|Page Two--Tips for spooky dogs, continued|
|Use food to your advantage!
Most dogs are food motivated. Make sure food always involves YOU--don't just set the dish down and go inside or to another room. The BEST way to feed, in my opinion, is to hand-feed: each piece is given by hand. This works great if you feed a raw foods diet...but of course is more difficult if you feed kibble. (I'll get to that in a minute.) At first, it's not likely that she'll take the meat right from your hand; you'll have to toss the pieces out to her. Get a feel for how exactly how close she is willing to come--the minimum distance at which her desire for food exceeds her fear of humans. ;) Try crouching or sitting down when you toss the food out, if possible...and face partly away from her when she goes to take it. (Don't stare! She might not take any if you stare at her.) Feed her at that level for a day or two; praise her in a high, happy voice at the instant she picks up the food. Then, gradually decrease the distance between you until you have her taking the food from at your feet. At that point, try offering a piece of food in your hand, by stretching your arm all the way out and looking in another direction. Soon she should be willing to take food from your hands.
If kibble is fed, you may want to try tossing bits of kibble out one by one...but a better idea would probably be to offer some supplementary raw chicken frames or meaty beef bones, hot dogs, and/or dog biscuits (they're often made of the same ingredients as the kibble, anyhow). Start off with the "good stuff", then set down her kibble and sit on the floor (or ground) as close to the kibble as she will allow. Gradually move closer each day, as suggested for the raw diet.
It sounds like a mean thing to do, but I know of more than one successful rehabber who follows the rule "she will eat with me, or she won't eat at all". If the dog won't eat in your presence at all, not even from a distance, pick up the food & try again tomorrow. It doesn't take them long to lower their standards. ;) NOTE: you'll probably want to make an exception to this on their first day or two, when they genuinely may be almost too stressed to eat at all, let alone with the scary human within eyeshot.
Feeding indoors is a GREAT idea, even if she normally lives outside. This will come in handy later.
If she's not food motivated, maybe you haven't found the right food yet—try something really special, for example roasted chicken left over from dinner, or dried liver treats.
Try eating dinner together with her, and share the leftovers when you've finished. :-) If that means you eat dinner outside in her yard, so be it...hey, think of it as a picnic. <g>
Think up distractions.
Don't focus directly on the dog...that's intimidating, as shy dogs (just like shy people!) don't like being singled out. Have other dogs nearby if possible. Find something else to do, that includes the dog: pick up a toy and play with it, inviting her to join in the game...try catching her eye, then running away from her to entice her to chase you...or playing peek-a-boo...or playing 'gonna-get-your-toes' by getting in the play-bow position and trying to paw her feet with your hands. You may find she makes a game out of keeping her toes away from you. ;) Teaching them "gimme five"is a friendly way to get them to touch you...so is "give mama kisses"—many dogs love to lick your face. Treat-based or "clicker" training is a terrific thing to do with a shy dog...and there are many tricks and behaviours you can clicker-train them to do from a distance. (I taught my very first shy girl to "sit", long before I was able to touch her...)
Targeting/bridge-and-target training also involves teaching the dog to touch your hand. Start by keeping a treat in your hand, and when she nudges your hand for it, click/say "Yes!" and open your hand. It won't take long to teach her that tapping your hand will get her a treat...and once her nose will follow your hand (and her body follows her nose!) you can teach her to move to a specific location, touch other objects, hop up on a table, etc....all by having her "target" your hand as it moves to the position you want her in. There's more info on bridge and target training online, check it out! :-) This stuff works on alot more than just dogs...horses, dolphins, and lots of other animals are very responsive to it.
You can also teach your dog the command "Say Hello", paired to tapping your hand. (Try moving your hand around...eventually you should be able to get her used to a hand coming *down* to pet her this way. :-) In time, she should also be able to learn to generalize, and "Say Hello" to other people as well. (Be sure she gets a special treat for this(!), either from you, or from the other person.) Saying Hello is a great way to get a shy or unsocialized dog used to touching & being touched.
Another terrific hand trick is "Magic Hand". Hold one hand out horizontally, while offering a treat *right underneath it* with the other hand. Start with your hand above her head, not touching her...and as she gets more comfortable, try lowering your hand closer & closer each successive time, until she is sliding her head under your hand (& "petting herself" on it) each time to get the treat. Again, sometimes slower is faster—take it gradually.
Rewards don't always have to be food. Anything your dog values—praise, toys, a walk—can be used as a reward. I read an article describing how someone working with wild mustangs devised a method to use *the horses' own fears* as a positive reinforcer--where, if they stand their ground to a specified distance from the human's approach, the human turns around & go away (scary thing
leaves= positive reinforcement) and the distance can be gradually decreased until the horses can actually be walked right up to and touched.
The main thing to remember—be flexible, go along with whatever is working. :-)
Another thing that helps a dog who *wants* to be friendly, but is too scared, is to help them brush up on their self-control. C'mon over here:
for some ideas on how to teach and reinforce your dog's self-control. :-)
TRAINING is also a big part of teaching self-control, and offering options other than being afraid.