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D'Elle, the story about bringing the leaf is priceless.

 

Touch is a great command, and I've even seen a people-nervous little maltese mix use it to become more social with people. The command was called "say hello" instead of touch, and he would go and touch someone's hand and be praised for it.

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My trainer uses touch with her shy Belgian to get him used to new people. She says 'touch' and he has to go bump the person's hand with his nose. He started out reluctant, but recently he has started touching everyone new to see if he gets a treat. It's super cute.

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A few random thoughts:

 

I think anti anxiety meds can have a huge positive impact with dogs who are very fearful, because dogs are physiologically incapable of learning when they have been pushed into that flight zone. I am an advocate of sooner rather than later (unlike many on these boards) and I don't see it as a "last resort." If my dog is terrified, letting him keep getting terrified won't make the problem better.

 

However, it should be prescribed only by a vet very familiar with behavior issues after a consultation to help decide if your dog is really over threshold in regular everyday life. And like others have pointed out, it needs to be an adjunct to behavior modification to make behavior modification go better, not as something that will cure the fear on its own.

 

Also,be cautious of other people feeding your dog a treat for approaching them. Some dogs will venture very close to the stranger because they really want the treat but not really feel good about it, adding a lot of conflict which can result in a nip if the dog panics because its too close. Have strangers toss treats to the side and not stare at him.

 

After every stressful encounter, give your dog downtime to process and let the stress hormones ebb. Some dogs need an hour, some need a day. Try not to let multiple things happen back to back. Read up on "trigger stacking."

 

Re: teaching things to bond and tire your pup: I have found that sometimes dogs really seem to enjoy interacting with a "thing", esp if its familiar. They like to climb on, sit on, etc. As an adjunct to "stay" in my pet classes I teach the dogs to "pose" on something (ie stay in a position) and the dogs all seem to have a great time and get that puffed up chest when they get it. Like backyard agility! Start in a place your dog is comfortable in and go from there. Lots of cookies, lots of gentle praise and be sure to allow downtime.

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  • 1 month later...

Greetings everyone!

 

I thought I'd offer a little update on Louie. We've all made tremendous progress since we adopted him at the beginning of June and we're keeping him! He's begun playing with toys! And has learned: sit, stay, shake, lay down, and "go into your crate." He's getting used to the gentle leader on walks (because otherwise he'd pull whenever he was scared or saw a dog or squirrel and 50lbs of dog pulling is not something I enjoy), and he now greets us after we've been gone with full body wiggles! He will also "ask" to be petted by putting his head in our hand. You have no idea what huge steps these are (or maybe you do!)--that he feels confident enough in who he is and in our support and love that he plays and asks for pets!!!!

 

Unfortunately we have to chain him outside when we're out of the house (though we may try leaving him inside again) otherwise he'll escape. We're still working on a good way to keep him in the yard when we aren't home so we can get rid of the chain. I work from home so he's never chained outside for more than 2 hours max. He still has some separation anxiety, but is getting better. And we have a great doggie boarding and daycare place that I can bring him too if I'm going to be out of the house for longer than 2 hours. They've been awesome about working with his timidity and always makes sure they have a female tech to feed him and clean out his enclosure when we're boarding there because he's more fearful of strange men.

 

He comes with me every day to pick my daughter up from school, but prefers it when we stay in the car for the car-line pick up (rather than walk over to pick her up--that brings him too close to a lot of strange people). So unfortunately we can't get bring him with us to her soccer practice or games. But we're working with him and hope that this can happen in the future.

 

He is SUCH a love and SUCH a cuddle bug! And seriously I wouldn't have been able to stick with it had it not been for the animal behaviorist, the rescue where we got him from who continued to support us, and the Humane Society here in Urbana, IL who offered all kinds of great advice (and suggested the toy that first got Louie interested in playing!). I also want to thank each of you that took the time to comment. As I think I wrote, I was so nervous to post anything because I was afraid that I'd be judged for bringing home a dog breed that I didn't know a lot about. Instead you all were so willing to meet me where I was and offer me suggestions (many of which have been so useful!). I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that!

 

So here's to a very happy chapter in the story!

 

: ) E

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That's great news! Tincture of time is a great healer in so many circumstances.

 

I get positively twitchy about dogs tied outside. There are just so many dangers . . . the dog could be stolen, or tormented or attacked by another animal. In the latter examples Louie would have no way to escape and this could seriously set him back, possibly even permanently.

 

Isn't there a way you could leave him in the house? Could he be gated into one safe room? Or crated? Most dogs really don't mind being crated if they're properly introduced to them. My dogs voluntarily go into crates all the time which are set up in the house with doors open. One of them started going into the crate on her own when I'm getting ready to leave . . . over 2 years after she'd graduated to being reliable uncrated and left out.

 

I really think it's worth considering alternatives.

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Glad thing are going well. It sounds like you all have put a lot of work into making him feel at home.

 

I will second finding and alternative to chaining him in the yard. For the same reasons GentleLake mentioned and also, if he's trying to escape the yard because he is stressed or upset about something chaining him in it is only going to exacerbate the problem. Up thread you mentioned he was crate trained, why can't you leave him in the crate while you are gone?

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