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I'm looking for suggestions.  We have 2 sweet, timid 3-year-old staghound littermates.  My question is about Potter.  We've had her 6 weeks; she was a bounce after 4 months in a home.  She was terrified to go outside (lived near a small airport in a busy suburban neighborhood) and also scared of the kids inside.  I know she had many potty accidents because she wouldn't go out, and often had to be carried outside.  Knowing we had her littermate, her people got in touch with us and we ended up adopting her.  She's an absolute sweetheart, and actually less timid than her sister Kaja--she'll go right up to new people for pets, happily goes through new doors, etc. (Kaja needs coaxing for all of this).  However, she has one thing that scares her: she has a lot of trouble getting up off her bed to come to the door to go out.  Once she's up and at the door she's fine, and happily goes out. We've learned that, if we approach her directly (put her leash on, try to coax her, try to lure her with super tasty food), she melts into a vaguely staghound-shaped puddle of fuzz-covered goo and then freezes.  She. Is. Stuck.  She's super submissive and never growls, etc, but it's clear she's very uncomfortable.  So we work around it: if I take the girls out into the backyard, I just ignore Potter, take Kaja out, leave the door open, and pretty soon Potter emerges.  If we need to go out on the leash, I ignore Potter and either take Kaja out and watch the door and when Potter comes to it I go in and get her (she doesn't like being left behind), or I open the door to the garage or even the overhead garage door--she can't resist coming down for that!  Once she's at the door she gets cheese, but trying to lure her with cheese shuts her down.

So at any rate, she's improving and it's really not much of a problem; we've always gotten her out when we need to, and without scaring her/shutting her down. I really think she'll get over this in time, and she's definitely improving. But, we also see this behavior any time we need her to move/go someplace; a couple of times she's gotten on our bed and I know I can't tell her 'Off" or she'll freeze, so I grab some cheese and run out of the bedroom calling her cheerfully, which works. (And now we baby gate the bedroom)  But...this weekend we'll be at our cabin with my sister and her cat.  Kaja and the cat spent a weekend together and, although her prey drive isn't super high, it's clear that they need to be separated.  We'll be with them during the day and the cat will be in the sleeping loft.  The cat likes to come down at night and explore, though, and there's no way to keep her up there, so I've assured my sister that the girls will sleep in our bedroom at night (which they don't at home; I know everyone prefers dogs to sleep in the bedroom, but it just doesn't work in our situation and the girls are happy with each other and the two couches, four dog beds, and open kennel they have to choose from).I"m pretty sure they will try to join us on the bed, which just won't work with a small bed, me and hubby, and two dogs!  Kaja I know I can just tell "off" and put her leash on and she'll hop right down. Potter...I don't know.  Any time she senses that we're trying to lure/move/direct her, she just shuts down.  Do I try to teach her "off" starting now? I really don't want to set her back because she's doing great, but I also don't want to spend the night cheerfully sprinting across the bedroom with a chunk of cheese and calling her.  Thoughts? (And, in general, is this behavior something that training will likely help, or make worse? We work a little on recall in the house but she'll only come from very close (less than 10 feet), otherwise she gets stuck.  I'd be happy to work on some training with her but have held off because I'm afraid her feeling like I'm trying to get her to do something might set her back).

Thanks for any advice!

Here's the lovable little weirdo...https://photos.app.goo.gl/jrNCWSgA4arhySb16

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I think you are doing a good job with her freezing, and eventually she will get better, but she may always be a bit squirrelly on that issue. I don't think trying to train her to get off the bed by this weekend is going work, and may do more harm than good. The best solution would be to block her from the bed so she never gets up there to begin with, but I have no ideas on how you can do that and still use the bed yourself :) There are some very experienced dog trainers on GT, hopefully some of them will chime in with some better suggestions. She is a cutie!

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I imagine she's dealing with some ptsd from her former home trying to get her outside.  She still - and may for her entire life - associate that activity with "bad thing," so you're going to need to try and find some ways to manage this behavior.  You're also NOT going to find it by this weekend.  If she is crate trained I would suggest crating her at night.  If she's not, an xpen around her bed (or your bed) is probably next best.  You can also use it to block her off in the bedroom at night.

You can also try upping your treat game significantly.  Use whatever is her most favorite thing ever to lure her and get her moving - roasted chicken, liverwurst, mild jerky, cat food.  Make sure you're also praisepraisepraising every time she shows a little bit of confidence in doing what you'd like her to do.

Then I'm going to suggest you find a certified canine behaviorist to come to your home and observe her interactions to give you and her some strategies to help her move through this challenge.  Make sure this person *only* uses positive reinforcement techniques and has some familiarity working with dogs who have confidence problems


Chris - Mom to: Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Lilly, and Felicity ( DeLand )

35764734494_93de5b5963_b.jpg

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), and Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby),

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Thanks for the ideas!  I kind of like the crate idea--she was crated at her old house and often sleeps in her open crate here, although we've never shut her in it--but I doubt we'll have room for it in the car.  I think (and I just told my hubby) that our focus this weekend needs to be on avoiding a situation where we stress Potter out by telling her to get off the bed--and if that means she sleeps with us, so be it.  Won't be a problem when we get home since we baby gate them out of the bedroom, and the number one goal is to help Potter continue with her progress in feeling confident, even if we lose a little sleep.  In fact, thinking about Potter in general, I almost think I need to do a sort of  opposite of NILF with her--an "Everything in Life is Free."  It seems like,  when I do try to use treats--even, and perhaps especially, high-value treats--I feel like she shuts down, because maybe she's learned, in the past, that treats are associated with an attempt to get her to do something scary.  It's funny, her sister feels this way about "coaxing voice"--it shuts her down.  She responds great, when facing a scary new doorway or something, to a little quiet petting and then having us take a small step towards the scary thing.  Then she follows, we tell her how brave she is, repeat, and eventually she's through the scary doorway.  But try to coax her?  No way!  That signals to her that something scary is about to happen.  We just haven't figured out a similar strategy that works with Potter...and I do think that the ptsd comment was on the mark.  Kaja is just generally timid; Potter has some trauma around one particular thing, for whatever reason, and that plus her general submissive nature causes her to freeze when she feels pressured to do something.  I think  I need to break her association of "treats equals scary things"...maybe I need to start by just randomly giving her yummy treats, so she realizes they aren't always a signal that someone's trying to get her outside.  Then maybe move to a super simple behavior like "watch me?"  I think Potter needs to learn that fun stuff happens when treats are around, not scary stuff (which means I have to put on hold my plans to work on desensitizing her to thunder...I think she'd learn that treats equal bad scary noises rather than that scary noises bring good stuff.  Her fear is stronger than the reinforcing value of the treats at this point).  I should warn you--I'm a special ed teacher and behavior analyst, and I've had dogs all my life, but I haven't done any formal/at a class dog training since the early '90's and I think strategies have evolved a lot and in a good direction since then.  So I probably know just enough to be dangerous!   Let me know if I'm not on the right track here.  (and greysmom,  I appreciate the suggestion about the canine behaviorist--lord knows I'm a believer in behaviorism!--but the budget doesn't allow for that at the moment and I really do feel that Potter is doing well and making progress, so I'm trying to come up with a plan myself if I can).

Thanks!

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A lot of your behavior training with special ed children will help you figure out how to help Potter.  It's my opinion, having had a "spook" for many years, that they are very much like autistic children - in their own world, repetitive behaviors, don't respond to personal names, don't bond with siblings/friends, need a strict daily schedule to be comfortable.  Then layer some real life trauma on top of that and you have a huge challenge on your hands.  Search here for T&B threads on spooks for more ideas.

I've forgotten if you said you've tried anti anxiety meds.  Sometimes they help and sometimes they don't and sometimes it can take a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng time to find the right one at the right dose.  I would explore this a bit more with your vet.  If your vet isn't comfortable with this much in depth discussion, you might see if a canine neurologist will do a records review for you and perhaps suggest some avenues to try to you and your vet.


Chris - Mom to: Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Lilly, and Felicity ( DeLand )

35764734494_93de5b5963_b.jpg

Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), and Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby),

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Greysmom, thanks so much for your insight.  I find your comparison of spooks to kids with autism fascinating (I've always wondered if something similar to autism ever shows up in animals).  With that said (and I may just be in denial!), I really don't think my girls are spooks.  I'll give you my assessment of them, and let me know what you think...

Kaja: Kaja seems to me like a girl with a shy personality who was severely under-socialized.The girls were bred by a coyote hunter and grew up in an outdoor kennel in North Dakota; my guess is they didn't get out much!  When she first got in our house, Kaja jumped up on our couch and made it her safe place.  She really didn't leave, except for potty breaks, for a couple weeks.  But...after I once put her leash on and gently tugged to get her going, she happily jumped off to go outside every time it was potty time,  and even learned the verbal "let's go outside and go potty" within  a few days and would jump down when she heard it.  I fed and watered her on the couch at first because she wouldn't come off to eat--but she wasn't scared on the couch, no shaking or panting, and she was happy to have us sit with her.  In fact (not knowing any better), my husband sat down on the other end of her couch the first night we had her--and she scooted closer to him and plopped her head on his lap.   She's still hesitant with new people and situations, but we've taken her to some greyhound events with success...we use the "pat, step, pat, step" approach to get her in, then she plops on her bed and calmly observes the goings-on.  She does not seems nervous and is not overly submissive...she's just cautious and under-experienced. With us, she's a happy tail-wagger who loves pets and likes to get silly playing with stuffies, and who definitely feels secure with us.

Potter: Potter is actually much more outgoing than Kaja. If you were to ring our doorbell she'd be right there to greet you, tail wagging and asking for pets.  She fully explored our house as soon as she came in, going into rooms that Kaja still doesn't go in.  But she's sound sensitive (fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots, etc.).  I think she was just in the wrong place--a busy house with little kids near an airport and neighbors who mowed the grass, plowed snow, etc.  I think she just got more and more stressed with not having extended time between sounds stresses, until she just shut down. Interestingly, her first mom was  a vet tech and often took Potter to work; she said any time she dressed for work Potter would jump up and follow her to the door (as opposed to being frozen in her bed when it was time to go out to potty). At home now, Potter loves pets, dinner, and running at the dog park.  At the dog park, she likes to stop and sniff, then run past us, stop, and check in with us to make sure of where we are.  When she's not "stuck" she's highly food motivated.  Truly, her only issues are the sound sensitivity (she finds a safe place to hide during storms and goes to sleep), and the getting stuck when it's time to go out.  Since we do have ways to get her up that don't stress her, it's not a time-critical issue and so I think I'll just work verrrryyyy sloooowly on getting her off her bed to take a treat, no strings attached.

I appreciate your thoughts on meds, and I'm certainly not opposed to them.  Potter was actually on fluoxetine when we got her; her mom was going to take her off though because it hadn't made a difference.  We talked to our vet and she told us to taper to a half dose for about 3 weeks and then if there was no negative change, to stop the med.  We did that and saw no change.  We're certainly open to a different med if we see a need , though!

Anyway, I am certainly glad that my work experience has given me a problem-solving mindset and some behavioral analysis skills, because it's sure come in handy with my girls.  And I"m so glad I found greytalk--I have learned soooo much from you guys!!!  I hope I'm generally on the right track!

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dmdsmoxie, thanks!  My girls definitely sound like omegas, not spooks!  They're not racers but their upbringing (they were together with their brother until they were surrendered at age 3) is much more similar to a track greyhound's dog socialization than to that of a pet dog who is adopted at 8 weeks.  Fascinating stuff!

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Update: The kitty didn't end up coming to the cabin (little brat ran and hid when my sister got out the cat carrier so she stayed home with the older cats), so no worries about the bedroom.  Potter has done fabulously (it's her second cabin trip)--and every time I put my shoes on to take the girls for a walk she runs to the door and bounces around until I put her leash on.  Huge improvement over her reluctance to get out of bed at home!  

 

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