Brigetta is terrified when I take her on a walk. I'm not sure of her background, but she has been this way ever since I've had her. She is very anxious, noticeably upset, her tail is always between her legs, and every time I walk her when people are around she'll defecate right then and there. I was wondering if anyone has experience with this type of situation or has advice about the way I am handling it.
~ I walk her twice a day- a shorter walk 15-20 min in the morning. Usually no one is around at this time and she is ok unless a car drives by or starts then she goes in circles, pulls, and whines. In the evening I walk her for 25 to 35 min depending on what we encounter on the walk. I take her around children, strangers, etc. If they get anywhere near us or if I put her in heel she'll defecate on the spot. I usually walk right by people and tell her "come" and ignore her anxiety. I have tried having people give her treats, but she is too nervous to eat and I have also tried keeping her in the heel position while I talk with someone and we ignore her (she usually goes to the bathroom). Should I just continue to keep walking her and ignore her anxiety? I really want her to be able to enjoy walking. With the exception of meeting strangers, a nervous bark/howl she has when someone is near where we live, and obviously the walking she is in my opinion a normal 7 month old puppy. She loves to fetch, play with other dogs, she is fine around the children in my family (as far as not being afraid). Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Teresa, mom to Brigetta and Prudence
Oh my, the poor thing. To be so nervous and afraid.
I'm sorry, I don't have any advice, having never dealt with something like this, but I hope you can find a solution so she can overcome this.
A lot of advice says when a dog shows a fear of something, don't reinforce it..just act casual so they'll see it's no big deal. Sounds like that's what you're doing, but she has maybe an extreme case of anxiety and fear. I really hope you can find a good solution..good luck.
Desensitizing involves a very slow process of finding the dog's 'tolerance point' and slowly adjusting it upward.
For example: Brigetta tenses up when she sees a person 50 feet away. To begin with, find a quiet place 55 feet from the sidewalk, and have some fun with her. Do some obedience exercises, play a game, whatever. When you see someone approaching, get her to sit and start rapid fire treating with a HIGH POWERED treat - something she really loves and rarely gets. This is going to be your 'fear-factor treat', only used when she's in public. Once she's relaxed and looking forward to the treats, move in toward the sidewalk a couple of feet. Repeat, only moving forward if she's calm and relaxed. Let her set the pace, and never force her beyond her 'safety zone'.
Two good books on this are "Cautious Canine" (McConnell) and "Help for your Shy Dog" (Wood) - dogwise.com carries both of them. I highly recommend you contact a trainer experienced with these issues as well.
Thank you. I think I have been forcing her beyond her "safety zone". I will look into the books you have reccomended as well. I've written to a trainer who is in my area to see if we can get into one of her classes and will definitely discuss this issue with her when she comes back- she's at the Association of Pet Dog Trainer's Annual Education Conference now; I hope she can be of help as well. Thanks again for your advice and thanks Djc249 for yout thoughts.
Teresa, mom to Brigetta and Prudence
Best of luck! This won't be an overnight fix, but with time, patience and love, you will see your girl come out of her shell - and in my opinion, there is nothing more rewarding to see the soft light come into a terrified dog's eyes.
I've done a bit of rehab with puppy mill and abused dogs, and its one of the most rewarding training experiences I've had.
Excellent advice from kaytris.
I used a similar method with my own rescue pup, Trick. I got him when he was 8-10 weeks (don't know for sure) and he and his littermates had very little contact with people up until that point. He was very skittish and nervous. It took time and lot of work but now, at 4 years old, he is a different dog. Still slightly nervy with strange men but in all other respects a great, well adjusted dog.
It will get better.