What can I do to help my skittish dog?

2016-01-11 18:42
About three years ago my family adopted, Lazarus, a Chihuahua Mix from our local shelter. We were told that he was a stray found on a golf course in California (Chihuahuas are obviously a popular purse dog in CA and the people at the shelter assume that his owner just cut him loose when he got too big to fit in a purse). Me and my mother specifically grew a VERY close relationship with Laz and he became very protective of us, nipping at the ankles of my father and brother when they approached us. There are still times when, if you approach him, he cowers (he even used to pee a little if you reached down to pick him up). And he would flinch if you reached over to pet him. If he hears loud noises or something falls from a counter and lands near him, he frantically scatters under a table or into my room (where his bed and food bowls are). We are all aware of Laz's fearful nature and do everything we can to make him comfortable: talk to him in a gentle voice, get down to his level, keep him away from strangers; but he still is very skittish and seems to be getting worse. We hired a behavioralist because Lazarus pulls and barks non-stop when we take him on walks and he has also bit a few people including a young a boy. She tried hard to work with Lazarus and we changed our own habits to fit Laz's needs, but he has not improved and is still getting worse. We just want Laz to be as comfortable in the normal world as he is when he is sleeping in our arms and we wished people wouldn't be so scared of him and they saw the gentler side of him that we see at home when he is completely relaxed. Hopefully someone out there can help us!
I understand why you would want to protect him, but this may actually be reinforcing his fears. If you keep him isolated, he will never become comfortable with the 'outside' world. How is he around other dogs? Perhaps you could find a walking buddy in your neighborhood.I would also suggest finding and researching obedience classes in your area.
Oh my goodness
We too have a 'rescue dog'. Not sure what she went through but have our suspicions. She had no idea what to do with herself and continues to go from one challenging behavior to another. As a last resort( we had plans to take her to a pet shelter and didn't want to for numerous reasons) we put her on a low dose of Prozac. It has helped immensely. I'm not proud to have gone that route but she has calmed down a lot. We still have issues but now she gets lots of praise and acts more like a dog. If your dog was abused by previous owners and your love and support still hasn't improved her anxiety and behaviors you may want to consider that
You need to train your dog. Sounds like it was mistreated to begin w and is hand shy. that will take some work and trust restored.when walking keep his leash short. so he has no choice but to heel and walk next to you. when he pulls stop. give a tug. say no. continue. repeat.As far as your doggie therapist. you got ripped off.you change the dogs behavior NOT YOURS. be the Alpha dog. he needs to learn he's Beta dog in the house.dogs look for direction and if you let them will run/ruin YOUR house.
I cannot help feeling that your dog's skittishness might be due to something that happened in his past. Maybe he was abused and/or mistreated. That being said, all hope is not lost. With patience and gentle guidance, Laz's problems can be overcome. I'll also say this as well; at some point during the course of his rehabilitation, Laz will have to be exposed to that which frightens him. If he is to overcome his skittishness and become a confident canine, he will have to learn to tolerate loud noises and sudden movements without reacting in his now typical fearful manner. This I feel can be accomplished through positive reinforcement. By gradually exposing Laz to some of the things that frighten him and rewarding him when he does not show fear or get defensive, he can get better but it will take time and patience.

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