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VickiNC
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PostSubject: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:34 pm

Hi.

I'm new here, and I hope someone might be able to offer some advice.

Yesterday, I picked up a little dog who I agreed to try to foster for a friend who runs a dog rescue. This little dog was on her last day at a local shelter, and she was about to be euthanized. She is a tiny beagle, about 15 pounds, and around two years old (according to the shelter). We don't know anything about her history, but she clearly has been traumatized in some way, because she's terrified of everything -- especially people.

She doesn't bite or growl; she tries to run away when anyone comes near her. If she can't run away, she just cowers and trembles. She's quiet in her crate, but it's difficult to get her out of the crate because she pulls back, trying to stay in. When she's picked up to take outside to go potty, she gets so scared that she looses control and urinates/defecates down the side of the person trying to pick her up. It's impossible to pull her along on a leash though, so she has to either be picked up and taken out or allowed to potty in her crate.

Once outside, she just sits and trembles. She seems to be terrified of anything that moves -- another dog, a leaf blowing off a tree, a bird flying overhead -- anything.

She does seem to be fairly comfortable in her crate, but the only time she's not trembling in fear is when she's in her crate and she can't perceive anyone nearby. As soon as she realizes there is anyone near te crate, she starts trembling again.

I'm not sure what to do to help her. Obviously, this isn't something that can be solved quickly, but I'm not sure what, if anything, might help.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 06, 2011 6:15 pm

Working with fearful dogs is a very touchy thing. The goal is to interact with the dog without causing MORE fear. This is hard to do. There are a few times that you will need to help the dog through something, but for the most part, she needs to do things at her own pace. By doing things on her own, she will slowly build confidence. Your encouragement is critical. So is your patience! You will be tested, but you MUST be positive and up-beet at all times.

In your case, it sounds like she is very close to shutting down. If she does, this will get much harder. She is obviously got trust & self esteem issues.

I would suggest (for now) that you work to build her trust in you. Everything that happens in her world must be a GOOD THING. And all good things come from you!

Put the crate in a quiet corner of the room where the door is visible to your main living area (kitchen, living room, den etc). Cover the crate with a blanket or towel to make it like a below ground "den" were she will feel safe.

Leave the door to the crate open with the door facing into the room so she can see what's going on. Then, just go about your daily business. DO NOT approch the crate.

However, on occasion, walk by the crate (at a distance) and drop a small bit of a "smelly" treat (Beggin' Strip, TBonz or even a small piece of cooked chicken) inside the open door of the crate as you walk by. DONT STOP, keep moving and go sit down where she can see you. But make sure you are AWAY from her.

When she's comfortable with that, drop a few small pieces outside the crate in front of the door. At first it may take her some time to come out. Don't rush ... take it at her pace! And DONT sit to close. She needs to figure out that you are not going to invade her space, and that you are not going to take the treats back!

Do this until she will come out as soon as you drop the treat.

BTW, When she takes the treat, just say (very softly) "Good Doggie" ... and nothing more!!!

Once she comes out without hesitating, increase the distance between the door and the treat. Then you can sit on the floor at a "longish" distance and gently start tossing the treats toward the kennel door. Slowly work the dog toward you by using the treats. When shes finally in same area with you, you can start putting the treats all around you.

DON'T EVER try to touch her. And never look her in the eye, or stand over her. This will cause fear. Let her come to you.

Over a course of time, you should be able to get her to take treats off of your lap. It may take days, weeks or even months ... but you have to stick with it. If you have set-backs, that's OK. Just take a few steps back and start again.

It's also good to keep verbal communications to as very few words as possible. If you must say something, speak softly (like you are talking to a newborn baby).

You may need to keep the TV turned WAY down, and any kids need to be kept calm and quiet when they are around her.

As for potty time, you need to get her to come out of the crate by herself. If you are reaching IN, she sees this as you are invading her "safe zone" ... That's why she is shaking when anyone comes near the crate. If you have to "take" her outside, take her "crate and all". Then coax her out with a toy or treat. For a while, you may need to make a "safe" area for her to potty. Somewhere where she wont be frightened by dogs, leaves or other things.

Here is another great article that you may find helpful. http://k9domain.org/fearful.aspx

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VickiNC
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 06, 2011 8:27 pm

Thanks for responding.

I will do my best to follow your advice. The only part which will be difficult for me will be carrying her crate outside for her to go potty. She's a small dog, and her crate isn't huge, but I'm a very small person . . . and I have a bad wrist, which makes lifting and carrying the crate impossible for me to do by myself. I can see that you're right, though; it frightens her to have me pull her out of the crate, so I'm not sure what to do about that.

If you have any other advice, please let me know.

Thanks again.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:20 pm

Poor little thing. I've been going through something similar, but not nearly as severe, with a dog I adopted about a month ago. She had been kenneled her entire life, not allowed to interact with many humans, and dogs only through the kennel fence.

You've gotten great advice from Michael. I don't know what to add to it except that I think I would ignore the fearful behavior when it's just normal everyday stuff. Make yourself available to her in a non-threatening way as often as possible. Maybe you could sit on the floor near her to do some household chore like folding clothes. Talk to her, to other people, sing, whatever, but let her get used to your voice. It can take time, but once you can start rewarding progress, it'll happen faster. Have you figured out a high value reward for her? something she seems interested in besides her crate? You need to find something she's willing to work for but it may take awhile to figure out what that will be. She may not have ever bonded with a human before. That's the ultimate goal.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Mon Nov 07, 2011 8:49 am

I have another question.

The rescue has scheduled her to be spayed later this week. I understand she needs to be spayed, but based on the advice above, I'm wondering whether we ought to put it off for at least a month or two.

In order to be spayed, I'm going to have to put her in a small travel carrier, and drive her over an hour away (she "lost control" in the travel carrier on the shorter drive to my house from fear). Then quite a few people will have to handle her before and after the surgery. Then she'll have to travel back home -- probably groggy but knowing that something unpleasant happened to her, and she'll have to be medicated for several days and have her incision site checked twice daily for signs of infection.

I'm afraid that all of this will be too much for a little dog who is already so terrified.

Would it be better to wait on the surgery -- or get it over with? I can easily keep her confined so there is no risk of her being in contact with a male dog should she go into heat.

Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Mon Nov 07, 2011 9:09 pm

VickiNC wrote:
I have another question.

The rescue has scheduled her to be spayed later this week. I understand she needs to be spayed, but based on the advice above, I'm wondering whether we ought to put it off for at least a month or two.

In order to be spayed, I'm going to have to put her in a small travel carrier, and drive her over an hour away (she "lost control" in the travel carrier on the shorter drive to my house from fear). Then quite a few people will have to handle her before and after the surgery. Then she'll have to travel back home -- probably groggy but knowing that something unpleasant happened to her, and she'll have to be medicated for several days and have her incision site checked twice daily for signs of infection.

I'm afraid that all of this will be too much for a little dog who is already so terrified.

Would it be better to wait on the surgery -- or get it over with? I can easily keep her confined so there is no risk of her being in contact with a male dog should she go into heat.

Thanks.
Wow, good question! It's kind of a 50-50 thing in my mind. At 2 years old, I dont think waiting a few months is any big deal. If you can keep her away from males while she is in heat it might be better to allow her to build her confidence for a few months.

On the other hand, if you get it out of the way now, you won't have to worry about having a major set-back down the road a few months.

But I'm afraid that b/c she a foster this decision might be out of your hands.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:49 pm

Lady (the little rescue beagle) was spayed yesterday. Unfortunately, it turns out she was pregnant. (I thought she might be, but the vet said "no" before the surgery but discovered she was during the surgery.) Anyway, she's spayed now and seems to be okay.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to have to pull her out of her crate and handle her at least twice a day because I have to check her incision site for infection. I hope that the handling won't make it more difficult for her to learn to trust me.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sat Nov 12, 2011 11:40 am

VickiNC wrote:
Lady (the little rescue beagle) was spayed yesterday. Unfortunately, it turns out she was pregnant. (I thought she might be, but the vet said "no" before the surgery but discovered she was during the surgery.) Anyway, she's spayed now and seems to be okay.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to have to pull her out of her crate and handle her at least twice a day because I have to check her incision site for infection. I hope that the handling won't make it more difficult for her to learn to trust me.

Just be very easy with her, talk softly and reassuring to her. If she starts to get upset put of some gloves and something with long sleeves so you dont get bit, but more importantly so you wont drop her. You may also be able to put her in your lap for a few minutes if she's OK with it.

Remember, you are just trying to build trust.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:00 pm

After I take her out of the crate and check her incision, she will let me hold her in my lap. But I don't think she likes it -- it's more that she's too scared to move. She's very docile, and she's never made any attempt to bite or snap. In fact, she's been with me over a week, and she hasn't made a single sound of any kind.



Last edited by VickiNC on Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Tried to add a photo of Lady but couldn't find the "Browse" button.)
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 13, 2011 1:42 pm

VickiNC wrote:
After I take her out of the crate and check her incision, she will let me hold her in my lap. But I don't think she likes it -- it's more that she's too scared to move. She's very docile, and she's never made any attempt to bite or snap. In fact, she's been with me over a week, and she hasn't made a single sound of any kind.

If she's staying in your lap take advantage of it. Maybe put some small bits of treats next to you and give her one from time to time, when she takes the treat follow up with a "Good Doggie" or something calming.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:13 pm

I've adopted two senior beagles. Both came from loving homes, though one did have to go through a horrible experience because her owner passed away, then she was left alone with him for ten days before someone stopped by and discovered what had happened. In their case, they kept their distance from me for a couple of days, though they bayed when I left the house, then suddenly lost their fear and became very comfortable. The change was fast once they decided it was a safe place. I'm hoping that your scared foster will do the same, even though she's much more scared than my adopted dogs. Change can be incremental, or it can seem to "suddenly" happen.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Wed Nov 16, 2011 7:18 pm

I've had my fingers crossed for days now hoping this little girl comes around.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Thu Nov 17, 2011 12:04 pm

We're making some progress.

I have to take her out of the crate a few times a day to check her incision, so I spend some time holding her, stroking her ears, and telling her she's a good girl. Then I take her outside for a few minutes before putting her back in her crate.

I have a small fenced yard, about 18 ft by 18 ft inside my larger fenced yard -- and inside the small fenced yard, I have a little puppy pen set up, so I don't have to chase her when it's time to go back inside. But the past two days, I've been able to let her out in the small fenced yard (instead of the puppy pen), and she's let me walk up to her and pick her up when she's finished going potty -- as long as i approach her very slowly. That might not sound like a huge accomplishment, but the first few times I tried it, it took two people to "corner" her to pick her up and bring her inside, because she kept running away.

She won't take treats from my hand yet, but she'll put her nose toward my hand and sniff them. And she'll eat while I'm in the room, instead of waiting until I leave the room.

Baby steps.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:24 pm

VickiNC wrote:
We're making some progress.

I have to take her out of the crate a few times a day to check her incision, so I spend some time holding her, stroking her ears, and telling her she's a good girl. Then I take her outside for a few minutes before putting her back in her crate.

I have a small fenced yard, about 18 ft by 18 ft inside my larger fenced yard -- and inside the small fenced yard, I have a little puppy pen set up, so I don't have to chase her when it's time to go back inside. But the past two days, I've been able to let her out in the small fenced yard (instead of the puppy pen), and she's let me walk up to her and pick her up when she's finished going potty -- as long as i approach her very slowly. That might not sound like a huge accomplishment, but the first few times I tried it, it took two people to "corner" her to pick her up and bring her inside, because she kept running away.

She won't take treats from my hand yet, but she'll put her nose toward my hand and sniff them. And she'll eat while I'm in the room, instead of waiting until I leave the room.

Baby steps.
This is GREAT news .... I am SO VERY happy to hear this! It sounds like she is starting to trust you. Go slow and easy, Like you said, "Baby Steps".

Has she show any interest in toys yet?

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sat Nov 19, 2011 5:58 am

I think this is huge progress! It means that she IS able to bond with a human.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Nov 20, 2011 12:07 pm

Toys: I have a small stuffed dog toy in her crate, and she doesn't seem to be afraid of it, at least. There are a few other toys scattered around the outside yard, but she's never paid any attention to them. When she's outside, she's always looking around, wide-eyed. like she's afraid of being attacked by something . . . so I don't think she's ready to play yet.

A few times now, when I've gone outside to get her after she potties, she's taken a few tentative steps in my direction before sitting (more cowering, really, but at least holding still) and waiting for me to pick her up.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:48 pm

VickiNC wrote:
Toys: I have a small stuffed dog toy in her crate, and she doesn't seem to be afraid of it, at least. There are a few other toys scattered around the outside yard, but she's never paid any attention to them. When she's outside, she's always looking around, wide-eyed. like she's afraid of being attacked by something . . . so I don't think she's ready to play yet.

A few times now, when I've gone outside to get her after she potties, she's taken a few tentative steps in my direction before sitting (more cowering, really, but at least holding still) and waiting for me to pick her up.

How are the inside sessions going? Is she out of the crate? Ids she coming to the treats?

No matter what, just keep going at it easy. Every time she does something and she is not threatened, it will help to build her confidence. Keep setting up low stress, POSITIVE situations.

The stuffed animal is a great idea. You may be able to work with that at a later time!

When she starts to come to you outside, are you standing? If so, maybe crouch down or drop slowly to your knee. This will show that you are not a threat to her. Also, if you have a smelly treat, she may come to the smell!

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Wed Nov 23, 2011 12:54 pm

The main rescue coordinator picked Lady up last night, so she can begin efforts to place Lady into an adoptive home now that she's recovered from her spay surgery.

It's one of those 50-50 things, I guess. If she can find a really kind, patient person with a quiet, stable home situation -- it will be easier for Lady to bond to one person rather than bond to me and then be moved and start over again.

We did make some progress . . . so I really hope things work out.
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:44 pm

You gave her a safe haven and a better than fair chance at a happy life! Kudos to you and I wish there were more people like you!
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:40 pm

VickiNC wrote:
The main rescue coordinator picked Lady up last night, so she can begin efforts to place Lady into an adoptive home now that she's recovered from her spay surgery.

It's one of those 50-50 things, I guess. If she can find a really kind, patient person with a quiet, stable home situation -- it will be easier for Lady to bond to one person rather than bond to me and then be moved and start over again.

We did make some progress . . . so I really hope things work out.
It too bad you didnt get to see it thru, but you did a great job with the small amount of time you had. Now she'll get a great home with caring owners who can move forward with what you started.

BTW, I had a brief encounter of my own yesterday. One of my computer customers told me that she has been looking after a stray pitbull-mix that is living in an abandon house in there neighborhood. She was very hesitant to show me the dog because she said it is afraid of men. But after about 5 mins the dog had warmed up to me. I hope I get a chance to work with her some more, and Im trying to find her a home too.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:34 pm

I'll stay in contact with the rescue and try to let you know how she does. As I said, with a kind, patient, quiet person, she should be okay.

Thanks for the good advice.

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Mon Dec 26, 2011 8:44 pm

I thought you might like to know that the little beagle, Lady, has been successfully placed into an adoptive home. She did regress a bit after she left my home, but within a week the rescue was able to place her with a single, mature lady who was willing to spend extra time working through her fears, and she's been making steady progress since her placement.

Meanwhile, I've taken on a "replacement" foster -- another little beagle from the county shelter. This one was found in the woods by county animal control with her foot caught in a steel "bear claw" trap. The poor little thing was at the shelter for five days, without any vet treatment for her injured foot, before we were able to get her released. When I brought her home, she was almost as terrified as Lady had been, but she's healing, and she's making good progress in overcoming her fears. (Actually, much faster progress than Lady made.) So I'm hopeful we'll be able to get her into an adoptive home in a few weeks.

Thanks again for all the help!
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:04 am

Great news about Lady ... Glad to hear she got into a situation that will work for her.

I'm sure you will do well with the new girl too ...

Wishing you all the best !!!

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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:14 am

Thanks for the update on Lady! Sounds like a good home for her.

And your new foster...wow...
I found a dog in a trap like that once but it was much too late. Those things are horrible. Seriously? Glad she's in a safe place now and I'm sure she'll do well. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: How to help a terrified dog   Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:17 pm

Hello, I have the same problem that the Lady with the small dog VickiNC. My new dog is a 50 lb. Border Colle and refuses to get out of the crate to go potty or whatever. So far he's been there all day without going potty at all, if I try to take him out he goes cracy. Can somebody help
Thanks
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