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Hello,

My dog Fluffy failed doggy obedience school because she was so terrified of everything. The trainer and I worked with Fluffy as much as possible but she simply could not over come an overwhelming fear of being on leash and being outside of her house. The trainer suggested anxiety medication but I am not sure how I feel about this.

Just one of the problems, Fluffy will tremble and hide the entire time she wears a collar or harness. Basically, I would try to put a collar/harness on her and she would do nothing but tremble and hide until I would have to take it off to crate her when I go out. She will run away at the sight of a collar/harness.

Her fear also triggers aggression should anyone or any dog approach her.

And all of her behaviors are ten fold worse if she is outside her yard on leash.

Once returning from an outting, she will hide for hours, shaking.

So as you can imagine, I feel like I am torturing my dog.

She does not accept any food or treats (even very naughty treats like people food) when she is so scared.

Has anyone here used anxiety medication to treat their dogs' fears? Do you have to continue to medicate the dog?
 

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Hi :)


I have one dog currently on an anti depressant, because she had widespread phobias, anxiety, and severely manic behaviors. Medication has been a lifesaver.


can you describe more what your dog does? does she hide, shake? I know you mention she gets aggressive...does she bite? if so does it draw blood? In what contexts does she get aggressive?

There are behavior modification options (training) that should be tried first. My dog was so over the top that she could not learn, so I opted for medication after trying for years to train her. On meds she was able to finally learn.

That said, I have other dogs, fearful dogs (all five of mine have/had fear problems, som' severe.) and the other 4 all responded very well to training and counterconditioning. :)


How old is your dog and what kind?



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can you describe more what your dog does? does she hide, shake? I know you mention she gets aggressive...does she bite? if so does it draw blood? In what contexts does she get aggressive?
She is a very small mutt, a chihuahua mix of some sort. She will be 2 in Dec and she is fixed too.

She hides and shakes and shakes while she's hiding. Her favorite spot to hide is under the couch or under the blankets in bed. Despite being so small, she can shake and make the whole couch shake. She doesn't want anyone to touch her or really even talk to her. If approached, she will either run away or bite. If she even hears someone's voice she will try to find a new hiding spot further away.

It's hard to describe but she also seems to be so scared that she can't hear me, recognize me, or even comprehend I'm the same person that she tries to kiss to death in the morning. To her, it's like I turn in to some crazed monster.

Her aggression is completely fear induced. When she's in her scared-mode, she will bite in all directions if she can't at first flee. Sometimes she bites humans, myself included, and draws blood. They are quick bites as in she opens her mouth as soon as she shuts it. But she also bites at walls, leashes, and nonliving items in the area if they are in her way of her running away.

She also becomes very fearful if I get dressed, ready to leave for somewhere. She will start hiding and shaking. She is terrified of even the idea of being taken out of her house. My parents, who are still in the house after I leave, say that about 10 minutes will pass before she returns to normal.

And if I do get her to outside somewhere, she can become so nervous/upset/scared that she will puke either bile or her last meal. At first I thought this was motion sickness but even just walking to the end of the street can induce this sickness.

However, if there are no signs that she might be taken on a "Bye-bye" she is a perfectly happy, nonaggressive dog so I quite honestly feel like I am torturing my dog by even trying to take her on walks or socialize her.

But I am going to move out of my parents home soon (within the next year or so) and into an apartment so I have to work through this problem.
 

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Gotcha.


So this is only triggered if she feels she'll have to go outside?


Also, I would not force her to walk or socialize. I know that is preached everywhere, but this is a special dog, with different needs. Its perfectly OK to not force her to interact. Later down the road, you can introduce those things at low levels, but exposing her to them over and over, when shes severe will only make it worse. The advice of socialization and repeated exposure (aka facing your fears) only works for normal dogs, and even then, not as well as people say most of the time. If you feel like its torturing her, it likely is, and its ok to put it aside and not do those things for a little while.

Has she been to a vet and assessed? She needs to have her thyroid checked, and just an overall exam (you'll need this to get meds anyway) alot of times severe stuff like this has a medical cause

Did you rescue this dog?



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Discussion Starter #6
So this is only triggered if she feels she'll have to go outside?

Has she been to a vet and assessed? She needs to have her thyroid checked, and just an overall exam (you'll need this to get meds anyway) alot of times severe stuff like this has a medical cause

Did you rescue this dog?
Exactly.

The vet has checked her thyroid when she was only a few months old. Maybe I should have it rechecked? But I haven't talked to the vet about putting her on medication yet.

And I was given this dog by a classmate who told me she was 8 weeks old, when I took her to the vet, the vet said she was closer to 5-6 weeks old as she didn't even have all of her baby teeth.

In the last couple months, I have let her be happy and not tried to take her anywhere but because I am going to be moving out next year and to an apartment where she will have to be walked outside on a leash to do her business I have to either decide to try training her or consider finding her a new home. Unfortunately, leaving her with my parents (and in the house she feels safe in) is not an option.

I know she will never be the dog that likes going to the beach or park or playing with other dogs but if I can at least get her to walk a few blocks, do her little business while on a leash, then I should be able to let her keep her hermit-crab ways inside of an apartment. (Although the further she could walk the better, just for exercise but I am sure I can come up with plenty of games for her to play inside to burn off her energy.)

I'm just not sure what to do. I want to do everything possible for her but I also want to do what is best for her. I think she would be happy in a home that didn't try to take her anywhere, but I don't feel right or responsible for rehoming a dog that I know has the potential to bite a person or even a child.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I ditto the health check. Also, like Crio asked, did you rescue the dog? Has she been slowly introduced to the leash, collar, walking, etc?
She was given to me by a classmate, I wold told she was 8 weeks old when she was actually 5-6 weeks old so she's certainly missed out on some essential puppy-momdog time.

I did try to do everything as slow as possible. I would try the collar or harness only for that day, no leashes no going out or even the thought of going out but it just didn't seem to help.

My biggest step forward in "training" is holding her and carrying her through the front door while wearing my PJs. Because getting dressed and collars trigger her, I have to scoop her into my arms without getting dressed and without collaring her and carry her.

However, walking more than a single step out the front door and she begins to struggle like mad to get back to the house and then she will hide for a few hours.
 

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Also, because she does very well with crating during the day while everyone is outside the house, I've tried crating her in an airline type crate where the walls are solid and take her bye-bye in it but this also sent her into a panic.
 

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awesome. I see now.


Your ticket out of this is counter conditioning and desensitization.

Whats the first cue that your going to take her out? is it put on your shoes, grab your keys etc etc? You're going to want to do dozens of reps where you do these cues, but don't actually continue. This helps to take the reaction away.

I would, for example, with the harness. Put it out on the floor. If she looks at it (no matter from how far away) say "YES!" and then treat. Repeat as many times as needed until you see her becoming comfortable. Once shes looking better, ask for more criteria, so perhaps wait until she takes a step towards it, YES/treat.

etc etc.


basically, you want her to associate all those bad things, with food/toys/praise...BUT the key is to do it in tiny tiny tiny micro baby steps where she can't help but to succeed.



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I did try to do everything as slow as possible. I would try the collar or harness only for that day, no leashes no going out or even the thought of going out but it just didn't seem to help.
This can take some time, like weeks or even months. I just realized Crio's post as I type this hehe yes counter conditioning and desensitization are key.
 

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I did try to do everything as slow as possible. I would try the collar or harness only for that day, no leashes no going out or even the thought of going out but it just didn't seem to help.
Think of instead of "putting the harness on" as one step....think of "how do I put the harness on in 15-20 tiny steps with ten reps of each step?"


Make it so ridiculously simple that the dog can't fail. It works. :)


heres an example



see all the tiny steps for one goal?



:)



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Discussion Starter #12
Micro stepping seems like a great idea because looking at it now, I probably was rushing the harness. I was putting the harness on and trying to calm her versus the whole seeing the harness and giving praise.

However, if she sees a harness she becomes afraid. Should I remove the harness from like the floor or would leaving it on the floor be okay even if it's making her nervous?

Also, would more than one harness be a good idea? Say have a harness on the living room floor, another harness on the bedroom floor and so on so that the harness isn't a unique item to one room because she will avoid a room if she knows a harness is there. ( I keep all the leashes/collars/harnesses in the laundry room now and she will run by the room as fast as she can )

Another thought I had, because this training is going to take months, could I take her to an apartment and train her to use a peepad? I would still want to work on her eventually going outside to potty and eventually walk on leash for a little exercise but would it be all right to have her as a completely 100% indoor dog until she is ready to walk outside on a leash?
I know that I have a year to train her but I am absolutely going to take this slow with the tiniest of micro steps because I don't want to take one step forward and ten steps back.
 
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