We adopted a new dog last October and he was about 4 months at the time. He had come from a bad situation we're told, and traveled from shelter to shelter until he could be adopted. Sounds like he was in “the system” most of that time. He was a nervous dog but he's smart and affectionate. We figured it would wear off as we're a quite no-kids couple with a nice quiet yard, etc.
Well here we are 18 months later and he's still kind of a basket case. He will leave the room when either my husband or I enter, and will not come to me if I have a cell phone, keys, fork, anything in my hand.
He's not distant, he genuinely loves attention and laying in bed with us and greeting us at the door. He is willing to greet strangers at the dog park both human and canine. He's shy, yes, he won't jump all over them but he will walk up and see if his greeting is welcome. Then he has no problem jumping, licking, playing with strange people or dogs.
He's even skeptical of a large family photo in a very simple wood frame hanging in the hallway. Shadows from night light frighten him. None of these things are new though, they've been here the last 18 months he's been adopted.
He's been through three petsmart classes all the way to intermediate II. He did really well but we had to stop bc they were using treats to lure them to learn gong in a circle, etc. He would NOT be lead. Clearly someone used to lure him and cage or hit him. My trainer tried for a long time and went the extra mile, but it wasn’t' happening. He's very food driven but will not be lured. (He is also skeptical of people lurking in doorways – either come in or go out, but if you stand in a doorway he will not approach)
We never hit him, or yell at him (or each other for that matter) , or make him do things he doesn't want to do. In fact we even let the vet clip his nails because he's so afraid. Ever since we've had him we take him all sorts of places to get really socialized. I've taken him to the dog park every weekend for several hours a day, EVERY WEEK, rain, sleet, or snow since the day we've got him. We walk him. We hang out in the yard with him.
We praise him if he doesn't flinch at something, but we try and do it in a way that is really low key, like no big deal, you're being clam, I'm clam, and oh BTW...here's a milkbone, you're a good boy...then continue as nothing had happened.
I honestly don't know what more to do. I've had all sorts of neurotic random rescue mutts my whole life and thought I had seen all sorts of behavior....but none has ever lasted 18 months. Is this normal for nervous dogs? He's made SOME progress but not much. I've read all sorts of articles online and we're doing what they suggest. I don't want to medicate him but I also don't want him to be afraid of our house, which is kind of what it seems like.
He is a Flat River/Australian Shepherd mix.