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Old 12-18-2012, 07:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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I think you should stick it out awhile longer. I rescued a 3yr old gsd from an abusive family I have had him close to 1 yr now. He was severely aggressive with all men when I got him and was nervous with anyone else. He didn't know what toys or bones were he knew no commands it was like training a giant puppy with all really bad habits and huge teeth food aggressive. He knows lots of commands now and is not aggressive with men anymore he is completely different. I couldn't even get within eye sigh of a man and he would go ballistic. He is wary of people, but is friendly and I like him like that.
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Old 12-18-2012, 07:10 PM   #12 (permalink)
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I mean, after 4 days a dog should be getting less afraid, not more so, right?
No. It takes about 2 weeks for dogs to start feeling comfortable in a new environment; especially shy or fearful ones. It can take 3-6 months for them to really feel "at home" and be completely relaxed. I'm speaking from years of experience in GSD rescue.

Again, I really encourage you to get a good positive trainer on board to help you guys through the process. No need to be discouraged that she won't come around, all that will do is hinder your progress.

Look for the yahoo group shy-k9s. There is a lot of good information there.

Having a shy dog around is especially hard for dog lovers but it really will pay off in the end if he can ignore her as much as possible, use soft tones and be careful about sudden movements.

RowdyDog had an excellent post.
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Old 12-18-2012, 08:54 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If you guys want this dog, I don't think you should give up yet. You just need to be realistic that you may always have a fearful dog. This doesn't mean that she can't learn to trust your fiance or anything, but be prepared to put in a lot of work and possibly always to manage her carefully if she is prone to reacting like this to stressful situations.

And also, you need to remember that we have not seen her or how you guys interact with her. We could be getting a mistaken impression or there may be something else going on that we are not seeing--I'd consult a trainer for sure before you get yourself too worked up.

Four days really is not a long time at all, and it sounds like you guys are putting way too much pressure on her (your fiance cornered her at least once to get a leash on her, he tried to get her to go out while you were at work, you mention he's not doing a very good job of ignoring her--which is understandable, it's hard to do until you get used to it, but it's necessary) so it doesn't surprise me that her fear is increasing. If she were reacting just somewhat fearfully I would not be concerned at all after 4 days, but since you say she's had extensive socialization (supposedly; there is always a chance the breeder is not being totally truthful of course) and this is a pretty extreme level of fear, that is why I think you need to be proactive about this.

I really think you should probably look at getting a positive trainer involved sooner rather than later. You and your boyfriend need to develop a detailed plan for settling her in and stick to it, and that will be easiest to do with someone working with her in person.

When you say she won't eat anything he touches, what are you using? Are you using just normal treats, or super high value ones like warm hot dogs? What happens if he feeds her and just walks out of the room completely...will she eventually eat it (even if it takes a few hours or whatever), or will she not even acknowledge it? Also, is he actually ignoring her other than to toss the treats, or is he sneaking glances and/or talking to her?

Even if she does have a weak temperament, if you guys just want her as a companion (which I'm guessing is the case since her hips don't concern you), it's not a death sentence as long as you're willing to deal with it, particularly since she doesn't sound like she's aggressive about it (for lack of a better term), just tries to hide. I have an extremely fearful, reactive dog who has turned out to be a fantastic companion (and actually an excellent working herding dog too) and after about 6 years he has learned to deal with most situations quite gracefully. However, when you own a dog like that, you will need to learn a lot about canine psychology, training and body language/behavior so that you can manage her in a safe and comfortable (for her) way.
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Old 12-18-2012, 10:51 PM   #14 (permalink)
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What happens if he feeds her and just walks out of the room completely...will she eventually eat it (even if it takes a few hours or whatever), or will she not even acknowledge it?
So I wrote that post right before I left for training, and when I came back just now I noticed this... Just to be clear, I was referring to her actual meals with this question. I'm wondering if she actually won't eat anything he has touched, or if she's just unwilling to eat with him in the room, or something like that.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:15 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Oh no, we aren't giving up yet I mainly just want to contact the breeder to get a better of idea of what she calls "socializing" because our friends agree that they don't think she was, or IF she was, it wasn't as extensive as the breeder led us to believe.

I have only seen her eat her food when he is away, or still in bed. As far as treats, it's hard to say. She would eat them from his hand the first day. The second and third day she would only eat them after they had been sitting on the floor for a while. And then the last two days she just hides in her crate whenever he is home. Even when I am here.

He works nights (5:30pm-2:00am) so I am the one who gets up with her, feeds her, takes her out etc. And since I am the first one home from work, I do this all over again at that point too. Unless we drastically change her eating patterns, I doubt he'll ever be the one to feed her.

Could it just be a simple matter that she isn't spending enough time with him? I am just thinking about this now; he spends 3 hours with her (where I am not present) - then she is alone for several hours - then I come home, spend 3-4 hours alone with her, and then he comes home - but it's bedtime for me and she comes to bed with me (otherwise she hides in the crate) and we don't want to lock her up all night, too.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:46 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Has she been checked by a vet to see if anything is physically wrong with her?

Outside of the suggestions that have been made (which are all wonderful!) this is the only other thing I can think of.

4-5 days is NOT unusual. I've never fostered / rescued older dogs (i.e. older than 6 months) so haven't experienced that.

I've worked with fearful dogs and have found that this works:

- approach from the side - never head on (you're challenging the dog ... not a good idea for a dog that's afraid)

- never FORCE the dog to do anything (cornering the dog to catch - probably put your fiance in her "bad" books for a bit

- soften your body language, tone of voice - mainly for your fiance ... he's a guy, he's "naturally" a bit scarier than the "smaller / quieter voice" of a female ... by softening body language ... don't come at the dog with shoulders squared, head held high ...

- don't move your arms around a lot ... this can be seen as either threatening or wth is that???

If your fiance can spend "quiet" time with the dog, that's the best way to go about it. A suggestion - you know your dog better than I do ... so it's an idea I'll put out there ... not something you MUST do ...

Have both of you and the dog go into a room (no crate in this room), and after a bit of time (when the dog is relaxed) YOU leave the room, leaving your fiance with the dog. Your fiance literally just sits there and does nothing, read a book, flip through a magazine. No eye contact with the dog. Just sits there. What is the reaction of the dog? Does she panic to get out of the room? Does she avoid? Does she, finally, after some time, come over to investigate your fiance?

Most dogs (I'm generalizing here!) will overcome their negative association after some time and come over and investigate. Your fiance could have pieces of hot dog starting at the bottom of his leg and moving up ... the smell of the food MIGHT be enough to entice her over.

When I got my quaker (a parrot) she was badly abused by whoever had her first. She had a broken wing and a broken leg. She was terrified of me.

For three months I sat beside her cage every night and for about an hour I read my book out loud to her. She got used to my presence, my voice, and using positive reinforcement and a mortgage paypment or two in seeds, finally managed to get her to come out of her cage. Another two months and I was able to have her step up onto my hand. It was a long long process, but it worked ... patience, calm, consistency and lots and lots of positive reinforcement.

I know my parrot's not like a dog ... but any animal that is fearful just needs to have time to trust.

Lots of luck
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Old 12-19-2012, 11:52 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I think that is a fantastic idea, Kyleigh. I have also had success befriending animals using similar methods, including a BLM mustang fresh off the range! Honestly, I think even him reading aloud while she's safe in her crate will help if you guys can't coordinate your schedules to do it together like Kyleigh suggests, or if she gets too worked up when you leave the room.

I don't think it's a time thing, necessarily. I would expect most dogs to bond with whoever spends the most time with them (though not all), but I wouldn't expect one to become fearful. I really think it's that he's done a couple of things that scared her, and since she was already uncomfortable with him and stressed out from moving, it sent her over the edge. I think him spending as much time with her as possible is a good thing, as long as he's willing to do it without putting any pressure on her.

I would actually probably crate her at night for the time being. I know it feels bad to us, but for a dog the crate is a safe and secure place where they can truly relax (if they're trained properly for it, anyway, which it sounds like she is since that's her hiding place). As long as you get her plenty of exercise in the evenings when you're home and let her stretch her legs a lot before you leave for work, she'll be fine and it may actually help her relax to spend a lot of time in her crate. Once she gets a little more settled in and less scared of your boyfriend, you can start leaving her out at night again.

Out of curiosity though, do you guys sleep together (you don't have to answer that publicly of course), and if so, what does she do when he comes to bed? I'm wondering if he's freaking her out when he comes in, so basically every night she's getting a little more reinforcement that he's a scary thing. I've had some problems with fearful foster dogs getting really weird about my ex when we were together because of this exact situation, so that's why I thought of it.

Basically right now, any scary experience she has with your boyfriend, even very small ones that you don't even notice, are just going to reinforce him in her mind as a frightening thing. She'll be like, "Of course he's scary; didn't you see him chase me out of bed?!" "Of course he's scary; he tried to drag me outside to do God knows what with me!" "Of course he's scary; did you see how he was staring at me?!" etc. That's why it's so important that he totally ignore her and not try to make her do anything. She needs to relax and go, "Oh, the world doesn't end when BF is around; he doesn't even care I'm here!" and then eventually, "Hey wait, is BF seriously giving me a treat? I'm just hanging out here," and then hopefully, "OMG here comes BF I love him and good things always happen when he is here!" It just has to be on her terms.

I know I keep kind of repeating myself here, I'm just concerned from what you said that your boyfriend isn't really getting it (and it is hard, like I said--dogs think very differently from us and it can be hard to get yourself in their mindset) and so giving you ways to think about it.
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Old 12-19-2012, 04:59 PM   #18 (permalink)
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LOTS of good advice above. I chime in not to repeat, but only to add that Liesl is also a weak-nerved dog who would run from strangers. It has taken LOTS of hours of exposure to strangers using the methods described above to get her to warm to them. Her progress has been aided by her maturing (she is two now).

You may have lots of (fun) work ahead of you in helping your dog gain the self-confidence she needs. It starts with your fiance. You said he is a dog lover--that is good, but sometimes that means someone who like dogs but is a little tone-deaf to the dog's reaction to them. They may believe that they can go up to just any dog, grab it around the scruff, look into its eyes, pet it, etc. In their experience every dog they've been around has responded positively to that, and they don't understand a dog who doesn't.

The point is, be sure fiance educates himself on the dog's perspective on him. It does not realize that his advances are innocent and friendly--it sees them as threatening. The long black beard makes him appear as a nightmarish alien creature. His size vaguely reminds the dog of a bear. Get the picture? He will need to become sensitive to the dog's perspective to advance his relationship with the dog.

It can be done and you will both have a wonderful dog, but it takes work. If you return the dog now, will the next owners be considerate enough to take the time to address this dog's needs? Honestly, are you both up to the task? Questions only you can answer.
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Old 12-20-2012, 02:58 PM   #19 (permalink)
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UPDATE:

We went in a completely different direction than was suggested here (not that we didn't attempt it). The breeder suggested leashing the dog, and have her be with Greg wherever he was (inside and out) with treats on hand to reward her for positive behavior.

Well, after 2 days of this I can say that we are on the right track now! We also had her sleep in her crate, instead of in our room for the first time last night, so not sure if that helped make a difference or not.

But, today my fiancee reports that she was 95% better; only slightly skiddish when he first got up, but now comes to him when he calls, has been following him around (with no leash needed!) and has even laid beside him and let him pet her.

When he came home last night, she was a bit scared when he first came into the house, but within 60 seconds, she had calmed down, and he took up the leash and she followed with no issues.

Our only problem now is this "happy tail" business O.o
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:11 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Very cool, I am so glad things are starting to work out!

This is a good example of why internet advice can never replace the advice of an expert who has actually seen the dog in person! I would never have recommended that, just because it would be too much for some dogs and wind up either making things worse or even escalating into aggression. My internet advice is always based on worst-case scenarios and very cautious, because I don't want to say, "Oh yeah, leash her up to him, it will be fine!" and then have him get bitten because that's too much for her! You did the right thing to ask the breeder for help, and I hope other people follow your example.

Kudos to you for the way you've handled this. I am sure you guys will be fantastic owners for her, and I am so glad things are on the right track.
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