Ever since my dog got hit by a car he has been afraid of people and other dogs. What should I do to help him regain human trust? He barks and growls at them, but would never bite, in fear of being hurt! Please help me!
Megan from NH
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Poor Baby Dog !! Take your doggie in the car with you when you run errands so you can re-socialize him.
For instance.....if you are going to the drive-in window at the Bank.....often the teller will send a dog-cookie to your pet. And they always speak to the dog too. And to pick-up or drop-off laundry.
Another good drive-in window is at CVS for prescriptions. They don't offer cookies, but do always speak to the dog . ( you can slip THEM a dog treat, which they can give to your dog)
But the best place of all is the drive-in window at a Sonic Drive-In !!
When you place YOUR order, ask for a single patty, no mustard,no mayo,no catsup,no pickle and NO Bread. LOL They always repeat this in such a shocked voice LOL. Just say "yes" as sweetly as you can. THIS burger is for the dog.
Your dog will learn that the girl at the car window brings good stuff !! It might take a visit or two, but he will learn.Tell her he is scared of people.....bet she will talk to him.
After his burger cools, you can break the meat into small pieces for your dog to eat.
Also, ask some of the neighborhood kids to come one at a time to ring your doorbell....have a bowl of treats ready for them to give. Make sure they call him by name, and talk baby-talk to him. Gradually, they will be able to touch him, and "love on him" a little.
If you get UPS often, ask the regular delivery person to offer the dog a treat, and call the dog by name. Or even your mail carrier can offer a treat.
Of course your dog will gain a few pounds, but will hopefully be happier around people. LOL!!
Can you tell ? We adopted a 2 yr old dog who was shy, and scared of people. This is how we socialized our dog. Now, she will beat you to the front door to take a ride.
Hope this helps !
Barb in tennessee
First off, let me say how sad I am to hear about your situation. My heart goes out to you and your dog.
I am a dog trainer so perhaps I can give you some advice that will help.
1) The barking and growling are warning signals that should not be ignored. ALL dogs will bite if provoked enough -- even the most submissive dogs will do it as a last resort, when they feel they have no other choice. So, be careful; ensure that the dog has a way out and do not force the dog to interact with the children. Let the dog approach the children when the dog is ready. This is very hard for children to understand; they aren't the best as self-control, so make sure to take precautions. Also a note about having strangers stick their hands through the car window -- this may cause your dog to bite as he is protecting his territory and you. I would advise against it. You could have legal issues to deal with, not to mention the trauma of a person being bitten and the risk of having to euthanize your dog.
2) Desensitizing a dog to his fears takes time, patience, and good observation skills. Start with baby steps, progress slowly -- the dog will let you know when he is beyond his comfort zone, and proceed back to an earlier stage if you've moved too quickly. Baby steps involve distance and time when exposing your dog to a stimulus he fears. Change one and then the other, but not at the same time. For example, start with exposing him to people and other dogs at a distance. Make sure it is a distance where he doesn't show any signs of fear. (Watch closely for body language because those are the first signals, before the growling usually.) Once you've established the distance that the dog is comfortable with, increase the time. Start with short exposures and increase slowly. When that is mastered, decrease the distance and go back to a short time exposure. (I hope this makes sense.) Again, try to control the exposure by getting people to help you -- with or without their dogs. I'd also try people first, then dogs with people.
3) Make sure you are sending the right signals. Be calm and confident yourself. Don't make a big deal. VERY IMPORTANT: Do not coddle your dog when he is agitated. This is hard for us to do because we want to soothe the dog with our voices and we want to pet him to tell him to relax. This is not how the dog interprets these things. In a dog's mind, he interprets these things as praise and feels he is being rewarded for his agitated behaviour. Instead, do not pet him and do not talk to him UNTIL he is showing calm, confident behaviour. Then give him lots of praise.
NOTE ON VOICE: a high-pitched voice, a quick voice, and what we assume is a voice to soothe the dog and show we mean no harm can be counter productive. A high pitch and a quick voice will excite the dog. This is okay with well-socialized dogs, but with fearful dogs, it can agitate them. Avoid this kind of talk except when the dog is showing calm, confident behaviour. Children, especially should not be encouraged to use this voice, although it is hard because kids have high-pitched voices and they often speak quickly. A dog that is growling and barking is giving warning signals (i.e. showing aggression; fear-based aggression in your case) and if the "offending children" do not leave, your dog might decide to bite since children are smaller. Again, please be careful when socializing with children. I would recommend working on desensitizing your dog to adults and other dogs first. Then when you are at least 80% certain he will not be afraid of any person or dog, begin working with children, but again, make sure it is well-supervised and use precautions. And one child at a time. And with the parents' permission and your dog on a leash. And on neutral ground, if you can. If you do this at his home, the dog may be agitated because he wants to protect you and his territory.
I suggest you educate yourself by doing a lot of reading from reputable sources. Learn about canine body language so you can read your dog's signals before he gets to the growling/barking stage. Also learn about positive-reinforcement training, but read widely. There are a lot of misinformed trainers as well as those who are stuck on punishment-based methods. No choke collars, prong collars, jerking on the leash, spraying in the face with water, etc. I would avoid punishment-based methods as these will increase the stress level of your dog, thus increasing his fear, and often he'll just learn to silence his warning signals and then you'll have a dog the seems to bite without warning.
Best of luck with with your dog. I hope this helps.
I don't want to scare you but I do want to caution you. I accidentally backed over our dog a few years ago. He never acted right after that. Growling etc. like you say your dog is. He ended up biting my daughter in the face and we had to put him down. I think it did something mentally to him. Please be careful. I'm not saying your dog will do this but it sounds very familiar to me. Blessing and best wishes for you and your baby!
I am not a dog trainer, but have always been very good with animals. I have to agree with the answer that Oberhund posted. This may seem outside of your way of treating your dog, as most of our pets are family. Remember that dogs are different from humans and in order to help them gain confidence, we have to adjust our behavior and way of acting. I'm so sorry that you had this misfortune, and I wish you the best of luck!
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