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Needs advice

829 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Moonstream
Approximately 1 year ago, our family adopted what they believe is a 2 yr old sheltie mix from essentially, animal control. They found her loose, no info or testing done.
She was very timid and clingy all at the same time. Literally if you stand next to her she cannot be on four paws and will be on her hind legs with two front paws holding you from the front or side until you tell her to get down. This can go on for easily an hour. If you point or say down, go or even her name she looks scared and will sit for seconds (at most) and have to touch you again. Not a major problem but back story that may be important.

She's very shy usually and always has been. Except when she's snarling like a wild wolf showing every tooth she has when she has toys, in her bed or cage... and my mom comes over (my mom adores all animals and the dog loves her when no toys or other things are around I listed above.

When we first got her she snapped at 3-4 people at my home all who were bending over by a table, desk or anything she might be under. She also quickly apologizes and will kiss after snapping!!

After a year now, I gave her an airline crate not long after getting her and she took to it and really doesn't like to be out unless your sitting down and she can lay on you. If by her choice she will stay in the cage with the door open 24/7. However, giving her the cage seems to have stopped the snapping near tables. She now adores everyone that lives in our home and will tolerate people who don't without much worry if any that enter our home... Unless her cage door is locked. She will still snarl and bark incessantly for hours if I don't let her out to visit but I can't always as the one person she snapped at is now scared of her.
She is also terrified of other dogs (I don't think she can read their body language at all!) once they get near her, she growls at even puppies.
She's super smart and follows commands not even asked if her.. Once my husband asked if she can lay in her own dog bed instead of ours. Immediately she jumped to her bed she had never once used. But the fearful & aggressive behaviors really concern me. Do I have hope of her ever being a normal dog?

Being a heavy animal lover I've worked with her for a year but I need to know if this is fixable.
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I am confused by your statement that she follows commands not even asked of her? How's that possible?

I think your dog can be taught be feel at ease in most situations by altering her perception of those situations.

You say you've worked with her for a year but how?
I'm a little confused at what the problem behaviors are and how you're been working on them?

From what I can gather these are the problems you have with her:
- It seems like there's some resource guarding happening with her toys, bed and cage? I'm getting that from the line: "She's very shy usually and always has been. Except when she's snarling like a wild wolf showing every tooth she has when she has toys, in her bed or cage"
-From the description "When we first got her she snapped at 3-4 people at my home all who were bending over by a table, desk or anything she might be under. She also quickly apologizes and will kiss after snapping!!" it seems like she's easily intimidated by people's body language but will recover quickly if they adopt a less 'threaning' posture (ie, go from bending over her- which for a dog, especially a small one, can be seen as a threatening/tense posture- to standing up straight or crouching next to her).
- She also seems to have trouble being locked in her crate.
- She's very fearful of other dogs/by your judgement doesn't have any idea how to interact with them

From the sound of it, she's a very shy, timid dog with very little confidence that was perhaps not given proper socialization as a young dog and/or may have inherited a less stable/more shy temperament from her parents (to my knowledge this is a problem in a lot of sheltie lines).

I would echo the above- in what ways have you been working with her on these things?

Also, what is your training goal with these behaviors? All dogs learn and recover at their own pace and I think it's important not to put a time constraint on this kind of training but I also think it's important and helpful to have goals, especially incremental goals.

I think its always a good idea to find a professional in your area who uses only positive reinforcement methods (especially in this case, this is not a dog I would want to expose to any corrections or harsh training) to work in person with on these behaviors. Even if you only have one or two training sessions with someone it can be a really good jumping off point- people here can be helpful and knowledgeable but it's always nice to have someone in person to critique the way you work with your dog, especially if you don't have much training experience or if the experience you have is with more confidant dogs or focused in obedience.

Here's how I would start to work on these things:
- I'll let someone else tackle the resource guarding as it's not something I've ever had to deal with.
- For her issues with body posture, I'd grab a clicker and some high value treats and work to desensitize her to what she sees as scary body posture. If you don't use clicker training you'll have to 'prime' the clicker first- essentially you click, treat, click, treat, etc (I usually click 10 times) several times throughout the day for a few days- eventually she'll realize clicking always means she's going to get a treat. Then work on bending over her, clicking for her being relaxed, and giving her a treat. Eventually maybe ask others to help, work her up to a point where she realizes it's not scary after all.
- For crating issues, go back to basics on crate training. Leave her for 1 minute, then 2, then 3. Work your way up slowly.
- On her fear with other dogs I would suggest deciding exactly what it is that you want from her. She doesn't sound like she will ever be a real dog park dog. Does she lunge at walks and you want her to stop that? Or perhaps just growls when they pass by and you don't want her to do that? Are you actually wanting her to learn social skills and engage with other dogs? If you want her not to react to other dogs that can be achieved using treats to make the appearance of dogs always mean food. If you want her to play with dogs that's a different thing and maybe something to think about employing a professional to help you with.
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