|I suspect that Mikey will appreciate my answer and Pood will find it distasteful. I’m not posting to get into an argument regarding methods, simply presenting my opinion which may be helpful for working with the little dog.
When dealing with a fearful dog (and I do deal with many of them), I assume the position that the root cause for a behavior is far less important than the actual behavior, itself. There are many times when I don’t know a dog’s history. But, when you think about it, other dogs don’t know a dog’s history, either when they first meet. They just assess the dog for who he is, what he is projecting at the moment when they meet. LuLu doesn’t say to (new to the house) Paco, “Hey, dude, you must have had a really bad relationship with your mother when you were young, huh?” Instead, I perceive them contemplating things like, “Hey, Dude, get a grip on yourself, that sort of behavior isn’t going to tolerated around here – you’re gonna mess up our peaceful existence if you keep acting like that”. They don’t care WHY he is acting like that (whether “that” is aggressive, fearful or excessively exuberant for the situation), they just give prompt feedback about whether the behavior will be tolerated.
We humans want to know WHY. “Why does he look like that?”, “Why is he acting that way?”, “Why, Why, Why?”
Personally, I don’t really care, “Why” a dog is acting the way he is. I ask myself, “Do I like the behavior? Yes? OK, he can keep doing it. Do I not like the behavior? NO, it’s unacceptable. OK, I will fix it”. It’s that simple.
So, with the little Pom-mix, my recommendation is to simply look at the dog’s behavior and not try to understand why she is acting as she is, and try not to acknowledge her fears. Don’t label her “fearful”, just say that she has behaviors that are not social. Any dog (big or small), if it hasn’t been trained to deal with walking on a leash could freeze and act like you are killing it when tension is created on the dog’s neck. The point is, do you want the dog to walk on a leash and do you not like that it isn’t? Then, you choose a method to move the dog away from the unacceptable behavior.
Depending upon the dog, you could simply bend down, take tension off the leash, tap your thigh, make a kissing noise, speak sweetly, and encourage the dog to move forward, if even a couple of inches, and when it is moving forward, you could praise the behavior. Or, you could put a correction collar on the dog and give it a leash pop when it pulled back and balked. There are a dozen other things (or more) to do between those options, as well. You could use food to move the dog forward, too. All the methods can work, and all can backfire on you.
The most important message is that you DO NOT acknowledge the fear. If you employ the first method I described improperly, you could reinforce the fear state of mind (since you may be sweet talking a fearful dog who has not relinquished her fears as you deliver praise). Timing, using that method, is CRITICAL in that, as you release tension from the lead and you see the pup sort of melt and relax, it is THEN that you would encourage the dog forward with praise tones. If the dog remains wholly tense, and you praise, the method could backfire on you. I think that many people fail at that point, and sweet-talk to a fearful dog, which most often, in my experience, reinforces fear.
Using a correction for the anti-social behavior of “balking” on the lead does work, too. But, again the timing has to be right. You want the dog to know that you are unhappy with the “balking” behavior and that there is a negative consequence for the anti-social behavior. To be fair, when using a correction method, it’s better to pair a warning of some sort (usually a word), just before the correction so that the dog can learn to avoid the correction by heeding the warning. Using a correction method to give feedback that balking isn’t acceptable has to be done without any aggression, anger, frustration in the handler’s tone of voice or demeanor.
It sounds, to me, as if you accomplished the task of praising the Pom pup for being less fearful since she began trotting along with you. So, you probably have better “senses” about the pup’s state of mind and the timing of giving feedback about her mental condition, than perhaps you believe you do.
My advice is against adopting a “Fearful Dog” (that doesn’t mean don’t adopt the Pom puppy). If you take her home , just don’t say “Here’s the FEARFUL dog that I adopted”. Thinking that she is a “fearful dog” may result in a state where will treat her differently than if you adopt a “Dog that has some social issues to resolve”. So, don’t judge her as “fearful” and you will be better able to help her through her problem areas. Refrain from labeling the REASON for her anti-social behavior, instead simply assess the behavior, itself. Do you like the behavior? Then, leave it alone. Do you not like the behavior? Then fix it – REGARDLESS of why the dog is acting anti-socially.
My opinion is that the act of “fixing” some anti-social behaviors will, at times, require appropriately timed corrections. They will let the dog know that you are in charge, that you won’t tolerate the behavior, and that you are proactive in your assessment of her behavior. Assuming that position, typically, sends the message to the dog that she has NOTHING to fear, since you are competent at assessing “perceived” threats in the environment, and you will assume the role of addressing them (and, you do not expect her to do so, especially, on her own). Most anti-social / fearful behaviors, in my experience, are a result of the dog thinking she is alone to address and ward off perceived threats (whether that’s a leaf blowing by, a person with a hat, or a cat walking past the window). If you let her know you will not tolerate such disrespectful behavior, she will relinquish control of assessing threats to you and she will become calm and confident under the umbrella of your leadership.
The final point is that I am not suggesting that you “correct fear”. Fear is good. If it is kept within “normal tolerances” for the scenario, it keeps us all alive. I am suggesting that, at times, correcting the anti-social behavior that is a result of extreme or unnecessary fear, will resolve the dog’s fear-driven behaviors quickly and it’s the most dog-friendly method of managing a dog that presents those behaviors.
I say, give the pup a chance!