Mumsnet does not check the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you're worried about your pet's health, please speak to a vet or qualified professional.
This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
How hard is it to train a nervous young dog?(24 Posts)
Looking at a rescue dog tomorrow but worried about a few issues, apparently he’s very nervous on the lead, mainly due to not having any lead training. Apparently he’s not as nervous indoors. He’s not fully house trained either. He’s less than a year old so are all these problems solvable and if so how easy/hard? I’m worried it will be too much to take on. I know I can say ‘no’ to taking him on. Is there anything in particular I should be looking for tomorrow when I visit him?
It depends so much on the individual dog, I think. I wouldn't think of nervousness as an obstacle to training. The only worry with nervousness that I would have is whether or not it was likely to express itself as aggression to other dogs.
A good thing about nervousness is that it may well be something temporarily exacerbated by the dog's difficult situation. If you can give him reliable, consistent, low-key gentle positive attention it may well improve quite quickly (no guarantees of course)!
To help decide how trainable a dog it, I would look at how engaged he is with toys and treats. Motivation is everything!
I would definitely look at it as though you are starting from scratch. Go to puppy classes to get the basics in and socialise as much as you can. That'll build the dogs confidence in a safe environment.
I have a nervous PRT. He is very highly trainable, because he is clever and his high prey drive means that he is always looking very actively for the reward that toys can give him in any situation. It is easy to channel that into training exercises.
I do feel that I have a very big responsibility always to give him the kind of gentle low-key attention that he can cope with. He doesn't really trust the world, so he really needs me to make things ok for him.
Thanks Alpha ,I think I’m just over worrying incase it’s not fixable. He’s had a bad start to life and has been moved around a bit, apparently he’s quite settled indoors, is good with other dogs and kids but nervous when out, I’m unsure if he’s responsive to other dogs whilst out, from what I gather it’s just nervousness about being on a lead and the outside world. I’m sure once settled he will be more confident. My main worry is if he becomes reactive to dogs or people.
If we do get him we will be looking at some classes (luckily we have a training school near by). I’m thinking walking with other dogs may help him? He’s been around other dogs since he was born so I f I get him it will be the first time he’s been a single dog.
Sorry to post yet again. Just wanted to add that I got him at four months and for several weeks after I got him he wasn't really 'himself'. He opened up gradually as the trauma of settling in came to an end. First few weeks need to be about teaching him how safe things are, and lettng him know that you will alwys be the source of calm and lovely things!
Yes, I'm sure walking with other dogs can help, as long as they have a calm and friendly temperament.
I am worried as we go away for a few days in 5 weeks time, the dog would be coming with us (camping), I’m not sure if he would be ready to come away with us.
Think I will just have to see how he is when I meet him tomorrow, he is being moved to another foster home today (not ideal) so may be unsettled when I see him. I shall take a treat with me.
He might absolutely love camping. A tent is a nice small cosy self-contained space to feel safe in. And five weeks is quite a long time.
I did have a couple of breaks away not long after I got my dog. One was staying with family and the other was a 'log cabin' holiday. I think that being with him in a range of new, different situations that weren't threatening actually helped our relationship. It gave him lots of opportunities to learn that by following cues from his human he could have fun in unfamiliar situations.
Hope you have a great time with him!
Nervousness can be a huge issue to overcome. You say you have a training class you can go to. If the dog is nervous a training class may be too much and you will need to fund 121 lessons.
You need to have low expectations and a lot of patience to take on a nervous dog - I would go with caution unless you are looking for a "project" and have more time and money than is needed for an average dog.
Having said all of that if the dog has become nervous though environment then this is easier to treat than if it is nervous through temperament and genetics - this is really hard to cure and the dog will always have some nervousness or anxiety
It would not be a good idea to take many new dogs camping after 5 days of having them tbh.
Alpha that gives me some hope. We have a small Campervan and awning/tent, I plan on introducing the van straight away (have been advised to feed the dog in the van to get him used to going in it, and then short journeys). We are staying in a very quiet camp site so won’t be too noisy.
Over the plan is to have a couple 1:1 sessions before joining a class, I will speak to the dog trainer and see what they suggest, I think the first thing to do will be to teach lead walking and re call. As far as I know the nervousness has come from environment, I’m unsure where he came from but was brought in with his siblings possibly from a traveller site. I have prepared my kids (teens) that we may not be getting him, it will depend on how nervous he is and wether he’s going to be reactive.
Over the camping trip is 5 weeks away, not 5 days. It’s only for 3 nights.
I took on a nervous dog and it took her 5 months to settle and a another year before she became confident.
The things we did were,
Made lots of nests for her around the house with blankets and beds.
Even now she will squeeze herself into the space between the wall and the dresser in our kitchen. As well as having blankets around, we bought two beds a small cosy one and a larger one. One is upstairs the other is down.
We made sure that anyone coming to the house followed the no look, no touch, no eye contact rule. This includes family members living at home. It is important to let the dog come to you in her own time.
We bought a perfect fit harness which goes around the body so that she did not have to have a lead on her neck or going over her head.
We hand fed her in the mornings, and then gave her two more small meals from a bowl. Nervous dogs often have digestive problems so small meals are better.
From a company called DforDog, I bought a yellow flash, which says ‘Keep your distance,’. People don’t seem to listen when we say she is nervous. Put their hands or faces to her so that she snarls. The yellow coat is good. Lots of people recall their dogs or put them on a lead when they see her.
Finally, she is the most rewarding dog ever. To see her confidence and love for playing, enjoying her walks and being so healthy is wonderful.
Sounds like you are doing everything right. Campervan is even better than a tent because, as you say, you can get him used to it in advance.
My dog adores car trips because a car, like a crate, is a safe cave-like territorial space. Unfortunately he is a bit too territorial in the car and I can't have him in the car with non-family members as he considers it an intrusion. It might be a good idea to familiarise your dog with the idea of other people being allowed in the house and van at your discretion, not his!
Thank you for the great tips. I am hoping he’s not as nervous as I’m thinking. I have spoken to several people from the rescue but haven’t actually spoken to his foster carer. I think tomorrow will be a good indication of how he copes with different environments as he’s being moved to a new fosterer home today, I think the main issues are when he’s out on the lead, I have been told he is basically like a puppy and needs teaching how to walk forwards. I have done the puppy thing twice and with the last dog I taught him recall before anything, he then walked better off lead than on and gradually built confidence.
I have a dog with behavioural problems that are fear based.
I would say stay well away.
Nerves are often inherited though it can be as a result of traumatic experience too.
Nerve problems are, imo at least, very difficult to fix.
My dog has had me in tears on so many occasions.
Just to add
My main worry is if he becomes reactive to dogs or people
Very possible, especially if he is under a year old as depending on what breed he is, it is quite possible that he hasnt reached full emotional maturity yet where any nervousness could get worse.
We took on a Romanian stray that had never been on a lead until he arrived on our doorstep... Honestly, he picked it up surprisingly quickly. We didn't take him out apart from the garden for a few weeks and got him used to being on a lead and he was fine!
Fuck he is a dross breed but has staffie in him so probably not very mature at all.
I’m going to see him this afternoon so will see how he is. The lead thing probably isn’t a huge issue as it can be worked on, I’m sure it’s just because he has never been walked or not until he was in foster. It’s wether he is nervous at other times that bothers me. I have 2 teenagers but dd2 can be a bit wary of dogs until she gets to know them and she can be a bit flappy at times which could upset the dog.
I will see how it goes today and try and judge if it’s just the fact he hasn’t had much training or if he is a nervous dog.
Ddog is coming home tomorrow. He wasn’t nervous at all when I visited, treated me with lots of kisses, foster carer said that he didn’t react like that when she met him, apparently he was a bit shy and nervous, I did take a dog biscuit in my pocket which may of helped. The only time he seems nervous is when he goes outside but he’s not reactive, just unsure of the outside world. He had been kept in a playpen in a flat before being rescued so has no expereance of the outside world . He’s very loving but need training as he’s a bouncy boy. House training is almost there but he’s likely to mark when he arrives. He’s much smaller than I imagined which will hopefully make things a lot easier (smaller puddles and poops). We will start lead training in the garden as he hasn’t had his 2nd vaccinations yet. He loves riding in the car and just curls up and sleeps on the front seat so no problems with taking him camping.
I have bought a crate as he likes to sleep in one in his foster home, it will also help when leaving him so he doesn’t pee everywhere.
Aw good luck with him. My rescue boy was incredibly nervous when I got him, but patience and socialising with people and other dogs worked wonders. He is fab with both now
My dog is nervous in certain situations due to experiences he had around the age of 1.
He's not reactive but is scared. I find a bit of reassurance and then me behaving confidently has helped him gain confidence.
Obviously if he was reactive then it would be a completely different matter to manage.
Any tips on teaching things like ‘down’ and ‘sit’ without raising my voice (I think he has been shouted at a lot)? He’s not that interested in food but responds well to belly rubs.