Suggestions please

(16 Posts)
allymcbeals Mon 12-Aug-19 13:01:02

I have posted about this before but I can't afford a private dog behavioural person, I looked into the rates and it's not an option for us at the moment.

I have a beautiful 3 year old cavalier King Charles Spaniel girl. She's so loving and friendly and adores all people. But she is terrified of other dogs. It's my fault, I honestly didn't realise I should have taken her to puppy classes - I guess she never really had much interaction with other dogs when she was younger apart from the odd sniff on a walk. But she has just gotten worse and worse. She managed to slip her harness once when a friendly dog was trying to sniff her. I was terrified she was going to run away but she came back
After a minute when the dog was gone.

I took her to doggy daycare thinking it may help, and the people who run it said she really enjoyed herself, but advice from here was that this was flooding and would have terrified her sad

I tried one on one time with the neighbours dog in the back yard giving her treats and lots of positive reinforcement but she goes into this weird trance like she's so terrified she pretends the other dog isn't there and just wags at the humans.

We have moved to a real dog friendly neighbourhood and live across the road from a great park but she keeps being approached by off lead dogs and owners shouting "don't worry she's friendly" confused I explain that she's just frightened and they say "oh that's weird for a cavalier" and walk off leaving me feeling judged and like a crappy dog mom.

She is skittish in general and scared
Of loud noises and cats aswell! Does anyone have any other ideas apart from
The personal training? It would be really appreciated. Thanks

OP’s posts: |
missbattenburg Mon 12-Aug-19 13:24:10

Before you get tips I will stress this problem really does benefit from professional help. Some insurance policies cover behaviourists as well as vets so it is really worth checking yours (or changing it, if poss) to see if it includes this.

That said, assuming your dog is frightened of other dogs - which is sounds like she is - then the very first thing I would do is make sure she does not come into contact with any. That means you have to grow a thick skin about keeping other dogs away (yelling "she's sick and contagious" can be an easier way to of keeping distance without the same judging). It also means being prepared to double back the way you came on walks to avoid that dog up ahead; walks become less about getting from A to B and more about wandering around for X minutes.

She needs to start trusting that other dogs are (probably) not going to bother her and she will only do this is they are kept at a distance further away than where she starts to worry. If she starts to be alert to other dogs that are 100m away then you need to keep her 125m away from other dogs. She needs lots of experience to learn she is not going to be forced to interact when she doesn't want to. Expect that to take a few weeks/months to get to that stage but it is very important because it allows her to start to relax on walks. She cannot learn anything while she is scared and stessed.

If you absolutely have to take her close/past another dog then do it quickly, calmy and without fuss. Even if she goes nuts at the end of the lead. Give her as much space as possible - and always enough space so that she cannot reach the other dog - and move her on without fuss.

You can also use treats to help change how she feels but you must be careful exactly what you are rewarding (or risk changing her mind about food instead).

What you DON'T want:
- you see another dog but she doesn't
- you start giving her treats
- she sees the other dog

In this example she risks learning that treats mean a dog is coming and so you change how she feels about treats, not dogs. In your backgarden example, you are forcing her to be near another dog and feeding her - the treats will not overcome the fear, the fear will overcome the treats. You cannot do that.

What you want:
- she sees the other dog
- she CHOOSES to engage somewhere else; maybe she sniffs the ground or looks at you
- you give her a treat

In this example, seeing another dog and ignoring it becomes the precurser to a treat. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Like with all dog training, take how many times you think you need to repeat something and x100. If she does not take the treat (and usually does like her food) then she is too scared, the other dog is too close. Create more distance.

You do the above enough that over extended amounts of time you may be able to reduce the distance at which she is comfortbale with other dogs. Personally, I'd let go of any hopes she will one day be a super confident dog who loves to see other dogs (you never know) and accept she would prefer not to interact - you are aiming for ignore instead smile

missbattenburg Mon 12-Aug-19 13:26:32

We have moved to a real dog friendly neighbourhood and live across the road from a great park

Oh, and stop walking here, sorry but for the best.

Wolfiefan Mon 12-Aug-19 13:29:08

There’s a great FB group called dog training advice and support. Run by really good people who only use reward and positive reinforcements. Worth looking on there for advice too.

allymcbeals Mon 12-Aug-19 13:29:49

Thanks so much for the advice. It's really detailed
And helpful, I'm going to sit down with my husband tonight and we will go through this and start putting it into action.

Can I ask, and only answer if you want
To of course, how you know all this? I just assumed daily exposure to dogs would help, but it seems the opposite is true?

OP’s posts: |
allymcbeals Mon 12-Aug-19 13:30:13

Thanks wolfiefan smile

OP’s posts: |
OpheliaTodd Mon 12-Aug-19 13:31:42

I wholeheartedly agree with @missbattenberg’s excellent advice.

If you stick at it, make sure you don’t try to progress too quickly and accept that your dog may never be a social butterfly, the prognosis is very favourable. I’m actually currently working with an under socialised rescue GSD who is nervous/barky around other dogs and her progress is amazing already within days. It helps that she has fab owners committed to the work.

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allymcbeals Mon 12-Aug-19 13:40:26

Just to be clear, she already does ignore other dogs. She already ignores them
and goes to sniff somewhere else etc. She never goes
Mad on the end of the lead or barks - just ignores them.

Unless they run up to her, and then she just tries to get away.

Just so I'm clear where she is at. smile

OP’s posts: |
missbattenburg Mon 12-Aug-19 13:45:46

To of course, how you know all this?

Sure, I am really interested in dogs so read a fair bit, done some volunteer work and have a diploma/am partway through a degree in canine behaviour.

I like to think of your situation it in terms of spider phobias (because I hate spiders).

If I decided I wanted to work on a spider phobia then I would have to increase my exposure to them. But that will only work if I feel in control.

Say I sit in a room and someone is going to bring a spider in for me to be exposed to.

Option 1: I do not trust that person not to rush at me with the spider and fling it in my face. They might not, but they might.

Option 2: I absolutely 100% trust them not to bring that spider any closer than I am comfortable with. In fact, they are going to stay still and I am going to approach the spider when I am ready.

Which works best? I got sweaty and heart-racey just typing out Option 1. That is not a good state of mind to learn in. In fact, the cortisoal and adrenaline released when I am scared actively blocks the bits of my brain that are used for learning - so when I am pumped full of adrenaline I literally cannot learn. Option 2 works best because I am calm. At the minute your dog is stuck in Option 1 and she never knows how close that other dog is going to get.

Dogs and humans (and all mammals) all have the same basic emotional response systems and all learn in basically the same way.

Despite that it is too easy to think "if I introduce her to enough dogs she will learn nothing bad will happen".

This is a fallacy. Fear is awful so when another dog approaches her and she gets scared, something bad has already happened. The something bad is that she got scared and getting scared feels awful. So other dogs approaching her = being scared = something bad.

You need the level of calm and trust that comes with distance. Afterall, I find it very hard to be scared of a spider that is on the other side of a field from me...

missbattenburg Mon 12-Aug-19 13:46:22

Just to be clear, she already does ignore other dogs. She already ignores them

Then you already have a head start grin

Jouska Mon 12-Aug-19 13:56:28

I can not say enough how this does need professional help. This is pretty much bread and butter money for a good trainer from either IMDT or APDT background. They will not charge the earth but you will be on the right track to help control and manage the situation.

As you have already found out it is hard to do without guidance and someone else monitoring what you are doing eg the lack of improvement when working with your neighbours dog.

This is NOT your fault and not due to poor socialisation as a puppy - it is much more likely to be genetic or something that happened in the first 8 weeks of your dogs life.

Something that may help is BAT by Grisha Stewart - google videos and a book is available but again this is best done with support

BAT book.

Think of the money spent on training as an investment. Your dog is only 3 a couple of hours sessions will put you on the right track - not make your dog worse and will be used for the next 12 years or so.

Also check your insurance as some does pay out for behavioural work.

BrownOwlknowsbest Mon 12-Aug-19 14:10:57

In the mean time, perhaps get her a nice yellow lead or coat as a warning to other dog owners that she needs space. Amazon has lots to choose from smile

adaline Mon 12-Aug-19 15:30:33

Is there any way you can get her to associate dogs with something positive - a yummy treat or a favourite toy?

I read about a woman who took her dog to the park and just sat with her in an open space. Every single time the dog saw another dog, she just said "dog" and treated the dog (I think she used fresh chicken or sausage). Eventually the dog looked to the owner every time she saw another dog in order to get her treat.

They could eventually get closer and closer (rewarding the whole time) as the dog associated these strange dogs with something yummy. I don't think she ever got to the point of wanting to play but, she got the dog to the point where she wasn't scared even if the other dogs came right up in her face.

I think it was on an episode of Embarrassing Pets on C4 as well - they used as squeaky toy to distract the dog.

Greyarabsdrinkthewind Mon 12-Aug-19 22:14:10

I have friend whose dog as petrified of other dogs it would either run away or frantically try and slip her lead/harness in her fear or attack them, she had a couple of professional trainer in with no real joy. It was making her life miserable as we live in an area of outstanding natural beauty with a national trail and popular with dog walkers.
I had a dog who if he was human would have been autistic, he basically ignored all other dogs so we started walking together. We first met on neutral ground in an area and time when we were less likely to encounter other dogs. Initially my friends dog barked growled and tried to run away from mine but he ignored it totally, just started his walk as if she didnt exist, eventually with time my friend could let her dog off with mine and she was ok then after a time we introduced my other dog who is more friendly but not over the top she was never as keen on him preferring the other dog until he sadly died and then she transferred her friendship onto my other dog. Now they walk together off lead often side by side, my dog never greets hers with any enthusiasm (she would growl) just a very nonchalant hello on meeting, the sniff the same things together but never touch each other or play with each other. She will now let other off lead dogs come towards her when she's off the lead but keeps close to my dog and only growls/barks/panics if she's on the lead and the space is relatively confined e.g.a narrow footpath in dense woodland.
In the beginning we had a few ups and downs but my friend persevered and eventually its paid off. If I ever took either dogs to my friends house (to meet her before a walk) her dog would go frantic so I avoid doing anything like this also her dog is very food orientated (mine were/are quite partial to a dog treat) so we never used treats around them as this could friction between them all also water on hot days.

HairyDogsOfThigh Mon 12-Aug-19 23:50:25

Absolutely what missb**attenburg says.
Especially being careful if you're using food to try and change her feelings towards dogs. Too often people feed the dog before they see the other dog, in an effort to distract the dog in some way. You risk the dog becoming scared of the treats as they learn these are precursor to a 'scary' dog looming into view.
You say she is skittish and scared in general, which is not helping the situation, as she is already 'over threshold' before she even sees another dog. I would try and work on keeping her calm, which obviously involves avoiding dogs (at this stage), but also other things she dislikes. So, if she doesn't like traffic, walk her in fields (you may have to drive her there).

OpheliaTodd Tue 13-Aug-19 01:07:27

The trainer on Embarrassing Pets is an embarrassment to dog trainers everywhere. Distracting a dog with a squeaky toy is management not training.

As is looping a lead in a figure 8 round a dog’s nose which was this “trainers” method of stopping pulling.

This is why I loathe most tv dog trainers. They tend to be shit.

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