Rescue dogs are special pets. They come with a history that may affect their behavior and even their personality. But this is a history you may know nothing about. You may get some hints about your dog's past based on his behavior. Rescue dogs are special in your lives because you're choosing to give them a chance for a good home and a good life. Some rescues have been abused. Some have been neglected. Some have just been left behind without an understanding of why. Any or all of these things could cause your rescue dog to behave in ways you may not understand. Your rescue dog may have been abused with a leash. This might make walking on a leash extremely scary for your dog. Or your rescue may have never been on a leash before. He may be a bit apprehensive about trying something new.
Loving your rescue dog and giving him a chance to be an amazing pet and to learn and grow with boundaries and love are the best things you can offer your pup. Training your dog after rescue to walk on a leash will not only take some patience, love, and understanding, but it may also take some guesses as to why he behaves the way he does. If he's fearful of the leash, it may be because he was abused at one time. Take this training slow, let him lead the way and show you the pace he needs to go in order for him to be comfortable and willing to try something new with you, his new owner who loves him dearly. Introducing the leash and how to use it and what your expectations are with a rescue dog needs to happen in small phases. Have lots of patience and remember your dog’s stomach is a great path to his heart and building trust.
Because a rescue dog requires special kind of attention and training, be sure you are very patient and calm during your training sessions. You don't want to trigger any anxiety or trauma from your dog's past while training. Be sure you have a leash that is appropriate for your dog’s size and weight. If your dog is highly anxious or fearful, you may want to consider putting him in a harness instead of just a collar. This will help you have better control over him while on the leash. High-value treats are great for any pup, but for training rescue dogs you may need to consider using treats that are extremely tasty and offer more than you might a dog who doesn't have a past you're not aware of.
My dog Ellie was rescued a couple of weeks ago, and I am having a lot of difficulties unfortunately.
She latched on to me right away, and has been so loving and attentive to me. She comes when I ask her too, and she follows me around.
However, it takes her anywhere from one to two hours to warm up to women, and a few visits before she will even consider going near a man. Do you have any advice for that?
Additionally, she is a terror on a leash. She isn't afraid of it; she lets me put on her harness and leash and is wagging her tail and waiting at the door before I can put my shoes on because she knows it means she gets to go out. But once we get out, she is petrified. She pulls so much because she is trying to get away from anything and everything. Her tail goes down, she lowers her whole body to the floor and goes as fast as I let her. If anyone comes up to her in the streets, she panics. She also tries to run into the traffic a lot.
Do you have any advice on those two scenarios? What I really need help with is the walking.
Hello Zoe, It sounds like she may not have been socialized so simply does not know what is safe and not safe so everything is overwhelming. The key in that case will be slowly socializing her in a positive way, acting confident yourself and doing things like working on obedience exercises and providing consistent leadership and direction to help her feel more trusting of your protection, more confident, and less panicked. I suggest having calm friends over frequently and instructing the friends to ignore her and toss her treats whenever she is being calm or brave (not aggressive or overly skittish). She needs to be exposed to a lot of people in a nonthreatening way. They should act normal but calm and simply ignore her while they toss the treats and let her sniff them - no crouching down or calling her right now. For the leash walking, I suggest taking her to calm locations - like your front yard, right now for walks. First, work on her obedience there with you with a few distractions in the background. Work on things like Heel, Stay, Sit, Down, Watch Me, and other structured commands. Act confident and upbeat yourself - not soothing or sorry for her. Reward her with treats or toys if she will catch a ball, tug on a toy, or eat - use whichever she seems to like best. She needs to get used to people, noises, dogs, and other things simply being in the background while she has something else to focus on and build her confidence - the training. The treats from training will also help her form positive associations with the background distractions. As she improves, gradually take your training sessions into other public areas. Start with low distraction/calm locations first and very gradually move onto busier/harder locations as she becomes more relaxed at the current places. Expect this to take time. A year is not unusual. Hopefully it will go fast though - some dogs recover quickly, others need time depending on personalities. Even though she may not be walking far during walks if you are making her work, like heeling in circles in the yard and do a lot of position changes, she should be getting exercised and tired still. Also, I suggest a very secure harness, like RuffWear's Front Range or Webmaster harness for her safety. If you want to use a collar, at least use a martingale collar so that it will tighten a bit when she pulls and decrease the chance of her slipping out. Purchase a long leash and work on her Come outside in a calm location also - just in case she were to get loose. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Pepe has had a hard life in the streets. We took him from the street two weeks ago, he already went on a car ride to the vet for consultation and castration.
We expend all the past year gaining his trust by feeding him in the street, bringing water and snacks. We were also able to have a vet visit him while being in the streets. In those conditions he was treated for distemper (took us a while to have him better) and also he got vaccinations, dewormers and different meds.
Now that he is home, he stays in the back yard and has supervised access to the house. He does well with our other dog, Manuka who was rescued from the street when she was 6 weeks old, she is currently 1 year old. Manuka has being good in general, but she growls and attacks him once in a while when they are inside the house. Mainly when she gets jealous and doesn't want to share our attention.
He is now ok with the collar, not so much with the leash. I had tried the retractile leash, this is not well received. I just tried the regular leash and it was more or less ok. I just left it loose in the floor while making him walk for treats.
He definitely needs to go on walks and get to like the indoor life style.
Do you have any extra advices for us: walking on a leash and sharing space with Manuka inside the house.
Hello Angelica, First of all I would recommend that you work on building Manuka's respect for you. Since she is acting jealous and dominant over Pepe she needs to be reminded to respect you. She needs to learn that you are the one in charge, not her and not Pepe, so that she is less likely to try to dominate him,. If you are the leader and not her, then she also cannot claim you. If a dog is trying to claim you by preventing another person or dog from getting to you or acting jealous in other ways, then that dog typically views itself as dominant over you. To help build her respect for you work on the "Consistency" method and the "Working" method from the article that I have linked below. You can also work on the "Obedience" method with both dogs, but work on it in addition to the other two and not in place of them. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Once you have worked on Manuka's respect for you, then I would recommend getting her used to wearing a soft silicon basket muzzle. The silicone muzzles are more comfortable and the basket shape will allow her to open her mouth and be given treats through the muzzle's holes while she is wearing it. The muzzle with keep Pepe safe while you work on getting the dogs used to each other in a new space. If you feel like Pepe might attack Manuka, then get him used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle also. The muzzle will also allow you to correct Manuka for any aggression toward Pepe without risking injury and without letting Manuka get away with controlling Pepe through her aggression, which would teach her that biting is effective and make her problem worse. It will also reduce the chance of Pepe developing fear-based aggression from being attacked by Manuka. To get her used to wearing the muzzle, show her the muzzle and then give her a treat. Touch it to her and then give her a treat. Hold it on her face for a second and then give her a treat. Hold it on her face for longer and give her treats through the muzzle's holes while it is against her face. Finally, put it on her and feed her treats while she is wearing it for a couple of minutes, then take it off of her again. Overtime, gradually increase how long you leave it on her and let more and more time pass between treat rewards until she is simply wearing the muzzle without any concern for a long time. Spend time on each of those steps until she is comfortable with the current level of muzzle touch. Expect this to take a couple of weeks. Work on the respect training while you do this, so that you can start transitioning the dogs together when her respect for you improves and she is used to wearing the muzzle. When Manuka is being tolerant of Pepe, when Pepe enters the room or is receiving affection or rewards from you, give Manuka a treat for being nice toward him. Do this to teach her that his presence is a good thing and rewarding for her. Also, decide what your rules are for both dogs in general and with how they can treat each other and be the one to enforce the rules. Do not let the dogs just work it out for themselves. You need to be the leader so that neither dog will be over the other. If they are not allowed to compete for the top position, then there will be less fights. For now, continue letting Pepe drag his leash around and get used to the feeling of it while you can supervise him to make sure it does not get caught on things. Keep using the normal leash. Do not use the retractable one. Practice leash walking in your back yard. Use treats and follow him around while you hold onto the end of his leash without pulling on it. Every once in a while tug on the leash a little, wait until he calms down, then give him a treat. After he receives the treat, let the leash become slack again. Follow him around and repeat the whole process again. He should start to learn that he will get a treat when you tug on the leash, and should start to learn to come toward you instead of pull against you when you tug on the leash. When he is no longer resisting the leash and has learned to come toward you when he feels it tighten, then you can work on teaching him to heel. Do not be too worried if all this takes place in your backyard for a while. If he is having to focus and think, and is walking around, even in circles in the yard, then he is still being exercised mentally and physically. With work he will get to the point where he can walk down the street. Use a lot of treats and patience to get him used to being in the house. Make sure that you are stimulating him mentally with puzzle toys, food stuffed hollow chew-toys, training, and other things that require his focus. Being mentally stimulated while he is inside should help him enjoy being in there more often and should keep him out of trouble like destructive chewing, a little more. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We just got this dog from our animal control. She was in an abused situation. She doesn't like the leash or baths.
Hello Robin, For the leash, check out the article linked below. I suggest trying the Drag method first. Make sure you are home while she is dragging the leash around for safety reasons though - in case it gets caught. Using a leash without a handle can also help it not get caught. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash For the water you may need to give her a bit of time to adjust to you first. Once she is less nervous in your home in general (if that's an issue now), then outside in a secure area, like a porch or fenced in yard, run your hose on low away from your dog and sprinkle treat between your dog and the water. Do this for 30 minutes a day several days in a row until pup will come close to the water voluntarily. Gradually get the treats close and closer to the water so that pup has to choose to come close to the water and even under the water to reach them. When pup is comfortable with that, use a cup or your hands to lightly put some water over their back while you feed treats in your other hand at the same time. Gradually increase the water exposure overtime as pup becomes more relaxed - don't rush this, you want to encourage pup near the water but if you suddenly spray them or force it you will break their trust in your around water and it will take even longer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Benny was rescued from a hoard. He was at the shelter for a little over two weeks. I took him home the day after he was neutered. We are on his fifth day. He had never had a collar, leash or harness on. (That was day two). He is reacting well to them. I attached the leash to his harness and he drags it around all day, remove them at night. He bonded quickly with me.
Here are my problems:
He is lunging at our other dogs whenever they enter the house. Especially when he is near me.
He won’t leave our yard on the leash.
He won’t go on walks with me.
He is afraid of car rides.
He follows me around the house and in the backyard but won’t follow me out of the yard.
I can get him to take treats face to face with the big dogs, but when he’s afraid, he has no interest in food. He has come a very long way in such a short time...I just want to make sure I am doing everything correctly and all that is possible to grow his confidence.
I realize that everything is new to him, also that it’s going to take time. I have an appointment with the shelter trainer in a few days to work on these issues, but homework would be greatly appreciated!
Hello Lori, It sounds like you have been working hard with Benny and are doing a great job with him. Time with the shelter trainer will help a lot because several of the things, like the lunging at the other dogs, would really benefit from having someone in person showing you what to do in the moment when it happens and being able to discus his body language, the environment, the other dog's reactions, and more, to give you a better answer about what to do there. If the issue is fear, then a very positive reinforcement approach where you pair the appearance of the other dogs from a distance with lots of treats for noticing them and being calm, would be good. You would then work up to the dogs being closer and closer while you reward Benny for his tolerance, then finally practicing having them pass by him while you reward him for ignoring them. That is assuming it is fear based because of a lack of socialization Which may or may not be present with other dogs if he was around a lot of other dogs, despite not being exposed to other environments. If he is being possessive of you and is acting more rude, then you will need to gently work on his respect more by implementing one or more of the methods from the article that I have attached below. The trainer may also discuss with you how you can gently but firmly correct his behavior in the moment if he is being possessive and not simply fearful. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you For now, work on rewarding his tolerance of them and actively practice having the other dogs approach but stay at a distance and reward Benny BEFORE he lunges or tenses up, while he is still being calm so that you are rewarding his calm state of mind and not his tenseness. When he lunges you can correct him by telling him "Ah Ah" and stepping between him and the other dogs and calmly but firmly walking toward him to back him back away from the other dogs until he moves away. Don't move too fast or act real scary, simply be serious, calm, and persistent that he let you handle the situation by him backing away. Work on really rewarding his tolerance though because that will likely help the most if it's a socialization issue. Have your trainer evaluate what is going on if you can though. The trainer may have additional suggestions when he learns more of the details of what's going on. For the leash following and walks, purchase a thirty foot leash, clip it to him and make sure that he cannot slip out of whatever harness or collar you are using. Leave the yard yourself with a bunch of treats, a couple of toys, and something calm to do like read, yourself. Walk as far away as you can while holding the other end of the leash without tugging on him at all. When the leash is fully extended, then sit down and sprinkle some treats around, toss his toys to yourself, and generally just hang out until he decides to join you. If this takes several days of trying this for thirty minutes or longer each day that's okay. He will set the pace based on his level of fear. When he gets to the point where he will comfortably go out of the yard where you are, then the next time go an additional thirty feet past where he puts on his brakes and practice the same waiting and tempting him with food and toys exercise there. As he gets more exposed to the outdoors and familiar with his neighborhood by taking small trips, thirty feet at a time like this, he should generally begin to get more comfortable with walking and following you around to new places, but expect it to take him at least a couple of months, and likely longer, before he gets that comfortable. For walks, once you get him used to your own section of the street or culdesac, to exercise him, work on teaching him "Heel" and making a lot of turns in your little section of the street while he heels. This will teach him to walk nicely before he is going on long walks, it will challenge him mentally, which will wear him out better too and build his trust for you more, and it will physically exercise him, because even though you are not going very far away you will be putting in a lot of steps. Choose a heel method that is very positive but also incorporates a lot of turns to teach following, attention, and to exercise him better. Spend time simply hanging out near the car with food and toys yourself, like I mentioned above doing for leaving the yard. Scatter treats around the car, but avoid any spilled anti-freeze or gasoline! and when he is comfortable enough to go up to the car, then scatter the treats in the car and let him eat them while the car is off. Spend a few minutes everyday feeding him his treats in the car like this. Once he is a bit more comfortable, then teach him "Down" and practice the down command while in the car that is off. This will also prepare him for safe, calm riding, while making the car a pleasant place. As he gets more comfortable, then very slowly transition him to full car rides. Start by turning the car on and leaving it running but stationary while you give rewards and practice the "Down" command. When he is relaxed in the car in the down position, then for the next time practice moving the car just a few feet, like pulling out of the driveway, then going right back home. Overtime, gradually add longer trips, like neighborhoods, stores, and parks, and recruit someone else to drive so that you can sit next to him in the backseat and work on enforcing his down command and calm behavior while the other person focuses on the road. Finally, purchase a car harness and clip him into the seat with one of the tethering systems you can buy, so that he will be still, safe, and relax while you drive places with him. Not taking treats while afraid is perfectly normal. Most dogs will not eat food if they are stressed out. That simply tells you that he is stressed. When that happens try to take things a bit slower with him, give him time to warm up more, or simply be aware of his surroundings. He does not have to take the food, but make sure that you do praise him in a confident and up beat tone of voice when he is being brave. Try offering the treat after a little bit, when he has adjusted a bit more. Some dogs will also not take food when they are aroused or excited until they calm down. If he has a toy that he finds even more rewarding than the food, then try using toys and other things for rewards too. When he is really nervous, sometimes doing a happy, silly dance yourself, and being goofy can help the dog relax if the dog knows you well enough to be comfortable with you doing this. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi- I have a large Romanian recuse dog I adopted in January. I have managed to get him used to having a harness on but as soon as a lead is attached he freezes and will not move and often pushes himself against a wall. He’s very destructive and has a lot of energy and I would love to take him for a walk. I have tried all the usual things but don’t seem to make any progress. It’s very disheartening
Hello Lucy, Start small with Ralph. Purchase a traffic lead, which is a one or two foot leash. Clip that leash to him inside and then leave it on during the day for several days until he can relax. Every time that you clip it on offer him a whole lot of treats, one at a time. You can use all of his meal food for this, fed one piece at a time, if he likes his own dog food. You can also feed additional food during the day while he is wearing it. When he is comfortable with the short leash, then clip on a four foot leash and leave that on during the day for several days until he gets used to the dragging. Give him a lot of treats while introducing that too. He needs to wear it long enough to realize that it's not harmful and not alive. When he can relax with the four foot leash on, then start to add a little pressure. Walk over to him randomly throughout the day, give a slight tug on the leash and immediatelly feed several treats. As he starts to get more comfortable with the tugs, he should eventually begin to anticipate the treats and look toward you or come toward you when he feels the tug. Overtime you can then transition his coming or looking toward you to get him to follow you more and more on the leash by backing up a step whenever you tug, and then feed a treat when he comes over to you. Do this until you can actually walk with him following you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We just adopted Eli from the humane society. He came from a hoarding situation. When we pick him up he will just let us hold him and seems very content. The problem is we can't catch him to put his leash on him to take him outside (we don't have a fenced in backyard). He does like treats, but as soon as he gets close enough and we try to catch him, he runs away. He also doesn't really know what to do when he is on the leash. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
Hello Blair, Does Eli like games like fetch or tug of war? Work on getting him used to the presence of the leash by laying the leash on the ground and playing with him over it by tossing a toy over it or playing tug on top of it. Once he is comfortable with it's general presence, make the leash fun by moving that around right before a toy toss or during a tug. After that clip a leash without a handle to his leash and let him drag it around the house for a week while you are supervising to get him used to the feeling of it. Once he is used to wearing the leash, follow him around while he is on the leash, occasionally stop so that there is tension on the leash, then wait patiently until he calms down or comes toward you a little; when he does that, praise him enthusiastically and continue walking so that the leash is loose again. Go slow with this. He will likely panic at points but with practice should realize over time that he is safe and can relax. Try to stay calm and confident and act like things are fine. You may need to start with a martingale collar or harness that he cannot slip out of to be safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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A dog was dumped near our property. We have adopted her and earned her trust since September. She has come a long way in her journey of trusting us and letting us pet her, love on her, etc. We started by laying down outside so we were lower than eye level with her. She came closer and closer until eventually laying beside us and kissing us in the face. We need to get her to the vet soon to get her spayed and she needs to be able to walk into the vet on a leash. The other day, we tried putting a leash on her and it was a disaster. She started pulling, thrashing around, etc. We unhooked her immediately and for a long time, she laid in the pasture and wouldn't come until we went and gave her treats. She must have been poorly treated in her former life and I know she is so frightful. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.
Hello Melissa, It sounds she was previously an outdoor only dog and was never introduced to a leash. Her reaction is very common if she has never been on a leash before. Attach a four foot leash to her while she is inside (preferably without a handle if you have one - to keep it from getting caught), and let her drag it around. She will likely be scared of it at first, but let her work it out and realize that it's not alive or chasing her. If you take it off too soon, she will be more scared the next time. If she can discover that it's just an object and not alive and can get used to dragging it around, she should start to relax again. When she is relaxed enough to be interested in food or toys again, give her lots of treats for being calm and play whatever fun game she is interested in. Make wearing the leash not a big deal and great fun instead. Try to act calm and confident and not worried or pittying her - to show her that the leash is not a big deal or scary. Do this for as many days as you can - until she seems relaxed about putting the leash on. Give her treats every time you attach the leash again or take it off. When she is used to wearing the leash around, then check out the article that I have linked below and follow one of the methods to help her get used to the sensation of having the leash pulled on. Practice all of this in a confined area, such as inside your home or a fenced in yard for safety, in-case she pulls the leash out of your hands and gets free. Expect some bucking and flailing. The training will minimize this, but it is still common. Give her time to work through it and calm back down, then relax the leash again so it's loose again and reward her when she is calm. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi , I am Fostering Lily who is a one year old pit mix momma. I also have her 3 babies currently. Lily loves going outside in the back yard with my dogs and loves running around, but once I clip her to a leash and bring her to go on a walk out the front door she freezes. I have to carry her through the door way and even then I’m lucky if she’ll take a step off the front porch. I know it’s not the leash because we’ve let her drag it and she’s fine with it and going out the back door on a leash. It’s just the front door and the outside world she’s scared of. Please Help so we can get her adopted
Hello Sarah, I suggest spending a lot of time with her in those areas, simply hanging out, standing or sitting on the ground. While there work on practicing any tricks or commands that she knows, play fun games, include people and dogs that she likes and generally treat the time like a fun picnic. As she improves, spend time further away from the house until she starts to relax in multiple environments. Once she can handle going on walks with you, I suggest having someone else also practice the time outside with her in new places to help her generalize the training to being with other people and in other places, so that she will be ready for a new pet parent and neighborhood later. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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It’s still early days but we’ve just rescued an ex breeding bitch. She’s beautiful to us and we wanted her from the time we saw her on the rescues website. We have 3 dogs already so she is our 4th.
My question is what’s the best way to tackle walking her? She’s got a harness & lead but as soon as the lead is attached to the harness she refuses to move. She won’t even be tempted with food. She loves food and we tried this but she’s not interested.
She’s got so much potential but she’s still so scared. We don’t want to do anything to scare her anymore than she is. Thanks
Hello Tracy, I would suggest taking her places on a long leash, such as an eight to twenty foot leash and simply spending time in new locations with her first. Do not use a retractable leash for this. Use a real one because the pressure on her neck from a retractable one will likely create more fear. While you are in the new location, drop pieces of food on the ground for her once she relaxes a little bit and is more interested. Roll a ball back and forth between yourself and another person. Generally do fun activities and try to be up beat and relaxed yourself. Keep her on the long leash so that she can join in if she wishes or go explore a bit. If she spent most of her life in a breeding kennel, then she lacks socialization and she needs to be socialized before she will walk places with you on her own. Spend time simply making new locations fun for her. Reward her for exploring anything new and keep the activities very fun but low pressure. When she is more comfortable in new locations, then you can work on getting her to walk. The walking issue might even resolve itself when she relaxes more. When she relaxes more, then make a game out of walking. Put her on a long leash and run a few feet ahead, past her, to encourage her to chase you. You can also try leaving a trail of treats for her, or putting a bit of peanut butter on the end of a long, smooth stick, and holding the stick in front of her to entice her to walk while she licks it. Make small walking goals at first. When she reaches that goal, then turn around and walk back home. As she improves, gradually increase the distance that you expect her to walk before you turn around. Do not turn around until she has walked at least one step on her own though. You do not want to reward her by going back as soon as she puts on the breaks or she will learn that that is an effective way to get you to turn around. Start by simply taking her to new places and spending an hour sitting in the new location, simply hanging out and having fun to let her get familiar with new environments before you do any walking training though. You can practice her following you around the house on a leash for now. She will be less afraid there and that should be good practice for teaching her to follow you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Lucy is so smart and loves to learn and please. But the minute she gets outside your arm gets torn out of the socket basically.This makes long walks and going places hard and painful. We have tried a few different things including an Easy-Walk harness but it just chaffed the undersides of her legs. Can you recommend anything?
Hello Becca, Check out the video linked below. https://youtu.be/EcwvUOf5oOg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Perrin, has been in a shelter for over a year. She clearly has not had favorable or much human interaction. We are fostering her. WE have never fostered before, we have adopted are pets from rescues. We brought her home yesterday. We know that unless she learns to trust that she will most likely not be adopted. We need all the advice, education we can get. We have never had a dog with this much fear.
She is afraid of people and most everything else. She will only go to the bathroom in the run. However she hates to have the leash put on her, she is a flight risk and will try very hard to get out of her leash. She is afraid to go for a walk to just get out side to her run. She is not encouraged by food or treats.
She does not want to be around us or our dog or cats. She wants to be left alone, which we are respecting.
She was very close to 2 other dogs, both wary of humans at the shelter.
We know that in time she will come around. Just letting her get use to us and her new surroundings will take time. We are letting her do things in her own way/time. Im just very concerned about her getting outside to potty and getting off the leash, she was able to get one leg out of the harness yesterday. If she were to get away from us she would be gone so quickly and never be caught as she is so mistrusting of humans. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Hello Staci, First of all I suggest using a padded more secure harness. Check out Ruffwear's webmaster harness. I suggest something like that or something less expensive brand-wise but with similar buckles and quality to prevent slipping out of a harness or collar. Work on getting her used to wearing the harness by letting her investigate it for a while, paring it with food by sprinkling food near it (when you are not around - so that she is more likely to eat the food), and then gently putting it on her and leaving it on all day so that she can simply get used to the feel of it and learn that it won't hurt her. Practice putting it on her and leaving it on her for several days in a row. Once she is used to the harness, use a high quality leash with a clip that won't break on you. Check out the article linked below for how to introduce the leash. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Fear can be a complex issues. Generally a combination of things helps. Anxious dogs tend to do well with structure, boundaries and predictability. Confidence building exercises can also be good, like agility courses (not necessarily competing but learning to navigate the obstacles successfully), and trick training where the dog is constantly learning new and fun things. For human relationships pairing the presence of people with things that the dog likes (affection, food, toys, anything the dog likes (NO laser pointers though since they can cause OCD behavior). Once you can get close enough to the dog to interact structured walks where the dog is expected to heel and stay focused (it is good for their brain and sense of calm to have the structure) for dogs that can handle being outside. Finally, general obedience training and consistency can help a dog feel more secure since it builds trust and respect - giving them someone they can depend on in scary situations and helping them understand what is expected of them and have predictability in life. The mental stimulation is also good for brain chemistry and stress hormones. For structure, check out Sean O'Shea from the Good Dog on Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo&t=15s For counter conditioning, check out KikoPup on YouTube. Counter Conditioning tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PhqFdaNduo Running away: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bXf5TZ3q28 For general obedience check out Zach George on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPNz6reMVXY All of these trainers have different philosophies for training and excel in different areas. Many of them are even in disagreement about the way another one trains, but I have found that much can be learned from a variety of training styles and many anxious dogs need a combination of different things. Sean is skilled at teaching boundaries and structure. Kikopup does positive reinforcement counter conditioning well - where something scary is paired with something pleasant. Zach George has a lot of great general how to videos on obedience and trick training done in a gentle way. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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as soon as I clipped the leash on, he freaked and ran to a corner shaking. I tried to coax him out with chicken, but no results. he was abused, and I dont want to traumatize him any further.
Hello Cheryl, I suggest easing him into the leash more gradually than you would with most dogs. Place the leash on the floor and sprinkle his meal kibble around it at each meal, so that he chooses to touch it on his own. Do this until he is comfortable with it being there and simply ignores it. Next, hold it in your hand with your palm flat and let him sniff it. Whenever he moves toward it, touches it, or sniffs it, give a piece of kibble. Feed him his entire meals this way - one piece of dog food at a time every time he moves toward the leash. Next, move the leash slightly toward him, then away while feeding him treats from your other hand. Practice moving it toward him, then away while feeding treats until you can briefly touch it to his collar and he stays calm. Next, practice holding it against his collar for longer and longer while you feed treats. Next, practice clipping it to his collar and un-clipping it to his collar while feeding treats. As he improves, leave it clipped for longer, while feeding treats. - Practice each step until he is comfortable with that step before moving to the next step. Next, leave it clipped to his collar but use a one foot or shorter leash for this. Let him wear it around all day while giving food periodically. As he improves, use a slightly longer leash for this until he is finally used to dragging a 4-6 foot leash around the house without pressure on it. You may want to create your own varying length leashes for training using the correct weight rope from a hardware store and a metal clip attached - to save on money. When he can handle dragging a full length leash around, then pick up the end of it and follow him around. Do each step until he is comfortable with that step before moving to the next step. At this point, when you can follow him around while holding the end of the leash without putting any pressure on the leash, then you can transition to the "Drag" method or the "Wait" method from the article linked below to help him learn to respond to leash pressure calmly and actually go on walks with you - this will not teach a heel yet but should help him understand the concept of walking on a leash with a person: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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He is scared when we pet him he breaths heavily when he is being touch to much and he is scared of the leash
Hello Nancy, Is he a recent rescue or has he been like that with you his entire life? Assuming he is new to your home, check out the article linked below. He needs to be treated like a puppy when it comes to the leash at first. He simply needs to get comfortable wearing it, then heeling can come later. Leash acceptance article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-your-puppy-to-accept-leash For the touch you may want to hire a trainer to help you because of the risk of a fear bite. I would want to evaluate how he does around people when not being touched to see what the next step in training is. Check out the article linked below and work on the confidence building and socialization methods. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Pay attention to Shadow's body language, once he is completely comfortable around your family in general, then and only then, work on desensitizing him to being touched. To do this, use his meal kibble. Feed him one piece at a time every time he allows a touch. Feed his entire meal this way at as many meals as you can for several weeks if he is doing well - don't push him too much. Start with areas he is most comfortable with first, and slowly work up to areas he is less sure of. For example, touch his shoulder while you give a treat. Touch his head while you give a treat Touch his ear while you give a treat, touch his back while you give a treat, ect...Let him approach you and don't do this without the help of a trainer experienced with fear and aggression or without having him wear a basket muzzle if he has shown any signs of aggression. You can also use a false arm to test how he will respond before petting him yourself. Again, seek out the help of a trainer if he may respond aggressively, and work on helping him become more comfortable with you in general before working on touch. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi there! I adopted a +- 9 year old Daschund X Border collie rescue, Lucy, 3 months ago. I was told that she refuses to walk on a leash. When i brought her home, she was very apprehensive about taking walks. She started getting into it more and more and she now LOVES walking! It must be the best part of her day, however, it takes forever. She is very very slow, stands around a lot, sniffs everything, stares at me and into the distance. Over time I have lost some patience with the leash and have started walking with her without it. Her mood immediately changes when I take the leash off. She is well-behaved but she doesn't stay by my side; crossing the road, running into gardens etc. I still use the leash when on the main roads, but then i take the leash off in quieter areas to get her going. She rarely listens to my commands while on these walks. How can I "retrain" her to walk on a leash, consistently? She is not interested in treats on her walks, too many other distractions! Is positive reinforcement and lots of patience the only way to go? And how do i "punish" her for bad behaviour whilst on these walks? (Please note that she is an absolute angel with no behavioural issues when at home)
Hello, She needs to be off-leashed trained on a long leash so that she gets used to the sensation of freedom but you can enforce commands like come by reeling in the long leash as needed. Both heel and Come can be taught with a light weight long leash that's completely slack - so that the dog can wander as far as 40' away (when in areas that are safe to practice that distance) and then recalled while they feel like they are free, and reeled in if they don't come. I would also suggest practicing heel with a light weight long leash dragging behind her a bit, so that she feels it as little as possible and you work on heel using turns, changes of pace, and other ways to keep her focus on you without depending on the leash, but have the leash to enforce it when needed. Come with the Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Heel with the Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel For the walking on leash, use the Turns method from the article linked above also but use a six foot leash with it. Pay special attention to cutting in front of her when her face first starts to move past your leg. Cutting in front helps a dog learn to stay behind and pay attention to where you are. If she is lagging, then turn away from her and pick up your pace. Positive Reinforcement is not the only way to train, fair corrections are sometimes needed when you are competing with other distractions but the emphasize should be on positive reinforcement the most - whether that's praising, movement forward as reward, treats, or toys - positive reinforcement can be anything your dog finds rewarding - including getting to continue moving forward in the direction she wants to go. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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He doesnt like treats or plays with toys. On walks he gets so scared he won't use the bathroom and pulls,cries and jumps in circles trying to get out of the harness. He hasnt used the bathroom for 24 hours now because he is scared to go outside. It makes sense because he was living in a trailer with a ton of other dogs so he wasnt exposed to this but i am starting to worry because he hasnt made any progress
Hello Sophie, Many dogs won't take food or play when highly stressed so you may still be able to use those things for training later, when he improves some. For now, I suggest simply spending calm time in the grass with him outside. Choose a very calm area, use a padded back clip harness that he can't escape from or go to a fenced in area. Look up ruffwear.com and their webmaster harness for an example of a good three point harness that's hard to escape from. Spend as much calm time outside with him as you can. Avoid busy and overwhelming places at first. Your attitude should be very calm, confident, pleasant and not worried. He simply needs things calm and exposure to realize nothing bad will happen. Once he is relaxed enough to be interested in treats, toys or affection, then teach tricks, play games he enjoys, and give treats for calmness. You will need to just go slow at first. Once he can handle more, you will probably want to do confidence building exercises with him, such as agility obstacles (which can be built out of pvc pipe or bought - there are lots of DYI instructions online), obedience, and truck training. Right now while he is too scared to pee outside, you can set up an exercise pen in a room he won't be allowed in later, put a disposable real grass pad on one end of the exercise pen, and teach him to use the grass pad inside. Check out the Exercise Pen method from the article linked below - since your end goal is outside potty training, don't phase out the exercise pen or let him pee in any other areas of the house - you will just go straight to outside potty training and no longer take him to the exercise pen when the time comes. Exercise Pen method - it mentions litter box training, but you can use a real grass pad instead to help with outside potty training later. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Real grass pad: https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Patch-Disposable-Potty-Grass/dp/B005G7S6UI When you get ready to do outside potty training: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If you need a bed for him that's not absorbent and therefore he won't be encouraged to pee on, then check out www.primopads.com or a cot. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Thanks for any help you can give us. Adoption date Jan.4th,2018 Shelter did not have any history. She'll not walk or potty if we are present. She loves to eat:) she is really sweet but very frightened. She'll walk after we bring her in from her outside pen(definitely inside dog with us) we believe she was always outside in the past. She only walks to her bed inside sometimes to her water and food in kitchen. I worry she is not getting enough exercise. We would love to walk her but will not move on leash or harness.
Hello Kimberly, It sounds like Sugar might be timid either because she was treated harshly, or because she was neglected and has a naturally submissive and hesitant personality. If she was neglected it's possible she was never around people or only had interactions with people that involved confrontation and punishment. If she always got in trouble for eliminating in the house and was punished in a harsh way that could cause her to be fearful of eliminating around people. Expect this year to be spent building her trust. Since she loves food you can use that to build her trust. Her love of food is a huge asset. If she will take it, begin to hand feed her her meals. At first just toss her pieces of food from a distance and praise her when she eats them. Try not to sound sorry for her when you speak to her but instead act proud of her, happy, and confident. Overtime, decrease the distance between you and her while you toss the food, until you have worked up to her eating the food out of your hand. When she will eat the food out of your hand, then encourage her to walk with you on the leash by creating a line of treats several feet long and letting her choose to follow the line while you keep the leash slack. Overtime increase the length of that line and when she will walks that line well, then work on having her walk a bit past that line by dropping treats to her every couple of feet. After she will do that, then increase the distance that she has to walk before you drop another treat. The whole idea in doing this is to take away her fear of walking by making the experience fun while also motivating her to continue forward. When you take her to the bathroom outside try using a twenty or even fifty foot leash. That way she can eliminate without you having to be right next to her. When she finishes, praise her and toss a treat over to her. Make this treat large enough for her to find after you throw it. When she begins to improve, then you can gradually decrease the length of the leash, until eventually you are next to her when she goes to the bathroom and giving her a treat out of your hand for it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
How is Sugar now. My Bonnet exhibits these same behaviors. Now we are moving from a large fenced in yard to where she will have to learn to walk on leash and navigate stairs. Im terrified for us!
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We hope to adopt a rescue dog by the end of the week. He was caught in a live trap last week after he was a observed running loose for several months in a rural neighborhood close to my place of employment. To say that he is fearful and skittish is a HUGE understatement. I have been visiting him at the vet’s office daily for about 30 minutes at a time, but still have not managed to touch him. No one has. We think that he previously had very little human interaction. He has shown no signs of aggression so far, but as you can see, when anyone holds out their hand to let him sniff, he will back himself into the furthest corner of the crate. I don’t want to traumatize him by forcing anything.We brought our other two dogs to meet him on Saturday and he was extremely receptive and curious. He is obviously comfortable with other dogs that are the same size as he is. My biggest concern at this point is how to get a collar or harness on him when we still haven’t been able to touch him. Right now the vet is using a simple slip leash to take him outside to relieve himself. The slip leash makes me very nervous because he could easily escape, and I know that if he were to get loose, we would never see him again. Any ideas on how we can collar or harness him? Thanks so much in advance!
Hello Christa, Until you can touch him I would walk him on two slip leads. Get one slip lead that can open up wide enough to make a loop for him to walk through so that this lead can tighten around his mid-section instead of neck. Place a line of treats on the floor and simply let him walk through the lead and eat the food off of the floor - you may have to carefully move the slip lead over his body while he is in a corner if he won't come forward for food - but keep movements slow and calm and tighten the lead gently since you are wanting him to get used to this long-term not just leash him up one time. Once the slip lead is around his waist or chest, slip the second one over his head and walk him with both leashes in your hand. The head one will help you lead him, the body one will be harder to slip out of if he flails. You could also keep a drag leash on him and slip a martingale collar with leash attached over his head but you would need to be home with him all the time for that since you don't want to leave that on him while you are not home for safety reasons. Once he is more tolerant that may work well so you can touch him occasionally at the end and beginning of the day to take on and off but not have to touch constantly - for a drag leash check out something like Vir-Chew-Ly that is less likely to get caught. Check you can put a harness on him, but he is still a flight risk due to other's in public, then check out something like ruffwear webmaster harness that's hard to escape from but comfortable. I wouldn't venture outside with him more than you have to until you can touch him - he certainly needs tons of socialization so you will eventually want to work on taking him places, but you need to be able to touch him first. When he is comfortable enough being in the same room and space as you, you can start getting him used to touch using his meal kibble. Hold one hand out to him with kibble and let him eat the kibble while you gently touch him somewhere like his shoulder. As soon as the food is eaten, remove your touching hand, then use another piece of food to repeat the same thing, continue doing this with the meal. Start with non-threatening places to touch him like his shoulder, and gradually move to other spots like his face, back, belly, paws, collar area, and tail as he improves. When he will let you do these touches without any signs of aggression, then feed as many meals as you can, piece by piece this way to desensitize him. Don't rush getting to the point where you can practice this though because you don't want to reach toward a dog that may react aggressively due to fear or you risk being bitten. Let him warm up to being in the same room with you first, leave trails of food around you where you go and when you sit, and ignore him while he eats the food until he relaxes enough to handle you interacting with him more. The other dogs will hopefully help his confidence - he will likely be extremely dependent on them at first and bond with them tightly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Thank you so much Caitlin! You are a Godsend!!! I will follow all of your instructions and will let you know if I have anymore questions.
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Max was mistreated as a puppy before we got him (he was born in a barn and sprayed with a water hose to get him out and give him away). Once we got him he was extremely scared and still is very timid and nervous. My son and I play with him, but only at a distance. Max won't allow anyone to pet him and he always stays just outside of reach. We offer treats and he comes and sits, but if we reach out to pet him, he always runs and hides under the outdoor furniture. Because of this we can't put a leash on him. Please give us any advice you can on how to overcome this situation. Thank you.
Hello William, The leash issue is a product of his overall fear. He is basically acting almost like a feral dog. You really need to hire a professional trainer who has experience with extreme fear to help you. Giving it time and continuing to play with him without touching him are good. I also suggest simply hanging out on the ground in the yard where he is quietly often - reading or doing other calm activities. While out there, run a line of treats or dog food from his direction to where you are sitting on the ground and also sprinkle a bunch of food around you, then pretend to ignore him while you read, you just want to get him used to your presence and show him you won't do anything scary. At first he will probably just watch and eat the food after you leave. After several tries he will likely eat the food closest to him but not next to you. With practice he will likely get to the point where he will eat the food closer and closer to you and even next to you, coming close. Practice him being at the point where he eats the food next to you a lot before you try to add in touching him... When he is completely comfortable being near you, you can add in touch by feeding a treat at the same time as you touch his shoulder. Only touch him while he is eating the food, removing your hand when the food is gone from your other hand until the next time he is eating a treat. When he will let you touch him without running off in between touches, then begin to feed him his entire meals this way, one or two pieces of food at a time, as often as you can - as long as he is getting enough food doing it this way. Overtime you can work up to touching him in other areas too, like his neck, and showing him a collar and rewarding him for sniffing it and later touching it, letting you touch it to him, then finally buckling it...This process will probably be slow, don't rush through it too fast but practice often to help it progress along. Working with a trainer who is very familiar with high levels of fear can help things go more smoothly - but ask the trainer a lot of questions to make sure they are truly experienced enough to handle this situation well. Not all trainers specialize in behavior problems - many just teach obedience classes and the skills and knowledge can be different. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi, I just adopted Twizz yesterday and she's very affectionate but very nervous. So seems to love physical affection when things are calm and is already coming to my partner and I for reassurance when she gets scared or overwhelmed. The main issue is that we live in an apartment and she isn't housetrained. We've been trying out usual strategies ov taking her out as often as possible when we're home and crating her while we're out with one or both of us stopping by during the day to give her potty breaks. She's seemingly fine with her collar and leash however, she doesn't like being outside. Every time we go out, she fanatically yanks us back toward the apartment door. She just seems generally terrified to be outside even in calmer areas. She has a Martingale collar as the shelter trainer suggested, but I'm really worried about her hurting herself with how hard she pulls. Ideally, I'd like to be able to take it slower with the outdoors thing or let her control outside time and just wait her out without the leash or pulling her away from the door/building but given the apartment and need to housetrain situation, I'm not sure what choices I have but to make her go outside on a leash. When she gets as nervous as she does outside, it seems like no amount of treats or physical affection will calm her down. Do you have any suggestions for how to make going outside more of a positive experience for her? She also seems to do better when she can't see the apartment as far as letting some of her curiosity take over in the new environment despite still being easily spooked and pulling to get away from things that scare her. So, any help on how to manage the intense fear responses that she has and the trying to pull away and run would be helpful as well. I just really want to give her a good life and show her that the world isn't always the big scary place she thinks it is but I'm not really sure how right now.
Hello Quin, I suggest spending a lot of calm time with her outside, simply exposing her to it in calm areas where she can have time to take everything in and let it become normal. When dogs are stressed they will not take food, so don't give up on food entirely. When she gets more comfortable outside, you can probably use food again to speed the process up even more. I suggest purchasing a front clip harness like Ruffwear front range harness or webmaster harness. While you are still working on this, use something like a padded harness that is difficult to slip out of AND the martingale collar to help you control her. Have two leashes, one attached to each collar or harness. The collar should be the primary one she is getting used to being led around with to control her size but the harness can serve as a backup if she were to slip the collar. Take some treats and toys outside. Go somewhere calm and simply sit in the grass and act calm. You may want to tether her harness to a nearby tree using a longer leash, while you hold onto the shorter one attached to her collar - just in case. If you have a friend who can come with you that can also help you relax more - you want to be enjoying yourself and relaxed. Stay outside for an hour or two each time if you can - if you have less time, then at least thirty minutes will still help. Time is key here though. Don't expect to see too much improvement the first time you go, but do this regularly as often as you can to give her exposure. When she starts to become more relaxed you can also speed up the process by playing a game of tug with her, tossing her a ball a couple of feet, sprinkling larger treats into the grass for her to find (make sure that grass wasn't recently treated with pesticides though), or practicing fun tricks you have taught her and reward. Practicing obedience, like a structured heel can also help but because she is a flight risk, I suggest tethering her to a tree and helping her adjust that way before moving onto things that require more movement - where she might bolt. When she is less of a flight risk, working on commands outside can help. When she will take food again, you can also give a treat every time she sees something that might be a little scary to her - and she stays calm about it. Don't reward the fearfulness though, just her calmness, friendliness, or curiosity. Always keep your attitude calm, confident, and happy. She will be looking to your response to decide what's safe and not safe, so you don't want to act sorry for her or pet her a bunch when she acts nervous. Act upbeat and happy when she is nervous to show her that you aren't worried about the thing - your confidence is key. If she likes affection, you can pet as to encourage her confidence during times when she is being brave, calm, or friendly. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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