Sunday, August 26, 2007

Black Lab terrified of everything - part II

This is part two of a two part reader's e-mail question. To read part one click: Black Lab terrified of everything - part I

All About Labradors Blog Answer:

Hello Tamara,

The information given here is to help you learn more about your Labrador Retriever and not to replace your veterinarian's advice. Disclaimer

I am so sorry to hear about the problems with Ida B. I love the name choice for her. If you ever get another dog to go with Ida B, I have a name... Rufus. **

If definitely sounds as though poor Ida has been abused and might not have been socialized enough. Being that you took her to the veterinarian already, and she has a clean bill of health, you next move will be to take baby steps now to get her to overcome her fear. You are going to have to desensitize her, which can be hard work and a long drawn out procedure. With what has happened to her already, she may never overcome some or all of her fears, but she can be helped with positive socialization.

Begin by inviting over a friend or relative, one at a time to meet Ida B. Let Ida B initiate contact with this person. Have the person you invite over crouch down and feed her a cookie or other treat. Just make sure Ida has a safe place she can go to if she feels overwhelmed. You can use a command such as "go see" "go greet" (whatever command you would like) while the person is there. If Ida is fearful and will not come, try lining up some treats along the ground up to the person's feet to lure her. Once again, she can approach and leave as she likes. When she does approach the individual you can use a command such as "good greet" or whatever words you use. Eventually Ida B should approach and feel comfortable with taking the treat from the person's hand.

Never, never, never drag Ida B towards the person, as you will make her fears worse! Plus you might make her feel as though she has to bite the person as the only way to escape.

Invite different people over as you proceed with the training and then a couple people at a time. This is helping to get her accustomed to meeting other people, as she will when outside.

For a fear of noises (thunder storms, the lawnmower, fireworks, the vacuum). What you want to do here is expose Ida B to what is causing the anxiety while pairing it with a positive thing or action. I am going to use the vacuum in this situation, because I went through it with my chocolate Labrador. For things like thunder, fireworks, try to get a recording of these sounds, a search online will help you find them.

Continue Reading...

I started by placing the vacuum in the furthest room possible from the room where my Lab was, so that the noise was very distant. While with her in the room, I would play with her with a ball and toys, talk with her in a normal voice, no baby voice, and would also give her treats. Once she was relaxed with this, I would move the vacuum to a closer room, and would repeat. I continued this until the vacuum was in the room with her and she had no problem being around it when it was running and moving.

The same procedure can be applied with other noises as you will use the tape recorded sounds in the room with her. Start with Ida in the room with the tape recorder on very low (where it can barely be heard). Again, play with her, talk to her (normal voice) and give treats. Very gradually, over the weeks you will slowly increase the volume to help her get associated with the loud noises. Start out slowly at first.

For dealing with fears of objects (newspaper, brush, bowls, etc), start by placing the object in the room where she eats. Place it as far away in that room as possible. Gradually over the weeks, slowly move the object closer to her bowl and then eventually next to her bowl. If at any time she refuses to eat, move the object back to the last location it was at and continue from there. After she is comfortable eating next to the object, you can then practice placing it next to you and calling her over to you. Make sure you reward her when she does approach.

Some things to remember:

Never drag Ida B towards a person or object, you will make matters worse.

Your body language and attitude are important. If your body language were to reflect that you are nervous or scared of a certain situation, then it is quite possible that Ida B will sense this and feel the same way. Always act calm and happy around her and she will be less anxious and scared. Of course, you can't act happy if she is doing something bad, but I don't think I needed to tell you that.

Never hug, talk sweetly, or baby her if she is experiencing fear. If you do, Ida will think you're praising her and it will reinforce the fearful behavior.

Start slowly with these methods, and reward for good behavior. Never try to rush her through the procedure as doing so can set her back. PATIENCE PATIENCE PATIENCE!!

Traveling in car:

1 . Get yourself a bunch of treats that Ida B loves, and walk her around the car leaving all doors open, and engine off. Let her explore the car, sniff around, stick her head inside. If this goes well, give her plenty of praise and treats. Do not treat if he shows anxiety, just continue to circle the car until she relaxes, then praise and treats.

2. After a few days of circling and exploring your car, hopefully she is relaxed with the presence of your parked vehicle.What your next step will be is to try to lure her into the vehicle. Once again leave all the doors open, the engine off andhave a good supply of treats.

While she may actually get into the vehicle, the better possibility is you might have to coax her in. Never, ever force her into the vehicle.

Some things that may help:

Lure her into the vehicle using her favorite treats.

Have someone she is comfortable with sit in vehicle and call her by name.

Try throwing a favorite toy of hers in to see if she will retrieve.

Sit in the car and just wait until she's ready to enter on her own.

When she does eventually get in the car, make sure you leave all of the doors open, so she can exit if she wants. While she is in the car, let her explore. Make sure you offer praise and treats every time she enters the vehicle.

You also want to make sure you ignore any anxiety from her. You are not going to try to reassure her, not baby her. Doing so may only reinforce her fears.

3. After she is feeling comfortable in the vehicle, your next step will be to close the car doors. Make sure you leave the windows of the vehicle open, and the engine is still off. You can talk to her through the window, pet her through the window. Only leave her in the vehicle for a few minutes at a time. If she remains calm, make sure you reward with praise and treats. If she shows any signs of anxiety, ignore her.

When she is calm you can then join her in the vehicle, just leave the engine off.

4. If all is going well up to this point (no problems outside or inside the vehicle), your ready for the next step. Get into the vehicle with Ida B and start the car. Don't move the vehicle; just sit in it with her. Again, plenty of praise and treats as she remains calm. This might take some time as the strange noises and the vibrations from the vehicle might cause some anxiety.

5. We are ready to go. When Ida B is relaxed and behaving inside your vehicle with the engine running, you ready to drive. Take her for a SHORT drive around your block. Make sure you reward her with praise and treats if she stays relaxed, and ignore her anxiety. When you've returned home, reward her for again.

Repeat the above steps as many times as necessary. Eventually, she should learn that the car is not such a terrible place to be.

OK Tamara, this is a start. Believe me I can write forever, but let's start with what I have outlined above. If you don't understand something, or have new questions, Do Not hesitate to e-mail me. In a few weeks (if you have no other questions before then), contact me and let me know how it's going. We will proceed from there. Talk to you soon.

Take care of yourself and Ida B,


Reader's Response - Tamara Writes:

Oh my goodness you are amazing! Thank you so much! I had no idea about the ignoring the fear. I am so glad you said that! I have been trying to coax her with soft voices and encouraging words while she is scared....

As for meeting people, she is doing so well! She will come up to people if they give her time. She LOVES LOVES LOVES people. Once she gets near them, she will let them pet her...very cautiously. I willcontinue to follow your instructions...

Here is my only concern with the informaiton you have given me...I can't get her to come out of the gate of the backyard very well...walking is strange once she is out, she circles the person who has her on a leash. Literally circles them constantly.

As for the car, if I HAVE to take her somewhere, do I force her?

Thank you! SO MUCH!

All About Labrador Blog Response:

Hi Tamara,

You are soooo welcome!! That's great that she approaching people, keep introducing her to new individuals. It will be a slow process, as she is doing now. Just don't push her, she will come around on her own.

As for the car, is it important place that she has to go? I would practice the training I sent for the car to get her accustomed to it. What I didn't ask you was if you use a crate with her. If you do, you can try transporting her in the crate when in the car. If she has to go to say the vet, than she has to go. How is she when left alone at home? If she is fine, then you would be better off letting her stay behind until she gets use to the car. If you are going to take her in the car, you might want to try tiring her out (playing, running around yard, etc) to see if that helps. Definitely practice her car training though.

When you say you can't get her out of the gate, what do you mean? She just doesn't want to walk out, or is it something else.

As for the circling you on the leash goes, some people actually train their dogs to circle as a trick. What is important here is does she do this all the time, or just when she is on the leash. If she just does it when on her leash, it could just be a nervous condition. If she does this all the time, it could be a medical condition.

Talk to you soon,


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