Pets.ca - Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 

-->

Please Help *VERY* fearful dog

peppersprout
June 12th, 2007, 07:39 AM
So, Im new here and in desperate need of help. We have a 1.7 year old lab/collie named jojo that my husband and I got by answering an ad in the local paper. She was 10 months when we got her (last September) and she is incredibly fearful of people.

She's wonderful with us, but if anyone comes over/walks past on the street/plays in the adjoining back yard/etc she has a bark that makes you think shes going to attack you.

It's VERY scary and we've had people jump in fear and she has caused a few children to cry. It's horrible. We've tried inviting people over specifically to try and help her calm down, it doesnt work. She gets so worked up barking at them theres nothing we can do. She doesn't respond to treats (food or otherwise). We took her to our cottage last fall and she didn't eat for 3 days. We tried everything and all she did was hide until it was time to go.

I have no idea what to do. I'm heartbroken at the idea of giving her away, but I have NO idea how to handle this behaviour, it hasn't gotten any better ~ in fact the other week we had our neighbour over to look at our garden and jojo tried to bite her heels.

Im at my wits end and don't know how to handle this dog anymore. We live in the city but take her to an off leash park and she LOVES it, she hides and tries to herd us, and only barks at people when they look at her. It makes me think maybe she needs to be on a farm somewhere.

Please.
Help.

jessi76
June 12th, 2007, 08:25 AM
I'm confused as to why you think she's fearful... because she barks? or has a scary bark? or doesn't have manners? sounds to me like a bit of training may go a long way w/ jojo.

you should keep her on leash, so you can correct her if need be. expose her to people in the yard (always keep her on leash!), expose her to people walking by, neighbors coming over, etc.... REWARD good behavior and give a sharp quick tug at the leash to remind her that barking, nipping, jumping, etc... is not permitted, dont' hurt her w/ the "tug" - be kind, but firm. it's to focus her on YOU and let her know that behavior isn't allowed. but you must give her another option, so teach her commands such as sit, stay, wait, watch me, QUIET, and DOWN. options which will earn her praise.

Contacting a trainer is probably the best idea to start. choose one who uses positive training techniques, learn how to communicate effectively with your dog, learn what motivates your dog (high value food rewards, toys, praise, etc..), and practice EVERY DAY. I think this is something that can be controlled easily, she may be fearful of certain things for quite some time, but you should be able to manage it w/ some positive training and effort.

peppersprout
June 12th, 2007, 10:33 AM
I thank you for your quick reply, and I did leave quite a bit of detail out because otherwise this would have been an incredibly long thread and I wasn't really sure what was useful information v. not.

So, she's fearful because when she encounters a person she barks violently and runs. If she's in our house she run to another room and continue barking. Her back legs are shaking and her tail is between her legs. We've tried to reassure her by sitting with her and stroking her ear and telling her "it's ok, your ok" and the like. This was advice we received from a trainer. We were also told by the same trainer that she would require 1:1 due to the nature of her issues. She doesn't have obeidence issues persay(she will sit, stay, is housebroken, etc) but rather serious personality problems that couldn't be solved in a group setting. A personal trainer is $300+. That's for 3 one hour sessions where she comes to the house and tells us how to help jojo by exposing her to her 'fear', and then rewarding her with a treat (TREATS do not work with this dog, she will refuse them ALL when afraid).

When we tried this she will be fine for the moment we are with her reassuring her but when we let go (in our house) she'll run around the rooms barking at the person who is over. She has also peed on the spot when my husband came into the room holding a wine bottle. She peed, yelped and ran up the stairs.

All this leads us to believe she is a fearful dog. The difficulty I've encountered is that all the infomation out there talks about a fear of things. Limiting that *thing* until your dog is able to deal with it, and rewards when they don't react fearfully. My question is how do we deal with a dog that is fearful of PEOPLE? When we walk out the front door on a leash she lashes out by violently barking at people walking by while desperately trying to 'get away' from them by pulling. We've tried several different leashes and the only one that has worked (somewhat) is the one that goes under the arms of the dog and pinches when they pull. This worked to a point, but when she saw a man approaching on our street she yelped and pulled to the point that I wasn't able to calm her down and she slipped the leash and ran.

So, if obeidence training is not an option, and she doesn't respond to treats and appears to become MORE fearful when exposed to people ~ what do we do?

Anything?

jessi76
June 12th, 2007, 11:18 AM
So, she's fearful because when she encounters a person she barks violently and runs. If she's in our house she run to another room and continue barking. Her back legs are shaking and her tail is between her legs. We've tried to reassure her by sitting with her and stroking her ear and telling her "it's ok, your ok" and the like. This was advice we received from a trainer.

IMO, this only reinforces the fear. you are giving affection while she's acting this way - this promotes the fear. instead I'd work on focusing her on YOU - if treats dont' work, use a toy (a special toy only used for training - a high value toy), or simply use praise and affection. I agree to expose her, but start small, and for short intervals. when she's afraid and shaking - ask her to for a WATCH ME - make eye contact - reward - GOOD GIRL!!!. Jojo, sit. GOOD GIRL. stand in front of her if need be so she HAS to focus on YOU and can ignore the fear.

i.e. - my dog was scared of kids on bikes. on our walks, kids on bikes = shaking, tail between legs, very anxious dog. now, kid on bike comes by, I get in front of my dog... Tucker, watch me! good! Tucker sit! good! watch me! good! I keep him in a calm sit-stay focused on ME, the kids go by, he doesn't react or give in to his fear - fear slowly diminishes.

When we tried this she will be fine for the moment we are with her reassuring her but when we let go (in our house) she'll run around the rooms barking at the person who is over. She has also peed on the spot when my husband came into the room holding a wine bottle. She peed, yelped and ran up the stairs.

I would not permit my dog to run around barking at guests. if the dog can't behave w/ guests, the dog should be controlled. Either keep the dog on leash (as I stated before), or have the dog maintain a down-stay in a certain spot (or crate).

So, if obeidence training is not an option, and she doesn't respond to treats and appears to become MORE fearful when exposed to people ~ what do we do?

training IS an option, don't write it off just because your dog doesn't like treats, or you think her issues are too great. it is possible, you need to find the right trainer, and the right type of training.

Tenderfoot is a user on this board. She has some really top notch advice on issues, I'd encourage you to PM (private message) her, or search her posts for advice.

If I were you, I wouldn't write off training, and certainly not the dog. It sounds like w/ some real effort and consistancy, it can be dealt with.

mummummum
June 12th, 2007, 11:19 AM
So, she's fearful because when she encounters a person she barks violently and runs. If she's in our house she run to another room and continue barking. Her back legs are shaking and her tail is between her legs. We've tried to reassure her by sitting with her and stroking her ear and telling her "it's ok, your ok" and the like. This was advice we received from a trainer. We were also told by the same trainer that she would require 1:1 due to the nature of her issues.

The advice your trainer gave you is about the opposite of what I understand. When you reassure her by stroking and speaking softly to her during and after her display of aggressive/fearful/submissive behaviour you are reinforcing in her mind that she is doing a "good thing", that she is right to be fearful/submissive/aggressive and her bark/nip and run response is appropriate.

I also think you need a 1:1 trainer ~ but not that one. I know it's a lot of money but, your dog is a part of your family and the alternative of living with this behaviour for the rest of her life certainly isn't something you want to do. Giving up a member of your family when a problem IS completely solvable isn't something I could ever consider.

There are lots of good books and videos on dealing with anxiety and fear-aggression. Maybe you could start with those and recruit a trusted family friend to help with the re-education (it is a slow, baby-steps process) until you've saved enough money for a 1:1 trainer.

SableCollie
June 12th, 2007, 03:02 PM
IMO, this only reinforces the fear.
There has been a lot of debate about this, but the consensus with professionals now is that you cannot reinforce fear. It is possible you may be reinforcing the behaviour, which is what you have to be careful of, but you are not going to reinforce the emotion.

If your dog is refusing treats when afraid that means she is over threshold. You have to find her threshold (will she take treats when a person is, say, 50 feet away from her? What is the distance at which she starts showing fear? That is her threshold. You must work with her when she is under her threshold, or you are accomplishing nothing.) If you want to work through this, you are going to have to have patience and dedication. It will be a process of desensitization and counter conditioning.

Finding a certified behaviorist who has worked with fearful dogs in the past is an excellent idea, and well worth the money. I also recommend the books Help For Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde, and The Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell. Yahoo groups also has an excellent group called shy k9s (http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/shy-k9s/), which has many members who are going through (or have gone through) the exact same issues, and they have tons of great advice. Also check out http://fearfuldogs.com/, it has quite a bit of info.

Working with fearful dogs can be a long, slow process (or at least it can seem that way!) but hang in there, and good luck!!!!! :fingerscr

~michelle~
June 12th, 2007, 03:03 PM
i would keep the dog leashed to you at all times when out side and when people are over.
try not to allow her to bark and runaway when she sees people.
praise when she is doing the behaviour that you want her to exhibit.
be very diligent praise her the SECOND she does anything right if she stops barking for a sec praise. when she starts again try to correct her.


there are many books dealing with this as the others mentioned.
her being on a farm will not help her become less fearful of people.

peppersprout
June 12th, 2007, 03:17 PM
thank you all so much, this truly is helping! This has been a difficult 10 months and the past few days have been so difficult that it feels as though I've reached the end of my threshold. Hearing this advice has helped me to try alternatives for her. Just a few notes:

I would not permit my dog to run around barking at guests. if the dog can't behave w/ guests, the dog should be controlled. Either keep the dog on leash (as I stated before), or have the dog maintain a down-stay in a certain spot (or crate).

Do you mean a on a leash in the house? Because when she's inside and behaving this way I'm not sure what to do, so she usually ends up in our bedroom. We tried to 'crate train' her when we got her, but that didn't work ~ she whined the first night and when we woke in the moring she was shaking and had pooed everywhere. After that she wouldn't go in the crate unless we shoved her in, and I was told NOT to do this...:confused:

If your dog is refusing treats when afraid that means she is over threshold. You have to find her threshold (will she take treats when a person is, say, 50 feet away from her? What is the distance at which she starts showing fear? That is her threshold.

When she sees a person (on the street, just looking from our window) she becomes afraid, and appears so distracted with the fear that she won't take anything I try to give her as a treat (ex: freeze dried liver ~ she normally LOVES this, but not when she's afraid/ peanut butter ~ again, loves it when she's OK, but when the fear it's she won't even smell it).

So, I'm not sure how to 'work' with her threshold when she doesn't respond to any treaats.

be very diligent praise her the SECOND she does anything right if she stops barking for a sec praise. when she starts again try to correct her.


sorry if this sounds stupid, but by correct her, do you mean tell her "no barking" or should I say something else?

Thanks again for all the great info and I'm going to look into some of the websites mentioned.

SableCollie
June 12th, 2007, 03:32 PM
So, I'm not sure how to 'work' with her threshold when she doesn't respond to any treaats

If she is too scared to take treats, she is over threshold. There is a distance (and trust me, there is) where the person is far enough away that the dog will take a treat. This may be when the person is so far away they are no more than a speck on the horizon, standing very still. But it's there. You also have to use very high-value treats (meat or cheese), regular "dog biscuits" won't cut it. If the dog isn't really into treats, but loves toys, you can use toys, but treats are much much easier to use when desensitizing. I really recommend you join the shy-k9 group, they can walk you through this slowly, and have lots of experience in these issues.

And yes, you can keep her on a leash in the house, however from the level of fear the dog seems to have, forcing her to stay in the room with a stranger when she is too afraid to take treats could be counter-productive and make things worse. You may consider putting her in a safe spot away from people, until she is further along in the behavioural training process.

Melinda
June 12th, 2007, 03:44 PM
my dog had some of those same fears, is there any way you can hold off feeding her till a friend comes over, have the friend offer her food, even if not by hand, then a bowl of really good food, treat stuff, chicken, beef whatever, so she gets the idea strangers won't hurt....you were offered such great advice here!! I hope it all works out for you

BMDLuver
June 12th, 2007, 04:45 PM
I'm assuming when you say Collie that you mean Border Collie? If so, the heel nipping in your back yard is normal behaviour. She was herding the neighbour to where she felt she should be. This can be corrected by leaving a long lead on her and doing a small tug correction on the lead saying "leave it". If she backs off and does not approach again in a few minutes. A "good girl" and a treat are in order.

As for being fearful of humans, I own a dog who is very afraid of humans, sometimes even my husband. When we have company, we ask that they all ignore him. If he gets within a few feet of them we have given them a supply of treats that they quietly toss a distance from them saying "good dog".. If he is very stressed, we bring him upstairs, give him his favorite toy and he'll watch from the top of the stairs without any interference. He comes back down when he's ready and we treat all over again as he approaches the outsider. We do the same when we are at the cottage. He can now cope at the cottage about 10 feet from the crowd during dinner parties.

I think you need to find a training group that works with dogs to overcome their fears or cope with them more easily. She may never fully outgrow all of it but she can learn to gain confidence and greatly improve.

jessi76
June 12th, 2007, 06:51 PM
we can throw alot of advice at you, but it seems to me like you would benefit most from a hands on training experience. Perhaps if you posted your location someone can help you locate a trainer that would suit your needs.

there is alot of good advice here, but if you're not confident in applying it, following through, developing a system for dealing with fear, and being consistant, I don't see how change will happen.

to answer some questions you had... yes, I meant keep her on leash in the house. at all times around people and guests. the leash is for you to remain in control of the situation and in control of the dog.

with regard to crate training... crate training must be done right, from the start. sounds to me like it was introduced too fast, creating a negative experience. my dog was only in his crate for 30 SECONDS to start with... we gradually built up time in a positive manner, resulting in a crate trained dog. this takes time, and I don't think you should revisit the matter until you have the fear issue under control. (one issue at a time)

forget the treats all together. try to just get focus and attention on you using your voice and body language.

for correction, seek professional help. have a trainer show you how to correct a fearful dog. you don't want to inadvertently make things worse.

apparently we've all had a dog with some fear, and we've all dealt with it in our own way, but I see the same advice repeated... see a trainer/behaviorist for help. I really think it'd be in your best interest, and definitely money well spent.

Shaykeija
June 12th, 2007, 08:18 PM
I can how you feel but I cannot imagine the stress that poor dog is under. Good luck and I hope you can help your dog to get over it's fear.

mona_b
June 12th, 2007, 09:17 PM
I have no doubt that this is the reason the previous owner gave him up.And it sounds to me that he was not socialized as a pup.

Now you are having to "fix" what is broken.

I would strongly suggest you talk to a behaviorist.They can asses him,then help locate a trainer for his fear aggression.

A co-worker adopted an Eskie mix 6 months ago.Leo would go crazy and bark at everyone,not out of fear though.It's been 6 months and Leo is doing much better.I have been helping my co-worker work with Leo.

peppersprout
June 13th, 2007, 02:25 PM
thank you all very much.


I cannot tell you how much all your advice has meant to us. I began searching for behaviourists in our area (Ottawa, ON) and spoke with a trainer with Bark Busters. They seem to have a good philosophy and we are going to use them to help us; however, it's almost $500, and we don't have that much to spend right now, so we'll have to wait until September (my husband is a Graduate Student and I'm a stay at home mom and :stork-baby: in the winter, so our funds are quite limited right now).

I tried some of the techniques mentioned (taking her for a walk and rewarding her with praise when she DIDN'T bark, and correcting her with a command such as 'sit' when she did bark) and I was pretty suprised at how well it worked. It's going to be a long road a head of us, no doubt, but I feel a lot better knowing that her issues can be overcome.

To be perfectly honest, until i came to this site yesterday we we're planning to give her up. We were both heartbroken over the decission, but didn't see an alternative. Trying TRYING and trying more for 10 long months and NEVER seeing any improvement lead me to believe that we'd have to live the lives of hermits if we wanted peace in our home.

Thank you all again, and if you have any advice about Bark Busters, I'd love to hear it.

bendyfoot
June 13th, 2007, 02:42 PM
I don't know about Bark Busters, but I'm in the Ottawa area and we saw a 1:1 trainer earlier this year for our "problem child" Gracie. He works with the Canadian Canine Training Academy, and his name is Marty Walhin. WE LOVE HIM!!! Excellent teacher, no-nonsense but kind, great results, worth every penny. He'll do an evaluation/consultation at no cost to you. Worth looking into, TRUST ME!!!
Here's the link to his webpage: http://www.k9maxperformance.com

BMDLuver
June 13th, 2007, 03:30 PM
Look very carefully into the "trainer" you consulted with Bark Busters.

Search around for other alternatives as well. There are some really good trainers in the Ottawa area.

http://www.bytowndogobedience.org/ (I"ve met and sent adopters there)

http://www.ottawakennelclub.ca/training.htm (accredited trainers)

luckypenny
June 13th, 2007, 05:05 PM
I agree with BMDLuver, I would look around and inquire.

Be cautious, a good behaviorist/trainer will be able to speak with you over the phone (will listen to your situation and explain how they might be able to help) and will not promise you instant results.

An extremely experienced behaviorist I've had the opportunity to consult with in the Ottawa region is Cheryl Smith. You will find a contact # here:
http://www.cappdt.ca/trainers.jsp?d-49385-p=27

Forever Friends Dog Training ( http://www.foreverfriendsdogtraining.ca/ ), Bytown Dog Obedience, and Ottawa Kennel Club are all reputable behavior/training centers. Call each one and and see which offer services most appropriate to your needs.

Hang in there, you'll find the help you need.

Longblades
June 13th, 2007, 07:58 PM
Poor little girl and good for you for taking her. My experience with my very, very submissive girl may not be exactly the same but take what you will out of it. She did the same thing, rushing toward people we met when out on offleash walks, barking, then hiding behind me. However I noticed she did not do this with people I knew and greeted. She was just a puppy but I was quite concerned as Labs are reputed to love everybody. Two things helped her. I began to greet everyone as if they were my long lost friend. And I put her in a heel or a sit stay by my side and we worked on her obedience, which she excelled at. My theory is that somehow she thought it was her job to rush up and warn off strange people. By reinforcing her obedience I attempted to show her that it was my job to decide how we greeted people, not hers. I did NOT reassure her or pet her or even touch her, other than to sometimes just hold onto her collar when there was not enough time to put her leash on. This worked for us but I do have an atypical Lab who still does not like to be petted by strange people but she no longer seems to feel she has employ the "best defense is a good offense" behaviour with people.