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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi everyone,

We rescued a 10 month old American Pitbull Terrier about a month and a half ago. For the most part, she is very well behaved. She is house broken, listens to commands and is gentle to everyone and other animals. She is respectful and doesn’t grab food on the ground or beg. If she picks something up and isn’t suppose to, we’ll tell her to leave it once and won’t have to command her again because she’ll drop it immediately. When people come over to our house, she does not jump. She will bark occasionally if she hears rattling outside the house and can’t see someone or something. She also walks extremely well on the leash, right beside us. She doesn't pull or wander. So all in all, she has been adjusting very well.

Background of our sweet Remi:

She ran into our yard and was very obviously abused. She had no id and wasn’t chipped. When she came to us, she had multiple injuries around her whole body (face, back, butt, neck etc.). We took her to the shelter to put her on an adoption hold… the shelter looked at her and said the owners wouldn’t come finding her. From the injuries, it looks like she has been strayed for some time. So the next day we went back and adopted her. We took her to the vet and they confirmed that she was abused and that the markings on her were bite marks from other dogs. She even had a large homemade stitch on the back of her neck…

So this leads us to asking you guys for help. She gets startled and scared very easily. She doesn’t mind her crate when we are home, but when we have to crate her to leave the house, she will cry a lot. When she is scared, she will go flat on all fours and put the breaks on. She will not go and you can try and pull her but she will resist. Even if you tug on her collar she won’t get up and start walking. If she thinks we’re mad at her, she will sit there and won’t come, even if you command her nicely. For example: my husband was swatting a fly the other day and she was terrified. She ran to hide beside the sofa and when we asked her to come, she wouldn’t. She was just too scared. We were swatting a fly in our master bedroom, so when we asked her to come in to lay on her bed while we hung out… she was shaking. I’ve never seen her shake like that before.

How do we overcome this? I’ve had dogs in the past that has suffered separation anxiety and we were able to overcome it but this seems bit more then just anxiety? Any insight is much much appreciated.
 

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In order to overcome her fears of certain objects (like the fly swatter) as well as sudden movement or anything that may cause her to go in to a panic or shut-down mode, you'll have to desensitize her to these triggers. This involves very gradually introducing her to the things/places/sounds that scare her and making them a positive experience. Slowly she will start to associate these scary things with treats, or her favourite toy, or lots of pats, or whatever her preferred reward is.

Using the swatter as an example, I'll tell you what we did (with a broom in our case). Put the fly swatter on the ground and place a line of treats leading to it. Allow your dog to collect the treats and make her way to the fly swatter, being rewarded with each step she takes. Give lots of praise throughout. After she is comfortable with this, move on to exercises such as feeding her treats from the same hand that you're holding the fly swatter, etc.

It's a slow process and you should never push your dog further than she can go. If she reverts to the fear response then that sets your training back a lot, so make sure to train in short sessions and move forward with baby steps. Look up "counter-conditioning" or "desensitizing" and I'm sure you'll find better guides to these methods than I've explained above. :)

Also, welcome! We'd love to see pictures of your girl.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
View attachment 53465
In order to overcome her fears of certain objects (like the fly swatter) as well as sudden movement or anything that may cause her to go in to a panic or shut-down mode, you'll have to desensitize her to these triggers. This involves very gradually introducing her to the things/places/sounds that scare her and making them a positive experience. Slowly she will start to associate these scary things with treats, or her favourite toy, or lots of pats, or whatever her preferred reward is.

Using the swatter as an example, I'll tell you what we did (with a broom in our case). Put the fly swatter on the ground and place a line of treats leading to it. Allow your dog to collect the treats and make her way to the fly swatter, being rewarded with each step she takes. Give lots of praise throughout. After she is comfortable with this, move on to exercises such as feeding her treats from the same hand that you're holding the fly swatter, etc.

It's a slow process and you should never push your dog further than she can go. If she reverts to the fear response then that sets your training back a lot, so make sure to train in short sessions and move forward with baby steps. Look up "counter-conditioning" or "desensitizing" and I'm sure you'll find better guides to these methods than I've explained above. :)

Also, welcome! We'd love to see pictures of your girl.
Hey fellow BC'er!!

I'm originally from Vancouver but now living in California! I do miss BC a heck of a lot!

Thank you so much! I heard the term counter-conditioning before but never googled it!

What about when we're not mad but she thinks we are? Sometimes when we ask her to come, she won't because she thinks we're going to 1) put her in her crate or 2) she thinks she just did something wrong?
 

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Hey, love chatting with people from BC!! I'm originally from Victoria, now in the tiny town of Princeton. :)

I would say to just keep working on recall, use a super hyper, high-pitched voice and give lots of treats and praise when she comes. She may be misinterpreting your tone and/or body language so try to be aware of how you're acting and sounding when calling her.
 

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Ignore her when she does that. Try to do something else like go in the kitchen and pick up her favorite toy. Don't coddle her when she is scared because that will reinforce the behavior. You want to reward and praise when she displays behaviors you want. Ignoring her gives her time to relax. What can help is having a spot for her in the living room. A towel or dog bed and reward her for going on the bed. Before you go outside have her go to her bed and then call her to go outside. When you come in have her go on her bed until you release her. Before she eats have her waiting on her bed. She will eventually love her spot or bed and go to her bed when she is scared and needs to feel safe. Some people use crates as their dogs space and that's fine. The reason I like having another go to spot was because I would use it when my boy was too excited and rambunctious and he needed to chill out. Kinda of like a time out in a way but I didn't want him to associate that with his crate. Now his go to spot is his bed and he is always going to it. I have him wait when company arrives until people come and and settle down and then release him to say hello at his own pace.

I have to counter condition my boy to tons of things that scare him. I would reach for the clicker and it was like I had beat him with it how fast he cowered. Flags. Trash barrels buses trucks squirrels dogs tons of things used to bother my boy but introducing him slowly and at his pace he is now ok with almost everything.

Welcome BTW. Your girl is adorable. Thank you for rescuing her.
 

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What about when we're not mad but she thinks we are? Sometimes when we ask her to come, she won't because she thinks we're going to 1) put her in her crate or 2) she thinks she just did something wrong?
One thing I would like to add is make sure you never call her to you for something unpleasant, that's probably what happen to her in the past. I would work on giving her a good reward every time she comes to you. If you have to put her in the crate or do something that isn't a favorite (like trimming nails for example) just go to her instead of calling her to you. She will get better with your help:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you, everyone!

That's exactly what we're thinking... because in the beginning every time we would call her over, her head would hang like she was in trouble. But now she's definitely better. She will come but when we get ready in the morning to go to work, she definitely knows what's happening and will try and avoid. We are starting to see that she's not afraid of the crate. If we leave the door open, she'll go in and out of it when we're home... just not when she knows we're leaving. So we definitely have to work on that. We give her a good amount of exercise in the morning before we leave and we always make sure to reward her when we get home with more exercise and play. I hope us not having her sleep in her crate overnight is creating more of the attachment when it comes to separation anxiety when we leave in the morning.

We have been practicing a lot over this weekend with keeping her in there and coming back after a short time, with lots of treats and rewards. This morning it seems as though her crying/whining has gone down a lot. She may whine for a minute but she won't yelp or bark like she use to. One step at a time... :)
 

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That's awesome news!! Glad it going well.

You can also try to pick up your keys through out the day. And like said above tell her to come all the time just for fun and reward. Don't tell your dog to come multiple times. When she knows what you mean by come and you cal her and she doesn't come it teaches her it's ok to make the decision to ignore you. Best advice I got was to never call you dog unless you're prepared to go get them if they ignore you. call her over and reward her just through out the day. Or just move the keys and have them make noise. Or whatever routine you do before leaving do it randomly and when she seeing you getting ready go give her a pat and a good girl and then go back to watching TV or whatever you were doing.

Games are fun :) frozen peanut butter or cheese or treats and stuff frozen in a kong given in the crate on your way out to distract from you leaving can also help. you can make your own games but here is an example
 
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