At the ripe old age of 42, I finally have a puppy. I found him in a ditch on an isolated road- I thought he might be hurt when I stopped, but he was just hungry and scared. So, what could I do? I took him home, named him Auggie, and introduced him to my 2 cats.
I've had him about a month now, he's about 7 months old, I've already had him neutered, and he seems to be getting along with the cats. I am completely in love with him. But he has a few...quirks. I suspect the poor little guy was abused before, because everytime he sees me with something longish in my hand (an umbrella, a roll of wrapping paper, etc.), he flinches. He also hates the leash and absolutely freezes when I hook it up to his collar, so I can't get him to go anywhere on the leash.
He seems to be afraid of everything (except the cats- he loves them and tries to give them him toys. They are, of couse, horrified at the thought of touching anything that has dog spit on it). When he goes out into the yard to potty, he freaks out when he hears another dog bark or a car, even if it's pretty far away.
Is there anything I can do to help him be less scared of everything? How do I get him to let me wak him on the leash? I don't want to force him. I've talked to my vet and she says that he'll learn to trust me and will be bolder "in time" but didn't really offer any suggestions. I'll adore him even if he's always a scaredy-dog, but I'd really like for him to be more comfortable.
Any suggestions? Bright ideas? Two-bit opinions?
I highly recommend taking your puppy to either a puppy kindergarden or an obedience class. This provides the pup with a chance to socialize with other dogs and to see that they are nothing to be scared of. Also, the instructors could provide you with some hints for helping him coming out of his shell.
Socialization. We got our dog from the pound at the ripe old age of 4 months. She and her sister were found without tags, etc. Our dog was (and to a small extent) is initially wary of men and of hats so I don’t know that you can ever have the dog get completely over some of those quirks.
But, we found that the more she was around kind people and dogs that just wanted to play and run around, the better she also became.
Kudos, Katie, for taking in a puppy who needed a home.
Have you tried attaching the leash at home and just letting him drag it around? Attaching a leash that’s been cut down to just half a foot long (that sounds like wasting a good leash, I know)? Attaching a leash to a toy or just laying the leash around?
This’ll probably sound stupid, but I might try smearing some peanut butter on the leash at home every now and then to try for some positive association with it.
Congratulations!! A dog is the only love that money can buy.
I second Yllaria’s suggestion. Desensitize him bu letting him wear the leash contantly. At first, to tug on it, ot even touch it, just get him used to it. Work up from there. I wouldn’t recommend flyboy88’s suggestion, because you don’t want him to learn to chew on it. My dog Kate didn’t seem afraid of anything - except tape mesures. Since that isn’t a frequent thing she had to deal with, I never bothered to cure her of it. The puppy classes might be a good thing, although I’d wait until Augie is comfortable wearing and walking on a leash.
Thanks for taking this little pup home! Too many strays out there.
I have 3 cats and 3 dogs. The dogs were acquired all at once as strays. A mom and her pups. A few things I found absolutely invaluable— Learn to crate train. It’s not just great for potty training (which sounds like you’re already there); when we leave they go to the crate which saves a lot of items from getting chewed.
I grew up with pets and never trained one of them. Now, I’m a huge advocate for it and it IS possible to do a lot of this without the expense of a trainer. It seems like a fairly obvious suggestion but there are a lot of great books out there that would help. Your veternarian would also help too.
As far as it goes with the leash, having them carry it around the house is a good suggestion. Also, look into a “gentle leader” you can find more information about this online… your pet store may even carry one. They’re more humane than a leash and are invaluable when you’re walking your dog. Good luck and congrats on your new family member!
The leash training for Auggie should be taken in steps. Since he’s fearful of many things, he needs a lot of reassurance as part of his training.
Pick up the leash, let Auggie see it, and call him over. Pat him on the head and give him a “reward”. Show him the leash, and praise him when he examines it. Do this routine for several days. Then try calling him over when you have the leash in your hands. Praise him as before, then simply snap the leash onto his collar. Praise Auggie again and feed a treat. Unsnap the leash at this point. This should be repeated daily until Auggie is comfortable with the leash being placed on his collar.
Once he gets over his loathing for the leash, training him to follow your lead should be much easier. Always let him know when he’s pleasing you by rewarding with pets, hugs and treats. Dogs want to please their people and postive reinforcement makes the most of that trait.
Good luck with Auggie, he’s lucky he found you!
Actually, they make “tab”-type leashes for dogs; they’re less than a foot long. Attach one of these to Auggie’s collar and let him drag it around for a day or two, just to let him get used to something attached to his collar. Then graduate to a full six-foot leash (as far as I know, there is no middle ground, unless you alter a leash yourself).
Good luck; sounds like Auggie’s found a good home!
Thank you for saving Auggie. I only wish more people would do the same. I second the advice above and may only add that, with patience, Auggie will adjust. I know because I adopted a dog from the SPCA that had been abused. After about 6 months she came out of her shell and now gets “happy tail fever” when it’s time for our walk.
Help Auggie build his confidence. Lavish him with praise when he does good. Even throwing a ball and praising him when he returns with it will help him build some confidence. A lot of books say that dogs should have jobs to do, too, like fetching the paper. My dog’s “job” is to wake up the kids. It really does help build self esteem.
I would definitely get him socialized, esp. with children now. Nervous dogs tend to be biters if they aren’t taught when they are young that if the alpha (you) thinks this person is okay, they need to trust his/her judgment. Be sure to watch him closely around new people. If his eyes get dilated, he’s not wagging his tail, or if you can see the whites of his eyes, take him aside. Sit with him and pet him and speak softly to him and assure him that these people are “friends.” If he is nice to them and wags his tail, praise, praise, praise him!
I’d ease him into socialization with adults or older kids first, who understand that we don’t pull on the dog’s tail, or pull his ears. Because an over-aggressive kid can make the dog regress. Once he learns to trust again, he’ll be fine.
Good luck with Auggie!
As far as helping him become more confident, puppy classes and regular training are a good way to go. Also, make sure you are not inadvertently reinforcing his scared behavior by giving him lots of attention, petting, etc. when he acts afraid. I don’t mean ignore him, but if he gets the most attention when he acts scared, he is being trained to act this way. Make sure you praise him when he makes any attempt to try something new, act confident, investigate, etc. so he learns he gets good attention for acting confident.
You could also try teaching him a “settle” or “calm down” command, to use when he is nervous, or just too over-excited. We taught our puppy this command first just by noticing when she was calmly sitting, laying down, whatever, and praising her, “good settle!” When she eventually learned to associate “settle” with being calm, we used this command when she was too excited, or whining. If she was crying in her crate at night, I would talk to her and tell her, “settle”, then as soon as she was calm, even for a minute, she got praised. It’s useful for taking her to the vet also, to get her to be calm for the exam. She learns she gets the most praise and attention when she is calm and confident.
I am currently using this to help her get over her fear of the vacuum. She used to hide behind the curtain when she saw it, now she still doesn’t like it but just goes to another room. I also left it out to desensitize her to it, she cautiously approached it to investigate while it was off, and got lots of praise.
Sounds like he is a good dog, and lucky to have you! Just needs to build his confidence a little, he’ll be fine.
Congratulations on your new baby! (yes, you will come to think of him as this.) Now as for advice…
Socialize him. You may want to attempt this with older dogs as younger dogs have a tendency to be more playful/aggressive and this can scare more skittish animals, whereas older dogs are more mellow.
Don’t spoil him. I know those puppy eyes are just so hard to resist, but if you spoil him now you won’t be able to break this habit later in life.
Pay him lots of attention. Abused animals especially need to know that they are loved.