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Training/Helping a Very Nervous Rescue Dog (even after a year)

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Hat, Apr 25, 2014.


  1. Hat

    Hat PetForums Junior

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    Hi

    I am hoping someone can help. In October 2012 we adopted 2 sisters Hetty and Polly. Up to that point they had presumably shared very similar life experiences). Right from the outset Hetty was fine with walking on lead, off lead, in new situations, new environments and with people (strangers or friends)

    Polly was very nervous off all these things and would generally have her tail between her legs. She always looked worried. For over a year now the situation has not changed to any marked degree. We have not forced her into situations she is uncomfortable with and if it is clear she really does not want to go somewhere we change direction but with two other dogs this can make walking difficult.

    Polly seems to only be comfortable when walking exactly the same route. In the park she tends to walk up the middle of the park never straying to near the edges. She will bark at anyone who is in the park without a dog (never at people with a dog) and although there are many nice routes in the area she refuses to walk up the woodland paths that connect them. I have had my partner watch her from a distance as I walk the other two up the paths to see if she will follow but she simply sits down in the middle of the park and occassionally barks.

    Even getting her into the garden can be difficult as she cowers at any noise she hears from neighbours or hides in the bushes if left out there (even if I am in the garden with her)

    The strange thing is that within the house itself she seems to be top dog. A long stare from her will make either of the other two back down from any situation that has occurred and her sister Hetty will often take any treats I give to her over to Polly and drop them at her feet even though Polly has her own treat.

    She is quite playful in the house with the other dog (Gretta) but when playing she will often suddenly stop and just sit bolt upright with a worried expression like she has thought to herself "I shouldnt be enjoying myself")

    I know I should have probably sorted this (or tried to sooner) but in reality I made the novice dog owner mistake of thinking "she will snap out of this" now she has a home. Any advice on things I can try would be appreciated :)

    Many thanks

    Matt
     
  2. Old Shep

    Old Shep PetForums VIP

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    Reminds me of a rescue collie I had. She had never been off the farm she was born on and although she was not mistreated, she was never socialised at all.

    Sorry. I don't know what to suggest, because my dog never got any better. She was the most miserable dog I have ever known. She would not play with toys or my other dogs. She just spent her time hiding behind furniture.


    Sorry. That's not helpful, I know. But I do understand how you must be feeling. It's heartbreaking.:sad:
     
  3. Twiggy

    Twiggy PetForums VIP

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    What age and breed is Polly and what was her age when you rescued her?
     
  4. Hat

    Hat PetForums Junior

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    She is an anatolian shepherd (probably a crossbreed). She was about one when we got her and spent her life at the shelter in Turkey and with the people who abandoned her before that. She is about two now.

    She doesn't cower really from other dogs and often plays (in her own way) with them. Her sister hetty doesn't play with dogs either but just seems to be indifferent to dogs and would much rather go and hang out with their owners. Polly is a friendly dog but when she cuddles up to you all I can see is a puppy who was taken from her mother.
     
  5. hazel pritchard

    hazel pritchard PetForums VIP

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    Well done for taking on a rescue xxx , 1 of my rescues has been with me over 2 yrs now, he had terrible seperation issues when he came to me, over time this has got slightly better but has not gone completly, i really believe some of our rescue dogs have had such traumactic times before we get them that part of their fears will never leave them, for me with my dog i have just had to accept its part of our life with him, i accept that ,but at times it can be hard, really hope you dog and you manage ok xxxx
     
  6. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    Well done for giving these dogs a chance.

    I have two similar dogs from Greece. They have been with me for 6 years.

    They have also got no better outside. I stopped walking them last year and they are so much happier and relaxed now. I do have the advantage of large garden which they spend most of the day in though

    X
     
  7. goodvic2

    goodvic2 PetForums VIP

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    Have u tried any calmatives as well?

    You cannot always make up for a dogs lack of socilisation in their early days.
     
  8. Hat

    Hat PetForums Junior

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    Thank you for all the replies. It seems I am not alone in having this experience 😄

    I will keep gently trying slightly new walks very gradually and if she does not seem to want to enjoy it I will accept that it maybe just what she is like. As an aside on the weekends I am able to give her a walk in the park around 6am (I can't do that on weekdays) and at that time of the morning when no one else is really up she is a different dog. It is hard to get her to leave the park and she runs around like crazy.

    That is another issue with her. Training. She has no real obidience and does not respond to any of the commands that her sister does. When I split with my partner I took on all three dogs and it is very hard (I find) to dedicate the time to a dog who barely responds to me. In all honesty I took the easier route of getting her sister to listen to me knowing Polly would do what she does.
     
  9. simplysardonic

    simplysardonic Moderator
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    Bless you for taking in 2 rescues :)

    Have you tried clicker training her at all? What motivates her- food, a game of tug? Finding the right motivator is important, & getting her to focus with a 'watch me' command. Can she have 5 or 10 minutes without the other dogs around so you can have one to one with her? I do this with my lot, just put them in a different room or let them in the garden.

    I have 3 dogs too, one is a dog with very similar issues who came from Romania last year, everything has to be introduced gradually & we have had various setbacks which we've overcome with kindness & endless patience. She is still not confident in many ways but has come on leaps & bounds from the shut down wreck who arrived to us.

    Best of luck, it's a long road but so worth it :)
     
  10. Jodfblue

    Jodfblue PetForums Junior

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    I'm afraid I don't have any pearls of wisdom, but I have been in a similar situation with my rescue dog (also Polly!). We've now had her for nine months and it's only when I stop and think about it that I realise how far she's come.

    When we first had her she wouldn't go into the woods at all, she would shake with fear and refuse to move. She also wouldn't walk past a car which was running or go anywhere near a busy street, would bark frantically at any dog she saw, as well as children, scooters, pushchairs etc. She would be extremely submissive with people and hated the car with a passion.

    Nine months on and today she walked through the woods in a group of around 100 dogs on a sponsored walk! She's still nervous, she barked madly at a herd of cows and she'll take against the odd dog for no apparent reason, but she's a completely different dog.

    We just plugged away - introducing her to new situations as and when we felt she was ready for them. We were also lucky that she had another dog to learn from. We also walk her on a harness, which she much prefers to having a lead on her collar and we've recently introduced a flexi-lead, to allow her to move away from us a bit when we're in the park if she wants to.

    Just keep at it, walking her at 6am is a great idea, so that she can get used to the location without other people and dogs around. Once she feels she knows the location, she may relax when other people and dogs are around too. Hope that helps!
     
  11. PennyH

    PennyH PetForums Senior

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    We have a saluki cross who was dumped at a shelter aged just 2 weeks with her mum and siblings (that's how we know she is part saluki!) Unfortunately, the rest of the litter mates died apart from our Suki and her brother.... When we rescued Suki she was 10 weeks old and all she had ever known was the kennel. She was completely unsocialised and knew nothing of life outside the pen she had spent her life in.
    We were lucky that she was only 10 weeks old, but I have never met a dog as scared as she was!
    Poor thing - it was heartbreaking. Everything was frightening for her - from going out of our front door to the sound of the washing machine, hoover, toilet flushing - everything.

    We have worked very hard with her to try and not reinforce her fears. The hardest was getting her to go outside the front door - we tried everything from carrying her (wrong!) to using treats to lure her (didn't work) In the end someone said "Just take her lead, put your head up and shoulders back and just GO!"

    I never thought it would work - she was still a quivering wreck..... But it worked. I pretended really hard that I was totally confident - head up, shoulders back and marched along the street, with her trotting along beside me. Ok her tail was down to begin with, but gradually day by day it came up a bit.

    She is still highly strung and nervous of new people and places, but she has come on in leaps and bounds. We took her to fun dog shows to get her socialised and it became a family hobby - with our son even qualifying her for Crufts in junior handling.... The dog no one wanted at Crufts!

    She is fine with us and with people she knows well, but new people still make her back away and hide behind me with her tail down. Although she can out run most dogs in the park, if she thinks something has a chance of catching her she will still run and hide behind me.

    She is 10 now and I absolutely adore her. She is the boss over our other 3 dogs and one low growl from her and they all instantly behave - completely different from the dog she is outside the house where she relies on me to keep her safe from all the scary things.

    Well done for taking on the dogs you have - I am sure with time and patience and the help of her sister, you will get there in the end.
    Good luck!
     
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