Rescue dog terrified of people

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Rescue dog terrified of people

This is a discussion on Rescue dog terrified of people within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi, I recently adopted a puppy from Spain (she's around 8 months), she arrived last thursday night, so this thursday will mark 2 weeks that ...

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Old 11-07-2017, 06:08 PM
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Rescue dog terrified of people

Hi,

I recently adopted a puppy from Spain (she's around 8 months), she arrived last thursday night, so this thursday will mark 2 weeks that I've had her.

She is TERRIFIED of people, especially men and joggers. She doesn't understand the concept of humans running and will leap so far away that I feel like my arm got pulled out of its socket.

If she spots someone way up the block she panics already and will be too distracted to potty. This one time she was in the middle of #2 when she heard people walking by (across the street) and she stopped mid poo and leaped up and tried to run away.

If someone is walking behind us, I have to let them pass because she freaks out and keeps looking behind her, pushing her body into me and tripping me.

I know that it will take her some time to adjust to everything, I just wasn't expecting this extreme because the rescue described her as being super playful and friendly.

I live in a pretty busy area so even when I try to walk her early in the morning and later in the evening, there are ALWAYS people walking about. It's always my luck when she's JUST about to potty and we hear voices or someone walks by! lol

I don't know how to handle this while she's still getting used to her environment. She's made small improvements where sometimes if someone walks by, she'll stop and try to smell them. If it's a male, forget about it. It's taken 3 days for my male friend to pet her and even then it takes about 10 minutes for her to warm up to even let him approach her.

I've tried using the same exercises I used for Mia and her reactivity to strangers (counter conditioning, starting from really far distances etc) but Nymeria's fears are so heightened that she won't even take the treat, even if it's super high value like steak or hot dog.

I'm worried that if her progress becomes too slow her fears will worsen. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

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Old 11-08-2017, 09:05 AM
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She's still adjusting, I'm sure the environment she's in now is pretty different from what she was used to in Spain!

Does she have any sort of prey drive? Is she playful? Have you tried clicker training?

Delilah was very similar when I first adopted her and was living in the city (well, Burlington... lol), I couldn't even walk her down the street. But we did a little work every day and by the end of the year I could take her down the busiest street and to the farmer's market. It took a lot of time though.

A few things that helped us were that Delilah has a very high prey drive and was more willing to go on walks after she started thinking of them as squirrel hunts. If we saw a squirrel or a bird we would run towards it which made the walk more fun and exciting, and less scary for her.

We also did a lot of clicker training at home and in class, and so I taught her the Look at That game. We started very far away from her triggers and eventually were able to just sit outside and click and treat every time someone walked past. I know you've tried this, or at least something similar. If you haven't tried a clicker yet I found adding that element in turned it into a game for her, and the sound of the click was very desirable. Also, have you tried peanut butter- just letting her lick a spoon outside? Maybe start in a yard or parking lot where there isn't anything going on, just to get her used to being out in that environment, without any people. Then maybe add in someone she knows and practice LAT or CCing while she watches someone familiar?

Quote:
I'm worried that if her progress becomes too slow her fears will worsen. Any suggestions?
I think going at her own pace is important and pushing her too much could end up setting you back more than going too slowly would. I think I may have pushed Delilah too much in the beginning- I let strangers *toss* her treats (and of course they didn't listen and would lean over her and start chanting "sit" over and over again instead of *tossing* the treat because people are idiots). I had tried that because everyone kept asking to pet her, and even tried to pet her without asking, so I thought letting them give her treats would satisfy their bizarre desire to interact with my dog without scaring her, but I think it backfired. Looking back, I would not have let anyone I didn't know interact with her at all. Maybe she wouldn't have become so reactive and anxious. I don't know.

If, down the road, it seems like she has settled in but you have seen no progress, consider consulting with a trainer or behaviorist and/or looking into anti anxiety medication.
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Old 11-08-2017, 12:11 PM
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You of course can't know how she was treated before you adopted her, but its pretty clear from her fear of people it probably wasn't with gentleness and kindness. Its just going to take time for her to learn to trust, and about all you can do is treat her with kindness and respect her desire for distance from those she does not know. It will be a very slow process, but she will slowly learn to trust. You must be infinitely patient with her, and the rewards will come.
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Old 11-09-2017, 10:54 AM
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Thanks guys!
@revolutionrocknroll So far it's too early to tell what her prey drive is like, I would say at the moment it's very low because she's still observing her environment and startles very easily with any kind of sound/movement.

If no one is around us while we are walking around the neighborhood she is okay. She will sniff all the trees and grass. I'll look into getting a clicker. I'll probably start at home with just clicking and treating so gets familiar with the game.

We've tried getting friends or staff at the pet food store to throw her treats but she won't take them. And then Mia of course runs to grab the treat lol she probably needs another couple of weeks to feel comfortable in those stores but I frequent them often because all the staff know Mia and they absolutely ADORE her. Mia always runs to greet everyone haha. I like taking Mia to these pet stores so she can keep socializing with people. I'm hoping that Nymeria will see from Mia that these people are friendly and won't harm her.

Thanks @Laco. We definitely try to avoid crowd and people if we can, but there are times when it can't be avoided and they have to walk/jog by us. In these situations I'm not sure what to do? Just ignore her and keep walking? So far I haven't really comforted her or reassured her when these people are walking by because I don't want to make it a big deal to her. I just keep walking and move forward even though she'll be constantly looking back and walking into me. I can't distract her with treats because they are too close to us and she just focuses on them.
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Old 11-09-2017, 01:43 PM
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I had a client rescued a Podenco and your story is very similar, when I saw her, she couldn't be walked, just complete shutdown as soon as the lead was put on her. She freaked out at the sound of the clicker.

We improvised... ballpoint pen for the clicker (quieter), trailing lead around the house, lead picked up as she went in the back garden, comfortable in the back garden, then we tried the front. The owner just sat with her in the front garden, lead on, and watched the world go by. ANY action by her that was not reactive was clicked and she was therefore clicked for existing in the front garden. That was then extended to walking round the garden, touch the pavement, touch the drive, cross the road and come back. She could see people and cars, but she was being maintained in her "safe" area until SHE decided to extend the area. Took about six weeks in all to get her off the estate and she still had issues

I think you may be going too far, too fast. I know that it's not easy having three dogs and walking one by itself, but... she's too frightened. It may be too soon to attempt counter conditioning as you're doing which is why she's too scared to take the treat.

As @revolutionrocknroll eloquently puts it... "a little work every day..."

At present "friends or staff at the pet food store" probably represent big, scary people at big, scary place.

Teach her "Touch", let her be comfortable doing it with you alone, then someone else in the household, then extend to others. This enables her to go at her own pace and she can choose which hands she will go to and whether she goes or not.

"We definitely try to avoid crowd and people if we can, but there are times when it can't be avoided and they have to walk/jog by us. In these situations I'm not sure what to do? Just ignore her and keep walking? So far I haven't really comforted her or reassured her when these people are walking by because I don't want to make it a big deal to her. I just keep walking and move forward even though she'll be constantly looking back and walking into me. I can't distract her with treats because they are too close to us and she just focuses on them."

In a situation like this, manage your position so that, if possible you have Nymeria, you, person or person, you, Nymeria, i.e., YOU are a physical barrier between her and "the person" and KEEP MOVING.

She CAN'T take the treats because she is too stressed. If someone's (for example) coming towards you and will take 30 seconds to reach you, if you stand still, Nymeria has 30 seconds to wind up. If you keep moving, they're past you in 15 seconds, you can then make a big fuss and tell her how good she's been. If you get animated enough, she MIGHT take the treat then.
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Old 11-09-2017, 02:58 PM
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Thanks @Ptolemy82! Thank you for your response, you've provided a lot of helpful tips.

Ballpoint pen is a good idea, I'll try that around the apartment as well as the "touch" command. I've stopped the counter conditioning because it wasn't working. At the moment she's been ok if it's just one person walking by (if it's a female). Males still terrify her so I always try my best to avoid them (walking across the street etc). I hate it when someone is walking behind us, that's when I have to let them pass because she seems to be better when they are walking in front of us because I guess she can keep an eye on them.

She does enjoy her walks if it's not busy, traffic noises don't bother her anymore. I just have to plan ahead and not go out during rush hour times when there's a lot of people walking around.
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Old 12-01-2017, 12:57 PM
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I strongly think that she has a bad memory of being abused from human before the rescue. I am glad that she found such a warm-hearted owner like you! Give her good amount of time to adjust and never push or force her to be with people! That might end up worse. Just give her time and let her know that you are always by her side. Fingers crossed for you and your beautiful dog!
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Old 12-01-2017, 02:05 PM
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My dog was like this when I got him at age 16 months. He lived on the Cape (cape cod Massachusetts) and I live on busy city neighborhood in Boston area Massachusetts. Apparently he stayed in an isolated house and yard and never went anywhere or met anyone. Would take him an hour to pee and poop two or three times a day. Stayed up all night shaking every time a car or truck or motorcycle went by. Lunged at bicycles. No tall men, no one with hats, weird things on their heads, glasses, scooters, skateboards, hoods, basically anyone on the city. Goes crazy if anyone yells.

Now he's happy, friendly, socialized, goes everywhere and goes up to people rubbing up against them asking for pats, treats and butt rubs. Still a bit jumpy with loud noises like construction or sudden crashes but much more relaxed. Took a long time and lots of patience.

If you walk long enough they're going to have to poop eventually. I taught him commands for go pee and go poop and made a big fuss about praising him when he did it. At first when he did relax enough to pee outside "good pee!!!" (Yes I sounded like the neighborhood idiot lol) So he learned the word and figured out what I wanted so later when he calmed down a bit he knew what I wanted him to do when I was in a hurry.
I just walked him around the block at first until he got used to the neighborhood there's a lot to see and smell and hear in a short area and it's a good way to work on leash manners. But lots of praise and treats if he seemed nervous and I always walked confidently so he'd know it wasn't scary. And let him sniff things he worried about, if they were safe to sniff!
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Old 12-01-2017, 03:03 PM
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Thanks for sharing @Shadowmom!

I can totally relate to so many things you've just described. She potties almost on command now provided that no one in a 3 block radius is around. The moment she is suspicious of someone lurking around the corner etc she won't potty. I could walk her for 3 hours and she won't go. She's getting better but for now I have to walk her super early in the morning or late at night when hardly anyone is around.

She's only been in the country for 5 weeks now and she had very little human contact and even the human contact she had I suspect wasn't very positive. She was in a paddock with 20-25 other dogs, outdoors. It's so heartbreaking to watch her be so terrified of people.

I can't wait for the day when she'll go up to greet people and other dogs. For now, I'm just trying to build our bond and she's okay with people she sees on a regular basis (except men).
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Old 12-01-2017, 03:17 PM
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I remember the 3am and 6am walks very well! My neighborhood wasn't great so I basically had him walking around me in circles in the backyard like lunging a horse with me desperately begging come on go poop already lol. One time the first floor neighbor stuck her head out and said enough already we need to sleep! Almost gave me and the dog a heart attack lol. Didn't feel too bad since they had weird loud fights at all hours of the night. And second floor neighbor had a little yippy dog that barked non-stop for hours and on weekends from 7am til noon. Drove me nuts. Glad I moved!
But my pup loves everyone now and is overall relaxed and friendly. You'll get there. Hang in there!
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