|Spooky Dog, Page 3|
|Some dogs are so scared that they literally freeze up, and aren't even functioning in the presence of a scary person or situation. (Earth-to-Dog, can you hear me? ;) It can be very hard to reach a dog in this state.) However, it may be possible to change the dog's feelings about the thing they are afraid of, even in this state, by using classical conditioning. Hopefully more detail to come, but for now...if your dog goes into this state, you might want take a look into classical conditioning methods. (And if you and your dog have success with your methods, please share! Email me. :-)
In most dog training, you are dealing with operant conditioning—the dog realizes that her actions have consequences...she does "X", she gets a treat. You reward the things you like, ignore or correct the things you don't...and this shapes the dog's behaviour. However, that part of your dog's mind may not be operating if she is extremely upset and frightened. She may be running on a more primal level, and classical conditioning may get through to her where operant conditioning couldn't. The basic concept at this point is, you are not trying to teach her cause-and-effect—you are simply trying to change her associations with the scary thing or person. In this state, if you give her something good (special treat, petting) when she is scared, bucking the leash, and trying to hide...she is NOT being rewarded for freaking out, but rather she is learning that *good things happen when the scary thing is present*. It sounds counterproductive, and indeed it would be if your dog is in "thinking mode", so this may be a tricky thing to pull off. Might be worth a try though! :-)
So, is your shy baby an inside or outside dog?
Having your new addition inside and underfoot allows her to become accustomed to you at her own pace: for the most part, you can just go about your life, and she can watch you from afar...getting accustomed to the sight, sounds and smell of you without being put on the spot. I've also found that they are inclined to crawl into bed with you while you sleep...sleeping humans are alot less intimidating! If you wake up and find your girl in the bed, pretend to still be asleep. Then, slowly slide a hand down towards her and gently rub or scritch her. It works ;)
However, if your dog is an outdoor-minded animal, keeping her inside may create too much stress for her and actually be counterproductive. In that case, a securely fenced yard may be a better option. Fence security is critical: a fearful dog is often a fantastic escape artist, and if she gets loose, she may be gone forever.
Short visits to the house--if possible--help a LOT...at first she may panic, and pace back and forth looking for a way out, so it is very important that you are aware of any possible escape avenues within your house. Keep in mind that "possible" includes anything that can be accessed by an animal on top of the counter, stove, washing machine, or fridge. Check all the doors and windows--make sure they are closed and latched (some dogs who are desperate to get outside can open them). She may go right through a screen, so be sure the glass is down as well. Let anyone who may be coming through the door know about the "loose dog", and that they need to exercise caution lest she squeeze past them as they are closing it. (They can be very sneaky about it! We put a sign on our door if a Spooky Dog is loose in the house.)
If you are trying to get the dog indoors for one of her visits, but she is not willing to come in on her own--even with food enticement--or follow the other dogs in, you can try a variety of tricks. Be creative! If your backdoor opens out into the fenced yard, excellent. Many times, you can sort of 'herd' the pup into the house by casually walking towards her from behind. It helps to have a buddy assist you with the 'herding' ;) You could also attempt to put a leash on her & lead her inside...but if the process of getting a lead on her is freaking her out immensely, you may want to put it off for awhile, until she is more comfortable with you. The last thing you want to do at this point is scare her unnecessarily. Don't chain her in the yard...more often than not, you will do a lot more damage than the convenience of being able to catch her is worth. :-/
Another great way to "trap" a critter is to rig up a way of closing the door from a distance. We use a string-&-pulley sort of system here ;) If you have gradually gotten her to accept eating indoors, put her food down and pretend to ignore her. When she sneaks inside, pull the string...the door will close and *waalaaa*, a dog in the house!
If your pup is in a pen not attached to the house, you are at a disadvantage. You will need to get a leash on her to bring her in...even if she won't walk and you decide to carry her, you'll still want to have her on lead. If she panics and jumps out of your arms--and she might--, you'll need the leash for backup. Some folks try leaving the leash on her at all times: this way, you can reach her from a greater distance away, and not have to take hold of her neck to clip it on (which can be very frightening to her). However, there are some things to consider here. First, the leash will need to be plastic-coated airline cable or something comparable--chain is noisy and frightening to them, and standard nylon leashes are chewed through in an instant. Second, is there anything she can get the lead caught on? Just a reminder here, NEVER leave a "choker collar" on any unattended animal. Many an animal has been strangled by its own choke collar. Third, if you have her in an enclosure with other dogs, they will most likely take part in some sort of weird game where the dog wearing the leash is "IT". I don't know what the psychology behind it is, but they will single out the leashed dog, and she may be teased unmercifully, or even beaten up. IF you leash a rescue in the presence of other dogs, always watch over them to prevent this from happening.
Another option for dogs who are afraid of being leashed is to fit them with a harness. This may make her more comfortable...it's worth a shot. Be sure to get proper fit, as she will probably try her best to wiggle out of it.