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I recently saw a post on Facebook about training a fearful dog….”Training a Fearful Dog is like Teaching a Kid to Swim. Start Where They Won’t Drown.” Debbie Jacobs – fearfuldogs.com. Upon visiting her website…I found this quote…

Over the years I have learned about rehabbing a ‘damaged’ dog and wanted to share that information with other scared/fearful/shy dog owners. Working with a scared dog will be one of the most challenging, frustrating and rewarding experiences a dog owner will ever have. If you’ve decided that you want to not only keep your dog, but help it learn to be less fearful, you’ll find support and information here.

I of course am intrigued and “liked” her Facebook page and am trying to figure out how to follow her blog on this topic because THIS IS Wheaton!

Training & discipline is where I have difficulty with him. I am slowly working on a level of discipline that doesn’t feed his fear. It is more important for me to gain his trust, so we’re discipline “light”. He is a good boy. He has a couple issues with the barking….

Sometimes I lose my patience. Dealing with the same issues over and over and over….and over…. it wears me down sometimes and I get angry and I raise my voice and I jerk on the leash. Frustration. Embarrassment. Impatience. Did I mention embarrassment? These are not good traits in training. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…..I am responsible for what energy I am holding at MY end of the leash. Training is a 2 way route….each of us has an end of this nylon string!

Oh he pulls. Like a sled dog who has just heard “MUSH”. When we get out for that walk….he is raring to go!!! So pumped! We walk 3 times a day. And yes, it’s been minus 30 degrees Celsius so our walks are not an hour long like they are in nicer weather. But it doesn’t matter how many walks, or how often, he is just excited to be out and ready to sniff and pee!! I give him to the end of that 4 foot leash. I give him the first few minutes to get that pee and that sniff over with….then I rein him in a bit. He just wants to be FIRST! He wants to pee on THAT spot before Daisy does, he wants to sniff THAT tree, THAT fence post, THAT snow bank, THAT fire hydrant, etc…FIRST! He has a huge FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) attitude! I do give a little tug on the leash to snap him out of it and it works for a few minutes. He looks at me, I praise him as he walks beside me. We stop for a sniff and then he’s chugging along again trying to get ahead! This doesn’t bother me.After about 15 to 20 minutes he calms down and the pulling stops. I just feel bad that poor little slow poke Daisy is running her little legs as fast as she can to try to keep up to us for the first part of our walks.

It took a year for him to feel at ease with me in that if I move or approach he doesn’t bolt away. He has become use to my touch where I can reach out and just pat him almost anytime without him cowering or tensing up. He still hesitates and you have to go slow. He comes to me (having a treat helps). When we are outside in the backyard and I say “STOP” he stops…better than Daisy does (she just looks at me and then starts going again)! I’m actually surprised at how well he does “stop” – oh except for that one time last Summer where I lost hold of the leash and he tore off (Daisy in tow cause their leashes were connected) after a lady running down the sidewalk with her dog but that was something I will try not to have happen again!

He is very food motivated so when I’m eating he wants in on that action. We’re working on “back” as in get back from my eating space. He will not sit on a “sit” command. He does “wait” (I’ve always used wait instead of stay).  Plus a treat always helps….but no amount of goodies will make him sit. When he does sit…I tell him “Good sit Wheatie”. He just won’t sit when I say “sit”.

I just cannot crack some of his issues yet.  I have not been able to figure out the key to the flight or flight panic he gets when he’s on the leash and sees another dog. Picking him up and holding him tight seems to be the lesser of all evils. He settles quicker if I hold him. But I don’t praise him or offer affection I just hold him with some pressure to ease his panic. The fear in his eyes when the frenzy starts is frightening  ~ having suffered many an anxiety attack myself I recognize that look as “get me the f**k out of here”.

The other thing is the separation anxiety pee. The other day I thought that maybe he was using the pee pads because they were out! Ummm nope. There was pee. This thought was because one day last week he didn’t pee. I was gone almost 6 hours and nothing! I thought we had turned a corner on the peeing! No. It was just a day of not peeing. The next day he was back to peeing. He’s using them because if I leave for more than 15 minutes…he needs to pee. I will keep trying. I tried using less pads…..but he stands on one and pees on the other…he thinks he’s on the pad because where he’s sniffing is where he pees…yeah…the pee end isn’t always fully on the pad though! This is difficult for me to accept. Daisy was housebroken in less than 3 weeks…fully. I trained her to tell me she had to pee. There was paper training for that 3 weeks. The paper got closer and closer to the door and I hung a big bell on the door knob…so when she was close to the bell I heard and took her outside….soon she would stand at the door instead of peeing on the paper. This is where a puppy mill rescue is SO different. 4 years of peeing in a cage…he doesn’t know to ask. I hope that it doesn’t take 4 years to get him to stop peeing in the house. I don’t get mad at him if he pees on his pad…or misses the pad. I just wish we could get past it!

Many people just discipline, like as if a dog’s a dog….but no…..a rescue is different. Life has terrified him enough. For the first 4 years of his life if humans weren’t neglecting him then they were abusing him. Of course this doesn’t mean that he gets away with being a “bad” dog. He’s not bad, actually he’s quite lovely given the shit he’s endured…but I do need to keep my expectations & priorities in focus. As he trusts me more I increase the discipline I give him. Subtle boundaries.

2015-11-21 19.34.15He is one very loved dog that’s for sure. He has won the hearts of all who meet him. I think even Daisy loves him.

It is my hope that one day he’s just my dog. Just my boy. My baby boy. My handsome fella. The stinky boy dog.

And I can stop adding that “rescue” label.