Very scared dog--help!!

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Very scared dog--help!!

This is a discussion on Very scared dog--help!! within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; hey guys, So we got our dog, addy, from the spca a couple of months ago and within the first week i realized that she ...

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Old 12-01-2018, 10:10 AM
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Very scared dog--help!!

hey guys,
So we got our dog, addy, from the spca a couple of months ago and within the first week i realized that she was a very scared dog. I was hoping that it would get better when she started to trust us a little more but so far i havent seen any change and im starting to feel a little helpless.

I think she must have come from an abusive home because she totally freaks out whenever you have any type of a raised voice or if she thinks she did anything wrong at all. Like yesterday, she peed in the house just a couple drops and before anyone even saw it she went and hid and we couldnt find her and then when we tried to call her outside she wouldnt even walk by us even though we were using really sweet voices and telling her she wasnt in trouble. and when we managed to get close enough to her to put the leash on her she started yelping really loud before we even touched her and she peed herself. And its like that every single time she even thinks she might have done something wrong. And if you use even kind of a raised voice with her she will start yelping really loud and she gets really scared and will run away and pee herself while shes running. And one time she got off of her leash while on a walk to chase a rabbit and we had to call and chase after her so she didnt run into the road but she got so scared she wouldnt come to any of us and so we finally had to corner her and she tried to bite anyone that came near her. Ive never seen anything like it and i dont know how to handle it at all. We have never ever hit her or touched her in a mean way at all and i try to only use positive reinforcement with her but she doesnt seem to be any less scared of us. If she hears any yelling in the house even if it doesnt have anything to do with her she will just freak out. I feel really helpless and frustrated because Im scared shes going to bite one of the kids if she gets scared and her peeing in the house has started to cause the other dog to start peeing in the house and i just dont know what to do anymore so if anyone has any advice that would be really great. Its just weird because any other time she never ever bites and is just the sweetest dog in the world. I just dont know how to train her without making her scared and how to get her to understand that we arent going to hurt her.
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Old 12-01-2018, 08:17 PM
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hey guys,
So we got our dog, addy, from the spca a couple of months ago and within the first week i realized that she was a very scared dog. I was hoping that it would get better when she started to trust us a little more but so far i havent seen any change and im starting to feel a little helpless.

I think she must have come from an abusive home because she totally freaks out whenever you have any type of a raised voice or if she thinks she did anything wrong at all. Like yesterday, she peed in the house just a couple drops and before anyone even saw it she went and hid and we couldnt find her and then when we tried to call her outside she wouldnt even walk by us even though we were using really sweet voices and telling her she wasnt in trouble. and when we managed to get close enough to her to put the leash on her she started yelping really loud before we even touched her and she peed herself. And its like that every single time she even thinks she might have done something wrong. And if you use even kind of a raised voice with her she will start yelping really loud and she gets really scared and will run away and pee herself while shes running. And one time she got off of her leash while on a walk to chase a rabbit and we had to call and chase after her so she didnt run into the road but she got so scared she wouldnt come to any of us and so we finally had to corner her and she tried to bite anyone that came near her. Ive never seen anything like it and i dont know how to handle it at all. We have never ever hit her or touched her in a mean way at all and i try to only use positive reinforcement with her but she doesnt seem to be any less scared of us. If she hears any yelling in the house even if it doesnt have anything to do with her she will just freak out. I feel really helpless and frustrated because Im scared shes going to bite one of the kids if she gets scared and her peeing in the house has started to cause the other dog to start peeing in the house and i just dont know what to do anymore so if anyone has any advice that would be really great. Its just weird because any other time she never ever bites and is just the sweetest dog in the world. I just dont know how to train her without making her scared and how to get her to understand that we arent going to hurt her.
Oh your poor girl! I'd hate to know what she went though before you got her Please continue to have patience with her. Some horrible person taught her that she cannot trust people, that people will act like they are nice then when she lets them by her they hurt her. It'll take a lot of time and patience to teach her that y'all are never going to hurt her. By time I mean months.

What I'd do is figure out what her favorite treat in the world is. Chicken, hotdogs, cheese, freeze dried liver, etc. Then use that treat to work with her and teach her that raised voices now mean good things happen to her. You need to figure out exactly how much you can raise your voice and have her be O.K. but a little bit worried, Once you know that raise your voice to that level while tossing her treats. Make sure to say different words, or talk her so that she doesn't think only one word in a raised voice gets her the treat. When you notice that she's looking happy and waiting for her treat while you talk at that volume, raise your voice a little more and start again. Keep doing that till she's happy no matter how much you raise your voice. When she's at that point slow down feeding the treats, so that you say a few sentences and then she gets the treat. You'll have to have your whole family work with her so that she knows that no matter who, in her family, raises their voice she's safe.

Some things to remember. Use a treat pouch, or keep the treats out of sight, You can have them in your closed fist if you want to, or in a pocket.

Break the treats up into pea sized pieces to you can feed a lot of them without her getting fat.

In the beginning timing is everything, as soon as you begin to talk loud start feeding her the treats, and stop when you stop talking. Your goal is to have her realize that the raised voice is what is causing the yummy food to be feed to her, so you have to have the timing good.

If she starts to look anxious or is too scared to eat, then you are doing too much, and you need to go slower. Stop for that session and the next one lower your voice a bit.

If she has a set back, or a bad day, don't worry, they happen.

Work with her a couple times a day, and make sure to vary where you work with her. The reason for varying it is dogs are very good at learning that A + B = C only in this location, to counter that it's important to work with them in a bunch of different places. So work with her in one place then when she's good there move to a new location and start again.

Don't be afraid to take a day or two off.


If she's hiding or thinks she's in trouble in the house or yard, IGNORE her, no looking at her, no talking to her, she ceases to exist. That's because that's her goal in life at the moment. Remember that whomever had her before you must have tried talking nice and then punished her when she fell for it, so talking to her isn't going to work. I think the best bet is to show her that you are not going to hurt her when she messes up.

For walks you can either use a Martingale collar, which tightens up snuggly on the dogs neck when they pull but never chokes them, or double leash her, and put a leash on the collar and harness so if she slips one, you still have her on the other. Also teach her a recall cue or whistle. You might have to use something other then come since it might be a poisoned cue, someone might have hollered Come at her then when they caught her beat her so to her Come means I'm going to get hurt.

Thank you for not giving up on her!
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Old 12-01-2018, 09:03 PM
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Oh your poor girl! I'd hate to know what she went though before you got her Please continue to have patience with her. Some horrible person taught her that she cannot trust people, that people will act like they are nice then when she lets them by her they hurt her. It'll take a lot of time and patience to teach her that y'all are never going to hurt her. By time I mean months.

What I'd do is figure out what her favorite treat in the world is. Chicken, hotdogs, cheese, freeze dried liver, etc. Then use that treat to work with her and teach her that raised voices now mean good things happen to her. You need to figure out exactly how much you can raise your voice and have her be O.K. but a little bit worried, Once you know that raise your voice to that level while tossing her treats. Make sure to say different words, or talk her so that she doesn't think only one word in a raised voice gets her the treat. When you notice that she's looking happy and waiting for her treat while you talk at that volume, raise your voice a little more and start again. Keep doing that till she's happy no matter how much you raise your voice. When she's at that point slow down feeding the treats, so that you say a few sentences and then she gets the treat. You'll have to have your whole family work with her so that she knows that no matter who, in her family, raises their voice she's safe.

Some things to remember. Use a treat pouch, or keep the treats out of sight, You can have them in your closed fist if you want to, or in a pocket.

Break the treats up into pea sized pieces to you can feed a lot of them without her getting fat.

In the beginning timing is everything, as soon as you begin to talk loud start feeding her the treats, and stop when you stop talking. Your goal is to have her realize that the raised voice is what is causing the yummy food to be feed to her, so you have to have the timing good.

If she starts to look anxious or is too scared to eat, then you are doing too much, and you need to go slower. Stop for that session and the next one lower your voice a bit.

If she has a set back, or a bad day, don't worry, they happen.

Work with her a couple times a day, and make sure to vary where you work with her. The reason for varying it is dogs are very good at learning that A + B = C only in this location, to counter that it's important to work with them in a bunch of different places. So work with her in one place then when she's good there move to a new location and start again.

Don't be afraid to take a day or two off.


If she's hiding or thinks she's in trouble in the house or yard, IGNORE her, no looking at her, no talking to her, she ceases to exist. That's because that's her goal in life at the moment. Remember that whomever had her before you must have tried talking nice and then punished her when she fell for it, so talking to her isn't going to work. I think the best bet is to show her that you are not going to hurt her when she messes up.

For walks you can either use a Martingale collar, which tightens up snuggly on the dogs neck when they pull but never chokes them, or double leash her, and put a leash on the collar and harness so if she slips one, you still have her on the other. Also teach her a recall cue or whistle. You might have to use something other then come since it might be a poisoned cue, someone might have hollered Come at her then when they caught her beat her so to her Come means I'm going to get hurt.

Thank you for not giving up on her!
Wow it didnt even cross my mind not to look for her when she hides but that seems really obvious now. I usually raise all of my dogs from puppies so this is all very new to me. I will definitely try the treat method and ill make my husband do it too because his tone of voice is just naturally deep and angry sounding which scares her. But hopefully that works! Thank you for all your advice
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Old 12-02-2018, 01:13 AM
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You're welcome! I really hope that it turns her around. If it doesn't you could try an anti anxiety medicine to lessen the stress and anxiety and give her a chance to learn. I had to do that with my boys thunder phobia when he got to the point that he was associating rain with thunder and hiding even when it was just rain and no thunder. The medicine lessened the fear enough that I've been able to work with him, he's still bad but not as bad and no longer making himself sick from the stress.

I learned the hard way about just letting them be when they were hiding. My boy would be worse when I'd track him down and try to comfort him. Once you have her trust you can try dropping, or hand feeding, her treats when she's hiding.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:26 AM
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I've had a foster for the past 4 months that is also afraid of everything, and will crouch and shake if startled or if anyone raises their voice at all. He is a lot better now than when I got him. We've just been very kind and patient with him and when he hides and shakes we just call to him like we're talking to a child, "Hey, buddy, it's okay. Come get a treat."
It has also helped to do things that build his confidence. I just looked things up online from dog trainers. It is very sad to see an animal so afraid. I do know part of his history. He was surrendered by a family member because the dad of the family was abusing him. Hopefully we can build his trust and confidence up so he can live a full and happy life like he deserves.
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