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My dog is petrified of humans including me

February 16th, 2010, 04:14 AM
I joined this forum in the hopes of getting some help with one of my dogs.

I have been a dog owner for the past 7 years (not including growing up with a dog) and in that time have owned many dogs, most of them rescues.

I have taken in dogs that have been abused and neglected to the extreme but I have never encountered a dog so petrified of humans as one of the dogs I have now.

Her name is Georgie, she is an 11month old Australian Kelpie. We live on a farm in Australia and my husband was working at a shearing shed in December last year when he heard about this dog. She was going to be shot by her owner so we decided to give her a home. The story is that she was locked in a large cage her whole life...little to no human contact, no contact with other dogs or anything. I think she had to have been physically abused to explain just how scared she is.

When my husband brought her home, she was in the back of the ute and the fear in her eyes and the energy of fear was very very strong. I tried the general patting, gently talking while being confident etc. By the next day she hadn't moved from where she was tied up and I decided to just let her run free because I was pretty sure she wouldn't move anyway due to extreme fear.

I was right and she didn't move an inch for about 3 days. When she started to move, she would crawl along the ground only going a few feet at a time. The graduated to her creeping along with her tail between her legs to her eventually walking properly but never going more than a few metres away from our house. After a month or so, she started following me on walks and going with my husband and helping with sheep work etc. In this time I would sit outside and let her come to me, she'd come forward then run back etc. A month back, she was at the stage where she would run up to me and give me a cuddle and all seemed to be progressing well. She gets along well with our 5 other dogs and plays very well with them.

Things went downhill when I suspected she had mastitis from a phantom pregnancy, during a cuddle session I tried to have a look and she yelped when I touched her teat. They seemed so bad that I had to get her and hold her down to have a look properly. I got some drugs from work (i'm a vet nurse) to treat it which cleared up, but after me having to hold her down to have a look, she has not come near me since. She wags her tail and jumps around when she sees me, but I am no longer able to touch her.

I have horses and she has become very naughty by running behind them and nipping at their fetlocks when I ride which is so dangerous so this afternoon I had no choice but to catch her and now try and work through this extreme fear she has. I didn't want to do it this way, I wanted to let it all be her choice, but I don't want to be in a wheelchair as a paraplegic because of a bad fall off my horse, wishing I had taken action sooner! Not to mention she could be kicked and seriously injured or killed.

When I caught her this arvo (gently by the collar) she just yelped with fear. I feel terrible at doing this but I really dont' have much choice. I have been sitting with her while she is tied up, she won't lead, any pressure on a lead sends her into a frantic panic where she tries to pull back, bite the lead etc.

I just wonder if anyone has any ideas at all about what I can do to help her to trust me, exercises to teach her to lead etc.

As I said, I do have much experience with dogs like this, but they have ALWAYS come right around at this point and lived in my back pocket, she is just too scared to take a chance and trust me.

Thanks in advance

February 16th, 2010, 05:05 AM
It's unfortunate that you had a few setbacks but, you did what you had to do to keep her and you safe and healthy.

You were making slow but sure progress taking the "Slowly, slowly, softly softly" approach. Nothing wrong with that and it is most often the absolutely right overall approach to take with neglected and unsocialized, fearful dogs. Is there a possibility of adding a little of the Nothing In Life is Free philosophy?

In example, if she is food-motivated and not food-territorial use her mealtime as a means of increasing your physical nearness to her leading up to your physical handling of her. Sit by her bowl as close as she will allow and day by day decrease the distance between you. Be confident, in fact, I would greet her in a level tone of voice then ignore her. Praise her when she nears and eats, but don't over-estimate what she will allow and as long as your being realistic in your expectation of her don't give in and be consistent. Once the distance issue is overcome, you can take on physical handling (unless she is territorial) ~ she will need to earn her food before she gets it by allowing you to touch her starting with a short-lived, soft touch leading to a longer period of stroking and patting.

Use tempting treats like liver while you are introducing her to on-leash life using the same incremental (softly softly slowly slowly) with a dose of NILF approach.

If she is play-motivated, introduce interactive games (throw a ball, tug-o-war with a rope, chase) to her play-time. She may feel more confident in you and herself if you initially include a trusted and well-socialized dog in your game at the onset.

It takes time and there will be set backs but you'll get there eventually.

March 1st, 2010, 04:04 PM
I am new so take what I say with a grain of salt, but as I see it a dog in this situation is not so different than a human. The dog has a low self esteem and you need to follow the above advice, and give praise for ever step she takes in the right direction. You need to boost her confidence in herself and with that her confidence in you should hopefully follow.

March 1st, 2010, 04:13 PM
These are the types of dogs that I re-hab. Sorry I did not see this thread earlier but if the OP is reading, please try this.

You need another well balanced dog to assist you. Attach both dogs together (by leash, or cord whatever). Have your dog come to you when called, walk outside...etc. The other dog has no choice but to follow. You give your approval verbally to both in a very upbeat manner. Do not coddle either dog.

Brushing is very theraputic as well. Again - your dog attached to this dog. If the dog protests the brushing - stop. Next day glide the brush over the body once. Refrain until the next day....keep this up until the body starts to relax.

Do not try so hard. Let the dog learn behaviours from the well balanced dog. You are only facilitating the interaction once this dog understands that you mean no harm.

Also - find out what stimulates the dog. Food? Walks? Use whatever the dog responds to in order to build a bond/trust.

Best of luck and don't give up.:thumbs up

March 2nd, 2010, 08:17 AM
thats exactly the types of dogs I'm sent often, My own dog is laid back, sooooo friendly, she's never met a human, animal, bird she hasn't liked and she is a great influence on other animals, she is actually the trainer, not myself, I just go along for the ride and let Brina do her thing, she's gone nose to nose with fawns in the yard with the moms looking on, so like others have said, let one of your other pets break the ice and have patience, the scared dog will soon relax and once it starts it goes by leaps and bounds, as for the set back, don't stress on it or the dog will stress out also, good luck!!

Golden Girls
March 2nd, 2010, 09:00 AM
Brina certainly has earned her "re-hab" wings :lovestruck: I remember when you 1st rescued Skylar aka Whisper and how terrified she was of hubby, didn't take long before Brina showed her the way.

I cannot offer any advice I just like to say good luck and keep us updated :)

March 2nd, 2010, 09:02 AM
Brina thanks you GG.....and is wondering when you're bringing her playmates back.....

March 2nd, 2010, 11:38 AM
Back to the original thread...

Any updates? I am curious how you are doing.

We are here to support you and wish you the best.:thumbs up