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Hello all,
I just recently adopted a little Chihuahua/Yorkie mix. Stuart, who's about 1 years old. He was in a foster home for 2 months and I was told he was shy. When meeting him, he was absolutely terrified of us; his tail was tucked under him, he was shaking like crazy, and he kept hiding behind his foster mom. However, I saw something in him... I knew once he gained the confidence, he could make such an amazing little dog, so I adopted him right there! Now, it has been less than a week so I understand that it's normal for new dogs to still behave shyly, however he seems to have a huge fear of people in general. He's an extremely loving, needy dog who literally just wants to be with his people. Once he knows you, he opens up more and just wants to be in your lap, 24/7. He's closet to me, however there are times where he just cowers in fear for no reason. He acts as though I'm about to strike him, even if I'm just going up to him to pet or pick him up. We don't know his background because he was picked up as a stray and brought to a pound (then rescued by the rescue group). I'm not sure if he ever was abused but it definitely seems like he's been hit before.

I've trained dogs before, including my other rescue who was also very nervous and shy of new people. Here's the problem with Stuart though... he is scared to take or accept food from people's hands or if they're too close. For the first 2 days, he wouldn't eat at all unless I left the room. I'm working with on that with him by placing his food right in front of me while sitting on the ground, not saying anything, no eye contact or anything, until he comes up and eats it. Then I just softly say "good boy" and pet him while he's eating, making sure he's not acting nervous. He's getting better with me... but he still doesn't accept food from strangers. In order to socialize him, I really need him to be comfortable accepting treats from people he doesn't know. I have a lot of plans for him, training wise, but I don't think they're going to work if he doesn't overcome this fear. As of now, I'm having him spend a lot of time around the other dogs (we currently have 4 others) and I'm having my family feed him his dinner or treats, so he gains their trust. I'm also planning on taking him to Doggie Day Camp at Petsmart, since I get 2 free sessions. He loves other dogs so I think that'll be good for him, plus he'll be around the staff members. I will also be taking him to the dog park where I'm hoping by then, he'll let strangers feed him treats so he begins to trust them more. And in general, I'm going to try and bring him everywhere with me so he gets to experience as much as possible.

I have a good plan that I'm confident will work but he's so fearful of everything, even something simple as food. I can't even teach him basic commands because he backs off in fear or runs away. I'd love to hear any tips as to how I can help him overcome his food fear, and possibly how to conquer his overall fear of people? And it's not that he's just sitting in the corner all day cowering in fear; but at times, he will just cower in front of me, looking at me as though I'm about to beat him when really, I just want to pick him up. It's heartbreaking, and I don't know what causes it... but I'm hoping you guys can help me help him. Thank you, I really appreciate it!

edit- Also, I've tried to engage him with toys and he doesn't like playing with people, only by himself. So I can't use that as a way of training him unfortunately.
 

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I think you need to give the little guy more time. If it has been less than a week, he is still just getting used to his new environment. You seem to have a lot of plans for his future, but he needs to chill for a while to help him develop confidence, in my opinion.
BTW, I do not encourage my dogs to accept treats from people they don't know.
 

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I adopted an extremely fearful dog at the end of August last year. Her name is Pip. She used to shut down and crumple into a little ball to different triggers and even expressed her anal glands (Enough times that we gave it a cute nickname so we wouldn't be as angry about cleaning it up)! I remember when my brother kicked off his shoes and she went wide-eyed and flat on the floor and wouldn't move for several minutes. It was heart-breaking. My tip is this: You really have to take everything at the dog's pace.

I actually didn't have strangers hand her treats, but instead, had them toss them away from them so she didn't have to come up to them. You want to be careful about having him need to choose between safety and fear. I instead use treats to reward brave choices and have the reward appear in a safe place.

For example, Pip gets a click or a "yes" for approaching someone and touching her nose to their hand, but the treat comes from my hand or if the stranger has the treat, I tell them to toss it on the floor for her.

There are actually hands-free ways to interact with and train your dog and that can give the confidence boost he needs. I trained my dog before I could touch her and I swear that that is why she has improved in leaps and bounds. You can look up clicker training. I taught Pip to nose-touch target different objects before I asked her to nose-touch my hand. Now nose-touch is her favorite thing.

Also! One more thing.

I will say that with Pip, when she was still shut down, I tried to ward off people and say that she does not want to be pet and is afraid and not friendly. Some people still walked up to pet her to prove to me that they "are good with dogs" and that "she just needs to see that people won't do her harm." And they'd walk up to and pet her while she was a wide-eyed, shivering statue--frozen in fear. The only people she is VERY reactive to right now are those people. Everyone who listened to me from the beginning are friends with Pip now.
 

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Poor guy! I adopted a very shy and fearful dog, a three year old Jack Russell mix, two months ago. The first few weeks were hell because he barely ate his meals, he didn't like any treats, and he was holding his pee way too long, sometimes 15 hours! Just because he didn't want to pee in the backyard, only during walks, and I couldn't take him on walks several times a day. I was very worried that it would be impossible to housetrain him if he didn't like treats. I probably bought 8 different treats during the first 4 weeks, and he would try them but the next day, he would totally ignore them.

Fastforward to two months later, he is almost completely housetrained! He even wakes me up at night if he needs to go outside. We discovered that he loves hot dogs and little pieces of chicken. He really just loves meats, but not fake doggie treats, he wants the real thing. My point is that I think your guy just needs some time to get used to his new environment and people. Eventually he will realize that there's no need to be scared around you, and that treats rule! Our pup, Jack, is still afraid of strangers, especially men, and when we first got him he didn't want to be close to my husband. Now, he sleeps on top of him! It's crazy how much he has improved. It's also great that we finally found a treat he doesn't get tired of, aka hot dogs. He isn't very food motivated, but now he eats his dinner every night, which is 1 cup of dry food and a 1/4 cup of wet food. When we first got him, sometimes he would eat 1/2 cup of dry food in a whole day and not show interest for treats or any foods. It takes time! But it seems that you have it figured out. I finally feel that taking him to doggie school might work now, because during the first month, it would have been impossible. He knows sit, down, and sit pretty already, but he is still afraid of strangers and big dogs. I've started to take him to doggie daycare once a week for him to socialize, because we have no other pets or kids. So it's usually just him and me at home, and he's gotten way too close to me and is starting to show signs of separation anxiety. Now we gotta work on that. Good luck with your rescue!
 

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Yep, it takes time. Remember that even 'all positive' and/or 'treats' training can put pressure on a dog, social pressure, so just back off, relax with him, let be a dog. When you want to give him a treat, do it on his terms, which seems to be at this point, drop or place gently on the floor, and you retreat so he can collect. It's really early days for your dog, so you can both take a bit of a holiday.
Enjoy your dog.
 

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Thanks you guys! Sorry if I sounded as though I was rushing him, I was going to wait it out for a couple more weeks before trying anything too intense! He's been really good today and is doing much better with his social skills. A family friend of ours came over today and she was giving him some chicken, which for the first time, he gladly accepted! I had her start off by throwing it to him, with no talk or eye contact, and gradually he came close enough to eat it from her hand. He was still a little nervous of her, but he'd come up to her, sniff and lick her, but wouldn't let her pet him for a while (he'd dart away before she could). After 30 minutes though, he actually wanted in her lap and allowed her to pick him up. He wasn't 100% relaxed while sitting with her but that was a huge step, since he didn't try darting off or anything. The biggest thing that helped was I didn't give into him when he wanted to be picked up, and instead let him be on his own while she was here. I only rewarded him and gave him attention when he didn't show fear of her anymore. I'll give him some time before going out and training him with others/taking him to doggie day care, but I'm amazing at how much he's already progressed. Just have to work on his timidness, but as you guys said, in time he will learn to trust me completely. I also have seen him work more for chicken versus the treats I bought him, so I may be using that for future training since he seems to respond well to it.

Thanks again for the advice! I'll give him some more time to settle in and just let him get used to everything more before the training begins. Really appreciate everyone's help. :)
 

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as long as he's this scared, i don't think you should train with him at all.
first you should try to gain the dogs trust.
just sit down on the floor with a hand of kibbles and throw it on the floor so he doesn't have to come too close and can eat it without being stressed too much.
I'd only feed from the hand, no bowl for food, just for water.
don't touch him if you don't really must, contact and interaction should always be started from the dog, so he gains confidence.
You can use a gentle marker word, when he does something right and/or shows a calm, relaxed behaviour. this could be "yes!" for example or "great!" or even something like "cookie!".
So you throw the treat and the moment the dog works up the courage to take it, you say yes and throw another one.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
as long as he's this scared, i don't think you should train with him at all.
first you should try to gain the dogs trust.
just sit down on the floor with a hand of kibbles and throw it on the floor so he doesn't have to come too close and can eat it without being stressed too much.
I'd only feed from the hand, no bowl for food, just for water.
don't touch him if you don't really must, contact and interaction should always be started from the dog, so he gains confidence.
You can use a gentle marker word, when he does something right and/or shows a calm, relaxed behaviour. this could be "yes!" for example or "great!" or even something like "cookie!".
So you throw the treat and the moment the dog works up the courage to take it, you say yes and throw another one.
Thank you for the tips. I'm not working on anything too hardcore with him yet. I've told everyone in the household not to approach him, but instead let him come to you so as not to spook him. He craves attention from me so it's not that he's terrified of me, but there are times where I guess he think he's done something wrong and cowers with fear. That's something I need to work around so I don't encourage that or continue keeping him fearful.

I've actually ran into another problem. He's been peeing and pooping in the house since we've got him, despite taking him outside almost hourly. I thought it may be because of the rain (he's scared to go out when it's storming) but I think this is actually him marking. He's just about 1 years old and was just neutered a month ago, so he's learned the marking behavior already. I thought he was getting over it since today was his first day accident free, but tonight, I left him in my room for about 5 minutes and came back to see that he had marked my bed. I did scold him by saying "No" firmly and setting him back on the ground. I did read that I shouldn't have scolded him though since it may make him mark more. I thought he had just had another accident so I got a little frustrated, but after realizing he had just marked, I'm trying to understand better ways to handle him. The biggest thing I've read to help curb this behavior is to not let them sleep on the bed. If he continues to mark the bed, then unfortunately that may be what happens, but otherwise... I really love having a dog on the bed with me. He's a huge snuggle bunny so it's nice to have him with me. I'm not sure why he's marking since I thought he saw me as the alpha (he's already a very submissive dog) but apparently he's still unsure enough to keep marking. For now, I'll be keeping him on his leash with no freedom around the house to prevent him from marking, but as far as catching him in the act, it's nearly impossible since he runs off quickly or waits until I leave the room. I have seen him mark outside, but I'm not sure if I should discourage that or allow it since he's doing it outside? I'm afraid if he sees me yelling at him for marking, he'll think I'm yelling at him for peeing outside... then it'd make things much more difficult lol.

I'll totally wait it out training him, but I've got to nip this marking habit in the bud. How should I go about this if he's marking both outside and inside?
 

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For now he should be on a leash inside with you looking at him, outside, or in his crate. Once he is housebroken that will change, but for now treat him as if he was a little puppy, and don't give him the opportunity to pee inside.
 

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I fostered a fearful dog. I had two of my own, and it was they who trained her to trust me. Every morning, we have a love fest. We gather to just hug and get scratches and pets. She watched this for a week. I just ignored her cowering in the corner. Then she would come close, but not withing touching distance. In three weeks she would come to get gently pet and ears rubbed. By the fourth week she would insist on a pet, and crowd in with the other two. She did well, just letting her set the pace. Just because a dog is fearful, doesn't mean they've been abused. And don't think of your dog as a "victim" as you may let them get away with behavior you may have to correct later. Give him time. Let him set the pace. Be matter of fact, and act like he is acting normally. Don't do the "oh, you poor thing" in manner or voice. It won't be long and he'll be ruling the roost, as other small dogs are want to do. Good luck!
 

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Ok I have him leashed to me at all times unless he's in my room on the bed with me. If I leave the room, he either comes with me or goes into his crate. I also put on his belly band (his foster mom told me if he continues to mark, then this will help prevent urine from getting everywhere) just in case he tries to pee inside. I am working on the bed habit too and making him wait politely before picking him up so hopefully he sees me as a person in charge.

As far as marking goes, will it eventually stop if I continue to monitor him constantly or will he still randomly mark? I'm wondering how long I need to keep him basically locked to me at all times before allowing him some more freedom. He loves to be out with the other dogs and play with them, but I don't want to risk him running off and peeing. If he goes a week or two without any accidents, would that be a good time to remove his leash and belly band and give him more freedom?
 

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recommend trainig books for fearful dog

I adopted an extremely fearful dog at the end of August last year. Her name is Pip. She used to shut down and crumple into a little ball to different triggers and even expressed her anal glands (Enough times that we gave it a cute nickname so we wouldn't be as angry about cleaning it up)! I remember when my brother kicked off his shoes and she went wide-eyed and flat on the floor and wouldn't move for several minutes. It was heart-breaking. My tip is this: You really have to take everything at the dog's pace.

I actually didn't have strangers hand her treats, but instead, had them toss them away from them so she didn't have to come up to them. You want to be careful about having him need to choose between safety and fear. I instead use treats to reward brave choices and have the reward appear in a safe place.

For example, Pip gets a click or a "yes" for approaching someone and touching her nose to their hand, but the treat comes from my hand or if the stranger has the treat, I tell them to toss it on the floor for her.

There are actually hands-free ways to interact with and train your dog and that can give the confidence boost he needs. I trained my dog before I could touch her and I swear that that is why she has improved in leaps and bounds. You can look up clicker training. I taught Pip to nose-touch target different objects before I asked her to nose-touch my hand. Now nose-touch is her favorite thing.

Also! One more thing.

I will say that with Pip, when she was still shut down, I tried to ward off people and say that she does not want to be pet and is afraid and not friendly. Some people still walked up to pet her to prove to me that they "are good with dogs" and that "she just needs to see that people won't do her harm." And they'd walk up to and pet her while she was a wide-eyed, shivering statue--frozen in fear. The only people she is VERY reactive to right now are those people. Everyone who listened to me from the beginning are friends with Pip now.
Hi Pips Mom,

Just wondering if you could recommend some websites/books about the hands free training you mentioned. Our new adopted dog is ok with me, but fearful of my husband who is with her during the day while I'm at work. We need some resources to get her to trust him.
 
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