an independant normal dog. Dogs as timid as Moose sounds like he is, ESPECIALLY since he had NO contact in the crucial socialization period, are going to be timid for life. Now don't let your heart break--they can be helped. They cannot be fixed. As the owner of an INCREDIBLY timid dog, I know where you're at. Z, now four years old, is just now getting to a point where he is comfortable greeting people on his own. Although, he is STILL not happy with strangers. In time, he will become more comfortable, and more confident, but he will never be the outgoing social butterfly that my people-loving female is. Period. Dogs like Zeke and Moose are not "fixable." They can certainly improve, they can lead happy lives, and they can learn that the world is a safe place. But they will never be like a normal outgoing dog.

    Given Moose's history, your absolute best bet for both him and you to be happy is to find a professional(this DOES NOT mean a Petsmart trainer. No offense Fickla!!! You're an exception. This means a BEHAVIORIST). Dogs of this type are one of the hardest to work with, and the easiest to force into regression(as you've seen). You will absolutely need help. I'll get a list of books together for you that I've referred to many times and add it to this post. Best of luck, and again...don't take what I've said the wrong way. Moose isn't hopeless by any means--but don't think that you can mold him into a happy, outgoing dog. He is still very young, however, and will likely improve much more than an adult dog of his history would--with the right training and care.

    Zeke has been very very timid all of his life. As a pup, he would not approach people at all. He would cower and refuse to move. With dogs, of any size or temperament, he would flatten himself to the ground and urinate. He had no history of abuse whatsoever. Just lack of socialization, when I got him at 3 months. I have been working with him since the day I brought him home, and recently I posted about some GIANT breakthroughs for him(A BRAVE Moment in the Life of Zeke). If you find the right help, these are breakthroughs that will be huge to you too, when they come. It is very easy for these dogs to develop separation anxiety---they go from a world of incredible fear, and enter a world of acceptance and safety. For Zeke, he was showing early signs of separation anxiety in the first week that he was with me. I mistakingly thought it was just the change and the anxiety of his radical change in home, and assumed it would pass as he adjusted to his new home and life. I was very wrong and ended up devoting a lot of time to getting past his SA. To this day you can still see remnants of it at times. He is certainly a velcro dog, and if he is in a "scary" place or situation, he is glued to my leg and panting very heavily. This is an improvement--he used to have to crawl in my lap(a 60 lb dog) and be as close to me as physically possible. This had nothing to do with dominance, and everything to do with being terrified of being too far away from me. The more he improves, the more distance I require from him so he can learn that being away from me is okay. That's another thing---be incredibly picky about which behaviorist you choose, if you so choose to use one(I very highly recommend it). If you choose someone who isn't purely positive, they are likely to mistake some things as dominant moves, when they may not be. (For instance, Z crowding my's not him trying to dominate me, that's him panicking and going to his safe place. I don't pet or coddle him, I just allow him to come to me. The braver he gets, the further away his safe place is--no more crowding, because he can handle it further away from me.) So choose a 100% positive behaviorist with experience in timid/abused dogs.

    Whatever you do, do not baby him. You will certainly make him worse. For now, do the easy, NON-intimidating things to let him know you're in charge---teach him to sit, and have him sit before eating(if he is not food aggressive--if he is, you'll need to tackle this first); do not free feed at all. Do some research on the NILIF methods. This means "Nothing In Life is Free." There are many non-intimidating ways to use this method that will teach any dog who is in charge, without ever so much as raising your voice to them. For now, you could try teaching him to target. He could earn his meals solely by targetting. This would be great, because he would learn that YOU are his provider, and that you are safe. If you have a target stick or can make a target stick, this will be your godsend for a long time with Moose. Teach him to target this, and use his meals as rewards. Each piece of kibble is earned by touching the target with nose or paw or chin or whatever you want to teach.

    Hope this helps, and good luck!!!
  3. tx_cowgirl Honored Member


    The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell

    The Trials of the Timid: Socializing a Pathologically Shy Dog is a Challenge (but it's worth it).(An article from: Whole Dog Journal) by Pat Miller

    How to Be the Leader of the Pack(And have your dog love you for it!) by Patricia McConnell

    I'll Be Home Soon by Patricia McConnell(this is for Separation Anxiety)

    Scaredy Dog! Understanding and Rehabilitating your Reactive Dog by Ali Brown(he may not necessarily be reactive, but this could still give you some insight.)

    On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

    For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend by Patricia McConnell

    These are all great books that you can buy cheap cheap cheap on Amazon. Many of Patricia McConnell's can be found used(but in great shape!) for $5 or less. Don't have to spend a ton of money. Regardless of how many books you buy, I still recommend finding professional help. Poor Moose is going to take a lot of work, knowledge, patience, and TLC.
  4. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    Also just found this that I thought would be helpful. Scroll down to "Training Tips" just below the row of pheasants/quail. Moose will probably not be ready for this yet, at least not exactly. You'll have to move at a very, very slow pace. I wouldn't try to get him to accept people 3-4 feet away for a good while. Remember to always work at his pace. If you move closer and he is uncomfortable, move back to his comfort zone. If he's freaking every time you move closer, then you're moving too much too soon. Move in smaller increments, and work at each distance longer until you are certain he is comfortable.
    The "threshold distance" the article refers to is what I call the "comfort zone." Moose's comfort zone might be 10 feet away from a person, and it might be 1000 feet away from a person. Regardless of how far away it is, just find it and start there. However, you will need him to gain full trust in you before starting this with strangers. If he doesn't trust you yet, then he's just going to regress under the stress of strangers and you, who he's not sure about yet.
  5. k_oller New Member

    tx_cowgirl: Thanks so much for your advice. Moose confuses me in terms of his fears because unlike Zeke, he is doing well greeting people. I have been taking him to class with me and each time he gets braver. Today he walked all over the classroom saying hi and letting people pet him. I think that is what has been difficult, trying to find his triggers. He gets jumpy when people move quickly but he is ok. I thought at first he was afraid of men because whenever my boyfriend comes over (which is everyday) he bolts for his crate. Even when branden opens the crate door and wants to take him outside with treats in hand, he cowers. The fear of men does not seem to be the case though because he hangs out with guys in my class. I think I am going to read those books and look for a behaviorist. Thanks so so much for your help!
  6. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    No problem. :) Sometimes triggers are hard to isolate. The books and the video I linked to will be a great start, and will definitely be a step in the right direction until you can find a behaviorist. Good luck with Moose! :dogsmile:

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