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We have adopted a problem dog from the local dog rescue who spent the first 18 months of his life locked in a barn of a puppy farm. He is of a beautiful nature but has not had any socialization and is a nervous wreck. He is scared to death of anything and everything and even has a problem going into the garden as he is terrified to leave the sanctuary of our kitchen. He is basically a dog with agoraphobia and we could do with advice on how to proceed with him. He is neutered and is two years old and otherwise very healthy.
I agree. All he needs is a lot of love and patience. My dog came from an abusive situation and it took her a year to wag her tail and play with us. She was afraid for me to touch her when I first got her and still 3 years later is wary when I have any object in my hand even if it is a plastic bag or something silly. Food was a great way to get her to trust us. I just talked to her and petted her gently on her terms and spent a lot of time with her and gave her treats. We allowed her to have her own space at the top of the stairs where she felt safe. She actually took to my husband first and she started walking around with her tail up instead of tucked under. It was heartbreaking to see her so sad and her spirit broken. Then I got her to play ball a year after we got her and we were ecstatic. Now she is very sweet and loves for us to pet her, but hides behind me when around other people. Let him open up on his own time. I'm sure he is incredibly grateful to have a wonderful home now and will be a sweet and affectionate companion with time.
I am not a dog expert but I have had many abused animals over the years. Recently, I have adopted four dogs from a chow rescue. Two have come from puppy mills/farms. One is similar to what you have described with your dog. My experience with traumatized animals is that they need lots of time to heal and learn to trust. Food and hand feeding is a good way to build trust. To socialize, take him on short walks, very short to start with, and keep extending them until he becomes comfortable. This will take a long time because you only want to advance at the dog's pace (when the dog is ready). Go with him outside and spend time talking to him. Eventually, you will see a changed animal, but it takes lots of loving time.
I wish you the best and the world needs more loving people like you to take in abused/traumatized animals. He will learn to love you and you will not find a more devoted pet.
Susan in Oregon, USA
Find your local health food or organic store and get something called Rescue Remedy. I would also purchase from the same line (BACH Flower) Aspen and Mimulus. You can add all these to his water or give directly by mouth. You also might want to try some Valerian Root.
Do a web search on "clicker training" for dogs. This method is used very successfully to rahabilitate traumetized horses. I am sure there is someone doing it with dogs too. It is totally based on positive reinforcement and anyone can do it.
Most scared dogs don't like to be touched and even some normal happy hyper dogs too. Wait till they are just about to go to sleep and very quietly, gently, sweetly caress them, lightly stroking them all over. It's relaxing for them & very bonding. ( this works with people too :)