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At the end of this month I will be adopting a young female border collie from the humane society that I work at. She was tied to a pole her first year of life and was never given any real human interaction (she's been at the shelter since July of last year). Therefore she is terrified of most people except myself and another lady that I work with. She's very timid and I will being trying to socialize her to the best of my ability, but I've never had a special needs dog. Here is her Petfinder link for more information:

 

http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/17559766

 

Any tidbits of advice are appreciated.

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Welcome, and thank you for adopting a shelter dog!

 

I don't have time to "talk" (off to work shortly) but there are a number of people here who are very well qualified to give you advice on working with a timid or unsocialized dog, and I hope they chime in to give you advice from their experiences.

 

Very best wishes!

 

PS - Use the search function to help you find relevent topics. Plus, check out the threads on Taff Half Ear and other dogs from Jefferson TX.

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What a pretty girl. Thank you for adopting! :) I don't have any specific advice, other than to take it slow and at a pace she is comfortable with. Baby steps will be your friend, and expect some setbacks, even after she starts making progress. I do believe dogs like her are very rewarding when you see how far they can come and what they can accomplish. Best of luck!

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I have now had the privilege of owning three Border Collies with different types of fear issues. The most recent was an adoptee who had been a stray and was afraid of all people, especially people approaching her.

 

The approach that I took with her was quite unconventional, but it has worked wonders. I allowed her a lot of time and access to "safe" places, which she chose herself. She chose the living room sofa, a chair in our main family room, and the bed in one of the bedrooms as her "safe" places. When she was overwhelmed or spooked, she would go to one of her "safe" places to decompress. She would eventually return when she was ready, with the knowledge that she could get away if she needed to. That eventually led to confidence and less of a need to get to her "safe" places. She rarely uses them now, although she still can when she feels the need.

 

Some advise tethering a dog who is fearful of people. I elected not to do this with her so she could feel my husband and me out on her own terms, and that has worked beautifully.

 

Once she was comfortable in our home, I enrolled her in a training class where the instructor understood that she had special needs and was willing to make adjustments to the curriculum and training approach where I felt it was appropriate. That has resulted in a real confidence boost.

 

I advise three things. First, there is a yahoo group, shy-k9's (I can PM you a link if you are interested) where there are a lot of people who have experience with dogs with every kind of fear you can think of. It might be worth your while to join, check out the archives, and post for advice. Second, there is an excellent book, "Scaredy Dog" by Ali Brown. It's about the best book I know of geared specifically for dogs who are fearful/shy/etc. Finally, if you can find a trainer in your area who has experience with highly fearful dogs, you might want to set up a consultation once you have the dog. I would consider experience with fearful dogs a must, and you might even want to ask for client references and speak with people who have had success with that particular trainer and are happy with the results with their fearful dogs. Another great resource is www.fearfuldogs.com

 

I wish you the best. I've found work with fearful dogs to be extremely rewarding. It can be frustrating and it can require more patience than you think you have and it can require quite a lot of thinking outside the box. But the little accomplishments are amazing. I can honestly say that watching my newest girl transform from completely shut down and afraid of almost everything to a bold, happy girl, who is still a little shy in some situations, has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. These dogs have a wealth of lessons to teach and I always find that these dogs cause me to grown and learn and go places that I never expected.

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Thanks all. :}

 

I am looking forward to working with her and helping her gain confidence.

 

One more question: would taking her to festivals/community events with lots of people be helpful or too overwhelming?

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Thanks all. :}

 

I am looking forward to working with her and helping her gain confidence.

 

One more question: would taking her to festivals/community events with lots of people be helpful or too overwhelming?

 

That is really going to depend on her. Some fearful dogs will take such things in stride, but for many it is too much. You might want to see how she does just walking down the street before you make that decision.

 

Back when we lived in town, Speedy, our first fearful dog, could not handle festivals. Tessa, the young one we have now, would be able to handle it, now that she has been with us a while.

 

I'd take it slow. Start with walking on the street, going to places with progressively more people. See how she does. If she enjoys outings and doesn't mind people, then such events might be fine. Otherwise, it might take a good bit of work before she would be ready for that.

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That is really going to depend on her. Some fearful dogs will take such things in stride, but for many it is too much. You might want to see how she does just walking down the street before you make that decision.

 

Back when we lived in town, Speedy, our first fearful dog, could not handle festivals. Tessa, the young one we have now, would be able to handle it, now that she has been with us a while.

 

I'd take it slow. Start with walking on the street, going to places with progressively more people. See how she does. If she enjoys outings and doesn't mind people, then such events might be fine. Otherwise, it might take a good bit of work before she would be ready for that.

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I agree with root beer, take it slow and watch her body language. my little girl is fearful of most other dogs that aren't border collies to the point of fear aggression and she is very shy around people. When I first saw her she was at a large event. I remember thinking how calm she was, but later realized she had completely shut down from fear. She is so much better now, but I still could not take her to places with too many people and too much noise. We also let he have her safe spots to go to and didn't force anything. We do private lessons to desensitize hr and are now starting our real class after a year and a half. We have done herding lessons though and she is so focused on stock, she does ok with other dogs and people as long as they don't come too close. Herding has built her confidence slot, though.

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With regards to festivals and other outings, once she is "ready" to expand her world - I would opt for calm and quiet situations first, where she could be more of an observer on the outskirts (or whatever locations put her at ease and let her watch until she feels more confident).

 

I used to help with a local group that offered puppy and family dog classes. I was often assigned to the shy or fearful dog in class. Frequently, we would spend as many classes as needed just sitting on the sidelines - finding a location in the large room where the dog could feel safe and confident (often on top of a pause table), where the owner and I would sit, with treats, and just reward and praise relaxed behavior, calm watching of the class participants, proper response to training commands (just sit, lie down, etc.) - all without pressure from the class activity going on.

 

The next stage would be to leave the pause table behind and find new locations to practice commands and relaxing, with plenty of rewards for being able to calmly observe the other class members but not be concerned about them. Eventually, we would progress to being able to walk around the room, the perifories of the class group, and finally to be able to approach other class members (starting with whichever ones the shy/fearful dog seemed most relaxed about).

 

We could make a lot of progress in six classes but always remembered to let the dog set the pace by progressing at whatever rate he/she was comfortable with, and always rewarding relaxation, calmness, and quiet observation.

 

My friend has an aggressively fearful dog (a failed foster) whom she taught to lie down calmly when stressed (and I don't know how she did this but I can ask). That bacame Hazel's default behavior - and not lunging and snapping - when she became anxious.

 

Very best wishes!

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I agree with root beer, take it slow and watch her body language. my little girl is fearful of most other dogs that aren't border collies to the point of fear aggression and she is very shy around people. When I first saw her she was at a large event. I remember thinking how calm she was, but later realized she had completely shut down from fear.

 

Learning to read your dog's body language will be important. If you are observant, you can learn to tell the difference - for the most part - between body language that shows that the dog is shut down, or is actually calm and confident.

 

Although there are some "standard" signs of fear/stress/etc., each dog does have individual body language, as well. For instance, when Dean is shut down, he holds his ears flat against the sides of his head. But he also holds his ears flat against the side of his head when he is particularly interested in something. Sometimes I have to look at him more closely to tell what is going on. When he is shut down, his pupils usually dialate and his entire body seems "frozen". When he is particularly interested, his expression is more intent but "softer". If I ask him to do something when he is interested in something, he is quick to do as I ask. If I ask him to do something when he is shut down, he either turns his head away in an avoidance gesture, or looks at me with a kind of blank look. Here is where it is important to know the dog and to be able to read that kind of body language. Unfortunately, experience is the best teacher for this.

 

Another thing that you will learn over time is your dog's ability to "bounce back" after being spooked or frightened. This will also vary from dog to dog. Tessa astonishes me over and over with her ability to just get over things like that. Dean often needs a "reset" before being able to snap back to normal, and even then he can be hypervigilant afterward.

 

Getting to know your dog, learning what causes her to be fearful, learning how she shows that she is experiencing fear, and getting to know her ability to "reset" will help you make decisions about how much is too much and what is appropriate for her as you go.

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Good on you, she is a pretty thing but looks so scared in the photos

 

Not much to add that hasnt already been covered better by others

 

Take it as slow as she needs, let her pick the pace.

 

and keep us updated :) lots of fotos

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Thanks for adopting a shelter dog! (I work at a shelter too) You may check out "Help for your Shy Dog" by Deborah Wood. it's short and sweet, but got lots of good advice. And I echo reading body language. Look for the whispers that your dog is stressed and learn to give her space when she tells you.

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Another thing to prepare for with a dog who is shy/scared of people is travel safety. And travel in this case can even mean in your own yard. When Tessa first came I was concerned that she would jump the fence and run away so I did keep her on leash in the yard for the first few days. After that I dropped the leash and a few days later I started to let her off.

 

When we are out and about, I always have a leash on her - even in the car. When I first started taking her to training class, I double leashed her when taking her from the car into the building. The second leash was on a martingale set so it would not slip (nor would it choke) in case she slipped her regular collar. As she got more relaxed about going from the car to the building, I went to only one leash on her regular collar. When I really want to ensure that she will be safe, I put a front clip harness on her, as well, even though she does not need one for pulling.

 

How much safety you need in this regard really depends on what the dog does when frightened. I like to be better safe than sorry if I have any question at all.

 

Of course she has a tag with all of our info on it, but if she got loose, she might not let anyone close enough to read the tag, so I make sure she doesn't get loose.

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