Shaking With Fear

As I sat down I glanced at Adi. He was shaking with fear.

Romanian rescue dog shaking with fear

Adi was shaking with fear

The dog was shaking with fear just because I had walked into the room where he lay.

Usually he runs out of the room and hides. Possibly my asking the man to walk into the room ahead of me may have helped just a little as did the fact I didn’t even let him see me look at him. I moved slowly and I left him be.

The couple doesn’t know the eight-year-old Adi’s history, apart from his being a Romanian rescue. They have had him for a year now. It took him some weeks to get used to them and they are still the only people he feels comfortable with. He didn’t move the whole time I was there – nearly three hours, and he was shaking on and off.

During this year Adi hasn’t been anywhere at all but their bungalow and small garden. They did try but it freaked him out.

He has never even been to the vet (who I shall be phoning).

A while ago they did manage to get a collar onto him. It shows how far they have come with their caring and understanding treatment that he had began to allow the man to groom him. Unfortunately, he then tried to attach a lead while he was brushing which sent Adi running and that now has now ‘infected’ the grooming with fear.

Their aim in calling me is simply to be able to take a willing and happy Adi out. It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it They had reckoned with how long this may take.

It’s a strange relationship they have with their dog. They do all they know to help him but they get little back. They feed him on the very best food available. As you can see he has luxuriously comfortable bed. Apart from wandering around the garden and eating his meals he does nothing much. He lies around. He’s not interested in playing though will come over from time to time for a short fuss. He has a little burst of energy first thing in the morning when he runs from room to room, probably when he has had the night to de-stress, but that is all.

How can they spice up his life a little without stressing or scaring him?

They dearly want to take him out and about with them as they did their other dogs.


How will they be able to get a lead on him and get him out of the house?

Something needs to be done about his extreme fear of people. He is a very quiet dog. I suspect he doesn’t dare to bark and his way of keeping safe is to lie low.

The man erected a strip of trellis in the garden for him hoping he would want to see through to the world outside. They can accompany him to the trellis at busier times of day and associate everything that happens beyond it with food, to actively de-sensitise him and acclimatise him so he can eventually, when he has accepted harness and lead, pass through the trellis.

Each time, at the trellis, he sees a passing car they will give him food; any person walking past – give him food; hearing a dog bark – give him food; a slamming door – food. Perhaps sprinkle it on the ground. They may later be able to move the trellis forward and continue the work nearer to the road.

Meanwhile, they need a harness because they must keep away from his neck. The collar has already been ‘infected’ when the lead was attached and very likely he was originally caught with a catch-pole accounting for his terror of humans. A soft and comfortable Perfect Fit harness is the answer. They then have the option of attaching the lead to the top of his back or at his chest – or both – and well away from his neck.

Adi won’t know what the harness is so they will build on that. I have broken the process down into tiny increments and devised a step-by-step plan where they spend several days on each step, beginning by leaving the harness in various corners of the house with food hidden in it for him to discover. Nobody should be seen to hold it so he gets no suspicion that it might be a trap.

Adi stopped shaking with fear and lifted his head

Adi stopped shaking but was very still

Through various other steps the harness can eventually be put down with his food while he eats. This will lead, through more stages, to when he comes for a fuss, touching or stroking him with the harness whilst treating him. Bit by bit the harness can be rested briefly on top of him, then just his nose through it for food.

In case he doesn’t like the sound of the clips, they can be repeatedly done up and undone again, initially at a distance, while the other person gives him food.

It is a long-winded confidence-building process. We may use a clicker at later date but he was far too scared of me and all he felt safe doing was to lie still.

Once the harness is on, the process needs to be repeated with the lead.

I hope that after a couple of months of hard work Adi will be wearing the harness and accepting the lead. It could take a lot longer. He may also be relaxed with things just immediately outside his gate.

Getting to this point will be a big achievement. We can then walk him on lead around the house and the garden. Then take a step through the trellis, stand still and see what happens, giving him full length of the lead and the option to run back in.

Now the outside world!

Apart from knowing he’s terrified of people to the extent that he shakes, they don’t know how he is with day-to-day things like other dogs, wheelie bins, bikes, traffic….and cats.

There will be no normal ‘going for a walk’ for a long while, I fear.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Adi. I don’t go into detail. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page)

Mixed Up, Depressed Mastiff Staffie Cross

Bull mastiff Buster is mixed upFrom time to time I go to people where the man is calm and confident with the dog. The lady cuddles and loves him, lets him make all his own decisions, but is much less assertive.

The dog becomes increasingly bonded with the man and behaves like the lady is not particularly relevant.

He seems mixed up

The couple I went to see this evening have had two-year-old Mastiff Staffie cross Buster for six months now.

Buster’s life revolves around the man and he takes little notice of the lady – especially when the man is at home. Despite her gentle and affectionate nature, Buster can be quite scared of her for no accountable reason.

He loves to lie down between them on the sofa. One evening while he was fast asleep she reached out and touched him. In panic he jumped up and ran upstairs where she found him cowering and shaking. This distressed her too. One can only speculate what damage a previous female owner may have done to him that’s made him so mixed up.

Confidence around other dogs

Knowing that he wasn’t confident around other dogs, his new lady has worked really hard, for weeks walking him with other dogs and making great headway. Then, very disappointingly, a quarrel with another dog over a stick turned into a fight. The lady shouted. This terrified the mixed up Buster. He now refuses to walk with her any more unless near to home.

Now she panics whenever they see another dog, so walks that were previously enjoyable are now a disaster for them both.

With the gentleman walks are fine!

Added to this, they had to have Buster castrated as agreed with the re-homing organisation. Since then his personality changed. He seems depressed. Is it coincidence? Who knows. I saw a photo of him previously and he looked alert and happy. Now he is mostly worried and sleepy.

The first part of our plan is to work on the lady’s own confidence and for her to walk Buster near home only. This is where they are both happy. She will play a ‘guess where we are going’ game. She will rehearse what she will do when they see a dog, so that when it happens she is ready.

Buster is scared and doesn’t feel safe so if she, too, is in a panic she can’t help him.

The gentleman is decisive and confident so it’s little surprise that the nervous, mixed up Buster puts his faith in him.

And now, after about one month: “Buster is doing so well!! he is like a puppy again!! when i get his lead out for a walk he gets excited and actually walks like a proper dog down the road rather than plodding along with head down and when we let him off the lead he actually goes for a run and explore instead of sticking by our feet. he absolutley loves the field now and he gets so excited when he knows we are heading up there now!!
Last night something amazing happened, buster was far ahead of me on our walk and i could see his ears and tail go up so i knew he had spotted a dog i shouted to him ‘wait’ and he simply sat down. when i caught up i couldn’t see anything so i told him to continue and as i turned the corner i saw a young man with a huge bull mastiff ! buster didn’t even try and go over but simply looked at the dog and continued walking!! his hairs didn’t go up, he didn’t go over to the dog and he didn’t bark or growl!!  he just looked at me as if to say ‘lets go’!! i was so proud that even though he could see a dog he still sat and waited like he had been asked, and he didnt go and start with the other dog just carried on. he was so happy last night and i am hoping this was not a one off!!! he run all round the field and played in the garden for nearly 2 hours with a ball when we got home!! …..he even went and got his colar from his box and in effect asked for a walk,for a dog that never wanted to leave the house this is such an achievement!!

Chocolate Labrador and Shiny Floors

scared of walking on shiny floorsI visited Cocoa, a Chocolate Labrador age four years old. She does a lot of jumping up and is quite stressed and anxious. One particular problem is that she is scared of walking over shiny floors, and her owners have a house with large areas of wood and tile. Poor Cocoa will suddenly stop and freeze. If she is very desperate to move she goes backwards. Interestingly, this happens randomly and not in the same place, in different rooms and in different houses. Cocoa’s owners will now be working on giving Cocoa confidence in them and in herself, in reducing her stress levels in general, teaching her some self-control and various strategies to help her overcome her fear of shiny surfaces.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. me.