My Dog Needs Help --- Call Me Please

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My Dog Needs Help --- Call Me Please

This is a discussion on My Dog Needs Help --- Call Me Please within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; I am becoming more and more confused by my dog. Pepper is a great boy, he has overcome huge adversity in his life (in and ...

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Old 09-19-2018, 12:29 AM
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My Dog Needs Help --- Call Me Please

I am becoming more and more confused by my dog. Pepper is a great boy, he has overcome huge adversity in his life (in and out of homes and pounds up until he was 5yo). But he has this thing where he exhibits anxiety over any action that is to his benefit (beside giving him food and water). His nails are "claws" because he cries and runs away when we ... open the drawer that has the nail trimmers... he runs and hides as soon as i pull the top off of the flea/tick meds that go on his back... bathing him has been an indoor and outdoor nightmare.
Yet, he'll come whenever I call him (inside), when his mom (my wife) is upset he crawls into her feet and pushes his head up into her lap, he comes over to me while I'm "in my seat" and butts his side and rear against me while looking at me like "daddy, I'm here for loves".

The dichotomy (and my confusion) comes from the fact the he shows every sign of believing that we (my wife and I) are his pack/family, yet he won't let us do the most basic things to keep him healthy. Bathing, brushing (fur and teeth), clipping his nails, ANYTHING that isn't: "let me out when I need to pee/poop", "feed me when I'm hungry", "give me water when I'm thirsty", and "give me pets when I'm lonely"... is treated with skepticism and outright fear, whenever it's presented to Pepper.

Please, help me give Pepper a good life. We got him from the pound when he was 5, and he's 6.5 now... We've both been trying our best to give him a good life. He deserves it. But I don't know enough to be a complete/good alpha for him.

Last edited by Shandula; 09-19-2018 at 07:40 AM. Reason: Removed personal information
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Old 09-19-2018, 07:39 AM
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How are you approaching basic care functions such as trimming nails? Most dogs arenít thrilled by it so a liberal number of treats, firstly just when you get the clippers out and Grady Kay building up to just trimming one nail, lots of praise, maybe next time two nails etc. apply the same principal to everything,ie treats, gradual introduction to the task and not going beyond the dogs comfort level at any one tome should help. Good luck.

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Old 09-19-2018, 07:46 AM
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Based on how your dog sounds, I would highly recommend that you bring in a positive reinforcement trainer to help you work through some of Pepper's fears.

Grooming and husbandry can be very stressful to dogs, either because they haven't been exposed to it, or because they have been physically restrained in order to accomplish the task resulting in an intense desire to escape.

He has food, water, shelter, and people who clearly care for him - he does have a good life! I would also start doing some fun training with him, silly tricks, or teaching him to look for treats.
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Old 09-21-2018, 06:00 PM
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Hi Marselonus,

This sounds so familiar to me. This is exactly the way my shy fearful cautious Gracie dog was to us. (And still is at times) And it was so confusing and perplexing to me as well.

Gracie wanted affection and love, and was ultra sweet, smart and well behaved--- but had SO many fears of what we humans may consider normal basic things, like grooming, etc.

I find it is best to not take any of it personally, and just realize it is Gracie's or Pepper's fears and anxiety that are causing them to be so cautious and/or aggressive when facing something they are fearful of. (unless you are doing things to increase his fear by improper fear inducing training methods)

But then the next step is to learn how to work with Pepper in an understanding, humane and gentle way. Yelling at him or punishing his fearful reactions (growling, barking, biting, air snapping, etc) will only make him more aggressive in most cases, since now he will be afraid of the trigger (nail trim,etc) AND afraid of your reaction to his fear display.

There are tons of great resources online to help with working to build confidence in a fearful anxious cautious dog. I love studying/reading articles from websites like Patricia McConnell's "The other end of the leash"
She is a PhD, CAAB applied animal behaviorist that has written so many helpful articles about dog training, esp for fearful or anxious dogs.

Also please look up counterconditioning for dogs. I use this method all the time with my Gracie and we have made such huge progress with her zillion fears.

I could never have made anywhere near this progress without counterconditioning which basically is changing a dog's mindset to think a previously scary or stressful thing now predicts great things will happen! For example, previously Gracie would see deer and freakout and bark and lunge, etc. Then I started counterconditioning her with amazing food and praise. Now instead she sees the deer and looks at me, like "Hey, mom where are my treats and praise?" Works wonders.

If you can't hire a positive reinforcement behaviorist you can study/read about animal behavior and then practice/train with Pepper. I highly suggest you do this so you can gain a better understanding of how dogs learn---- and why dogs do the things they do, then you will be able to communicate better with your new fearful dog to make him more confident and brave!

And remember, above all, fearful dogs need lots and lots of patience and understanding...and gentle humane training. Abandon any ideas you may have heard in the media or elsewhere about needing to be alpha or use dominance or be the boss, etc and you will be on your way to helping Pepper!
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Old 09-21-2018, 06:48 PM
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You may want to think about your Pepper like this. If I had been told this when I first rescued/adopted Gracie it would have helped me. She, like your Pepper, had been in and out of many shelter and homes before I got her.

So say a kid really loves his mom, right?

But the child is terrified of dentists, totally afraid. Maybe he once went to a dentist and they didn't give the right amount of novacaine so it hurt like heck. After that he was afraid of dentists, even of just going for a cleaning, with no shots. But the fear has set in, right? So even though he loves and trusts his mom who takes him to the dentist, he still panics just hearing about his next appointment.

That is how I see it with my Gracie dog and her fears. She does trust me, but her fear and self protection overrides her trust in me in some instances. It is so hard wired in her to be cautious and leery of some things. She is hugely progressed in so many areas and we have conquered so many fears, but this is how she is wired in general. She could have been born this way or undersocialized, exposed to trauma, neglected, abused, trained harshly or all of the above. Probably a combo platter.

Don't know if this helps you any, but sometimes understanding why a dog does the things they do, can really help you and your dog in your training methodology.
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Old 09-21-2018, 07:38 PM
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Use counterconditioning for all your dog's fears

You can use counterconditioning to help your dog become comfortable and less aggressive for things like bathing, nail trims, grooming, handling, vet visits, seeing babies, reactivity to bikes, squirrels, skateboards, wheelchairs, canes, vacuum cleaners, brooms, men with hats, you name it.

Here is great easy example to explain how counterconditioning works:

Counter condition nail trims for dogs!

If a dog is afraid or uneasy or displaying aggressive behavior about a nail trim, you can counter condition the dog to being ok with it or even like it.

My little dog Sparky was beyond terrified of nail trims by us, he would flee the room if I even touched the nippers! Now I can get all his nails clipped in one session with the aid of my significant other and yummy treats!! Such a difference!

Here is a great free three minute video showing how to counter condition a dog to nail trimming!

Try it! Counterconditioning really works. The more you practice doing it, the easier it becomes for you and your dog. Your dog will thank you! And your dog will be way less inclined to use aggressive behaviors to solve their problems
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