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Romanian rescue dog has rarely come out of her crate in 5 weeks

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Connie124, Aug 2, 2018.


  1. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    Hi everyone. I wondered if anyone has any advice with how to go about my little rescue pup.

    I was training for a job position for a residential dog training company, and was given this sweet little Hungarian rescue to try and rehabilitate to help with my training for the job. I am currently fostering her only, however me and my partner are very keen on keeping her here with us!

    The dog's name is Hope. She is a small and very petite dog, resembling what I would imagine a miniature pinscher cross jack russel would look like. She was thought to be between 7 and 10 months old when I got her. She had been with a fosterer previous to me for 9 weeks who had reported that she had shown no improvement whilst being with her. She apparently had never toiletted outside as she was so petrified of the outdoors that all she does is panic and try her hardest to escape back into the house. I was also told she was frightened of men and that she would freak out at any noise. Not much is known about Hope's background other than she was taken out of a kill shelter in Romania. It is thought she was previously a street dog, so may have never lived in someone's home. She was so shut down when she arrived with me that she didn't eat or drink for 3 days, she just lay in the corner of her crate with her head down avoiding all eye contact and interaction, and toiletting in the spot she was laying.

    The company I was training for has some highly qualified/experienced trainers, all of whom gave different advice about how to help with my pup. One person told me to force her to come out of her crate regularly through the day. It felt wrong doing this as I wasn't getting anywhere with her trusting me. So I consulted another very experienced trainer who told me the best thing is actually to completely ignore her and leave her alone, and not to force her into doing anything. I am much more comfortable with this approach. I have since left the company however still in contact with some of the trainers for advice on Hope, yet none of them know what to do with her.

    I have taken the approach of giving her time and space and allowing her to realise it's not so bad and coming to me into her own time, however I have had Hope for 5 weeks now and she still will not voluntarily come out of her crate. She has never been out in the garden since I took her out there over a month ago. The door to her crate is always open unless we are in bed or out. I am here almost every day, so it's not even like she's not had much time with my presence. She will take food from my hand when she's in her crate and allow me to touch her. She will also creep out of her crate to reach her bowl of food if it is a few feet away, however this can sometimes take her half an hour of standing at the entrance before she gets the courage to creep out and eat, and if anyone moves or makes a noise she bolts straight back in even if her food isn't finished. Once she finishes her food there is no waiting around and she's straight back in her crate. She waits to toilet only at night time, and early morning she whines for someone to come and change her soiled blankets. She does not yet enjoy human interaction and has never approached me unless I've tempted her with food in the confines of her crate. Sometimes if I go upstairs and leave Hope alone in her crate downstairs she will whine, but then when I come back down will be uncomfortable with my presence. It's almost like she wants the security of having company in the room with her but she doesn't actually like me yet! There has been a few occassions when I have picked her up out of the crate to see what her reaction is, and on these occassions she will eat her food out of a bowl whilst sat on my lap, but as soon as she's done will bolt back into her crate. It's heartbreaking, she is only a puppy but she spends all her time stuck to the confines of her crate because she just cannot bring herself to come out and has no interest in toys. She doesn't want to be looked at or stroked, she just lays at the back of her crate all day.

    So I suppose I just wondered if anyone thinks I should do anything differently, or if anyone has been in this situation with their rescue. I am worried that she's now so safe and secure in her crate that she's just too attached to it and can't bring herself to come out. So do I take her out of the crate myself and kind of force her into that uncomfortable situation? If I do that I worry that I will just be breaking her trust with me, she really does freak out and focus on bolting to get back into the crate or escaping to the tightest corner/space to cower in. Or do I literally just need to wait it out and let her stay in her crate even if it takes several months before she happily comes out? Or perhaps need to make her crate not feel so secure by taking all the covers off? At the moment it's covered in towels with only one side open so that it's more of a den for her, I was told to do that so she feels more comfortable, but perhaps that's making her too secure in there to the point of not wanting to be anywhere else.

    I would love some input from anyone, this poor dog is so severe in her nervousness that even experienced/qualified trainers don't know what to suggest anymore! 5 weeks confined to a crate is a long time, it must be damaging on her mental wellbeing surely.
     

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  2. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    What a sad story :(

    Poor little baby.

    Bless you though for taking her on and wanting to make her life a happy one.

    I have no real experience of dealing with such a traumatised dog but I have a couple of suggestions.

    Could you create a cosy pen extension to her crate so she could have her food, water (puppy pad if necessary) a small distance from the crate but still “enclosed” and safe? It might help her feel less exposed but brave enough to venture out of the crate for longer?

    It will also give her the chance to toilet out of her crate as it seems that upsets her.

    This could slowly extend to include a small pen just outside the back door where she might get more used to the noises and smells?

    Try having gentle music playing in the background as that can help soften other sudden sounds which can come as a shock.

    A horse sanctuary I helped at found having music on helped the traumatised horses to settle and be less spooked.

    Finally, 5 weeks is a very short time for most rescues tbh but more so with one with such a history.
     
  3. Linda Weasel

    Linda Weasel PetForums VIP

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    I think if I was you, after this time, I might be thinking about discussing with my vet some medical intervention, in the hope that it would give you a window to attempt rehabilitation with her less shut down.
     
  4. StormyThai

    StormyThai Moderator
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    @simplysardonic has a Rommy street dog that was shut down when she arrived so hopefully when she sees this she can offer some advice :)
     
  5. Owned by a dog

    Owned by a dog PetForums Member

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    I’m full of admiration for you
     
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  6. simplysardonic

    simplysardonic Moderator
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    Hi @Connie124, I didn't want to read & run, but I've literally just got home from work & I have a stinking migraine so I'm not able to reply this evening as I'm going to put my head down.

    I'll try & get on tomorrow night & reply in more detail, but I just wanted to let you know that she will improve- it was 4 months before our little girl even let us touch her. Be patient & be kind & you will reap the rewards :)
     
  7. kittih

    kittih PetForums VIP

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    No experience with shut down dogs but a fair amount with feral shut down cats. Time is the biggest thing you can give her. 5 weeks is no time at all. Since she was a street pup she's been caught (by dog catchers ?), put in kennels in Romania with strange dogs, had different routines which kept changing and new humans each time, transported to the UK stayed with one human fostered then moved to you. The scents and sounds she is now experiencing are different to those she learned about as a pup in Romania, the people behave differently, speak a different language, smell differently and there are different rules and routines to learn.

    The world is a confusing bewildering place and she has no idea what is safe and normal. So far everything has been frightening.

    If she is feeding from your hand and letting you touch her then that's huge. To start with it is teeny tiny steps. As she gets more familiar her confidence will grow. Perhaps she is unsure if all will change again like it regularly has since she was caught. She doesn't know she has a forever home with you.

    With the cats I usually advise sitting quietly and ignoring them - no direct eye contact or looking their direction. Keeping low with slow smooth movements and a normal/quiet voice. Reading outloud sitting on the floor works well. The human voice when reading is calming and reassuring.

    As with feral cats I also suggest tossing yummy morsels (what ever is smelly and she thinks is the best thing ever) in her general direction but not at her. Even if she doesn't eat them the idea is that when you are relaxing together good stuff happens.

    You can also set up some more hideouts for her. With cats and other animals the more places to hide they have the more courage they get. It is easy to always have somewhere to run to if scared so venturing out is safer if that makes sense.

    Have you tried leaving a camera on at night and watching what she does ? My feral kitties used to become more confident at night and explore the room.

    You could leave a well worn t shirt for her over night which smells of you and leave some treats and tasty stuff around the room to encourage her to explore at night when alone. Becoming familiar with all the smells and objects in her environment will help her relax. Finding lots of tasty positive things scattered about will also help even if she doesn't eat them.

    Music in the back ground can help soften unexpected sounds. The start and stop of the fridge motor, electronic beeps and whirs we cannot hear, sounds outside, hedgehogs mice cats foxes, cars in the distance, an ambulance siren. Classic FM on low is good.

    Also perhaps some calmatives medication can help. Zylkene can work for some. It is a natural protein found in milk. Valerian products can also be beneficial and safe like Beaphar calming spot on. You can also discuss with the vet whether something prescribed might help.

    Chewing and licking can help calm dogs so introducing her to a chew or kong may work.

    I think you need to drop your expectations as to how fast she will gain confidence. She will get there but let her go at her pace. A year from now you will be amazed at the change in her :)
     
    #7 kittih, Aug 2, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2018
  8. Jamesgoeswalkies

    Jamesgoeswalkies PetForums VIP

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    I have a little experience of a Romanian rescue dog who was shut down. I fostered one myself about three years ago and I was closely involved with one more recently who wouldn't leave the crate that it arrived in.

    The advice we were given is to encourage but not force. And it is a long road. For some of these dogs it isn't just about being anxious in new surroundings (which is understandable) but about Learned Helplessness, a psychological condition whereby the animal has been conditioned to believe they have no control over their position (can not 'escape' therefore they 'accept'). This is why the pace has to be so slow as we have to give the animal back some 'control' whilst encouraging them to move forward. Working with your Vet I would, as LindaWeasel has suggested, look at maybe getting some calmatives going to help with the process.

    My associate with the crated rescue was advised to dispose of the crate. In their case whilst they had the dog out with them in the room, the crate was dismantled leaving the original bedding, and a walled surround of cushions replaced the crate walls. It was done in a way to 'recreate' the idea of a den but it was a stage forward as it had no 'roof'. Over the next few weeks the 'walls' also came down. The dog tolerated the slow process and showed no concern that their den was gradually disintergrating to be replaced by a bed. By removing the closed idea of the crate the dog was gradually exposed to the sights and sounds of the room around her. (About four months down the line this dog actually was found sleeping on the sofa!)

    The owner was also advised to use food out in open/thrown in her direction but always to ensure that the human remained at a distance. This dog also wouldn't toilet outside (it took about three months to get the dog down the hall). This was done with her food bowl being placed (and left) inch by inch daily further towards the back door until one day she was eating on the back step.

    My own experience was a little easier but I believe owning 5 other dogs is a great help as my dogs are so relaxed and have always offered great guidance to all my foster dogs. In fact I know that the 'created rescue' family now have another rescue (confident one) which has helped further the improvement.

    Slow and steady is my advice.

    J
     
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  9. kimthecat

    kimthecat PetForums VIP

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    Oh poor little mite. Well done or helping Hope. 5 weeks is a short time . I dont know about street dogs but ex puppy farm dogs are rehome where the new family have another dog which is a great help .
    It might be that she will never be able to cope with going outside in the world but will be happy with your home and garden.
     
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  10. Chatcat

    Chatcat Guest

    Hi, just wondering how it is going for you? I am interested in your story as I have a nervous collie, and I am beginning to think that I have reached as far as I can in making her less nervous. She is 3 now and is at times, still very timid about going out. Walking is pretty stressful and I am coming round to the idea that actually, she just likes to be in the house and sometimes the garden. She's a homebody. She looks remarkably like your Hope. I'm so glad you are trying to help her. Do let us know how you are getting on.
     
  11. simplysardonic

    simplysardonic Moderator
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    Sorry for the delay, you have had some very good advice above, @kittih has given you some great tips which are just as valid for dogs as cats.

    It can seem like 1 step forward, 2 steps back at this stage & it's OK to feel like you're getting nowhere, but 5 weeks is no time at all.

    I had many times thinking 'what have I done?', but I think that happens whether you adopt a shut down street dog or even a well bred puppy from healthy & temperamentally sound parents.

    I think progress may be a little slower with her if she doesn't have any resident dogs to learn from, but there isn't anything that can be done about that, my girl has very good dog manners from living in a crowded kill shelter, although because she's fairly small & quiet she'd become habituated to eating faeces, when it was feeding time the more confident dogs got the food & the quieter ones had to scavenge whatever they could- that habit took a long time to break.

    I know a lot of people in Rommie rescues who will try & force them to do things they aren't ready to do (I had a fair few tell me this, but I decided to go with my gut instinct instead, & let her do things at her pace) like getting them outside on leads, but I don't think 'flooding' them is at all beneficial & probably does more harm than good.

    The dogs don't know what a typical routine in a typical pet home is, they aren't going to miss walks because they don't know what walks are, if she doesn't want to go out then that's fine.

    If her crate is her chosen 'safe space' then let her utilise it as often as she wants, our girl decided behind the sofa was better after a week or two so we collapsed the crate.

    I started small with my girl, she was fully indoors for the best part of a year, learning about living in a home, & using an old towel (frequently changed of course!) we placed by the back door for her toiletting.

    In that time we got her first used to taking food from us & getting her into a mealtime routine, then being stroked & groomed (she was a stinking mess when she arrived!), picked up, interacting with toys, having basic parasite treatments & baths, a collar, then a harness & lead, then a muzzle, using reward based training.

    The second year we carried on with the above, throwing in some basic manners training & we took her in the back garden on her lead in spring, by late summer she was toiletting outside so we toilet trained her, by summer she was asking to go out & spending time exploring the garden & relaxing out there.

    We had a setback that late autumn with someone nearby setting off fireworks when she was outside, so for a long time she wouldn't go out after dark, & even on lead she was so hypervigilant she wouldn't relieve herself, so we went back to towels by the door overnight, but with time she's now happy to go out after dark.

    Walks have had much slower progress & the first few times were very distressing for her, we stopped putting her through them for a long time & then one day I was out the front & she just followed me out there, sniffing around as if she'd always done it!

    She is nowadays taking short walks & coping with light traffic & other external stimuli much better than she was even 6 months ago, we go at her pace & when she wants to turn around we turn around & come home. She has several short walks in the day now, at her pace & letting her just sniff & look around.

    This past week we have had a huge breakthrough with her letting my friend & her children stroke her, something I'd come to believe just wouldn't ever happen!

    I hope this will help you in some way, they are very special dogs, need special people to bring them along, & they definitely aren't a dog that just slots in & gets on with things.

    I wish you both the best of luck, & if you need any advice I'll offer what I can :)
     
    #11 simplysardonic, Aug 6, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
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  12. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    I see how the pen extension may work but it wouldn't really be practical in my house, especially with my toddler around!

    She actually felt comfortable enough today to go to the toilet outside of her crate! She stepped out, had a wee, went back in her crate and then came out again and walked to the other side of the room. I have never seen her do that before so definitely some progress. This morning I put my hand in to stroke her and when I pulled away she stepped right forward in the crate for me to stroke her more and didn't shy away. That was a very special moment as she has never approached me just to be stroked!

    I have been using your suggestion of music or TV on at a low volume in the hopes that she gets used to more sounds and it softens other sounds around her. This seems to be helping a little.

    I understand 5 weeks is a short amount of time (now 6 weeks) considering she has been through so much, I just feel like it was a long time for her to be cowering at the back of her crate with little movement :( She has definitely started moving around a little more now within her crate.

    Thanks for your help!
     
  13. kittih

    kittih PetForums VIP

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    Glad to hear she is becoming braver. You may find as her confidence increases the improvements will be exponential though don't be surprised if it is one step forward and another one back to start with.
     
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  14. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    She does feed from my hand and occasionally step forward towards my hand to do so, and tolerates my touch. I have been told by some trainers that I shouldn't be feeding her by my hand at all whilst she is still nervous of me as it will apparently only force her to come towards me out of the want to eat however will still associate a stronger fear with me. I'm not sure how else I can eventually earn her trust though. If I let her feed only ever from her bowl then she would never interact with me at all.

    I have been spending lots of time sat on the floor at her level, across the room and side on with little to no eye contact to help her realise I am not a threat.I have also been using techniques given to me by trainers such as slow blinking, licking lips and yawning to help her build confidence around me.

    I think I might try and create some more safe hiding spots for her around the room so it might help her be less panicked when she does venture out.

    At night I close the crate doors up as I have other animals that I cannot trust unsupervised. However I do believe she is active for at least some of the night as this is when she prefers to toilet.

    I have been leaving music or TV on low since she arrived to help her with noises and to soften louder noises.

    I have tried a very highly rated valerian product on several occasions and it made no difference at all!

    I really don't have any expectations of her at all, I know she's extremely traumatised and had an awful time, so I am expecting very slow progress. It just worries me that she is so shut down and I want to know if there is anything more I can do or anything I should be doing differently to help her the best I can.

    Thank you for your help :)
     
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  15. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    I have actually got another very calm dog that I'm boarding that arrived on 6th and will be with me until the end of the month. I can definitely see the difference it has made to Hope by having a calm dog around, she is so intrigued in him and I think it's only a matter of time until she starts trying to interact with him which will hopefully help her come out the crate of her own accord.
     
  16. kimthecat

    kimthecat PetForums VIP

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    That sounds ho:)peful.
     
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  17. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    Hope seems to make a massive improvement one day, but then the next day be completely withdrawn again. It honestly feels a bit like one step forwards two steps back. She can be quite happy for me to stroke her one morning, but then something as little as getting up off the sofa will upset her to the point of cowering in the back of the crate and it can take several hour or days of her being incredibly withdrawn and wary of everything before she starts improving again. She really does struggle, she just has very little trust in me still. I am boarding another dog at the moment which has a very calm personality, and this has really started to help Hope. I have noticed her becoming much more confident and she is always watching me interact with the other dog.This morning she stepped forwards from the crate just to be stroked which was pretty amazing as before she has only ever tolerated my approach, not come forward herself!

    It seems you might find with your collie that it is just a matter of helping her along where you can and allowing her to build confidence in different situations over time. If she doesn't it's not a bad thing, as long as she is comfortable and happy in the home and the garden that's all that matters, even if she prefers not to go out. Sadly with Hope she is still not happy in any situation. I've never seen her wag her tail, play with a toy or anything else or even completely relax. I hope over time she will become happier.
     
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  18. Connie124

    Connie124 PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you so much, you've no idea how relieveing it is to hear that it's okay for her to take everything in her own time. People were telling me to force her into situations and I felt so awful doing it because it only ever made her less trusting of me and more withdrawn. I think she will take several months for her to show obvious improvement, and I'm completely okay with that and prepared to let her do her own thing.

    This morning I reached into her crate to stroke her, and when I pulled my arm back out she stepped right to the front of the crate and reached her head to my hand for me to continue stroking her. It was a pretty amazing moment as she has never come towards me before just to be stroked. Before she had only ever tolerated me going towards her. I couldn't believe it when she was stepping forward looking at my face with this little inquisitive look in her eye, and didn't shy away from being stroked. Definitely incredibly rewarding!

    I will definitely be taking it all at the pace she would like to go, I think one day she has the potential to be a wonderful little dog with an amazing personality!
     
  19. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

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    So pleased to hear she is showing little signs of becoming less anxious.

    I think you’re doing the right things with her and are slowly building her trust.
     
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  20. Laney_Lemons

    Laney_Lemons PetForums Senior

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    aw lovely to hear she is gaining some confidence.

    I do praise you for taking on such a dog and giving him a chance.. fingers crossed once he gets more confidence and becomes more trusting of you he has a happy life..
    please do keep us up to date with your progress :)
     
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