My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

A month ago, my boyfriend and I adopted a two year old Beagle/Chihuahua mix, Cooper, from the Animal Rescue Foundation. We love him to pieces, but he is scared of everything.

We thought that surely after the first month he would adjust a little, but I have seen hardly any improvement. He is scared of squeaky toys and paper (Christmas sent him hiding behind the couch, and Monopoly money had him running to the closet); he is scared of startling noises, and when I put on my coat; he is scared of being approached from people who are standing, and he is scared of any quick movements.

He recognizes his name, but has no response aside from looking in my direction - I can never coax him to walk toward me. I have rescued an abused dog before, but never one that acted like Cooper.

Cooper will sit on my lap for an endless amount of time as long as I'm still, but as soon as I stand up and set him in the floor, he gets scared and hides under the bed in the other room. If I shut the bedroom door and don't allow him in, he gets so scared, he pees on the floor. If I don't physically remove him from underneath the bed, he stays there all day long.

Also, when we ran the blender in the kitchen, he was so scared he actually pooped all the way to the back bedroom closet.

It makes me sad that no matter how much love, compassion, or space that we give him, he still will not trust us. It breaks my heart to not receive love from my baby. Please, someone help me and Cooper.

Courtney from Tulsa, OK


My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Not being a dog-person myself, I am hardly in a position to offer reliable advice. However, I would suggest you inquire at the ARF you adopted him from regarding his past and maybe any advice they can give you. At the same time, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE!!! Keep on giving love, talk to Cooper reassuringly, telling him he will live with you FOREVER, for the rest of his life. Also, tell him when you plan to stand up/shut the door/run the blender/whatever, and also explain the reasons why your are doing this and how long it will take. Tell him you are taking him to a safe spot (under the bed?) for the duration of the noise or whatever. Treat him the way you would treat an abused child who came to live with you. It is clear that he has been severely abused emotionally and apparently also physically. Good luck to you and hugs and kisses to Cooper!


PS: I am a social worker with experience in child protection issues--- (01/17/2007)

By gurth

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

I've had and am having experience both with abused children and animals-- it takes a lot longer than a month. Be patient and keep on being gentle in voice and movement, and like the social worker above said, talk before you do anything! (I still automatically do this with my adopted daughter who came at age 7 and was scared of everything, "I'm going into the other room to get some tissues." Nothing is too small to explain beforehand-- but my daughter has become very well adjusted and is now saying "Mom, you don't have to tell me everything you do!")

Animals will react to your tone of voice so be careful to speak gently! Also approach any animal with your hand from underneath-- never above.

Love and pats to you and your cute doggie. (01/18/2007)

By Cantate

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

I read your story and it is a double on our own experience with our rescue dog Inca, a black Labrador who was rescued from a hell hole as a pup. We were about the eighth family to take him as he kept being taken back and we were told he was not trainable as he is too nervous of everything. Getting him home was a nightmare as he can't cope with noise, strangers, animals, etc. He looked so like our other lab Jet that we had to have him. He took 18 months to house train, he is now clean at 4 years old, our dog Jet helped enormously in bringing him on. I give him bach flower remedy, a couple of drops on the tongue when expecting stress, eg fireworks night, or visitors. He needed lots of encouragement and love and now he is trained to give paw, sit, lie, stay etc pretty much like Jet does and he is the best guard dog ever despite his nervousness, probably his way of showing appreciation for sticking with him! It takes so much time but it is really worth it. Inca is so much part of our family now and time is a great healer, you haven't had him that long so give it time and patience and I'm sure he will come good! (01/18/2007)

By mags

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

As a child we took in a stray beagle that we soon realized had been very abused. He was afraid of everything, and he would urinate on his food after taking a few bites. I know that it took a good six months for him to feel safe. He turned out to be one of the best pets we ever had. Follow the wonderful advise already given. Don't give up! You have a diamond in the rough.
Liz (01/18/2007)

By Ole Lulu

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Don't give up. My parents had a similar experience. It actually took their dog 3 years to adjust and not bark like crazy whenever something startled him, but he was an older dog. Hopefully your dog won't take so long. (01/18/2007)

By Allison

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Could you maybe try to ease his hyper-responsiveness with a short term doggie tranquilizer?
Think of it as a way to give Cooper some much needed relief from his debilitating post-traumatic fearfulness. It will quiet his frayed nerves so that he can experience love and security, and begin to trust.
Ask your vet. (01/18/2007)

By susanna1231

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Good for you for adopting Cooper. We adopted a lab/chow mix at age 1 who had been in 3 homes before ours. I don't think he was abused, but it did take him 6 months before he really began to trust us. He was aloof and always watched us with his ears at full mast never changing his facial expression. We have had him now for 5 years and he turned into a very expressive, puppy-like dog and we love him dearly. It will take a long time and Cooper will probably never be very assertive. Don't give up on him. There are books written by dog behaviorists that might help you. (01/19/2007)

By Marfette

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

He's adorable, and you're wonderful for caring so much. I agree with the advice people have offered. Patience is a good thing - my dog was so hungry when I got her that it was 3 months before she walked away from food. Two suggestions for you and your boyfriend - Try seeing things from Cooper's point of view. He seems to fear things going on above him. Get down on the floor with him. I instinctively did this with an abused dog once, and we quickly became good friends. Second, sometimes a crate in a quiet part of the house makes a safe place, with one of your soft blankets and a soft toy. He seems to need his own little place where he can feel safe and secure, doesn't he. He looks like a very sweet, intelligent dog, and I'm sure he'll repay you many, many times for your love and patience. (01/20/2007)

By Jantoo

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

I actually watched an episode of Rachael Ray this week and it had a little dog that was scared to the point of chewing off all his toe nails. They had a vet on there that recommended doggie anti-anxiety meds from the vet or he even recommended chamomile tea although I don't know how you would go about giving it to your baby. (01/20/2007)

By Sherry

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

Oh he is adorable those eyes!!! I agree patience.
I rescued a Jack Russell Terrier who had been left in
a kennel for over 10-14 days with no food or water.
When we got her she would drink so hard she would choke and get sick. I would just rub her back and coo to her baby talk and she jumped if doorbell
rang or phone even on tv! I would quickly scoop her frail little body and baby talk and coo to her sing even. She soon learned to deal with 'the noises'
and it took some time but she is the best doggie
and is such a good girl. Cookie Mae is a loving,
sweet and very mellow girl. It took maybe 6 months for her to relax and sometimes if someone yells
even during a football game (me) she runs and hides under her blankie. (01/20/2007)

By meoowmom

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

My husband and I adopted a cat, Kitty, at age 9 months. She had been an outdoor cat and who knows what had happened to her. We renamed her Kamilah (to keep to "K" sound). She was afraid of coats, chairs, our pet turtle, doors, being alone. I carried her around a lot - after I fished her out from under the bed, that is. I took her to the bathroom and held her in up to the mirror to show her "mommy and me". Five years later, I still talk to her every morning and tell her what time mommy and daddy are going to be home. I hug and kiss her when I get home. I warn her if the vacuum/food processor/coffee grinder is going to be used. I make sure she has a safe place away from our dog. My reward? She comes when called. She gives kisses when requested. She sleeps on my pillow above my head, her breathing like a balm on my soul. It takes time to work with any rescued animal. It might take 3 months, 6, 9, 1 year or two. It is absolutely worth it. (01/20/2007)

By thriftyboo

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

If all the other suggestions don't work, take all dry foods away and try to feed him mostly home cooked, not fried, meats like chicken, beef, and turkey, NOT ham/pork/tuna/bacon, salty things because dry foods tend to make the nerve endings
in all pets frayed, and they become overly sensitive to touch, sounds, and shocks. Make certain there is always enough water and that the dog is not COLD, remembering that the bottom 1/4 of rooms are always the coldest and that this breed has little hair
for covering. I'd advise a comfy little jacket he can sleep in, or two, to keep one clean. Even though that
area near the floor may not seem cold to humans, it can be for that breed. Also, keep in mind that all
humans seem like monsters. If the humans are especially naturally loud with their voices, heavier
body weight, the loud sound on wooden floors can
seem like World War for a tiny pet. Also, giving a
single small can of special less salty canned meat
is o.k. occasionally, but not regularly. Never salt the
dog's food or give salty scraps. Just watch the salt
and noises for a LONG time, even if you have to put the dog in a heavier jacket with a hood that folds it's ears a bit. Try not to yell for any reason and for a
very long time, perhaps for the whole time you own the dog. Watch the loud music, TV and appliances
as well. All of these things are terrifying to tiny pets. Keep tiny pets away from large pets at all costs until the tiny one is well adjusted to all things.

Hope this helps and gives you food for thought. God bless you. : ) (01/20/2007)

By lyndagayle62

My Dog Is Afraid of Everything

I know it's a month late but I wanted to just point out that your dog needs a crate. Dogs like crates because they want their own cave to sleep in, instinctually. We see crates as cages, they see them as dens. Your dog is using the space under your bed for this purpose. When you close the bedroom door and he can't get to it, he is separated from his only safe space, his home. This of course creates major anxiety. He uses the closet for the same purpose. The peeing and pooping is not intentional, it's a reaction to fear - it is both a natural physical reaction (it actually happens in people, too - it makes you lighter and more able to flee if necessary) but the dog will also do it because it will tense up all its muscles when scared. He isn't pooping because he's thinking, "I need to poop," he's instinctually making it easier for himself to run away.

If you get him a crate that is his size and possibly a crate cover (a towel or blanket will also work this way) so it is a little dark area for him to sleep and teach him by putting him in there when it is bedtime and whenever you leave him in the house alone, he will feel safer and safer. He should never be fed in the crate, and the crate should NEVER be used as punishment. You can look up crate training all over the internet.

Also, do not drag him out of there if you can help it. Let him come to you. You wouldn't like it if someone dragged you out of your house by your head and locked the door behind you so you couldn't go back in, especially if you had been the victim of some kind of violence or trauma.

Good luck with him! He is cute, certainly. If you spend the time and are patient but firm (he still needs you to be the alpha, not just let him do whatever he wants) he will come around. My coworker rescued a Katrina victim and it took him 6 months before he stopped being terrified of the phone ringing or other dogs barking. My friend rescued an obviously abused chihuahua and it took him almost a year before he stopped hiding in corners whenever something fell. But they are both doing fine and all it took was some patience and showing the dog that they were safe. (02/12/2007)

By Tygress


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