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How to approach nervous/fearful dog

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Emily Chambers, Jan 8, 2019.


  1. Emily Chambers

    Emily Chambers PetForums Newbie

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    Hello!
    To give some context, I am a teenage year old girl and my neighbors both work night shifts sometimes during the week, and I sleep in their house overnight to look after their three children while they are away. Usually when I get there the children are in bed by the dog is always up and around; he is a gorgeous Alsatian cross (but I'm not sure what he's crossed with) and for some level of anonymity his name will remain "dog" . This dog was a stray on the streets of Italy that they took in to live with them. Not long after they took in the already anxious dog, they were the victim of two break-in robberies, making the dog even more fearful of people and especially men. This made them move back to England and they took the dog with them. The family are the most lovely people you will ever meet, and they treat him very well, so it is nothing that they are doing to cause this; he is very affectionate towards his family.
    When I first came to the house, the dog didn't make aggressive gestures as such, but avoided me entirely. Whenever I went to stroke him, he growled and showed his teeth which was a clear sign for me to back off, and I did. After being there for a few weeks, with treats and a gentle tone of voice, he will now come over and let me gently stroke his side, but looks incredibly uneasy and I prefer to leave him alone. His ears are always back when I am there, and as far as I am aware he has bitten three other house guests.
    Now, I don't need this dog's total love and affection as I completely get that he has had a traumatic start to life and you can't expect him to trust everyone! However I do feel really bad that for up to three nights every week, this dog is really stressed, scared and uneasy by my presence. I don't need cuddles from him or anything like that, but is there anything I can do behavior-wise or other to make the dog feel more at ease when I am around? Just so he is less nervous and can relax? I just hate the thought of him being worried by the fact that I am in his house.
     
  2. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    If he's avoiding you entirely, allow this and continue on this plan. In fact I would ask the homeowners to put him in a part of the house you don't have to go in, leave him there with a stuffed kong or chew that doesn't need supervision and you avoid each other completely.
     
  3. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    I too, would ask the owners to arrange for the dog to be in a separate area from me for everybody’s peace of mind tbh.
     
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  4. kimthecat

    kimthecat PetForums VIP

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    The best way to do this , is to ignore him . Dont approach him. It will make him feel safe and let him come round in his own time.
    If he approaches to investigate then don't try to stroke him or look at him directly .
    Once he becomes more relaxed then you could talk to him but still dont approach or look at him directly.
     
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  5. Emily Chambers

    Emily Chambers PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much for the quick replies! They have a large boot-room at one side of the house so I will ask if he can be kept in there with his bed, toys and some food for the first few times, then maybe after a while have him put in there but with the door open? So he might be able to approach me if he wants to, but he also has that space that I will stay out of? Once again thank you so much for the replies.
     
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  6. Burrowzig

    Burrowzig PetForums VIP

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    Try reading out loud to him, too - without looking at him. Dogs usually find it very calming; a low, continuous human voice.
    A good intermediate stage for this would be to have the dog behind a baby gate.
    Presumably the dog has to be let out to toilet, so you will have to have some direct contact with him?
     
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  7. kimthecat

    kimthecat PetForums VIP

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    Ive just read through your post again .
    Do you feel in danger or do you think he will bite?
    Im not sure about the boot room . If he is not used to going in it , it might make him anxious or may be used a dog gate so the door isnt shut .
     
  8. CheddarS

    CheddarS PetForums VIP

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    I would not interact with him at all. No touching, watching etc. When you are in the house have a bag of tasty treats that you can drop (not feed) for him, this will build up a safe environment for him. Will be slow but confidence will grow
     
    #8 CheddarS, Jan 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
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  9. Emily Chambers

    Emily Chambers PetForums Newbie

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    I think the owners have a baby gate but yes, I will have to let him out at some point so using advice posted here I will not look or communicate with him, and simply drop a few treats for him before opening door? And no I don't think he will bite me, nor am I fearful, he seems to have a lovely temperament around his family and would only bite if threatened in a situation where he feels like he can't escape, such as someone continuing to stroke him despite his warnings. I have no worries that he will ever attack or anything like that, but I feel bad for ruining his evenings (sounds lame I know). I will ask owners which room would be most suitable for him, possibly the kitchen as it is large so if I have to go in there at all there will be a lot of distance between us and he won't feel cornered, opinions?
     
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  10. Blitz

    Blitz PetForums VIP

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    What a lovely person you are. You say the dog has bitten other people in the house yet you are happy to be in with him and do not feel threatened. I think that shows you are doing something right. I would agree that you should ignore him and not try to interact at all.
     
  11. Emily Chambers

    Emily Chambers PetForums Newbie

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    Aw thank you! I just think that he has a good heart but is scared of strangers and in his mind, rightly so. I think that he would bite me if I pressured him to by behaving towards him how I might behave towards my own dog in the cuddling, stroking, lots of attention way. But I genuinely think he is a nice dog deep down, and he's always been nice enough to me. I think I'll also try to make it so he sees as little of me as possible in that case, so he might forget I am there.
     
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  12. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    Just make sure he is aware you’re there before you start moving around the house, by waffling on about something in a calm voice before you do ;)
     
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  13. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

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    Totally agree. You do sound lovely and very responsible too:)
     
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