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From: Callie (
Subject:         RUN ... do not walk ... away from that guy
Date: May 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm PST

In Reply to: Advice for Training frightened (abused?) dog posted by Georgi on May 3, 2009 at 9:06 am:

Likely these are the same sort of tactics that got her scared to begin with.

Yes, I actually have significant experience in training terrified/skittish dogs.

I took a street stray in once who was just a horrid wreck. She'd come from the bad side of town and was quite literally 'gun shy' to ANY noise at all. After having her for a few days it was apparent she was terrified to go thru doorways and thru doors. SOMEONE had played "Let's jump out and scare the dog" -- or "Let's slam the door on the dog and see her jump".

Not my idea of fun but someone had just terrorized this poor girl. Even the sound of dogfood being poured into a bin scared the life out of her.

We had to take everything super slowly. She was even more terrified of men and my husband spent HOURS on his back next to her -- making no demands, but just talking to her in a low soft voice until she trusted him. And she DID come to trust him implicitly. She knew he would be gentle and kind.

Most dogs leave ANY rescue feeling bruised ... "what did I DO??" "when are THESE people going to kick me out?" "what's gonna make them mad -- I can't screw up again!"

They DO automatically assume it's their fault very very often -- and YOU probably don't know what the prior history is.

So you have to be very careful to BUILD that relationship.

“coming when called” can be many layers – my first question would be do you know what her name was *previously*?? Very often, dogs think “No” or “bad dog” or such is their name. But their name can actually be an exercise in terror.

For example – a friend of mine was involved in a situation where it seemed like you couldn’t verbally praise the dog without her literally turning to jelly. Trying to tell her she was “good” or a “good girl” seemed to terrify her. Well, later the woman found out that the prior owner had a terrible temper. And when she was “naughty” the guy would literally BEAT HER and with each whack he would say “YOU >>> WILL >>> BE >>> A >>> G*O*O*D >>>G*I*R*L!!!!!” and the words “good” and “girl” were punctuated by the most extreme hits.

The dog thot ‘good girl’ was something horrible. Those words simply typified pain to her.

So you get creative – your voice should be **the most awesome** thing to this dog. Your gentle praise. Even you saying her name.

Here's a little exercise to help build positive reacton to commands. This is a great great motivator.

Dig out "high value" treats for this -- small bits of hot dog or steak, or cheese.

Sit with both 'fists' on their knees (holding one treat in each fist). At first be right in front of her. Then gradually – and I MEAN **gradually** you will inch away so that she has to move closer to get the treats. By “gradually” I mean literally inch by inch. For this dog even leaning over to take a treat from your hands is likely a huge mega deal.

So – be right in front of her and call her name. NAME. That's all -- JUST the name. (no 'sit' no behavior, just the NAME).

The **instant** the dog's eyes make contact with you offer the treat flat handed right under the mouth. Ask for a sit, and just scratch the neck. But focus needs to be ON THE words … not the ‘sit’.

Say the dog's name *again*. Just the name. low key, not yelling, just conversational in tone. Just name.

AGain as SOON as the dog's eyes shift to the speaker oFFER THE TREAT.

Good, girl POOCHIE!! and a good neck rub.

IF you think words may hold terror – change your vocabulary totally. Instead of “good girl” tell her she’s an awesome kid!! A sweet baby. A terrific buddy! But keep your voice sweet, low and positive. Smile when you say it. Gentle neck rubs.

Eventually skip the food or alternate it with just praise. You can do it anywhere and the 'reward' can simply become your JOY that the dog responded to it's name.

This links the dog's name being spoken with it's attention immediately shifted to the speaker. Her name suddenly is a GOOD thing. Her name suddenly is almost a reward in itself.

Be sensitive. Does this dog cringe or run the other way when you say its name? Or any word - like "come" or "sit"??? If so, change to a different word.

Crates – don’t try to move the crate. ADD crates. Get one for in the living room *while you are there*. Kitchen … anywhere you can think of. (Sometimes the local animal control may have crates cheap. Or cutting a 6’ sheet of wooden lattice into thirds and use hooks & eyes that screw in to make a ‘triangle’ that is an x-pen of sorts that’s portable.

Feed in the crates (take your own dinner in the living room while she has hers in her living room ‘crate’), give treats while she’s in there. Even just laying on your side on the floor next to the crate in whatever room to create the illusion of being relaxed and spending time.

But in other words – take it VERY slow.


She’s not housetrained. So essentially make It pretty impossible for her to screw up. Leash her TO you. Yes, in the house, every single moment of the day. Use a leash attached to her collar and loop the handle over your belt. Literally connect her to you. Have her follow you every single step. – when she gets a bit agitated and starts to sniff or circle – you say “Gotta potty? Let’s GO!!!” and with a big smile make your way to the neartest door outside – stop at the door and say ‘potty out side!!” and go out there. Now you can clip an extra leash onto her regular leash if you need to give her more room. But take her straight to that spot where you **want** her to go. Go and stand there.

Don’t let it be a marathon – don’t stand there til sun sets. Nope … just a couple of minutes. You may have a trigger phrase like “get busy!” or “potty now, honey!” or whatever works.

But then – after 2-3 minutes of inactivity go back inside. But WATCH HER every second. When she begins to sniff again, repeat the above and get her back outside to her place.

But if you allow her out of your sight she will likely go where she’s gone before in the house. Because whoever trained her (and I use those words loosely) likely only taught her to be afraid of going **in front of a human**.

So the first time she goes outside in your presence have a little party!! What an AWESOME dog!!

I’m going to copy in here something I did for a friend who had a dog afraid to go in the car. That’s not your situation BUT it will show you the kind of breaking down into TINY increments you have to do for a fearful dog:


Bond with this dog. This takes time. It takes a LOT of time.

It often takes a fearful dog a good month or so before you even see this dog feel comfortable enough to allow itself to 'screw up'. (be bad) -- The things you are seeing -- the lack of recall. That's training … it's NOT inate. It's something that must be taught. It's not something this dog is doing 'bad' -- it really just doesn't understand *you* yet.

So where do you start?

you start very very small -- You know this dog -- what does she value above all else? Is it food? Is it your praise? Is it a particular toy?

So for example -- if you were to start with the car … you have to make all aspects of the car great, and wonderful fun!!! And honestly, that's gonna take you days!! Weeks perhaps.

While you have her outside (and she's comfortable outside so that's a good thing) -- you take her NEAR the car. That's all. near. You talk about it. "That's Mom's car. I LOVE to go in the car!" but stop short of her getting at all nervous. "Good girl -- see, it didn't even jump out at you or bite you. That car is our ticket to freedom, so we're gonna take a long time with this!"

Get some really GOOD treats - and they don't have to be store bought ones -- cut up a bit of steak into tiny tiny pieces, or a really GOOD training treat is the mozzarella "string cheese" that comes in wrapped sticks. You stick one in your pocket and just break off a TASTE -- in fact smearing it on your fingers for them to lick off is often a great reward!!!

But you actually take a few days to work up to even getting NEXT to the car. Because you don't want any anxiety -- you stop short of her getting anxious so you can reward the good behavior. Then comes the day when you just plain plop down NEXT to the car -- feed her some treats -- talk to her about places you want to go with her and generally have a happy, conversation built around being NEXT to the car.

Next time? I'd open the door before you bring her out on leash -- just leave it mostly 'shut' but let her be able to get her nose involved -- hmmm, that smells like Mom in there. But remember -- she's had DAYS now to build up to this -- DAYS of seeing the car and being next to it.

You don't open the door -- you just lean against it and shut it (so she hears the click) and AT THE SAME TIME you shove a treat in her mouth so she associates that sound with something good. That's it -- that's ALL again for today.

it may take you another week to actually work up to you sitting down in the car and her being willing to get in it. Toss the keys on the seat so SHE can 'watch them' -- she's a smart girl - she knows you need them to get IN the car and to start it. So sitting on those keys will give her a feeling of helping you and trust.

Take as long as you need -- but once you get her in the car you simply start it as the next thing. Don't 'go' anywhere -- in fact, maybe start it with her not even IN the car. Whatever in your judgement will freak her out the least.

You may not actually 'drive' anywhere (and then it will be like 3 feet and that's ALL) for several more days -- but she's being 'desensitized'. She's learning you can stay calm around the car, and it's not a big blue meanie!!

Eventually you only drive to the mailbox. Then maybe you go out in the street and back in.

The other thing I should have said in this very long post -- and I should have said it at the top -- is that you would likely benefit from "Nothing In Life Is Free" training with this dog. go to any decent search engine and type in (or copy in):

"Nothing In Life Is Free" dog training

You'll get a ton of hits -- but this is the thing that on a day to day basis IN YOUR HOME that is going to turn things around so you are in control, rather than you 'reacting' to the dog.

I just wanted to use the thing with the car to show you how many billions of steps you actually have to break a training exercise into sometimes -- because you break it down into a ton of small tiny *successes* -- and actually arrange things so you don't have any failures if you can help it.

With Millie, the little street stray I talked about at the top -- the car was difficult for her too. Mostly because ANY sound would cause her to jump. I live in Florida where they have reflectors all over the road? Going over a reflector makes a 'click' that would make Millie jump a foot.

So we modified the training above -- I would drive (she got IN the car ok -- it was the noises that scared her). David would sit in the passenger seat with Millie between his knees and he'd just talk to her.

We would head for the road with the most potholes, or railroad tracks or anything "noisey". And this is how it would go:

"Millie, we're coming to a bump .. it's gonna make a sound like bumpity bumpity bumpity .... yeah ... that wasn't so bad!!"

Then we'd approach another bump and he'd say "Here it goes again bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity WOW!! You did great!!!"

Very soon she knew that when HE said "bumpity bumpity" it was EXPECTED ... it was ... OK! Eventually it became her mantra -- and we'd use it in the house "we're gonna pour dogfood in -- it's gonna be loud! bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity bumpity GOOD GIRL!!!"

Good luck -- sorry this was so long, but that man's training will make your dog worse. It will take a long time to develop that kind of confidence but you can and will if you take time and patience.

Your training thus far has probably not been in small enough steps. She knows you mean well but life is still too full of unknowns for her.

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