Originally Posted by PoppyKenna
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree here.
I see the point in having the human initiate play in a strong-willed, pushy dog. But this dog isn't strong-willed, he's fearful. Fearful of the OP in particular.
I'd personally reward any positive interactions (including initiating play) from the dog toward the people/ things he's afraid of.
It just seems risky to shut down any attempt at a happy interaction - especially the one the dog initiates... I'd rather have a dog that initiates or even insists on play, than one that's afraid of me. I've found that sometimes with fear you kind of have to handle some things in a roundabout way, and deal with the lesser issues later.
For example, Chisum used to be terribly reactive to boxes. We turned it into a game. He'd bop the scary box, he'd get a treat.
Turns out, that kind of transferred over to scary people - when he's brave enough to go near, he'll bop them with his paw and look to me for a treat. Obviously not ideal but so much better than his typical response.
So, we're working with that - working on different behaviors when meeting scary boxes (and eventually scary people). For now, he only meets strangers under very specific conditions, and they all get the warning that he'll try and bop them.
Like aggression, it's easier to install brakes than to put in the whole drive-train & engine; i'd much-rather have a confident dog who's aggro, even with a bite Hx, than a spook who snaps-out.
The confident dog will show warnings, & will usually have specific triggers - situations that might be risky will be predictable. A spook will just freak-out, & will often have multiple triggers or even develop new ones - plus, a deeply-frightened dog will lose their bite inhibition & deliver a much-more forceful bite.
Confident dogs generally bite judiciously - pi** them off a little, & they air-snap or snap with no pressure, & no mark left. Push their buttons, & U get a more-intense reaction, but they're not crazed by fear - they're responding. Play as therapy:
The semi-feral, abused, neglected basket-case that came to PACC from a hoarder in N.C. was terrified of EVERYthing - & i'm not exaggerating.
At something betw 15 & 18-MO, he'd never worn a collar, been on leash, been inside a house or, as far as we knew, any building - even an open run-in stock shed... traffic sounds, human voices, human FOOTSTEPS approaching from BEHIND him, could all cause either a total freeze, where he locked up, or a sudden bolt, where he'd hit the leash-limit like a pile driver.
Luckily, he only weighed about 20#, but when he bolted, it sure didn't feel like it!
Dakota spent 10-days with me at one point early on in his B-Mod; i used DAP, i moved quietly & predictably, i didn't corner him, i used an Anxiety-Wrap, we went for endless walks when i allowed HIM to lead ME in any direction, & at his own pace...
but the single biggest change-maker [aside from the Wrap, which was a miracle] was my playing hide-&-seek, around the wt-bearing wall
that separated the living-rm from the pass-thru kitchenette.
The 1st time, i simply acted "sneaky", cringing & tiptoeing, glancing nervously side to side as i went away from him, & still 'creeping', disappeared around the wall's edge.
Then i waited, squatting with my back against a cupboard [so if he came 'round the corner, i'd be at his level, not standing]... a minute, two, 3... no sound, no dog face peeking cautiously.
I stood very quietly, went to the SAME side where i'd vanished, & peeked around the wall in slow-mo --- & as soon as i saw him, I RAN back behind the wall, into the kitchen, with a look of alarm on my face. // This time, it took only 30-secs for him to gather his nerve & tentatively step onto the lino, then peer around the corner.
Again, I RAN in a seeming panic, with a smothered "eek!"
for sound-effect, & now he toddled after me. [U could hardly call it 'chasing', it wasn't a trot, but a moderately-quick walk.] As soon as he cleared the sofa's edge & i could see him, "eek!..."
, & into the kitchen. // Now, he trotted, purposefully, & his tail - for the 1st time ever! - was not clamped to his belly
. It wasn't out behind his butt, but it wasn't seemingly glued to his abdomen, either. U could see daylight.
For the next 2 days, i enticed him to chase me - often in slow-motion, but he moved with increasing confidence, if not speed.
By day 3, after 8 or 10 brief chase-sessions, always with me as the 'victim' while he played the 'monster', he INITIATED a game... by peeking from the kitchen, & RUNNING AWAY! - I was seated in the living-rm reading, his small foxy face slowly peeked out from the kitchen, & as soon as my eyes met his gaze, he spun & ran
- into the kitchen, stopped dead, & waited for me.
Very few dog-moments in my life quite match that one for sheer joy - he had literally turned a corner.
We made rapid progress indoors from then on; the outside world was still very scary, but i finally had hope that he might become an adoptable dog, instead of a pet-project for life.
I was thrilled.
To this day, Dakota is the worst of the worst IM-personal-E; i've never seen another dog who was so frightened that U could pose him like a jointed doll - lift a leg, & he'd STAND on the other 3, looking increasingly terrified, until his legs shook with strain & he had
to put that foot down, or fall over.
Then he'd put it down & stand there, all FOUR feet in precisely the same place as he'd originally stood, like a little statue - only his eyes moved, looking at U with a sort of sick fascination, as if U were about to kill him where he stood.
I have wonderful memories of Dakota's recovery, but frankly, i hope i never see another dog so damaged in my life. // He sucked-up more time & resources than any single dog, ever.
I worked with him pro-bono, & had to buy 11 Anxiety-Wraps in assorted sizes to get the wholesale price, among other things.
He taught me a lot, but the lessons were hardly 'cheap'.
I wouldn't have wanted to miss Cody, tho - even with the bills, which were a big dent in my earnings.
He taught me just how resilient dogs could be, even after Godawful puphoods & young-adulthoods.