Dog Is Afraid Of Everything But People

I have a 3 yr old mini Dachshund with 2 problems. She is my first non-rescue dog and I don't know what to do for her "reverse sneezes" and her fearfulness. The only thing she is not afraid of is people. If I wipe her feet of sand, she will shy away for days, etc. I have never seen a non abused dog as fearful as she is. Any ideas?


Cheryl from Palomino Valley, NV

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By Cheryl (Guest Post)
October 1, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

We have a dachshund that gets the reverse sneezes when he gets too excited. At my dog's social manners class when my doxie had them, the trainer covered both his nostrils for just a few seconds and the sneezes disappeared.

As far as the other behavior, just love and lots of postive reinforcement, but remember that Doxies need gentle discipline - they are very smart and can become very spoiled very easily.

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By Oberhund (Guest Post)
October 2, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

As a dog trainer, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is not to coddle the dog when she is acting fearful. Ignore the fearful behaviour, and only touch, look, and/or talk to her when she is acting confident. The biggest mistake people do is to try to soothe the dog with their voice and touch. The dog is actually getting rewarded for fearful behaviour and such behaviour will continue and escalate. And everyone in contact with her should follow this rule. Don't look at her, touch her, or talk to her unless she is being confident and calm. Let her come to you, don't back her into a corner unless you really need to get her for something (i.e. to keep her safe from something).


Ignore the behaviour and begin slowly desensitizing her to the things she fears. Try to expose her to these fearful things in small doses. Start with far distance and when she can remain calm and confident, expose her to them for more time. Only when she has adjusted to this distance and time should you decrease the distance. When you decrease the distance, start with a short time and then extend the time. I hope this makes sense.

Also be aware of your own emotional state. Dogs can smell our chemical changes in our bodies when we are stressed, afraid, nervous, etc. She will look to her leader for guidance. If the leader is calm and confident, then there must be nothing to worry about.

About this covering the nostrils to stop the sneezing. I've never heard of this technique, and I can't imagine why you would worry about stopping it. Sneezing is often either a sign that the dog is in an excited state or a sign that there is something wrong with her nasal passages (i.e. infection, obstruction, irritation). Get it checked out by the vet just in case. You don't want to ignore a health issue. If it's not health related, then I'd leave it alone. Anything that can help you "read" your dog's emotional state is a good thing. You can then work to trying to teach her to calm herself.


Good luck and I my last piece of advice is to read reputable books by trainers. Since you appear to have a shy, fearful dog, I'd recommend "The Loved Dog" by Tamar Geller (c.2007) and "The Dog Whisperer: a compassionate, nonviolent approach to dog training" by Paul Owens (2007, c.1999). This is not to be confused with books by Cesar Milan the Dog Whisperer on television.

Here is an example of how to desensitize a dog to an object.

Suppose your dog is fearful of the vacuum cleaner. Leave it out in an area of the house that is as far away from her and her normal area as possible. Usually the vacuum is making a lot of noise and is moving back and forth in a motion that in dog language can mean aggression. By leaving it out when it is not in use, it won't seem as threatening.

When she is able to see it (from a distance) without reacting in fear (i.e. she steps toward it, she doesn't run away, she looks at it and there are no signs that she is afraid), then you can bring it closer to her normal area of the house, such as the kitchen or the living room. Leave in an area that is out of the way, but visible. It's important that you don't make a big deal about it. Let her see you approach it as you pass by doing something else, totally ignoring it and not drawing attention to it at all. You can try using treats, too. Leave some little bits of treats several feet away from the vacuum cleaner. Start with a distance that is as close as she will come to the vacuum cleaner. Don't make a big deal about the treats. In fact, you don't even have to let her see you put them there and you shouldn't say anything when she finds them and eats them. If she thinks the vacuum cleaner is making these treats magically appear, then that can work in your favour. Once you know that she is taking the treats, place the next treats a bit closer to the vacuum (i.e. 6 inches). In order for her to get the treats, she has to approach the vacuum cleaner on her own. When she gets the treat, she is being rewarded for her bravery and her mind is being "rewired" to think of the vacuum as a positive thing. Work slowly and eventually you'll be placing the treats directly beside the vacuum, on the vacuum, behind the vacuum. Once she is confident enough, you can try mixing things up (i.e. moving the vacuum to another location, placing the vacuum in another position, even slowly moving it back and forth without turning it on.) Work slowly and if she regresses, begin again to an earlier stage -- the point where she had her last success, and build on it. Use repetition and reward to boost her confidence but progress more slowly this time.


I hope this example helps. The principles can be applied to other things she fears.

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By Marylyn (Guest Post)
October 1, 20080 found this helpful

I don't know how old your dog was when you got her but it sounds to me that your dog spend long hours in either a "puppy farm" or with maybe owners who did not bond but there were other dogs around and she had some scary moments if she did not obey. We had a similar incident with a non rescue dog who shook and was afraid of things she was not used to. With kindness and assurance after 4 years she finally was ok. We now have only rescue dogs as they just seem to be so grateful.

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

I have the same advice. Cover both nostrils and you'll solve the problem. I found a dog in our backyard and four months later, I still have him. He's just starting to warm up, but is afraid of everything. He's a chihuahua, chose me to bond to, and is sweet, but scared.


No one can approach him without his running away. He will eventually get backed into a corner and be submissive; he'll even fall asleep in our laps, but we can only think that he was abused, to be so fearful. Does anyone else have any experience with this? Four years is a long time to wait!

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October 2, 20080 found this helpful

Thanks to all who responded. I've never heard of covering the nostrils but will try it next time she starts sneezing. As for the other advice, it is nice to know I'm proceeding correctly, so will continue as I am. I think she was weened to soon (6 weeks). Was shy from the first day, but since she loves people I can live with the other. Thanks again

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