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Hi all. I'm new to the forum, and I came here to hopefully get some advice about a situation with my girlfriend's dog that is causing both of us a lot of stress.

In short, her dog is absolutely terrified of me in particular, but she's also not comfortable anywhere, really. When I'm around, she (the dog) will stay behind my girlfriend, around her feet, always keeping my girlfriend between her and I. This gets to the point where she will push between the cabinets and my girlfriend's legs, or jump up on her, or scramble to be near her feet. Obviously this is annoying to my girlfriend, and has, on several occasions caused her to trip and fall.

The dog, while she's out, will jump at any small noise. One memorable time, she was out and a car started outside, and she jumped so much that she ran into (inside) of the open fridge, hit a bag of lettuce, had the bag fall on her, and got scared again and ran away.

However, if it were only this behavior, we could manage it better. But it's not. When she's scared (particularly of me, but of other things occasionally, too) she will poop. Not once. Not in a minute when we get her outside. Immediately. The most common way this happens is when she sees me, she will growl, back away, if she's in the cage, she'll put her butt down and then about 75% of the time she will poop, if she's out of the cage, she will run away from me, pooping every couple of feet. There have been several other extreme events, such as, one time I had to go to my girlfriend's place to pick up something she desperately needed for work, and the dog was out of the cage. When I opened the door, giving the dog about 30 seconds of seeing me outside and giving her the opportunity to walk away, she ran, pooping, of course, upstairs. I, unfortunately, had to follow, which I did slowly, and calling her name sweetly, and when I got upstairs, the dog was having diarrhea on my girlfriend's pillow. Then she peed on the cat. Then she sat in all of it. Another time my girlfriend got home, and all the curtains were pulled down, covered in poop, and on the couch it looked like an explosion had happened (like that video of the rhino pooping in the zoo, with it flying everywhere). We haven't had an event like that in a while, but, still.

The dog is the reason I can't live with my girlfriend. Which is really, really frustrating. So, we've taken steps to try and remedy the problem.

First, we never force the issue. When I'm there, I'll love on her cats, and then, from a distance, call the dog's name and give her the opportunity to come up and sniff if she wants. Otherwise, I never force grab her, or "hug" her to show I'm an okay person. I keep my distance.

Second, she has a cage in the common area. When we're moving around, she stays in there, because my movement freaks her out. She stays in visual range of me, hopefully to get her more comfortable with my presence. Outside of that, she has "places" around the house. She is very obedient of my girlfriend, and so when we're there, and we're watching tv or something, the dog comes out and is told to stay in one of those places, again, within range of me, but far enough away to not force the issue. We've been doing this for months.

We have another dog, who is a shepherd mix, and bigger than the small terrier nightmare, and when she's there, the problem dog is more likely to be *slightly* more comfortable. The only time she's voluntarily come up to me was when I had the other dog there, playing. But that didn't last long. The one constant is that when I'm there, her eyes are on me, and it's like she can't function. We've watched her carefully, and it's like she doesn't even notice that she poops when I'm around. She'll step in it, sit in it, like it's nothing.

The other constant is that any progress we make, (progress here being defined as me getting up and walking to the bathroom while she's out and not having her poop) is 100% erased the next time I come over. She cannot function with me there.

Actually, the reason for making this post today is that I had to go to my girlfriend's place this morning for a normal thing (I had to pick up something for my girlfriend), and the dog, who was in the cage, made a mess all over herself, even when I ignored her, walked past her, did not acknowledge her. I came back to her sitting in a pile of watery muck. I apologize for all the gross images, but I really don't know how else to describe the horror that we've been living with.

Here's a short bit of background for the dog. My girlfriend taught in Korea for two years, and, while there, adopted a terrier mix and that dog's puppy. The terrier mix died, and the puppy is my girlfriend's dog. She lived there, being around people and other dogs for nearly a year, and then they moved back to the states. Once back, my girlfriend moved in with her grandfather, in a remote part of the state, and the dog spent a lot of time around her grandfather, and three cats, in the country. She had freedom to move, but she did spend a lot of time inside, and did not take kindly to my girlfriend's grandfather. The dog has never taken kindly to men, especially men who look like me, my girlfriend noted, and so we have wondered if she was abused by my girlfriend's ex while in Korea.

Ultimately, we are exasperated, trying to find a solution, and don't have enough money to get a behaviorist (though I'm unconvinced a behaviorist would actually be able to help). So, any tips you have that we haven't tried would be helpful. We are both very much dog people, and, while cleaning up all the messes is frustrating, and not being able to live together is even more frustrating, we really do want to see the dog get some relief, because she's just obviously miserable all the time. And we would avoid the stress and guilt of re-homing her, because I know my girlfriend would feel as though she's failed the dog. But she's so nervous, twitchy, so afraid to be around people or other dogs that I'm honestly not sure how much more of this we can all take.
 

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First of all, I'm sorry about this, it must be insanely frustrating for you and your girlfriend.

Honestly, with that level of anxiety, I think that dog needs medication. You're not even going to be able to do any sort of conditioning if she is SO freaked out, she's defecating.

Will she take treats from your girlfriend if you're around? Will she eat/drink/play with your girlfriend?
 

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First of all, I'm sorry about this, it must be insanely frustrating for you and your girlfriend.

Honestly, with that level of anxiety, I think that dog needs medication. You're not even going to be able to do any sort of conditioning if she is SO freaked out, she's defecating.

Will she take treats from your girlfriend if you're around? Will she eat/drink/play with your girlfriend?
Ah, yes, I should have mentioned this too: she has been medicated, several times. I can provide the names of the medicines and the doses when I get home, but we had two separate experiences. The first medicine made it SOOOOOOOOOO much worse. She couldn't stop jumping around, and her anxiety was through the roof. The second medicine might have helped her calm down a little, but it still didn't make a noticeable impact.

The other major thing is that this dog is not food motivated at all. When she's in the cage, I'll give her food and treats, and she rarely, if ever, will even look at them. However, the minute I leave, my girlfriend will message me that the dog will eat it. Once it's just the dog and my girlfriend. This has been the other major problem, because neither one of us knows how to positively reward her rare good behavior, because there's nothing I can offer her that she likes.

But, yes; when it's just my girlfriend, the dog will act completely normal. But only when it's just around my girlfriend, and only when there aren't other scary noises happening.

Thanks for the quick response.
 

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The other major thing is that this dog is not food motivated at all. When she's in the cage, I'll give her food and treats, and she rarely, if ever, will even look at them.
Well, they're all a little food motivated, or they'd be dead. ;)

It sounds like you are SO scary and frightening, she cannot even eat with you present. You put her way over her threshold. If you can get your girlfriend to feed her when you're there (I'm talking the world's most amazing treats - steak, cheese, liverwurst, cat food, salmon crack), we can hopefully start to show her that when you show up = amazing treats appear. When you leave, they stop.

They key thing here is the order. It has to be: Trigger appears (you) + then amazing food shows up. You want your presence to be a predictor of amazing things. You don't want to do: Food + Trigger, because you can ruin a perfectly good reinforcer by demonstrating that every time that reward is present, a scary thing happens.

For example, if you're scared of spiders, and if a spider appears and I give you a piece of chocolate (or whatever), soon when a spider appears, you'll get excited for your chocolate. If we went the other way, every time you saw a piece of chocolate, you'd be worried about when the spider was going to show up.

I think for now, the key will be that you do not try to interact with this dog at all. She's afraid of you, and all of your attempts right now are going to have the opposite impact that you're looking for.

I'm also going to tag @PoppyKenna who has quite an anxious dog as well, maybe she has some insights on medication?
 
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We will try that. I'm not optimistic, honestly, because we've given her all kinds of treats before, and even when it's just my girlfriend, she doesn't really "go bonkers" for food like my other dogs do.

Thanks for the note about the order, though. We will try this, and pay extra close attention to those things.

When I say she's not food motivated, though, I'm not exactly overstating. My girlfriend fairly regularly has to put food down to remind the dog to eat. And the dog will go a long, long time without food. Once we noticed she hadn't eaten in thirty hours, despite food being present for her, and her not showing any other signs of distress. Often, my girlfriend has to be right next to the dog to get her to eat.

But, like I said, we will certainly try.
 

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Poor pup :(. No doubt rough for you guys as well.

I'd be interested in hearing what medications you've tried, because from my understanding and multiple vet visits, some just work better than others. Another thing to note is that SSRIs take awhile to work, anywhere from 8-12 weeks typically, and often heightened anxiety is a side effect. So it's possible the first med would have worked eventually. It sucks that you kind of have to "ride it out" to see if it will be beneficial - I take an SSRI and my dog does as well, so I definitely feel the pain.

I know a vet behaviorist is out of the question financially, but perhaps you could see if your regular vet would do a consult with one? It's usually less expensive for a vet to meet with one that is out of the area and can still be insightful for all involved.

Something else to suggest: have you heard of a thundercap? It goes over the face and reduces vision (but doesn't take it away completely). Chisum (my ultra-reactive dog) used one at our last vet appointment and I was blown away with how much calmer he was. I now plan to invest in one and start some behavioral mod with it on as I think it will help him greatly. Your girlfriend's dog could potentially use one while you are around to start the counter-conditioning process.

Something else to note is that in the meantime, it would probably be best if you just didn't have much contact with the dog. Show up and be sure not to raise your voice or anything threatening, but don't be asked to take her out to potty or anything that would force your interaction.
 

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Poor pup :(. No doubt rough for you guys as well.

I'd be interested in hearing what medications you've tried, because from my understanding and multiple vet visits, some just work better than others. Another thing to note is that SSRIs take awhile to work, anywhere from 8-12 weeks typically, and often heightened anxiety is a side effect. So it's possible the first med would have worked eventually. It sucks that you kind of have to "ride it out" to see if it will be beneficial - I take an SSRI and my dog does as well, so I definitely feel the pain.

I know a vet behaviorist is out of the question financially, but perhaps you could see if your regular vet would do a consult with one? It's usually less expensive for a vet to meet with one that is out of the area and can still be insightful for all involved.

Something else to suggest: have you heard of a thundercap? It goes over the face and reduces vision (but doesn't take it away completely). Chisum (my ultra-reactive dog) used one at our last vet appointment and I was blown away with how much calmer he was. I now plan to invest in one and start some behavioral mod with it on as I think it will help him greatly. Your girlfriend's dog could potentially use one while you are around to start the counter-conditioning process.

Something else to note is that in the meantime, it would probably be best if you just didn't have much contact with the dog. Show up and be sure not to raise your voice or anything threatening, but don't be asked to take her out to potty or anything that would force your interaction.
I will certainly get the list of medications later today when I get home. The second medicine I mention was given to the dog for quite a long time, but I don't remember how many weeks exactly. Everything in our lives comes down to dollars right now, unfortunately, and it's hard to justify extra medications for a dog when we have bills. But we're working to remedy that as well.

Thank you for the note about the thundercap. I've not heard of that, and I'll 100% be looking into it. Same goes for the vet consult. I did not know that was even an option. Both of those suggestions are extremely helpful.

I should say that I never take the dog out to go to the bathroom, or even give her commands, beyond telling her to lay down. If my girlfriend is not around, and this includes being outside, the dog will just run away from me. Which is a problem because she is in a townhouse without a yard or a fence.

Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Both my girlfriend and I are dog lovers, but we've never dealt with, or, honestly, heard of, a dog with such extreme issues.
 

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@ely909 - me either. It's funny, too, how my Chisum is SO not the dog that I could imagine myself wanting, but I'm so attached to him nonetheless. I try, he tries too.

Glad I could be of some help. Definitely post the medications - my boy was previously on fluoxetine and trazodone, now he's on paroxetine and clonidine. The clonidine is a bit more expensive - about $20 for 2 months - but the paroxetine is only $4 per bottle, which lasts a couple of months as well. I'm a grad student working to pay back student loans, so trust me, I do understand the need to pinch pennies as well! :D
 

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If cost is a serious issue, there are OTC calmatives, too...

OTC = Over The Counter / no Rx needed, which saves a bundle.
Plus, unlike Rx psychoactive meds, calmatives have *zero* worries re interactions with food / drink / meds, & have no side-FX nor dosage worries.

the 1st one i'd recommend is D.A.P. / Dog Appeasing Pheromone, a synthsized mimic of the pheromone made by lactating Fs. The purpose of DAP is to get the pups settled & nursing as soon as Mum shows up, vs wasting time grizzling & fussing 'cuz she was gone. Settle down, shaddup, & get a teat in yer mouth, kid. Ya gotta eat to thrive.
DAP in pump-spray is portable, flexible, & can be used or refreshed anywhere; throw it in a pocket & take it along. It goes on OBJECTS, not on the dog - i'd use it as my personal cologne of it had a scent, but it's not an odor, it's a chemical signaling molecule.
It reduces BP, pulse, respiration, & cortisol production, among other things. :)

I put it on:
- the collar, anytime / all the time
- the leash, a hands-length from the clip, just before putting it on
- the dog's bed or crate: crate sill & opening-door frame [not hinge-side]
- anywhere the dog likes to lie [carpet, chair cushion, ____ ]
- my pants' side-seams @ knee & ankle
- the car-seat where he sits
- on the chest straps of the seat-belt harness
- in winter, on my gloves, boots, & snow-gaiters
- on the cuffs of long-sleeved shirts
- on soft toys, in seams or inside folds [it's 99.99% alcohol & doesn't taste good]

DAP lasts about 90-mins; refresh ad lib. // Apply it 10 to 15-mins B4 a known stressor, or in a crisis, ASAP.

It CANNOT go on: antiques, collectibles, suede, or anything 'dry-clean only' unless U test in a hidden area.
Smooth garment leathers, belts, shoes, & leather upholstery are usually fine; if in doubt, test in a hidden spot, wait 24 to 48-hrs, check for color changes, running dye, cracking / scaling / finish damaged.


2nd suggestion:
Bach Rescue-Remedy LIQUID.
[do not buy the pastilles / sugar pills; they are sweetened with Xylitol, potentially fatal to dogs. Avoid bringing Xylitol home, & keep anything containing it locked away or absolutely out of the dog's reach; Tic-Tacs do NOT belong in a purse, many dogs have died after pulling out the plastic box & splitting it open.
Xylitol USED TO BE in diet foods; it's now in toothpaste, candies, gum, cosmetics, muffins, salad dressings, sodas, lip-balms, ______ .]

ResQ-Remedy is given orally or thru the skin; 5 to 6 drops dripped onto an absorbent treat works fine, or 3 to 4 drops rubbed gently onto the underside of each ear-flap, where there's no hair. // Ignore the alcohol; it evaporates quickly, & 6 drops cannot affect even a 4# dog. :rolleyes:

R-R lasts about 2-hours; give it BEFORE the dog is freaking out, or if caught by surprise, ASAP.

tactile calmatives:
The overall pressure created by an Anxiety Wrap is often very helpful; a cheap knock-off is a super-stretchy T-shirt containing Lycra, 10% Lycra / 90% cotton, or Spandex.

Another option is a 4 or 6-inch wide Ace Bandage used as a body-wrap, a'la Tellington T-Touch. Basically, it's a figure-8 around the chest & heart-girth. 4-inch wide is fine for small to medium dogs [30 to 50#], 6-inch wide is better for dogs 60# & up.
Small dogs need at least 1-yard length, medium dogs may need 2-yards [6-ft], & big dogs may need 8 to 10-ft, depending on how big is big.

Directions:
https://www.k9ofmine.com/diy-thundershirt/

- terry

 

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guessing the Thunder-Cap was once the Calming-Cap?...

this is what was originally the Calming-Cap -

https://www.baxterboo.com/p.cfm/dog-calming-cap-royal-blue

Premier Pet Products was an independent manufacturer of low-stress training gear, such as the Gentle Leader headcollar, Sure-Fit body harness, & the Calming Cap.
Then they were swallowed whole by PetSafe, once more-truthfully called RADIO FENCE - a big shock-collar manufacturer. :(
The copyright holder of the Calming Cap didn't want their product made by "Pet-Not-So-Safe", so it no longer exists under that name.

It's not a blindfold; it's a mesh fabric that resembles the fly-masks worn by horses while grazing, or in the barn during fly-season. // It makes anything outside the dog's immediate surroundings look fuzzy-focused & vague, so it greatly reduces anxiety & reactivity.
It DOES require habituation - it should be introduced at home, when things are quiet; no visitors, no arguments, no loud cop-chases on the TV, no heavy metal playing from the speakers. Have the dog wear it at home for 20 to 30-mins each night before bed, doing nothing - relaxed. Give the dog a long-lasting pacifier if s/he seems bothered by the Cap - a stuffed Kong works well.
The dog can wear the Cap out to potty, too - just take it off before going to bed, in case the dog tries to shred it overnite.

After wearing the Cap for 3 to 5 days each evening, try it for 10-mins only in broad daylight, outside, on leash. A brief out & in... how does the dog seem?

- terry

 

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Globally fearful dogs are very difficult to work with...

... but once they start making progress, it's amazing. There will be steps forward & falls back, but over time, U will make gains. A training log can help reassure that yes, it's not just an everlasting struggle. :)

A nifty simple process from Ian Dunbar - Treat N Retreat - can be very helpful.
Retreat & Treat | Dog Star Daily

Basically, toss a treat PAST the dog so they must move to find & eat it; with this dog, it's best to be sitting, as U are less scary when stationary & shorter. [The average dog will look for the food, eat it, then come slightly closer, U toss another PAST the dog, they find / eat / reset, etc].
Have the owner between U & dog as a visual & physical buffer - say, on the sofa, she's at the end closest to the dog & U're at the far end, with open space between; but YOU air-mail every goody, not she.
If the sofa won't work for whatever reason [no sofa, too small, _ ] use 2 chairs, with 4 to 5 ft between them. The greater space between U & the dog is to give her more distance, hopefully reducing the social pressure, so that she'll move around, eat, & act more normally.

This is an adapted version, due to her global fears -
The dog will look for the goody, sniff it, & possibly eat it - if she only sniffs, that's OK, toss another anyhow. Toss 3 to 6 tidbits, spaced maybe 5 seconds apart. Don't stare at the dog - talk quietly between U, only glance over to deliver a tidbit. // LEAVE the room - both of U, closing a door or gate to keep the dog in that room. Give Pup a minute or 2 alone; return. Odds are the tidbits are gone. Sit down & repeat the same pattern; stand & quietly leave the room, with the dog confined there solo.
By the 3rd or 4th time, she should be willing to eat 1 or 2 while U are in the room. // Stop for the day; any leftovers go in her crate, scattered on the floor.
Let me know when / if U get that far. :)

A note about what to use: this should be things that can be tossed without making a mess, but fresh food if possible: lean cubed beef, diced chicken or turkey breast, slivers of water-pack albacore tuna drained & patted dry with a paper-towel.
Kibble won't do. // Freeze-dried proteins might work - lamb-lung, beef liver, nice stinky 100% protein in 1/4-inch cubes, U can cut them with S/S scissors.


re her crate:
I have a hunch she's in a wire crate - U noted she had a meltdown & shat all over herself when U came into the house solo. // Wire crates serve only one purpose, to pin a dog down in space & make them visible on all sides. THey are called show crates for a reason: that's what they do, SHOW the dog. They purposely provide no privacy, & thus no sense of safety.
If i'm correct, swap the show crate for a proper airline-approved SHIPPING crate, she will have privacy as soon as she lies down; the bottom half is one piece molded resin, no leaks, no drafts, the good models have a moat at the edges & raised center platform, any spills [food, water, vomit, diarrhea...] go into the moat, leaving the dog a relatively clean area to lie on.

Buying used will save about half the new cost; CraigsList, eBay, a local vet's bulletin board, etc.

FreeCycle is a GREAT source for crates, lots of folks discard perfectly-good crates as soon as the puppy is housetrained.
The Freecycle Network
https://www.freecycle.org/

SIZING -
add 1.5 to 2-inches to her height at the shoulder - that's the minimum ht of the INSIDE of the doorway, so she can walk in easily. Length is proportioned to height, & so long as she can U-turn to exit, it's big enuf.
Crates are for lying down in, not sitting, standing with head erect, or running back & forth. // There will be slots for air circulation in the upper half, or possibly metal-mesh windows; the back wall, & the entire bottom half, are solid. When she lies down in a shipping crate, she can only be seen thru the door - this will give her a lot more privacy & contribute to a sense of safety.

Plus, shipping crates are the gold standard for safe transport of any pet - they are burst-tested for strength, & unlike wire crates, will not bend, collapse, trap the occupant, skewer the occupant or anyone else in the vehicle, or fall apart under impact.
They keep them safe in the car, in a plane, etc, & provide a familiar bedroom once U arrive at the destination. // My Akita stayed in 4-star hotels with me, & stayed in relatives' homes or at friends' with her crate as her safe place.
;)

QUESTION:
Has Ur girlfriend tried using a hands-free leash to take her around the house with her? Simply slipping the wrist-loop over a sturdy belt, putting it on the side U prefer, then running it thru the remaining belt-loops & buckling it, gives U 6-ft of leash to keep her within reach, but not underfoot.
She can then guide the dog to one side, so she's not tripping her or sitting on her feet or crowding her, but is beside her.
A 2 to 4-ft long traffic lead would prevent the dog from winding her up in the extra length, if she's prone to circle her owner when she gets stressed. ;)

hope this helps,
- terry


 

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Discussion Starter #12
We have not tried a hands-free leash yet. But, wow, thank you for your extensive response.

We have tried one calmative before, but at this point, given your instructions, we will try again.

We're still compiling the list of medicines we've tried. I should have that list later today, but we've had quite the busy past day or so. When I post the list of meds, I'll make a more extensive response. But, let me just reiterate how much I appreciate all of the in-depth and helpful responses.
 
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