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Advice and confidence everything will be ok.

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My husband and I recently rescued a collie cross from the RSPCA, she had hardly any background information except she was attacked by another dog before she went into the rescue centre and the owners 'couldn't afford her' what ever that means. The first five weeks were great, she was very nervous with other dogs and people (she really distrusts men) but began making friends with other dogs, even laid down and completely ignored a dog who was barking at her because he wanted to play.


Then last weekend happened. We were playing fetch, and a tiny dog popped out from around the corner, barked and stood up straight and tall in front of misty. Misty walked towards the dog slowly, then really went for the dog. We managed to pull her off the dog and it was unharmed. We felt so terrible. The next day we went to a pub garden with misty, where we had been before and she had been ok, and she started barking at someone who walked too close, and when they didn't move away she started nipping at his heels. He was ok about this, but we decided to leave anyway. Unfortunately, within 3 minutes of leaving the pub, two men walked past us on the street and she bit one of the men. Again, he was fantastic about it, I think he saw the shock And upset in our faces. Luckily he was a nice guy, and refused to take our phone number and carried on on his way.


I am cutting this very long story short. We have spoken to a behaviourist and I understand what we did wrong as to why she reacted in such and dreadful way. We have been given a training program, to help her obedience, help distract her when she gets scared, and generally help her be more comfortable in situations. The behaviourist is hopeful, she thinks Misty might always be scared of men but there are ways we can help her cope with the situations, and therefore be able to trust again. (We have two male friends who come round our house all of the time and she loves them so I can see it will happen)


I am super confident, I know it will take a lot of work to get the friendly, confident dog that we know is inside her, maybe a few years. My husband, although he loves her so much, is less convinced that she might be able to run around free again, and is worried that she will do it again.


SO! I was wondering if anyone has any similar stories with hopefully happy endings, which they could share to give my husband confidence that if we work hard with Misty, she will be great. I think he is just struggling to give her the trust back that was lost that day.

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My old dog Buddy was VERY fear-reactive when I got him, and for the first month or two I honestly thought I was going to have to put him down - I was that scared he was going to bite. You can read my posts about him, though I think the forum history only goes back to 2007, which is two years after I got him.


I sought a trainer within 2 weeks, who mentioned, "At two weeks, you haven't even seen all his behaviors yet. He's still in the honeymoon period." So I think it's normal for a dog to have a gradual change in behavior over time, as her or she becomes comfortable in the new setting. (Early days they're sometimes shut down and on "best behavior.")


One thing my trainer taught me was that the dog needed to trust ME to handle situations that he saw as dangerous. So, as I learned Buddy's triggers, I learned to give him lots of space and not push him until he was scared. Once he was scared, he would try to take charge, by growling and barking (at humans) and sometimes by flipping other dogs over and staring/growling at them for 30 seconds or so. I learned to call out to humans that he wouldn't be friendly, and that helped them stay back, especially if they were walking dogs. In the first year or so, I was very careful not to take him to crowded, loud places where I couldn't manage potential meetings - the local park at 6 a.m. was one thing, but the same park at 6 p.m. while 5 leagues were playing baseball, their families were picnicking, and kids were zooming around on bikes was a nightmare for my dog.


Slowly, over a lot of time, Buddy began to trust me to keep him safe. Once that trust was established, everything got easier. I could give him commands, and he'd do as I asked - I really think he believed his "walk off the path and lie down" kept him safe when other dogs came by. I think one important thing is to not let the dog have the bad interactions, because every time they growl or snap, it reinforces the growling or snapping - it's like practice at that behavior.


Buddy didn't like men AT ALL in the beginning, and he never ended up being comfortable when I had a workman in my house. But out in the world, he slowly (slowly!) came to trust specific men who were dog-savvy and gave him treats. Eventually, he could generalize that men were mostly safe, and didn't need to be barked at.


All this was INCREDIBLY gradual. The change happened over maybe 4 or 5 years. Early on, Buddy was terrified and terrifying. Direct eye contact would threaten him. (Literally. Just looking him in the eyes would make him react.) By 5 years, he looked normal to people he saw. I ran into my trainer when the dog was maybe 7 or 8, and he said, "This is one of those miracle stories!" (Except... I never let Buddy go near unleashed dogs playing. Never let a strange dog charge at us. Never expected Buddy to be bomb-proof. The normalness was possible because I knew him so well and managed his life so he wasn't put in a situation that would tip him over the edge.)


So I do think it's possible for you to live happily with this dog. But it will be a different kind of life with a dog than maybe the one you were expecting. I used to tell myself, after seeing a bad incident with Buddy, "He's not a different dog from the one you had this morning. You just know more about him." Every time I learned, my "owner's manual" got more thorough and useful.


I adopted my new dog (avatar pic) a month ago yesterday. She was from a hoarding situation, and literally shook for two days after I got her. (I thought they had given me a dog with a neurological condition!) What is amazing me is how resilient and flexible she is: A big dog chases her and scares her enough to make her scream, but two minutes later she's walking alongside the big dog and next day is friends with the big dog. With Buddy, it would have taken months for him to come back from the scary initial encounter, and I would have had to manage his interactions with the other dog carefully, even after they were friends. He just couldn't shake things off, and would make quick rules in his head, like, "I hate that dog!" or "That man is dangerous!"


So... I think dogs have different wiring, just like humans. It sounds like your dog might be reactive, like my Buddy, which means she has potential for a good but different life. As I write this, my heart is aching again for missing Buddy, who passed in February. Because we had to work so hard to overcome his fears, we had such a deep and strong bond. It's a difficulty, but also an opportunity to learn so much, and know and love a dog very deeply.


(Edit: Also search the forum for "Kelso." That's an amazing thread about a very damaged dog who was fostered by a loving home and found a wonderful life and new family. So inspirational!)

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You can read my posts about [buddy], though I think the forum history only goes back to 2007, which is two years after I got him.


The Katie killed an armadillo! thread that was just revived was started in July, 2006, so the archives go back at least that far.


Best wishes for you and your dog, Kay Joy.

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I know from my fostering experience that if you have sufficient patience and time and put the effort into it, almost any dog, no matter how badly damaged, can learn to be happy.

However, as MBC noted, it may turn out to be a different kind of life with this dog from what you were expecting or might have wanted or hoped for. It is possible that your dog will never like men and never be comfortable in certain situations, and you may always be in one degree or another of managing the situations you find yourself in with the dog. This needs to be OK with you, and I cannot stress this enough.


It is good to want the dog to progress and overcome fear, and it is excellent that you are working with a behaviorist and learning what things you can do to facilitate Misty's learning process. But it is essential that you accept her just the way that she is at the same time, and love her knowing that you may very well never have a friendly easy dog. I want to assure you that it is worth it, but only you know whether or not it is truly worth it to you. You need to think about whether or not you feel that you can be happy living with a dog who is not friendly and easy to manage. I am not saying that Misty will never be fully OK....she may get there. But she may not. The journey is wonderful, though, and ever so rewarding, if you are patient and want to do the work with the dog, and this I can tell you with confidence.

I was Kelso's foster home.

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Dogs like Misty, who have gone through some trauma, often have very littler tolerance for stress. Have you ever had a time in your life when EVERYTHING seems to be going wrong? Then finally one last thing, and it can be a silly thing, goes wrong and you just blow up. You are emotionally DONE and everything makes you upset. You just want to run away to a tropical paradise and forget the world for awhile. Otherwise, you might just say and do some things you will later regret.


Now imagine poor Misty. She is already a fearful dog. Events that would not set off a normal dog are going to be too much for her. They will cause her stress level to ratchet up quickly and likely to blow. And, even if she handles one situation well, the lingering stress will make it much less likely that she will handle the next situation without blowing up.


Misty also needs a lot longer than a normal dog to recover from stress. If she has a particularly difficult day, give her weeks to recover before asking more of her.


Did you ready my short story about Sage on the "before and after" thread?

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