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Sally G.
Sally G., Animal Behaviorist
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 9679
Experience:  Service /assistance dog trainer,Therapy dog evaluator and trainer, AKC evaluator, pet first aide and member of PAS Animal Response Team.
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Got a rescue dog two years ago he was 3 months old irish

Customer Question

Got a rescue dog two years ago he was 3 months old irish wolfhound believe he was bred to be a fighting dog he is terrified of males and of all new people highly intelligent and stubborn would like to know how to get him over his fears loves children loves me but is still scared if i come home and carry shopping bags
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Training
Expert:  Sally G. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome. My name is ***** ***** I have been in the dog field for 25 years. I am a Therapy Dog & AKC Evaluator/trainer/ as well as an assistance/service dog trainer, specializing in behavior. It will be my pleasure to help you today.

Many dogs are afraid of people or other animals and it usually has to do with their personality not necessarily something horrible that happened. However if they are born with a shy personality and are taken from the litter too soon , they never go through a proper socialization period.

Can you tell me why you believe he was bread to fight?

Does he react to other dogs if he is off leash?

When you come home how do you greet him when you have the shopping bags?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
he is badly scared, was picked up with a full grown irish wolfhound, vet said that injuries appeared to be due to non accidental /brutal human behaviour and consistent with what she sees as fighting dog training : does not respond to other dogs well at all, will fight if able only two dogs that he is okay with one being the staffy which was in the house prior to his arrival and the other a very small terrier that ignores him. : he is greeted the same way with hellos but runs, my son if a dog person and he (duke) is still terrified of him after two years believe it is the body type build of males that he is scared of,
Expert:  Sally G. replied 1 year ago.

thank you for that information. Unfortunately with scared dogs when they are afraid of humans you may never get them to trust other people outside of the home. Inside of the home you can make things easier by not saying anything to him when you come hom. There are three things dogs see as a challenge, eye contact, vocal, and trying to touch. A frightened dog magnifies that by 100 times.

When you come home ignore him totally until such a time as he is ready to come up to you and this will most likely be a time when you are relaxed for the night.

I am going to post my article on working with shy dogs below. As for the public I would not press that issue because you are setting him up to fail and mistrust you. For now keep him close home such as in his yard for any outings. No sense in putting more undue stress on him.

Shy dog training in the home

When you adopt a dog chances are the dog may be very shy or fearful. Keep in mind that one never knows the true history of an adopted dog. This means you will not know how they were originally trained, socialized, or treated within the home.

However some dogs just come with a fearful personality, so this can happen with a dog that is fairly young and has not lived with another family.

When you have such a dog you can work around this to gain trust, however, be forewarned that this dog may never accept a stranger, as strangers represent inconsistency and unpredictability.

In your own home with a shy or fearful dog you must represent structure, consistency and predictability in order for the dog to feel safe around you. Sometimes, even if everyone in the family does it right, the dog may still only take to one person in the home that they trust.

The three challenges:

1) Eye contact, 2) talking to, and 3) reaching out to pet. All of these actions to humans, is a way of comforting, however, to a dog they are challenges, and a fearful dog will magnify those actions times ten. So it is very important that you do not look directly at the dog, you do not continue to talk to the dog, and you don’t reach out to touch the dog, until such a time that you notice the dog is feeling comfortable.

Positive training is essential to boost a shy dog’s confidence, but if you can’t look at, talk to, or touch how do you train?

Start by getting down on the dog’s level on the floor. Do not look at the dog, watch TV or turn your head from the dog. Lay your hand out, palm up with a special treat such as a hot dog sliver or chicken sliver. Anything that has an aroma should work. Allow the dog to make its way over to you to take it. Continue this until the dog realizes that when it comes near you, you are not a threat or challenge, and something good is coming from your hand. Gradually as the dog builds confidence you will call the name and continue moving up the chain of perceived challenges. This can take weeks to get through and for some even longer depending on how much time you have to spend with the dog. . Dogs ,like humans, fear the unknown, so the more you can do this, the more you show predictability to the dog. If the dog knows what to expect it becomes less frightened.

This is one reason shy dogs have so many problems getting used to strangers out on a walk. Each person walks, talks, and moves in unpredictable ways to the dog.

Gradually you wan to move to daily obedience training, do it in short sessions, and do it several times a day. This shows the dog you are consistent. The positive training tells the dog that if it listens, some thing good happens (the treat comes). The more successful the dog is during training the more the confidence it boosted. Rewarding the right behavior, (listening to a command), elicits the reward, which builds the bond.

Punishment has no place in any dog’s life, let alone a shy or fearful dog’s life. . Remember that dogs act out for a variety of reasons. Fear, boredom, challenges, anxieties, and instinct for survival, are just a few. It is how you deal with it that can make it better or worse. \

As well, if you have gotten your dog to a certain spot of comfort, you can very easily make them take two steps back through punishment or dominance.

I guess you are wondering how to put a leash on a shy dog to take it out to potty if you cannot talk to , look at or touch! Here is a simple method, rather than trying to attach the clasp to the collar which can make a shy dog move away from your hand, flip the leash over so that you are holding the snap, pull it through the handle to make a loop. From above slip the loop over the dog’s neck. Very similar to a slip lead that is used in vets office. This way you can stand at a bit of a distance, you do not have to physically touch the dog, nor do you need to look directly at it. This can be done in your peripheral vision. Once the leash is on the dog drop a treat to the floor for the dog and then head out the door.

Clicker training, a positive method can be found here: For some dogs the clicker noise will frighten them so in those cases rather than using a clicker as a marker use your voice. Keep it to one word such as good or yes.

video’s to see how clicker training is done, scroll down to videos

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
with me he is fine, except when I have packages in my hand then he will run away and wait until I don't have anything then come to me, it is others that the issue starts, when my son comes over he takes off to my bed and will not come out until he leaves, but is okay with his partner and the children, guess there is not much I can do, he is smart and well trained (if he knows that I have treats) good a verbal commands etc.
Expert:  Sally G. replied 1 year ago.

given the possible past history , it is not worth stressing him. It is possible he may come around with your son, and even with you walking in with bags. But I can tell you if he was bred to be a fighting dog it means that things were used that hurt and came from the human hand and that is why he fears you with packages.