|Barked: Mon Jan 14, '13 10:12pm PST |
|I wouldn't prescribe medications personally.
My dog Kye was abused badly before I rescued him (he was adopted in 2004 from my hometown SPCA) and was so terrified of people that he would shut right down as soon as the kennel door was opened. He would crawl to the back panting, shaking and urinating on himself. His pupils would dilate and he wouldn't respond to any stimuli, he was just that terrified. Thankfully he seemed to adore me right away. I managed to get a lead on him and took him for a short walk around, he was still extremely skittish but being outside seemed to help him deal with people a lot better.
What I did was first work on a bond with me, once a dog trusts and respects you it's far easier to convince him you're doing things for his own good. A good tip for a fearful dog is to pet under the chin and the chest instead of the top of the head or back/shoulders so you the dog builds confidence. I know a few trainers suggest stroking the tail and keeping it from between the hind legs, triggering a new mindset, but I have never applied this method and cannot vouch for it. I did a lot of hand feeding, controlled exercise (heel and sit/lie while on walks) and I'll admit, I even sang to him when the mood struck and despite my utter lack of tune I think he enjoyed it.
After he felt comfortable around me and would take food from my hand we worked on areas of discomfort. I'm thankful for my school bus driver, who let me bring my terrified dog on the bus every day after school and patiently waited while I got him to sit calmly. After he would get on the bus and sit I started getting my bus driver to give him a treat, first step in seeing strangers as something fun. I used the school bus as a way to teach him to deal with stressful situations and remain calm, even if approached by a stranger. It was very important to me that he didn't develop into a fear biter.
We moved on to walking down Main Street at rush hour and visiting pet stores where strangers would pet him (one at a time) after he relaxed in the new environment. You can use popular phrases as cues for a behavior as well. A lot of people say "Hi" when greeting a dog so use 'hi' before providing a reward, this way the dog learns that when he hears it good things happen. I don't mean treats always, it could be anything from praise to play.
The first 'scary' place you master with your dog is a big milestone, they get easier to work through every time, you just have to provide your pup with an alternative response to fight/flight. I used 'sit' and then added 'touch' after to keep Kye focused on me. If he feels like he's being overwhelmed he will sit and place his paw on my foot. It takes a long time to get a fearful dog comfortable around new people and things but it's 100% worth the effort for you and the dog.
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