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Hi,

I adopted Annie and Fred, 2 of the OMBR 24. Annie is becoming more comfortable around me, although she still cowers if I try to pet her while she's standing up, and doesn't like me to walk behind her. She also only goes to get a drink of water if I'm upstairs. When we're out for walks, Fred wants to go to say hi to other dogs and people. Annie puts her tail between her legs and pulls away.

Granted, she's only been with me for 2 weeks, and has made great strides. I'm just wondering if there's anything I should be doing to help her feel safe and comfortable, other than loving her and being kind to her? She was obviously treated horribly in the past, and I want her to know that that will never happen to her again.

Thanks,
Rose
 

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It sounds as if Annie wasn't socialized. While it's not physical abuse, failure to socialize a dog is abusive in its own way. Dogs that haven't been socialized can be very fearful/shy in new situations and with strangers. This fearful behavior is not only stressful, it can sometimes even be dangerous. :(

I've adopted a couple of rescues that suffered from this problem. The best thing you can do for them is to socialize the heck out of them, but at their comfort level. Don't force them into situations that might be dangerous. For example, don't allow young children to interact with them face to face. However, lots of walks around the neighborhood, around parks, pet stores, and any other areas that allow dogs are a good place to start.

When Annie acts fearfully, don't comfort her, because she'll interpret comfort as reinforcement. Adopting a hearty, "oh you're so silly, this is fun, let's move on" attitude is a better way to go (Campbell's jolly routine). When she expresses interest in another person or dog, then praise, treat, etc. If a friendly stranger is willing, allow Annie to approach the stranger, rather than having the stranger force himself on the dog. You can (and probably should) carry lots of yummy treats, and allow the friendly stranger to treat Annie, if she is brave enough to approach that closely. You can also treat her for showing interest in situations where she previously would have acted fearfully.

Good luck--helping a dog with socialization issues is challenging and very rewarding! You'll learn a ton about dog behavior and you'll eventually be able to help and encourage others in the same boat. :)

Here are some links with additional information on socialization.

Adopting a Dog with Issues
Socialization: the Key to a Confident Dog--this piece is very good for "how to" suggestions. :)
Socializing Adult Dogs and the Importance of Maintaining Socialization
 

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I had the exact same issue with Belle.

Great ideas from Betsy and to add to her suggestions - another great book:

The Cautious Canine: How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears by Patricia McConnell.

And - if you live near a dog park that is not too crowded and where the people are very dog-literate, allowing her to play with other dogs when there are people around can help. You can even ask the people not to reach out for her, but instead just let her frolic and notice that there are people there who are not trying to grab her or scare her.

NOTE OF CAUTION: I would not do this the first month - or probably until she gets even more comfortable around you. So that you can be her rock at the park. Belle was a totally different dog as long as Gunther was there, and she and bonded very strongly so I started taking her and Gunther to the dog park about 12 weeks after I got Belle and after we had done lots and lots of neighborhood walks and I got to know her better and saw how she interacted with other dogs.

For what it's worth, I have had Belle for 11 months and I still always alert her when it looks like I'm going to end up behind her or walking by her while she has her eyes closed. And even though Belle is not scared of me, she still is very cautious and particular about who gets to touch her. We are currently working on people coming into the house.

Additionally, there are two great books about communicating with your dog through body language and one of them focuses specifically on signaling to your dog that all is well. They are:

On Talking Terms with Dogs by Turid Rugaas
The Rosetta Bone by Cheryl Smith

One final thought about having people give her treats, and I'm pretty sure Betsy would second this, even when you tell people what you want them to do, they have a tendency to not do it. For example, you want the dog to take the treat out of their hand so you tell them to not move and just hold the treat and don't look at the dog and they look at the dog and reach out with the treat and then - horror of horrors - try to pet the dog which it is way too soon to do. Point being you really have to ask the person permission to over direct them in service of your dog. In my experience, I have found that children listen the best and that true dog lovers want to be the one that breaks through to the dog and therefore don't listen and scare the dog!

Gook luck with Annie - it sounds like you have made a ton of progress in a very short time and she is lucky to have you.

Susan O.
 

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Besty's advice is wonderful! When I first got my 2 hounds, Rusty was Mr. Personality. Went up to everyone to greet them. Stickers was shy. Not really fearful but shy. I took her everywhere I could think of but was careful not to spook her. We went out everyday for months & months. Walks, sometimes 3 or 4 miles total daily just to get her use to cars, buses, kids, skateboards, etc. Then we moved on to shopping centers, Petsmart. I even took her to drop in at the Vet's office to say "Hi" to the receptionist. She would give her a biscuit a scratch on the head and we would leave, making it a short positive experience. I am happy to say all the time and effort paid off. She isn't shy anymore and loves attention. Start off slow but don't give up or give into this behavior. Good Luck!
 
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