How do you build trust with a dog that is scared of you?
December 16, 2008 6:58 AM Subscribe
DogFilter: How do you build trust with a dog that is scared of you?
posted by bwilms to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
History: Greta is a ~13 month old Italian Greyhound rescue. She was picked up as a stray and fostered for three weeks by a regional rescue originization. When we picked her up we were told by her foster family that she wasn't comfortable around men, but would most likely warm-up. Beyond that, they didn't know anything, so there very well could be something in this dog's past that has scarred it.
I am comfortable with the fact that I will have to work for her to trust me. I am prepared to put in the time and effort required to make it happen. If patience is the only real answer, then so be it. What I would like to know is if any of you have had similar experiences with your dogs and if there were any steps you took to help them begin to trust you? Everyday feels like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day - it seems like we make progress and then the next day she forgets who I am. I am afraid I'll never gain her trust. Read on for more.
My SO and I have had Greta for 1 month now. My SO is home all day and has been working on basic training for Greta (Positive Reinforcement). She is generally very receptive to my SO, and will "Come" and "Sit" on command. Greta follows her around most of the time. Here are some scenarios with which we are having difficulty:
We share our bed with Greta. When it's time for bed, she runs in the room and hides behind the bed. As I'm brushing my teeth in the attached bath she'll bark at me. If I poke my head out, she hides behind the bed again. It's not until I am in bed, under the covers that she comes up and curls right up next to me under the covers (regrdless of whether or not my SO is in bed with me).
We attempt to correct her behavior by consistently using a swift "Shhh" sound when she is doing something we disapprove of. This is fairly effective in other areas, but doesn't seem to help the barking. Sometimes redirecting her attention to a "Sit" seems to help with the barking, but it isn't a consistent behavior as of yet.
When I wake up (generally 5:30AM), I sneak downstairs for breakfast. I quietly return upstairs to brush my teeth and she barks the whole time, waking my SO. On my way out the door, I put food in her bowl. She races downstairs and barks some more, as long as she is aware that I am around.
When I come home, it is more barking and she runs away. She does not appear to be aggressive. She seems to be more frightened than anything. I do not approach her directly, but if I walk into the room, she hides in the corner. Once I sit down she stops barking. As long as I am calmly seated and ignore her she becomes interested in me and will slowly begin to sniff and approach me, eventually having a seat next to me allowing me to pet her (at which point I provided positive reinforcement). But a sudden move will make her bolt. If I have a blanket on my lap she can sneak under, this process is expedited.
We have determined that I would feed her, so that she makes the connection between food and me, hopefully putting me in a positive light. However, whenever I put food in her bowl she barks at me, like "get away from that!", but she doesn't defend it. I carry treats so that when she comes to me on her own she is rewarded. However, when she takes them she adds distance between us and keeps her eye on me while she eats it. Sometimes she won't take it from my hand at all and scurry away.
She'll play with me on the floor - mostly tug toys. However, I need to lay fully on my side. The moment I move to a seated position on the floor, she bolts. I try changing my position slowly through the course of play time, but it never fails to spook her once I reach a certain stage of uprightness.
On a positive note, she will walk with me, but I have never done this alone - only with my SO present. I would like to walk her alone, but I would have to hold her to put her lead on and carry her out the door. This would require me to have her on my lap so that she was in a position where I could actually hold her without her running from me. With my SO, she will come to her and allow her to put her lead on while seated calmly. I'm realizing now that I should really try to build a walking routine with just her an I.
At this point, the only "quality time" Greta and I have are: when she sits on my lap (on the couch, under a blanket) and when we're playing on the floor. Otherwise, she doesn't positively interact with me much. I've grown up with dogs and am used to having them excited to be around me. I guess I'm just having a tough time with Greta and want to hear that things will eventually get better. Additionaly, I am trying to figure out how to approach barking in the morning when she "hears seomthing" (me) downstairs. I want her alert and to bark if something catches her ear, but I don't want her to bark at me. On a side-note, we are also planning to take her to classes so we can begin working on socialization.