Working with my fearful Pup

Jinx has started to settle in to her new life and has learned most of the house rules. We are going pretty slow with all of her training, so as not to overwhelm her accidentally.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWe have taught our house rules:
-No dogs on any furniture at any time. Completely unacceptable.
-No dogs allowed in the cat room (we are still working on this) or in the kitchen.
-Must sit before going outside, putting a leash on, mealtimes, or when we ask for ‘hugs’
-No jumping on people unless we are asking for ‘hugs’. She really only jumps on me anyway. We just don’t want unnecessary jumping at all.
-When the family is settled, she is settled. It is not playtime.
-No playing allowed in the house with other dogs. Inside toys are fine, but must be calm play.
-Must be respectful of our cats
And we are working on training:

-Sit, down, wait, stay, place, ‘kennel’, ‘out’, ‘back up’, ‘come on’, ‘here’, ‘easy’
-She has already learned her new name and wants to please.
-Crate training
-Leash work – she originally didn’t pull, but put on the brakes and didn’t want to walk. Now, if she is feeling more comfortable, she will pull. Which isn’t ideal, but it is moving, so baby steps.
-Working around other dogs – she’s great.
-Working around strangers  – not so great. This is our biggest issue. She is insecure about people.
-Working around people and other dogs – forget it, she shuts down. It’s too much.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWith the improvements she has shown in the house, around my husband and her attitude in the house and outside, she is doing just wonderfully. However, once I put a leash on her and walk outside, she is her insecure self again.

We have been going on walks around the neighborhood every day, and stopping and waiting until she calms down when there are people, cars, barking dogs, or children playing around. Sometimes, we don’t make it very far. But that’s ok. I’m aiming for a healthy state of mind, rather than worry about distance.

We have been taking her to socials on Saturdays, pack walks and introducing her at any opportunity we have. We advocate for her, however, and don’t let people touch her when she is in an unhealthy state of mind. We will not reward that type of behavior, nor ‘comfort’ her when she is scared. I protect her from people who are well-meaning, but want to touch her. She’s not ready for that type of interaction from strangers yet. It will just take time. We are in this for the long haul. I love this dog, and I am so impressed with the little things so far.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsWe are documenting her progress with video and will create a before/after documentary when we are finished. It may be a few months from now, or a few years.

No one wants a project dog. Everyone wants a dog who is already trained or who needs just a little bit of work. I fell in love with this dog, knowing she needed work. How much work wasn’t apparent until we took her to her first social class the day after we adopted her. But again, I wasn’t disappointed – I realized she would be a project to help her gain that confidence back.

She shows all the signs of the dog I wanted – dominant with other dogs, she administers corrections when needed, and she responds well to corrections when she needs them. She plays hard in an excited state of mind, and then calms herself down almost immediately. I need all those things. Napoleon has also helped her with eating (she’s a poor eater), and given her confidence around certain situations. He is a very confident dog, albeit unbalanced and gets excited easily. However, he communicates with her appropriately too. He gives calming signals when she is insecure or anxious. She is kenneled at night, and he sleeps next to her kennel.

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful DogsShe will get there, and I’m putting in the work. We have done some leash-confidence building exercises on the prong collar, as the Halti shut her down. She did fine on it until there were people around, and then she shut down. She does much, much better on the prong. She is very sensitive, so it just takes a small amount of pressure to communicate with her.

I want to start her on the eCollar to help with that confidence as well. Both of the eCollars I currently own (Tri Tronics Sport G3 model and the Garmin Delta combo collar) are gentle, but I think she is too sensitive for that one, even on the lowest setting. (I haven’t even put it on her yet), The ‘beep’ sound doesn’t have a stimulation attached to it, but I think the sound would scare her, so I won’t be using that function either. Some people ask about the vibration feature. This feature usually scares dogs, so I avoid that feature altogether.  I will be purchasing an Einstein collar soon, as it has a much gentler stimulation.

I have learned so much about fearful dogs from her, and have now experienced the feeling of heartbreak when your own dog shuts down when they are overstimulated. I get it. I understand. But I won’t back down from our training. I won’t coddle or baby her. She needs to earn attention, just like any other dog. I just have to go slower, and start at an earlier step.

I can do it. So can my clients with fearful or insecure dogs. And yes, I’m a little picture happy – she’s just beautiful, isn’t she?

Project K9 Heather Hamilton Rehabilitating Fearful Dogs

8 thoughts on “Working with my fearful Pup

    • Aww, thanks Viv! 🙂 I love your Blue and wish I was closer so I could meet him. She’s definitely a project dog. But I love her regardless, and with some work, she will be helping me with the dogs who come to me for training. Napoleon helps a bit, but he’s a social idiot sometimes, and I needed a dog a little more dominant anyway!

  1. Not only are you an amazingly talented dog trainer, you are also a terrific writer. I love to read about all you’re doing, learning and accomplishing and you tell it in such a great way. I just love it. Then again, I love you so I might be a little biased. Pretty good news today, huh? Loves

    • You mean REALLY great news?! I already knew what the hubby was going to say-I was never worried!

      And thank you so much for reading. Also, feel free to share. This blog is open to the public. Maybe more people would want to read it. 🙂

      • Thank you for your confidence. I didn’t realize how far I had stuffed my fear, apprehension, anxiety, etc. until I had left the Drs Office. I was what you might call “fragile” for a long time. The relief was literally overwhelming. You just keep writing about all you do, I’ll keep commenting and only those special enough to read it will be able to enjoy it. Big Hug

  2. Oh, wow. You just get more and more awesome. I second the comments below–you are not only a great dog trainer, you are a fantastic writer. Can’t think of a better way to spend an insomniac night than catching up on your blog. What a beautiful dog, and what a lucky girl to have ended up in your home. We had a very fearful pittie as our first dog…if you ever have any questions feel free to email me! She would literally pancake herself to the sofa, wouldn’t come out of her crate, wouldn’t pee because she was too afraid of the traffic on the street…terrified of most men. Now she’s into her second year of being a therapy dog! She’ll always be a bit on the shy side but she faces the big scary world every day with a confidence I never thought she would have. Super proud of my Willow–and super excited for your Jinx!

    • 🙂 she’ll take a while-she learns much much slower when she shits down. But I have a great picture I want to share with everyone when I get around to writing my next post!

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