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Hello Everyone,

Our family rescued an almost 2 year Border/Assue (or so they say) from one of our Metro Atlanta rescue groups. My niece chose him as he was the easiest to handle on leash and was so sweet and allowed her to hug him during their first meeting. She suffers from anxiety and depression and instantly fell in love with him.  The fosters who had him at the time were anxious for us to have him sleep over for the week. Too much if you ask me. We were told all he does is stare out the window and go to his crate and is a bit skittish at times.  This is an understatement. 3 months later after adopting Toby, he  is still fearful of sounds, gets irritated around my 7 year old when she is in the room and is shutdown approximately 70% of the time.   He does not play, know what to do with a ball or respond to commands.  He is unable to do obedience training as he does not respond to eye contact, treats because he is waaay to stressed.   Walks consists of going to the end of our cul-de-sac and back because he is so fearful he is almost choking himself running to go back home. Interestingly enough he loves long hikes at a nature trail that loops for 5 miles. I'm surprised he can do it as he walks so little each day. In the morning he is almost normal and pleasant and then shuts down approximately 1 hour later. In the evening he has Dogzheimers... which means "have I ever met you? What are you doing in this house" :-)

We have had behavioral health specialists visit him and the usual chicken and walk away assessments have been given and the last suggestion of bringing him out to their farm for training where he would sit in the front office, watch people walk buy and toss chicken at him to get desensitized for the nice amount of almost 2K.  Not possible at this time.  He seems to be getting better at opening up and a friend offered to have him on her farm for a month to see if he would learn to be a dog around her other 4 farm dogs. I am concerned that any strides we have made in getting him to open up to us would be lost in the month with someone else. Would we set him back in fear again or would other dogs help? 

I am truly hoping to get this sweet dog to turn the corner soon but his shut-down demeanor isn't helping to improve my neice's disposition when things go bad. The other day she was feeling really badly and we encouraged her to help herself feel better by grooming Toby, talking to him and stroking him. He just made himself smaller at first, turned his back on her and then walked away. She just busted out in tears at that point.  I was so hoping that it would help. She sooo loves this dog as do I and just want him to have the best life as possible.  He is not the least bit aggressive. We did 1 dose of Xanax and he almost buckled completely because he only walks from his crate to the window (approximately 12 ft each day) May run 2 laps around the yard at most. 

 I've read the posts regarding Kelso and some of it has helped. It's hard to ignore that sweet boy and not reach out to him and I'm tryng to do better with that. 


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  • StormsInAtl changed the title to The 3 month mark. Hope for Toby?

Thank you for adopting a rescue dog. I am glad to hear that you read about Kelso which helps you understand how long it can take some dogs to come even partway back to normal. I have also fostered an extremely shut down, almost feral, female from a puppy mill.

IMHO, if you are hoping that this dog will be an emotional support dog for your niece, I don't think it will happen. I may be wrong, but from how I understand the issues you have described, it will be a heck of a lot of work and take a very long time to help this dog approach normal. (I say this with the caveat that a truly accurate assessment can only be given in person,  not in an internet forum.) And an emotional support animal should have a very stable demeanor.

Has anyone suggested psychotropic medications to help reduce his anxiety level? It might be worthwhile to consult a vet that specializes in behavioral issues (not a general vet). There are many other medications that he might tbe able to tolerate better.

In the meantime, I  would be trying to not put him in situations that stress him. And bring him to his "happy place" when possible (those walks in the country).


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Hi there, and thanks for adopting this dog. I am the person who had Kelso, and I am glad you are reading that thread.

There are more things Kelso taught me than I can ever say, but here are the most important ones for you: Everything, and I mean everything must be taken at the dog's pace, not at yours or your daughter's.  It seems nice for your daughter to pet him, but it was not nice to him.  With a dog like this you have to put the dog's needs first, and this means over your daughter's needs. If the dog is not ready to be petted, and clearly he is not, then he needs more time before that is attempted. Everything must go at a snail's pace no matter what. Pushing him in any way (and even the slightest most gentle and innocent thing can be too much for a dog like this) will only set him back.

Another thing is that I very strongly recommend is not be ambitious for this dog in any way. I found that my expectations of Kelso were only making things harder for both of us. My ambitions for him, my set times by which I thought he might be able to do X Y or Z, even my hopes for him, all were things I had to let go completely. The only way to be with a dog like this and to help him is to accept him 100% in each moment, and not ever to want him to be anything different from what he is now. What he is now will change from day to day, sometimes seemingly going forward and sometimes seemingly going backward, but it has to happen in the dog's time, and that may be a very long time. I had Kelso for a year and a half, and he had made great progress, but was still uncomfortable outside my home and terrified of everyone in the world but me.

Your job with this dog is to the best of your ability create and maintain for him an atmosphere within which he can make his own progress or lack thereof and to love him the same no matter what. This means loving him from a distance if that is what he needs. Rather than going to him to pet him or talk to him, let him come to you. If he doesn't, let him be as he is. 

I started out with Kelso simply sitting about 3 feet away from wherever he settled down, sitting on the floor, reading a book. I didn't even look at him. 

This dog is not ready for any kind of training whatever. Any attempt at obedience training or anything like that will be counter-productive.  Sending him elsewhere would be a bad move. Let him decide when he wants to start taking treats. Forget training him at all right now.

You have to get him to trust you enough to look at you and again that has to come in his time and not yours.  I sat with him on the floor and then finally started putting my hand out toward him and just leaving it about 2 feet away. He ignored me. Eventually he started sniffing at my hand, which I kept still.  Then I would reach out with a treat, put it on the floor, take my hand away. And so on. All vary tiny steps, and over weeks of time.

I would strongly recommend that you not think of this dog as an emotional support dog for your daughter. If you really need that, get a different dog. I am serious about this. Kelso, although he is a happy-go-lucky dog and utterly secure in his home, still hides when a stranger come in the door, and will although he lets me near him when I visit he will never be really comfortable around anyone but his 2 people. This dog you have may go farther than that in time, but equally may not. To expect it or even hope for it is unwise. 

If your heart is set on keeping this dog, explain to your daughter than the way to love him is to leave him alone and love him from a distance because that is what he needs. Remind her it is not about her and is not because the dog doesn't like her. He is not able to like anyone yet. Try not to let her set up expectations for the dog, as she may only be disappointed. I let Kelso go to the people who adopted him because they told me that they wanted him even if he never came any farther out of his shell than he was when they met him. At that time he was terrified of going anywhere, of strangers, and of breaks in his routine. He only trusted me. In time, he came to trust his new people but will never be outgoing.

I do recommend reading the whole Kelso thread, long as it is. And if you decide to keep this dog feel free to ask for help. I will do my best to assist you.

One thing I can say is that helping Kelso to become a dog is  the most rewarding thing I have ever done and I'd do it again for another dog in a heartbeat. You just need to decide if all members of your household and all your visitors are able to handle having this dog without expectations or pushing him, without trying to get him to come along faster than he can. It's not always easy. If you do decide you need to pass him on, please be sure the person taking him knows and is willing to do all the things that he needs to come out of his shell. If you keep him and take the time he will need, you will probably feel it was worth it.


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19 hours ago, gcv-border said:

Has anyone suggested psychotropic medications to help reduce his anxiety level? It might be worthwhile to consult a vet that specializes in behavioral issues (not a general vet). There are many other medications that he might tbe able to tolerate better.

Xanax has been the recommendation so far from his vet that has some expertise in behavioral issues. His behaviorist suggests meds as a last resort as well. 

D'Elle- I have read your entire thread regarding your journey with Kelso. It's pretty much what kept me from giving up on him. I think it's fair to say we gave up on him having  therapeutic effect on  my niece and just try to see when and if he turns the corner. In a lot of ways he has made a lot of progress from when we first got him. He will come up to me for  side rubs if our 4lb Chihuahua/Yorkie dog is nearby. He seems to live for her and is guaranteed to illicit a tail wag 95% of the time. He is a wonder to watch when he normalizes in the morning. He gets a happy look on his face and breaks out into a happy leap and trot. Getting him to come back in casually is a bit of a struggle and cause of concern as he ran into my lower leg trying to get in quickly (it's a wonder he didn't break his nozzle) 

For the most part I leave him alone, but then the time comes to go potty.  If he doesn't want to leave the crate and I have to go to work,this fellow will submissively urinate when I try to get him out.  We had to pull up the carpet because of this and I'm cleaning up pee everyday for this reason.  I have to admit this is the most stressful  part of the journey with him.. well that and getting him into the car. 

Now the interesting thing with him is that his first breakthrough came after I picked him up and gave him a full body massage on week 3. The following morning is when the first signs of possibly normalcy occurred. He has to be groomed due to heavy shedding (started the 2nd week after we got him) and I will include a full body massage with that too. He will not usually initiate that interaction but I can't get rid of him once I start. :-) He'll turn over, try to mouth but doesn't seem to know what to do and just be an all out love bug.  He didn't want to walk at the park at first due to the cars that passed and bicycles zooming by... now he just looks at them with interest and then ignores them without any sign of distress.  Walks on the hiking  trail....boy he pants likes he's about to have a heart attack. All 5 miles of the loop. We get to the waterfall and 70% of the time he won't even drink with all that panting. Yet, he doesn't want to leave the trail . If I get back on he'll act like yaaaayyyy we get to keep walking, but panting all the way,  Just scratching my head. Does he like it or is he just scared of the ordeal of getting back into the car?

This is my boy on the trail. Thank you both for your input. I'll forgo the farm stay and keep him with us and see how he progresses with us ignoring him more frequently in the house. 




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I don't know your situation or your house set-up. But pulling him out of the crate is not the best idea. You don't want him to continue the submissive urination, and pulling him out will exacerbate it. As long as you are doing that, I don't think there's any way to get him comfortable enough that he stops the urination, because it is not an easy thing to remedy. Force never works.  Is there any way you can shut him into a certain area and add a dog door? Then you could forgo the need to get him out to potty before you leave? I suggest thinking creatively to see what you might be able to do that would not put that stress on him.

Shut the crate door at the right time so he cannot go in there and then lure him out to potty with the most yummy treat you can create? You may have to take some time to get him gently out the door. This may mean getting up earlier so you have that time.

Is it necessary to put him into the car? Can you simply take him for a walk that doesn't need a drive to get there? If this is possible at all, then I would not force him into the car again until you have gone through a desensitization protocol with him and the car. Even though he likes the end result, your forcing him into the car when he is scared is not beneficial, as it is very unlikely to result in his ever wanting to get in on his won, and that is what you want.

Think of it this way:  Say you are deathly afraid to fly in an airplane. If someone physically put you on the airplane once a week and you ended up in a nice place, you'd like the nice place. But that would not have in any way addressed your fear of flying, which would persist until it was addressed.  I know that the walks you drive to are better walks and he likes them. But I still suggest that you work with him to get him comfortable with getting into the car and don't put him in there until you have done that.


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D'Elle- A doggy door is not an option at this time.  I can get him out of the crate by putting on his leash, giving a gentle tug and saying "Let's go" . He seems less likely to urine with this method vs me saying "Let's go" and waiting for him to come as he tends to cower in the corner at that point. 

I am putting more effort into ignoring him, looking away and allowing him to be the one initiating contact. When  I am holding the little dog which seems to light his soul,  he will leave his crate and approach me. She's getting all the fluffing and attention and and he will push my hand on top of his head with his nozzle in a "What about meeeee kinda way".  Last night he laid his head and front paw on my legs to get a massage and fell asleep there so he might be warming up a bit more. Hopefully he continues to progress although I know he will take 10 steps back at times. 

Regarding his walks- he can walk to the end of the block which is a total of 4 houses. Not much in the way of exercise. If the little dog  is in the car he is more willing to go in without too much of a fight, he will totally ignore treats for a nuzzle with her.

Our last walk on Sunday in the park had him doing better.  Much less spooked but still wary. Someone had a drone overhead which understandably freaked him out so I removed him from that area.  Surprisingly the train blowing it's horn didn't phase him.  In the end I thought it might be waaay to much stimuli on that end of the park and just ended our outing.  He is doing better with our Pet Smart trips. He will stand close to the entrance watching people and dogs. He is anxious at first but approximately 35 mins later will relax and sit but NO EYE CONTACT WITH STRANGERS. At this point he will respond to gentle, sit and come commands. I'm kinda scratching my head on that part.

At this point. we're just gonna let Toby be who is going to be and see how it goes from there. 





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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Welcome to the Boards.

I've also fostered a couple very fearful dogs and honestly I'd be much less concerned about exercise than I would be about making sure that there's as little pressure as possible put on him and making sure that his experiences are as pleasant for him as they can be. Stress hormones build up in the body so making him go places he doesn't cope well with can be counterproductive to his progress in the long run.

His initiative in seeking attention from you is very encouraging! Let him build up more confidence in those low key situations where there's no need to ask him to do anything and it'll do so much to strengthen his trust in you. That's the relationship you're going to rely on later when you do have to take him to other, scarier places and situations.

It's fabulous that he's so gaga over your other dog. You can use her both as a soothing influence on him and as an enticement and reward. That is, when he does something brave you can make sure the other dog comes to join him if she's not already part of whatever he's being brave about.

I have to end by saying not only kudos to you for adopting this dog, but especially for being able to completely let go of your expectations for him to be emotional support for your niece and instead focus on becoming the emotional support for him. Very, very best wishes for continued growth going forward. Please be sure to keep us posted on his progress.

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18 hours ago, StormsInAtl said:

At this point. we're just gonna let Toby be who is going to be and see how it goes from there.

This is the best approach.

I also want to say I second everything Gentle Lake says in her reply to you above.  Especially the bit about exercise being less important than not putting pressure on him.

 I have advised several people who had fearful dogs like yours, and all were heavily concerned about how the dog would get enough exercise if they did not do something that was stressing out the dog in order to get that exercise. It is good to be concerned about exercise for a dog, most especially a border collie. But in this kind of situation letting the dog take his own pace without pressure is the most important thing. Most people I have advised have found the dog was able to come along faster than they thought if not pressured into stressful situations with the goal of exercise. The end result was a dog who could get enough exercise without the added stress, and this is what you want.

It sounds as though you are doing well with Toby, and he is a lucky dog. Keep us informed and best of luck.

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D'Elle-  I think we should have named after chocolate manufacturer as we seriously don't know what we'll get day to day. Now, we rarely ever hear Master Toby barking but last night my daughter was watching this youtube video and he instantly got alert from his comatose position in the crate, ears up and started barking. He then proceeded to the front of the crate and starts barking, looking around him. We were all really surprised when he leaves the crate and proceeds to walk around the living room through the house as if looking for something. Occasionally stopping to bark.  And so it was for 2 minutes, barking, stopping in front of the stairs seemingly looking for the source of the noise. Eventually he stops. Grumbles a bit, goes back to his happy place in the corner. 

5 Minutes later while I'm working on my lap top he comes up to me and pushes his nozzle under my hand, flops the floor, gets into i'm ready for my rub down position, mouth wide open and seemingly happy.  This is the second time he has done this in response to this sound with him becoming this super cuddly dog after.   I'm trying to figure out if he is irritated by this sound or does it trigger something familiar for him.  I have to say he has a similar squeaky toy at a lower pitch that he used to perk up with, but no more. 

Has anyone had a similar reaction with their dog to this particular squeaky sound? 


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The first time I saw Kelso perk up his ears and light up his eyes was when he heard a squeaky toy for the first time, and it remained the one and only thing that would get him happy and excited for some time.  His new people used it a lot at first with him to get him to drop his fear of the new surroundings and start to trust them.

In fact, I remember the day they met him the first time very clearly. They had seen him lying in a corner of the kitchen, refusing to move or turn his head because there were Strangers In The House. I could tell they liked him, but were possibly a bit hesitant. Then I brought out a squeaky toy and said, "Do you want to see him perk up?" and started squeaking the toy. Instantly, Kelso was up and dancing around me with his eyes bright and happy. They watched that for about 30 seconds, and then told me they wanted him.

(Of course, as a disclaimer for those who have not read Kelso's story, I would not have let him go to them just based on that. There had also been a long phone conversation prior to my letting them come to meet him, and there were several solid reasons that I felt they would be a good match for Kelso. They have proven to be the best home he could have had.)

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For whatever it's worth, to me it sounds like he was just totally totally shut down when you adopted him, and is in the process of very slowly unfreezing his brain and personality and starting, little by little, in fits and starts, to come out of his shell and be himself. (It is even possible he was like this *before* he went into the rescue system too, so it is possibly he doesn't yet actually know how to be himself or who he really is, if that makes sense).  When they're like that, it can seem very random for a long time... bits of hard-to-explain behavior coming out here and there, then disappearing again. As someone said, just try to keep the pressure off... not walking him in strange places (Petsmart is probably too much -- and in a shut-down dog, you CANNOT judge whether they're over threshold by just the fact that they're not trying to flee -- these dogs use sitting like a statue as an escape from the world, and it can actually be a *bad* sign)... and not trying to train him (not even simple things) unless/until he ASKS to play training games with you.  Just lots of whatever he finds positive at any given moment. It is great that you are starting to see him initiate interactions and express interest in doing things... let him lead the way on that, and build on it at whatever speed he says.

I think it's amazing and terrific that you are being understanding of him, and giving him this chance. He may or may not ever make a good support dog for your niece, but you seem to be a good support family for HIM ;)

Good luck,

Pat P


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