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Dog is HANDS OFF with care

1607 Views 16 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Helly
This has been going on for sometime and I don't know what to do. I have a Shepherd mix (we think with lab as he is jet black) but other than his color, he is ALL German Shepherd. His temperament, shape, and even hair texture are all trademark Shepherd. He is extremely friendly but is also wary of strangers but not to the point of concern. He has been trained in obedience. My concern is that anytime something is wrong with him he won't let us near him to help. He had a hot spot over the winter and it was absolutely heart wrenching to get him to hold still, my husband had to hold him, so I could treat the affected area. Now, it seems, he has ear mites and he won't let me get near his ear to inspect it and/or clean it out to assess the situation. He also has a fear of going to the vets. When I took him for his shots last summer, it took me twenty minutes just to get him in the office. I literally had to get down on the ground and coax him in. Once we got in, he hunched down and barked at the vet (as he does with anyone he doesn't know.) I tried to explain to the vet that he wouldn't bite and was just scared but the vet made me keep him the waiting area and I had to hold my baby facing me in the waiting are while the doc administered his shots. He's such a dear part of our family and a total sweetheart, I just don't know what to do and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Not sure I can help with his fear of being handled but I with regards to his being a mix, I would say don't let his colour be a guide.

Many of the board members here have all black german shepherds (myself included). If you post a pic of your pup you might be pleasantly surprised by the reactions.
there's a pic of him in my avatar if you want to see him...he's such a sweetie
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How is he with everyday touching, brushing etc?
If you can find a picture of him standing, we can be sure but he looks all GSD to me. A few questions...

1. How old is he?

2. What is a normal week in his life look like? Where does he go, what does he do?

3. What do you do when he acts this way to other people and at the vet?

Answers will determine the advice.
I just love him! Do you have any more pictures of him? He looks just stunning! Looks to me like you have a purebred GSD. I can't be sure, but lots of us have solid black shepherds that are purebred. I bet he really is such a sweetie, too!

To fix your problem: Take a deep breath here... Stop thinking of your dog as your baby. You can love him, snuggle him, etc-- but he MUST accept handling of ALL parts of him. He is a dog. Handling is and must be a part of his life-- for his safety. It is not up to him what you will and will not touch, manipulate, handle on his body. Who's in charge in this relationship? Who is buying the kibble? .. and paying all his vet, toy, food, supplement bills? Lotsa loving, snuggling, kissing, and playing with our dogs.. but we cannot allow them to dictate what they want touched or not. For their safety, they need to accept handling when they are well.. because when they are sick, this will then just be rutine to have ears treated, nails clipped, hotspots treated, etc.. it will then be all ho-hum and no big deal to the dog-- and easy for you to treat him, too.

We practice doing things to our dogs that they do not enjoy.. so that they can learn to relax
and have no fear or discomfort at all when being brushed, restrained, teeth brushed, nails clipped-- in time, this becomes a happy, calm event for the dog. Restraint is something a dog can learn to accept. We show no sympathy when the dog struggles, we just continue doing what we are doing. No chit-chat or pleading. No big deal to have those claws clipped. Ho-hum. We keep sessions short and easy for the dog at first, so they have success after success at being restrained. Maybe we clip only 1 nail at a time. We are firm, fair, and very casual about it-- no babying, just ho-hum, matter of fact.. nothing to get worked up about. Clip-clip, nail is clipped and we're done for today! Gosh.. with such a firm, fair, confident leader-- what dog wouldn't relax in trust next time they need to be restrained?

If the problem is that he threatens you when you try to handle ears, hotspots, etc-- then professional help can guide you best, can support you in learning to be his leader. If the problem is simply that he doesn't like it and you stop because you do not wish to upset him, the solution is much easier: accept that he needs to accept things he is not thrilled with.. it is for his safety. Today it may be just an earmite infestation or a hotspot, but another time it may be something far more serious.

You can do this!
Do not worry. He will still love you if he must accept things he doesn't enjoy. Whining and squirming does not mean his heart is broken, it means that whining/squirming worked in the past, and he is intelligent enough to increase those things to control the situation.
Do not worry. Begin brushing him for just 2 minutes, or clipping only 1 nail at a time, or gently massage just one ear. Afterwards, no big praise party. A few gentle strokes and soft words of praise.. but no big deal. No hoopla. This is an event he can learn to feel c-a-l-m about.
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1. He is just over three years old.
2. I am home with him everyday but when we leave he has no sign of separation anxiety. The only quirk he has as far as that's concerned is he grabs a shoe and carries it around when we get home. We also have a chihuahua and they keep each other company. They're best friends. He has plenty of room outside to play and run and has never ran off. He is very attached to my son and plays with him outside a lot. He's very gentle, even if we try to help him when something is wrong. He just WON'T let us zero in on the problem spot i.e. his ear. He paws our hand away or just runs to some other spot, usually his crate.
3. I try not to acknowledge the behavior and tell him it's okay. He usually warms up to whoever it is after a while. Generally, however, I focus more on whoever he is skiddish around by letting them know that he is harmless and won't even nip at them. He's scared of flies for goodness sake.
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can see him a little better
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Handsome, handsome, HANDSOME!!
*swooooon* Looks like a solid black GSD to me.
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Ok, here's my $.02

The Vet
If the only time he goes to the vet is to get poked, proded or other painful things then he's right to be afraid!
Try taking him to the vets office for a visit. Once you get him in the door give him REALLY yummy treats and then leave. Practice this a couple times a week (if possible) and then add a little time sitting in the waiting room before you leave. Then have some of the staff come over and give him the YUMMY treats (like bits of cooked chicken - REALLY high value items). Finally make an appointment for just a quick physical with the vet. Let the vet know you are working on training the dog and you just want him (the vet) to come in the room, talk with you and (if the dog looks comfortable) runs his hands over the dog for a minute. Then give the yummy treats and leave.

Does he let you touch his ears when they AREN'T sore? If not, you need to start working on being able to touch him anywhere.

If he only have problems with the area that is sore then try this. Have your husband get a large wooden spoon and stir it around in a jar of peanut butter. You want the peanut butter spread around on the spoon so the dog has to work to lick it off. Then have your husband hold the dog and offer the PB spoon while you work on the sore area.

Be very matter of fact about it and use a firm (but not harsh) voice.
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Hi there!

Welcome to the forum! I have had a couple of shy dogs myself so I understand what you're going through. There are a couple of things that I would recommend:

1) There is a great Yahoo group called shyk9s. There are many knowledgeable trainers and dog owners with really shy dogs who offer one another advice and support.

2) Obedience classes can help both of you. At first it may be a very scary experience for your dog but it will ultimately help him gain confidence.

3) Really yummy treats (like string cheese, hot dogs, dehydrated meat, etc.) should be something you have on you at all times when he is in situations that scare him. Reward him for ANY small steps he takes that are not fearful and ignore (gently) the fearful behavior. I would introduce the NILIF that Patti mentions above with the really yummy treats. You need to gradually build his confidence and counter-condition him to help him get through his fears. You want to try to turn scary things into events that have positive outcomes for him. It is a slow process but really does work.

4) Here are some books that will help you:

-- I would read Patricia McConnell's book, "The Other End of the Leash." It will really help you understand dog behavior.

--There are some really helpful books on dealing with fearful dogs. Here is the most comprehensive: "Help for Your Fearful Dog: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fears," by Nicole Wilde. It's really a must read because it covers everything including understanding your own behavior, counter-conditioning, clicker training, positive reinforcement, herbs or drugs, T-Touch massage, etc, etc.

--Another book I really like is, "Click to Calm" by Emma Parsons. It is designed to use with dog aggressive dogs but I find her training methods very useful for lots of different situations. There is also a yahoo group for people who are counter-conditioning using clicker training:

-- Turid Rugas's book "Calming Signals" is also very helpful since you really need to learn to read your dog and respond appropriately. Actually, I see there is a more recent book called, "On Talking Terms with Dogs; Calming Signals."

--I have also heard good things about the book: "Help for your shy dog."

I adopted Basu at age 4.5 and he was an absolute wreck as he had been abused and neglected. However, after 3 formal obedience classes, daily counter conditioning and work with positive reinforcement and NILIF he improved so much that people didn't even think it was the same dog! It took years but really did work.

There are many others on here who have counter conditioned very fearful and/or shy dogs and hopefully they will add their suggestions as well.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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yes, he's super affectionate we can touch him anywhere as long it's not sore. Even this morning he was laying with me on the floor and I gradually pet him and moved slowly closer to his ear, but once I got to it, he pawed me away and ran here you go!

Good luck with the ear/touch thing-you have gotten good information. Dogs, like people, have differing sensitivities and you just have to keep trying until you find a way to do things. When Nina needed care, I would put little Snyder's cheddar pretzel pieces on the floor and she would get so into eating them she wouldn't mind the compress.
Snyder's? You from PA? I will continue to work with him and be in touch with my vet. I would like to thank everyone for their help and concern. God Bless all of you and thanks from Petey too!!
Yes-my dogs will do anything for those pretzel pieces! She would graze them off the floor while I would put a compress on a very sensitive area.

I got her when she was 8 and she was very touchy in a not nice way. Over time, she has gotten to be MUCH better and was even able to have a procedure using a local anesthetic because she is so tolerant of being handled now. It just took time and trust and treats!

With the ears, I have one that I have to sneak up on and put the Oticalm in her ear-I feel badly, but it works best that way-and I always offer a treat after I've done it. Then I have another who asks to have her ears done even though she doesn't need it-she asks to have her nails done...she has pack drive like you would not believe and loves to be pampered! She spoils me for other dogs though!
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I could be assuming to much, but it sounds like the dog is associating the handling with pain or discomfort because of the problems being cared for. You need to desensitize him to handling by doing it often, just routine inspections, etc.

Other good suggestions above, like rewards, etc. will help that. It will take a little time, but be patient.
That pup looks PB to me...mine is pure black...amazing how many people think he is a mix because of his color...gorgeous boy you have there
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