Help again! Rescue pup traumatised by lead

(22 Posts)
PollyIndia Fri 22-Mar-19 13:53:03

Hi all
I adopted my 5 month old cross breed from Spain 8 days ago. From Spain because I have a 6 year old and UK rescues wouldn't consider us, at least, the ones I spoke to. I got her through a spanish rescue who works with a uk charity, and they've been great. I posted the other day about what to do at night, but all going really well in terms of her settling. She wouldn't let me touch her for 5 days, now she lets me stroke and pet her and rub her belly. Food took a while but I think I've found a wet food she likes. She also sleeps all night in her crate in my room and is totally toilet trained (always crossing fingers with that one as you never quite know, right!)
And because she trusts me, she now lets me put the harness on her. All good. The lead on the other hand, is a disaster. I tried yesterday, she scattered across the house and lay on the sofa trembling, so I took it off.
Today I tried again with loads of chicken and sausage. Left her with it on and just left all the treats near her. Nada. Just trembling. So after about 5 mins, I just took it off again.
Even now, 2 hours later, she's still a bit skittish, and refusing chicken from me, which she never does, and barking at everything. I'm just letting her get on with it - but I'm worried I have damaged the bond we had built up.
Obviously I'm going to leave it for a few days, and also get a much shorter lead so it's less scary if she takes off in a fright. But I'd love any thoughts or advice. Luckily I can work at home, so there's no rush at all. She's a small dog but like a mini greyhound in terms of the power in her haunches, so she would love to get out and run if she knew how good it was!
Thank you!

OP’s posts: |
Nesssie Fri 22-Mar-19 15:06:58

Can you just have the lead lying around on the floor for a bit? And reward any time she goes near or shows any interest.

Try a different lead- different material, colour and weight?

Could she have been whipped with a lead/chain previously?

PollyIndia Fri 22-Mar-19 15:37:15

Yes am going to try a different lead defo.
And I don't think so... I think she's been in a foster home yard for pretty much her whole life as they were only a few days old when they rescued her and her siblings and mum. But it is a surprisingly extreme reaction...

OP’s posts: |
BrownOwlknowsbest Fri 22-Mar-19 15:37:20

Eight days is not very long for a rescue pup who may have come from an abusive environment. I think I would back off completely with the lead training for at least 2 weeks and then start attaching something very short and light to the harness at first. Six inches of string or ribbon perhaps and gradually lengthen the piece attached. She may well have been beaten with a lead at some point, so maybe consider using a scarf or other soft thing in place of a lead to start with. Put it in her bed for a few days so it becomes totally non-threatening before you loop it through the harness. Just give your pup lots of time and gentling and I am sure you will get there in the end. Good luck

mrsjoyfulprizeforraffiawork Fri 22-Mar-19 15:43:47

I wonder if she was tied up for long periods of time before (as Mediterranean dogs often are) and thinks you are going to do that. BrownOwl's advice sounds very sensible.

PollyIndia Fri 22-Mar-19 15:46:09

Yes, very sensible, thanks so much!

OP’s posts: |
Nesssie Fri 22-Mar-19 15:57:00

Maybe don't put it actually in her bed, as you don't want to disturb her safe place. But I agree with the rest of the advice.


PollyIndia Fri 22-Mar-19 16:18:48

I was going to use my dressing gown belt - it's a soft cotton and already smells of me. See if we can maybe just get outside for a sniff about tomorrow

OP’s posts: |
OverFedStanley Fri 22-Mar-19 17:19:18

I would back right off for a long while yet. I would not take her off the property until she is very relaxed in that environment , frustrating for you, but much better for her.

Lots of bonding games eg treats for coming near you, treats for looking at you, treats when you say her name (dont work on recall yet) just say her name when she is near you and give her a treat.

Give her lots of opportunities to make her own decisions eg when to wander into the garden, when to come back in etc.

It may be worth a read up on trigger stacking. Your dog has had a load of stressful experiences and will need a good few weeks to get all the stress hormones back to normal. Any small thing at the moment will rank up her anxiety again and then will be harder to solve.

Best to go really slowly and take it at her pace.

missbattenburg Fri 22-Mar-19 17:19:45

Today I tried again with loads of chicken and sausage. Left her with it on and just left all the treats near her.

This won't work. She will be too scared by the close proximity of the lead to be able to allow the food to change how she feels about it.

Have a look at counter conditioning combined with systematic densentisisation. In essence, you start with whatever about the lead she can cope with - that might be the lead the other side of the room from her with no one touching it. Let her see the lead, then feed the treats. Repeat, repeat, repeat until the sight of the lead causes her to look to you expectantly for food. The lead must become the predicter of the food. She must see lead and think food.

Then bring the lead a little closer. Repeat. Then closer. Do this over several sessions, over several days. Don't ever push her too quickly so that she shows fear - it'll undo your good work.

In the meantime, no walkies unless you can do so safely without a lead. It's a pita but will be worth it.

OverFedStanley Fri 22-Mar-19 17:24:38

I would consider that she is not frightened perse by the lead so would not need counter conditioning (yet) but is generally anxious by her new surrondings. Bring her general anxiety levels down by going at a slower pace will not prevent phobias from developing.

Give her more time and the lead will be less of an issue as her general anxiety lessons and her confidence builds

BrownOwlknowsbest Fri 22-Mar-19 19:51:56

There are so many things you will never know about your pup. Think for a moment of what she may have been through. Life starts in a home where people say "buen perro" and mum is there. Then one day pup is uprooted and either taken on a long journey by car or put in a small crate and left for some hours in a strange noisy environment while they fly to the UK. (This might be where the lead problem is coming from, if someone put a lead on her and dragged her into the loading area for the flight) Then another car journey to more strangers, a few days there and yet another set of strangers who make very odd unfamiliar sounds and keep saying 'good dog'. Pup has no real way of knowing this is their forever home, as they will take time to gain that confidence. I've had many rescue dogs over the years and taking it very slowly at the beginning has paid dividends with all of them. Using your belt is a good idea, perhaps let it flop over her while you are sitting together at first so she knows it is nothing to fear. Keep us posted

Oxfordblue Fri 22-Mar-19 22:42:55

I agree with Missbattenburg.
I’ve had similar with my rescue dog & our cat. Fortunately she was (& is) very food orientated. I got a tube of primula cheese & my dog, cat & new dog, licking the cheese off my fingers. On first encounter, rescue dog screamed with fear when my cat got near her. Terrible sound.
The other thing to do, is praise the lead. Sounds bonkers but If you talk to the lead in the same kind way your talk to your dog, it will help her realise the lead is not to be feared.
Good luck, don’t push it & well done for getting a rescue.
I’m picking my 3rd up on Sunday am - literally straight from the puppy farm via rescue kennels!

PollyIndia Sat 23-Mar-19 08:41:21

Thank you all, some really good advice here.
I have been chatting to the adoptive families of the rest of the litter, and 2 are fine with the lead, but one is the same - just trembling in fear when the lead is on. The 2 travelling in the same cage over, and she told me that the driver had to take them out to clean the cages, so we wondered if something happened then. They were so petrified when they arrived, it must have been horrendous. If I ever adopted from another country again, I think I'd want to go get them. I wouldn't want them to go through that journey.
I think that overfed stanley is right re there being a general anxiety at the moment. She is bonded with me and my son, and she seems to love people - interested in visitors - but she is generally still scared of stuff. Noises at the front door, dogs either side of the garden, birds, planes, the sound of people chatting.
I have bought a different lead, so will leave that around when it comes, and in the meantime try the dressing gown tie round the house for a few weeks. I am sure we will get there. This dog needs to run in the forest!

OP’s posts: |
PollyIndia Sat 23-Mar-19 08:42:02

Good luck with the new rescue Oxfordblue. Do you live in oxford?

OP’s posts: |
PollyIndia Sat 23-Mar-19 08:42:45

Oh yes, Nesssie - I went for a different cheapo lead just to leave around

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UrsulaPandress Sat 23-Mar-19 08:49:47

Good luck. The puppy is fortunate to have found you.

PollyIndia Tue 26-Mar-19 10:28:49

Ok, so progress in a few areas. She's letting me touch her with the harness and she's sniffing with it and carrying it around. I've not tried again with the lead or a scarf or anything, but I will see how she gets on over the next few days. Her confidence is growing every day - I love seeing her jumping and rolling around in the garden, and I have lots of visitors and every one she is excited to see, tail wagging and holding up her paw. For these reasons, I think she will be fine eventually - she seems naturally sociable. I'll update you if I manage to get some sort of scarf lead on her later this week!

OP’s posts: |
PollyIndia Tue 26-Mar-19 10:30:10

She has made amazing progress in 12 days. First 5 days, didn't want to be touched. Then came for strokes but stiffened a bit. Now comes for strokes, wants to cuddle you with her paws, lets me lean right over her, tail wagging the whole time. Really lovely to see.

OP’s posts: |
OverFedStanley Tue 26-Mar-19 18:05:43

Brilliant news grin

PollyIndia Wed 03-Apr-19 12:07:01

Over a week on, I can get the lead on her, she happily accepts chicken or cheese, and she has even taken a few steps with the lead on last night and this am, then she backs away so I take it off. Baby steps. Any advice for moving it on, or should I just continue as I am?

OP’s posts: |
BrownOwlknowsbest Wed 03-Apr-19 19:44:11

It is great to hear that you are making progress.grin I think taking it slowly is the way to go and also, if you are not already, putting the lead on her out in the garden. Eventually you will need to get the focus off the lead and onto her accepting that the lead is a gateway to exciting things happening. Think about letting someone else hold the treats and slowly moving away from the pup so that she walks a short distance on the lead to get the treat, and is then rewarded for that. Will she search for grated cheese in the grass? If so, let her watch someone sprinkle the cheese a short distance away and let her go and play search while wearing the lead. Well done and give her an extra pat from me.

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