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Any advice for nervous dogs?

(11 Posts)
CommunistLegoBloc Mon 29-Feb-16 16:21:20

I'm making a bit of a habit of asking for advice on here!

Background: rehomed a 4 year old lurcher a month ago. Stray, no history. He's extremely nervous, but has bonded brilliantly with familiar people. I get the impression he's a one-person dog - he only really gets very excited to see me and not DP etc.

The rescue told us he was nervous of other dogs but just tolerated and ignored them. However, on walks (whole other story actually getting him to go for a walk hmm) he has been snarling, rearing and barking at dogs that trot past. Some of them sniff him, some have done nothing at all! He's on lead (no recall but he's got terrible lead etiquette) which I know might cause issues but there's no other option. Walk him in quiet areas but inevitably see other dogs. He refuses all treats, toys and commands when out and about - he's too worried.

Any advice? I really don't want an aggressive dog. He's such a sweetheart and a total dream in the house. Thanks so much, any tips really appreciated.

AnUtterIdiot Mon 29-Feb-16 16:45:20

I find my boy (greyhound) very distracted when out. Fortunately he's fine on the lead and with other dogs, but we desperately want to improve his recall outside so that we can let him off the lead and we are making no progress on recall because nothing is as interesting as ALL THE OUTSIDE.

No answers but I feel your pain!

AnUtterIdiot Mon 29-Feb-16 16:45:41

Recall in the house and garden is fine.

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 29-Feb-16 16:54:54

It's frustrating isn't it? If I open a tin remotely within earshot he comes running (more fool him, it's usually tomatoes grin) or even just a gentle name call. But put him outside and I might as well not exist! He's just on such high alert and so, so tense.

HoppingForward Mon 29-Feb-16 17:01:10

does he like treats?

Maybe try and find his favourite one and use it only on walks. It can sometimes be something easy like cocktail sausage or cheese or maybe try making baked liver cake get ready to stink your house out making that

Our previous foster was like this but loved the liver cake so. Took a little bag with me and when we spotted another dog walker approaching I'd make her sit with the liver cake in my hand and if she made no fuss whilst they walked past she got her treat and praise.

It is bloody hard work but worth it in the end.

Springermum1350 Mon 29-Feb-16 17:31:38

Oh I feel ur pain. My springer is nervous. He barely sniffs the floor when he is out and about as he spends all the time being on alert to what's around him.

Our behaviourist gave us some ideas to work on at home in the hope that it would make him less nervous at home and that in turn would help outside.

Scuttlebutter Mon 29-Feb-16 18:17:24

Hi OP - firstly, remember that four months is not very much time at all. Secondly, I'd think about a lovely technique called BAT. It's well known and it basically helps nervous dogs build their self confidence. We've used it very successfully with two dogs now.

There's also a book as well as the website. In the beginning, our trainer helped us with it.

An APDT behaviourist would also be able to help.

The key to this will be to go in very, very tiny baby steps to help your dog but the fantastic feeling you get when they are more confident is wonderful and it's so lovely to see your dog being able to enjoy meeting other dogs or going to events.

spanky2 Mon 29-Feb-16 18:24:32

My springer was very nervous, trembling at the sight of any dog. He's much better now but still has diarroah if another dog tries to play with him. He now approaches other dogs. To begin with I socialised him with one to two friends dogs in their house. I keep him to a strict routine of meal times, play time, sleep time etc. He is a puppy though. You can hire dog behaviourists. I was considering it, but he improved. Try to take him out at the same time each day so the dogs you meet are the same ones. People round here stick to the same routine too. He might also be more nervous as he is on the lead, although obviously don't let him off until you can trust him to come back!

spanky2 Mon 29-Feb-16 18:27:17

Yes to not wanting to eat when stressed. Maybe save some high value treat like dried chicken or fresh for when he gets home. I do this after puppy has a shower!

CommunistLegoBloc Mon 29-Feb-16 18:35:22

I've got him some fancy foods and introduced him to them in the house - tiny tiny bit, then he sees them go in my pocket and we go out. Mad for it in the house, won't even glance at them outside!

I've contacted the rescue for advice and they're getting a behaviourist to contact me, so if I get any tips I will share with fellow nervy dog owners here!

I'll check out the links too - thank you. I know it's early days for him but I want to nip this in the bud, I suppose. Before it's ingrained and he's really fearful because I didn't tackle it in the right way. And I have no idea what the right way is, really.

moosemama Wed 02-Mar-16 18:06:34

I would definitely second the BAT training Scuttle recommended, it's been brilliant for my highly strung Lurcher.

In the meantime, treat-bombing is another good tool. It requires you to notice other dogs as early as possible and start stuffing treats down his neck as fast as he can swallow them. Gradually, between the BAT and treat-bombing he will start to associate the appearance of other dogs with positive things and his stress levels will start to reduce, making it easier for you to train him.

I would advise walking in places where there are some other dogs, but not lots, iyswim. We realised while on holiday that long walks in places where all dogs had to be kept on leads were really helpful, as we could easily implement BAT or treat-bombing without worrying if another dog was going to run up to us and set him off. Also, as Scuttle said, tiny, tiny steps are vital, never pushing him over his threshold, that way he will build on each positive experience until he overcomes his fears.

... Just saw your post saying he's ignoring food out of the house. In that case I would say he's over threshold before you've even got to where the other dogs are. Take all the stress off him, spend some time getting him to respond to you using treats, in the house and garden, gradually building up his distractions, you can also try having him on a loose lead just on your front doorstep and watching the world go by as you feed him lots of treats for remaining calm.

I would also advise joining and posting on LurcherLink's forum, as there are lots of very experienced people with rescue Lurchers there, who can offer fantastic advice.

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