Once, when you walked past a woman with an umbrella, and she reached down to stroke the dog, you saw his lip curl in a snarl. This alarmed you greatly, and so now whenever you see someone carrying an umbrella you tighten the leash, haul the dog towards you, and drag him away.
Indeed, things seem to be getting worse rather than better, and taking him for walks in the rain is impossible. A friend suggested putting an umbrella in the dog's bed so that he learns there's nothing to worry about, but this doesn't feel right to you. But this still leaves the question of how to handle his growing fear.
In addition, it's important to avoid actions that will make matters worse. This means never forcing the dog to face up to his fears, but counterintuitively it also means never soothing or petting the dog in a fearful situation.
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Just yesterday I was taking Dolce out for a walk and didn’t see him sneak up behind me when I stepped on his foot. He yelped pretty loudly and my immediate response was to pick him up and calm him down. I then walked a bit with him in my arms and put him back down. He was walking fine and doesn’t seem to be injured. The problem now is he shakes with fear when I take him on a walk. I have to carry him most of the way and he’ll only walk a bit. His behavior at home is completely normal. He used to love his walks and did great on a leash. What can I do to get that back? He’s also still perfecting potty training so he really does need to be able to go on a walk. I feel awful and I can’t seem to find anything online for this specific situation. Will he be like this forever?
Hello Tiffany, I would suggest gently rubbing his paw a bit to make sure that it is not still causing him any issues. If he acts like it is sore, then get it checked out. Carpeting in your home would make it less sore than hard concrete, so you want to rule out any lingering pain first, and if that is an issue, you want to address that so that walks are not causing him any more pain. If his paw seems to be completely fine when you are touching it and not at all sore anymore, then take him outside for a walk and create a line of treats, or toys if he prefers toys. Practice walking down the line and letting him pick up his rewards. When he finishes that line, then create more lines as you walk by dropping treats on the ground every couple of feet. Go on walks like this often until he begins to improve. To prevent him from over eating you can also measure out his dog food and use his dry dog food as treats if he is food motivated, especially after he is a bit less nervous. You might need tastier treats at first just to get him moving. When he is doing better, then space your treats out more and more so that he has to walk further and further before getting a treat. Do not pick him up or carry him if he is not injured, or that can make the issue worse. If he will not walk forward even with the treats, then put him on a long leash, such as a thirty foot leash, and get him excited with a toy and encourage him to chase you. Run back and forth and tempt him with the toy. Make a game out of walking and let him feel like he is off leash by using a long leash. As he improves, then you can gradually shorten the leash again. Continue to make walks really fun and pleasant every time that you go outside, whether that involves a game or treats. His view of being outside right now is fearful. He believes that something painful will happen to him again probably just by being in that location. The more experiences that he has in that area that are pleasant, the more that he should realize that painful experiences are unusual and pleasant experiences are normal there. Because he has gone on walks for so long and never experienced something painful before, he will likely recover overtime if you do not carry him everywhere and you show him that walks are still pleasant. Be patient though, and do not get discouraged if he needs a lot of practice outside again to get over his nervousness. Try to act upbeat and confident while outside. He will pick up on your emotions. Be his cheerleader. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We’ve had Cash since he was 6 weeks old. He has recently developed a fear in assuming is shiny floors. He gets to the doorway and stops. The flooring goes from carpet to vinyl wood, he also has problems with tile floor and once he gets up the nerve to walk across it he runs which causes him to not have good traction. His nails are not long. He also turns himself around in doorways and walks backwards. The other day we were getting out of the car and he was to scared to get out. This is something he does regularly. We take him with us just about each time we leave except for work and date night.
Hello Nikki, I suggest having Cash's sight checked. If he is having issues seeing that can make him afraid of walking on reflective surfaces. While you are at the vet's also have them check his balance and his joints to make sure the issue is not his balance and stability. If he feels like he might fall that can make him fearful of jumping and walking on unstable surfaces, like slippery floors. If those things are fine, then probably something happened to cause the fear. It could have been something small, like a slip or something he wrongly associated with the floors. Gather several small door mats and place those in a line on the vinyl floor, spaced about one-and-a-half to two feet apart. Create a line of treats along the vinyl floor and mats to encourage him to walk back and forth between the small rugs. You can use his own dog food for this if he is food motivated, and you can cut back on his normal meal by that amount to prevent him from becoming overweight. As he becomes more confident walking across the mats and floor, then add about half-a-foot to a foot more between the mats. As he becomes more comfortable, then space the mats further and further apart, until you can remove the mats entirely. As you practice this, continue to replace the line of treats across the floor two to three times a day so that he will keep walking across it. He is likely scared to jump out of the car because it hurts when he lands. Since he is nine years old he probably needs help getting out of the car now. Hi jumps probably cannot handle the impact of the fall. Either support him while he jumps or install a dog ramp in your car. If he is overweight, then loosing weight will probably help also, but speak with your veterinarian about how to safely do that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Max is a rescue, the first 5 years of his life he experienced severe and repetitive abuse. He is terrified of most people, but extremely terrified of men.
Hello Paula, First, work on obedience such as heeling, Place, Down-Stay, Watch Me, and other calming, structured, focused exercises. Fearful dogs tend to benefit from structure and feeling like they can follow and trust you. Obedience training that is calm and includes a lot of structure and boundaries in your home can help with calmness. Next, she needs to experience being around very calm men who will ignore her, then toss treats to her from a distance whenever she is calm. At first, she will probably need to be very far away from these men to relax enough. As she improves, you can decrease the distance between them. Going on walks with men can also help, but you should be the one to hold the leash and walk her in the heel position, while the man walks parallel to you across the street. Reward her for calmness around the man and keep your attitude fun, confident and up-beat - don't pitty her or pet her while she is nervous or that can make it worse. Instead act up beat and confident. She will be looking to your attitude for cues on how to feel. As she gradually relaxes around the volunteer man, have him decrease the distance between them (expect this to take several walks); do this until he can walk with you, and you can eventually hand her off to him while she is calm and let him walk her alone. When she is used to one man, have a different man practice the same exercises with her also. You will need to many different men do this overtime. If she likes to fetch, you can have men play with her. You be the one to take the ball from her and give it to the man at first, so that she does not have to get closer than she is comfortable with. As she improves and begins to like the man, she should get more confident to approach closer. All men practicing with her should be calm and gentle. Expect training to take several months. This type of fear often takes a lot of time to improve. Celebrate small victories as signs that she is improving. You can also work with a trainer who is part of a larger training group and have the male trainers help with these and other counter-conditioning exercises. If she is fear-aggressive, I suggest working with a trainer to do these things and take the appropriate safety measure to keep the men helping safe - like back ties while tossing treats and a soft basket muzzle during walks - you can gradually get her used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle ahead of time using her meal kibble so that the muzzle is not scary later. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Our dog usually is really happy and enthusiastic when we give her some kind of activity (training, games, cuddling, ..). She fears loud noises (e.g. fireworks).
A few months ago we were going for a walk with her when there was a really loud noise. She got scared and run home, without looking back at us and without obeying our commands. Since that incident she does not want to go for a walk near our house anymore. From time to time it is possible to lure her with treats, but sometimes she doesn't want to walk a single step. No matter which treats we are using and how patient we are. She starts shivering and after a few minutes she lays down, not even looking at us anymore.
The strange thing is that about 100-200 meters away from our house she starts to walk normally. Then she's totally happy and enjoys going for a walk.
Hello Sabina, Your dog probably associates the scary incident with that certain distance from your house - she might remember it as that location and then feels safe once she gets past that point. I suggest taking her to the location that is just far enough away from your house that she starts to relax again and working on getting her used to spending time in the area between that far location and your house. You are basically going to go backwards - starting further away and getting closer to your home as she improves. This might be easier than starting at your front porch and moving her toward an area, that in her mind, gets scarier and scarier the further she goes. What is her favorite thing in the world? Think through what types of things get her so excited that she tends to forget about other things around her. This might be a soccer ball, another dog, certain people, a game of fetch, certain foods, games, running, tricks and obedience practice, water, ect...Make a list of her favorite things in the world and get creative with how to bring those things into that scary area for training practice. Spend time in the area that she is nervous in, starting at the distance that she starts to relax at again. Do her favorite activity there and keep the pace fast enough and high enough energy that she is more likely to forget about her fears while focusing on the fun - basically she has no time to worry because she is busy having fun and thinking about other things. Act confident and happy yourself - don't act sorry for her or that will worry her even more. When she can relax at the current distance, spend time slightly closer to the scary area next time. Gauge her reaction when deciding how close to get. She should notice where you are and seem slightly stressed but still be responsive to what she loves and not panicked or shutting down. Ease her into the area gradually. Only get closer when she can completely relax at the current distance. The end goal is to spend enough time in the scary area while she is in a good state of mind and having fun and focusing on something else for her to re-learn what to expect out of that area. With enough time and positive experiences, she should start to believe that that area is safe again. You need to do this slowly enough that she is able to enjoy herself with your help for the training to work though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We got Isabelle from a city rescue center a few days ago, and we’re trying to get her well adjusted to her new home. She’s amazing with us, as long as we’re with her. She gets extremely anxious when we leave her home alone. We only left her for a few hours and she was shaking and went the the bathroom all over our apartment, even though we took her out multiple times before she left. She HATES getting her leash on to leave the house, and when she knows she’s done something wrong she tucks her tail between her legs and her whole body shakes. We’ve been trying to socialize her by taking her out to PetSmart (which she loves), walking her frequently, and taking her on car rides and snack runs. She LOVES people, but she stops in her tracks every time she sees another dog. We want to take her to some training courses to get her socialized a little more, but we’re afraid it’s too soon because of how she’s been acting. We honestly don’t know what to do! We don’t know what will help her.
Hello Meaghan, First, work on obedience and giving her some clear structure around your home. Anxious dogs tend to need predictable structure and clear, calm and firm leadership. Teaching her things like a structured heel, place command, sit, down, and other things can help her confidence. Just be patient with her while training. Avoid pittying her, instead act confident to help her feel braver too. Enrolling in classes and continuing to get her out places is great. There are a lot of options here, but I suggest giving her about two weeks to settle in, then finding a really good class in your area. Many classes have wait periods too so you could go ahead and look for one and sign up to start later. Preferably look for one that is held somewhere a little more spacious so that you can control her distance to the other dogs at first. A trainer who has experience with behavior issues like anxiety is also a huge plus. Even though the class will not be about that, a knowledgeable trainer can help guide you during the class. If you can find a friend or group that walks with their friendly dogs, going on group walks with others and their dogs can also be good. You can put more distance between the dogs at first and as she relaxes gradually get closer. The walks should be structured heel walks, where you encourage focus on you and calmness. Your calm, consistent leadership can help her relax more around the dogs. For the separation anxiety, I highly suggest crate training. It can seem counter intuitive to crate an anxious dog, but structure is also beneficial there for many dogs, it will keep destructive dogs safe, and there is training you can pair with the crate specifically for anxiety if she doesn't calm down on her own. Check out the article linked below for ways to gradually introduce a crate: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate It is early so she may adjust to your departures on her own once she has been crate trained, has learned to trust you more, and has experience you returning again each time that you leave, but if not check out the article linked below for more information on separation anxiety. https://www.solidk9training.com/sk9-blog/2013/02/21/separation-anxiety-im-not-seeing-it-at-my-place Crate exiting and manners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mn5HTiryZN8 Heel command: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Where to start? Brie was attacked by an unleashed dog when she was 6 months old. She's been scared of them ever since even though we've tried resocializing her over the years. She's always been great with people, very loving and cuddly. Three weeks ago we took her to her regular groomer. Not her favorite place and it usually takes her a day or two to recuperate but this time was different. She stayed upstairs refusing to come down over that weekend. I could coax her to go outside and she's been eating, drinking water, going to the bathroom, but her behavior did a 180. Concerned we took her to our vet first thing Monday morning. We explained that we thought something had happened at the groomers. We had checked every square inch of her and there was nothing physical so we assumed something must have scared her. After a thorough examination, our vet agreed. She was given a clean bill of health and we brought her home hoping she would come out of it. As the last three weeks have gone by, sometimes it's as if she's forgotten but most of the time she's very anxious. She has switched from always being by my side to being stuck like glue to my husband. The first few days afterward any time I tried to pet her she would tremble in fear. If my husband is not home she will sometimes hop up on the couch with me but most often I have to go looking for her. She will not come when called, has tried to bolt out of the garage door, has completely ignored her beloved stuffed frog and pants and paces. We are at a complete loss as to what to do. And we're heartbroken thinking we may have permanently lost our little love bug.
Hello Sharon, I suggest starting some type of confidence building training with her. Something like modified agility - to suite her age, trick training through positive reinforcement, or another fun canine sport that could be modified for her age. I suggest hiring a private trainer for this so that you do not have to be in a class with other dogs. In general look for an activity that would be fun, build her confidence and encourage your relationship with her in a way that is upbeat, confident, and has leadership, and not feeling sorry for her or feeling worried for her - dogs pick up on that and it can make them feel even more insecure when you are not confident. A fun activity that's up beat helps both of you focus on learning, having fun, and not feeling worried. I am sure it goes without saying, but obviously do not return to that groomer. It does sound like something traumatizing happened, even if it was an accident or simply the environment that day. While working on the training with her, also simply give her time. Help her move through it by being upbeat, can and confident yourself but also know that she may just need time to feel safe again. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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