New rescue is shy, avoidant, won't accept treats and is generally indifferent. How to train???

StarSong

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2022
DH & I adopted Ozzy, a 20 lb. poodle-terrier mixed breed, a couple of weeks ago. At the public park meet-and-greet we could see that he was reticent and fearful, but didn't realize the extent of his problems and are starting to worry that we may be out of our depth with him. We've both had dogs our entire lives, so nearly 140 years of life experience with them.

A little history: He was initially rescued by animal services and brought to a public shelter from some sort of hoarding situation where he was kept caged. A private rescue took him from there and brought him to their shelter, then relocated him to another of their shelters some distance away. He went to two foster homes, then came to us. Bottom line: in eight months he's had seven homes and seven sets of caregivers.

The rescue's vet said he's about 18 months old, our vet agrees he's between 18 months and 3 years. Upon examination, our vet immediately felt a lot of scar tissue on Ozzy's back which she attributed to some kind of blunt trauma (beatings or an accident). We received no such info from the rescue, don't know if their vet missed it, or what. My point with the above is that during Ozzy's young life, he has been deeply traumatized.

In two weeks he's never approached us for any kind of affection, nor does he interact with other dogs other than to be afraid of them. He doesn't sniff other dogs' private parts, is completely disinterested in their pee and poop, and while he tolerates a dog that frequently visits our house, he doesn't actually play or interact with him. We've yet to hear him bark or even whimper. At least for the moment, the other dog has given up trying to engage him.

Ozzy rarely accepts treats from us - not even meat, and never when he's outside (so no help for housebreaking). He only occasionally tolerates being petted, doesn't respond to praise, and is completely uncommunicative other than staring at his food bowl when he wants to eat. He generally runs away when we call for him (we keep a trailing leash on him nearly all the time) and cannot tolerate any animal or human being within 6-8 feet behind him. He does sort of a sideways walk if there's someone in front of and someone behind him and watches both humans carefully.

He doesn't avoid eye contact, but there's no tail wag when he does so, nor is there any sense of connection.

The problem, other than the obvious that we have been unable to establish a relationship with Ozzy, is that he poops in the house. We have a back yard that he'll sometimes use for toileting, sometimes not. He can come inside after being out for 15 minutes and within a few minutes, has pooped on the carpet. He toilets sometimes on a walk, sometimes not. Late yesterday evening we took him for a long walk. This morning we woke up to two poops on our bedroom carpet, not three feet from where my husband was sleeping.

We've added bells to the doors and ring them when we take him out, in hopes that he will communicate his needs that way, but no-go so far.

The problem is that his brain seems very disconnected. While we're willing to hang in there for a while with him, I can't do this forever. Our vet said he's too fearful to introduce a trainer right now.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
I should add that Ozzy is quite good at holding his pee and poop. We did a stint of taking him in the back yard for 15 minutes every hour in hopes of catching just the right time. We kept him confined to an area where we could watch him at all times. Started at 7 am and he didn't go until 4 am the following morning. And yes, it was outside, but he was indifferent to praise. Needless to say, we can't do that on a regular basis.

If he would let us know when he has to go out, we'd gladly get up - even in the middle of the night - to take him out.
 

Alpha1

Pack Leader and Lover
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Location
USA
Hi StarSong, good to see you, welcome. So sorry to hear about Ozzy, poor baby. He's obviously been beaten and abused throughout his short life, people can be so cruel. Like you said, he's traumatized and is suffering with a sort of PTSD, and rightfully so. You're very kind for taking him in, it's probably the most loving place he's ever been to.

I understand how you're feeling about him, it will take a very long time and constant effort to help him trust again and show some emotion. I never had a dog who was so physically and emotionally abused. All I could suggest is you alone working with him and forming a bond, once he trusts and is responding well to you, others won't be feared so much. It breaks my heart to hear he's so sad and afraid, just abused into a state of pure existence, and no joy. :(

Sorry I have no real solutions to offer aside from letting him come to you when he's ready and trust you not to hurt him. It would be terrible for him to be put in a shelter again, living that life, he will never recover. It will take years of love, time and patience to slowly see improvements, but I think they will come if you can manage that kind of care on a daily basis. Good luck....hugs for you both. 💙
 

linda2147

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
New Hampshire
years ago I took in a badly abused shepherd, she had been crated for 18 months and knew nothing. all she knew was the crate, she to was not interested in anything so I set up a crate and left the door open, I kind o ignored her, soon she was peeking out to see what I was doing, if I spoke to her she would run back to the crate I still ignored her and in a few weeks she was staying out more and more then she started comin out more and staying out more then I started taking her out for walks and in the woods to play, took a little while but I had another shepherd at the time and eventually the two started running in the woods together, then she didn't go to the crate anymore so it was removed. took a little while but she came around. Just give your dog time and space, hopefully he'll come around when he feels secure.
 

Sunak

Who wants a chewstick?
Joined
Aug 18, 2022
Location
SE Asia
Hi Starsong- If you haven't used diapers with a dog in the past, it is easy to do, once you get past the brief initial weirdness. My senior lady Boise has been using diapers for many months now, and they work great. Your dog has his experiences, and he has no choice but to deal with them. He has no other option. To help him is to meet him where he is, and let that be ok. Your dog, contrary to the mantra of some, may not need training now. What he needs most now is for someone to give a daem, and accept him unconditionally for who he is now. Not to try hard and then call defeat. The question becomes, can you do that for him, not so much can he learn what someone wants him to do. Helping is, at its core, helping. Not pursuing an agenda already mapped out.
 
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StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
Thanks, @Sunak, but this dog has relatively large, soft poops. I'd much rather clean the carpet than try to get that kind of mess off a dog who's reluctant to be handled.
 

linda2147

Active member
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
New Hampshire
if the poop is soft he is not getting enough bone in his food. Try adding some powdered bone meal to his diet. make sure its for pets as they also sell one for plants which is toxic to dogs. A healthy poo[ should look like a tootsie roll
 

Beautiful Beasties

New member
Joined
Aug 13, 2022
DH & I adopted Ozzy, a 20 lb. poodle-terrier mixed breed, a couple of weeks ago. At the public park meet-and-greet we could see that he was reticent and fearful, but didn't realize the extent of his problems and are starting to worry that we may be out of our depth with him. We've both had dogs our entire lives, so nearly 140 years of life experience with them.

A little history: He was initially rescued by animal services and brought to a public shelter from some sort of hoarding situation where he was kept caged. A private rescue took him from there and brought him to their shelter, then relocated him to another of their shelters some distance away. He went to two foster homes, then came to us. Bottom line: in eight months he's had seven homes and seven sets of caregivers.

The rescue's vet said he's about 18 months old, our vet agrees he's between 18 months and 3 years. Upon examination, our vet immediately felt a lot of scar tissue on Ozzy's back which she attributed to some kind of blunt trauma (beatings or an accident). We received no such info from the rescue, don't know if their vet missed it, or what. My point with the above is that during Ozzy's young life, he has been deeply traumatized.

In two weeks he's never approached us for any kind of affection, nor does he interact with other dogs other than to be afraid of them. He doesn't sniff other dogs' private parts, is completely disinterested in their pee and poop, and while he tolerates a dog that frequently visits our house, he doesn't actually play or interact with him. We've yet to hear him bark or even whimper. At least for the moment, the other dog has given up trying to engage him.

Ozzy rarely accepts treats from us - not even meat, and never when he's outside (so no help for housebreaking). He only occasionally tolerates being petted, doesn't respond to praise, and is completely uncommunicative other than staring at his food bowl when he wants to eat. He generally runs away when we call for him (we keep a trailing leash on him nearly all the time) and cannot tolerate any animal or human being within 6-8 feet behind him. He does sort of a sideways walk if there's someone in front of and someone behind him and watches both humans carefully.

He doesn't avoid eye contact, but there's no tail wag when he does so, nor is there any sense of connection.

The problem, other than the obvious that we have been unable to establish a relationship with Ozzy, is that he poops in the house. We have a back yard that he'll sometimes use for toileting, sometimes not. He can come inside after being out for 15 minutes and within a few minutes, has pooped on the carpet. He toilets sometimes on a walk, sometimes not. Late yesterday evening we took him for a long walk. This morning we woke up to two poops on our bedroom carpet, not three feet from where my husband was sleeping.

We've added bells to the doors and ring them when we take him out, in hopes that he will communicate his needs that way, but no-go so far.

The problem is that his brain seems very disconnected. While we're willing to hang in there for a while with him, I can't do this forever. Our vet said he's too fearful to introduce a trainer right now.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Copy and paste this here: https://www.dogforum.com/

There is a great group over there with awesome advice. I will read this again later to add my own advice for your dog. But 100% post it there as well
 

StarSong

New member
Joined
Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
Hi Starsong- If you haven't used diapers with a dog in the past, it is easy to do, once you get past the brief initial weirdness. My senior lady Boise has been using diapers for many months now, and they work great. Your dog has his experiences, and he has no choice but to deal with them. He has no other option. To help him is to meet him where he is, and let that be ok. Your dog, contrary to the mantra of some, may not need training now. What he needs most now is for someone to give a daem, and accept him unconditionally for who he is now. Not to try hard and then call defeat. The question becomes, can you do that for him, not so much can he learn what someone wants him to do. Helping is, at its core, helping. Not pursuing an agenda already mapped out.
I understand where you're going with some of this and would even agree with your position under certain circumstances, but the bottom line is that we did indeed have a very specific dog agenda which was explained to the rescue organization. A dog who is either incapable of being housebroken or whose toilet training might take many months didn't qualify. (Our list: under 30 lbs, between 1-7 years old, non aggressive, fully housebroken. Non-shedding preferred.)

I should have mentioned that we have young grandchildren living nearby, including a crawling infant whom we care for three days a week. Animal feces in our carpet and flooring on a regular basis is not ok. In fact, if not remedied quickly it could become a deal-breaker. That's why I reached out to this forum.

We've bonded with Ozzy and very much want to be able to keep him, but the dog DOES need training now if this match-up is going to be successful.

I greatly appreciate everyone's advice and input.
 

StarSong

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Joined
Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
he is a small dog, you could litter box train him
If I could train him to use a litter box I should be able to train him to use our back yard and the doggie door. Same mechanisms are involved. Knowing he needs to toilet and going to the proper place to do so.

Our biggest challenges are getting him to communicate his potty needs to us AND to toilet when the opportunity presents itself. When housebroken dogs are let outside, they know to void their bladders and bowels even if they weren't in desperate need to do so.

Since Ozzy will sometimes be left alone, we need confidence that his bladder and bowels are reasonably empty before we leave the house.
 

Beautiful Beasties

New member
Joined
Aug 13, 2022
If I could train him to use a litter box I should be able to train him to use our back yard and the doggie door. Same mechanisms are involved. Knowing he needs to toilet and going to the proper place to do so.

Our biggest challenges are getting him to communicate his potty needs to us AND to toilet when the opportunity presents itself. When housebroken dogs are let outside, they know to void their bladders and bowels even if they weren't in desperate need to do so.

Since Ozzy will sometimes be left alone, we need confidence that his bladder and bowels are reasonably empty before we leave the house.
I had this issue about them letting me know they had to go. I taught them to ring a bell with their nose or paw. Once they had that down well, I began telling them to ring it and as soon as they did, I took them out. Over and aver again. I'd ask, "potty?" They'd get excited and ready to go, but I made them ring the bell them took them. Now all 3 ring to go potty. It just helped everything.
 

TTouch

Member
Joined
Apr 20, 2021
As you say 7 homes, 7 different ways of 'caring' ( at least) so a totally confused dog, never in his life as he had any consistancy and that is the only way to train any dog sucessfully.
I agree with Linda
I set up a crate and left the door open, I kind o ignored her
A crate is a safe place, it also secures him to stop him pooing around the home, it can be folded down, taken and set up anywhere and as far as he is concerned it is safe. If you decide to have him in your bedroom then set a crate up in there and use it but be aware with such a dog you are 'training' separation anxiety and that is a long term issue, so personally I would set it up in your kitchen and let him have some peace/sleep away from 'people' who are scary right now.
I would also cover the crate with a sheet/blanket, it makes it a dark quiet den. His crate is off bounds to any child, they must never go near it and certainly never in it, it is not a jail or somewhere he can be trapped it is his den... it is his safe place, with a lead attached, it is easy to lift the lead and turn and walk, you are alo not touching him and 'if' he has been beaten hands near him and spoken words will frighten him, so you are removing any of those...if you open the door and he come out on his own then great, but just open the door, turn and walk away, don't speak.

Many people who rescue feel the need to know/guess/ come to their own conclusions about the rescues past existance, however it is a 'human need' and doesn't 'help' the dog at all as humans 'feel sorry' and feeling sorry doesn't 'help' you can't change the past regardless of what might or might not have happened, it changes nothing at all. Dogs on the other hand 'live in the moment', NOW he has a home, people who want to care for him, feed him, give him a comfortable bed, walk him,groom him and are trying to expand his life into something better and he KNOWS THAT. NOW/TODAY is all he cares about... so stop feeling sorry for him, in a dogs eyes humans who 'express' those 'feeling sorry' emotions are giving off 'weak'energy and in a dogs eyes 'weak' can't lead and that alone can make him feel insecure, He needs you to be consistant and 'strong' for him to start to feel confident and to trust you as his leader/protector, by providing him with HIS needs and not comforting your human needs..

Dogs senses are first their nose ( smell) then their eyes ( sight) and third is their ears ( so the spoken word/other noises) which is the opposite to human senses which is why humans talk too much, listen to music...., somake it easy for him to understand you, cut out talking ( word praising) IGNORE him and it will very quickly take off much of the pressure on him. Then when the time comes when you speak it will mean something to him ..... we ALL talk too much to our dogs, as 'we' feel the need to.

If you clip a lead on to him and let it trail, you can just step on it to eg stop him walking away, you can lift it and walk outside without speaking and drop it once you are out to let him //poo...don't say anything, no sounds, don't look at him, no treats ( really scared dogs will not eat) so stop trying treat him as you are praising his scare/fear. The ONLY time you speak is if out the corner of your eye he pees/poos as he is doing the action choose ONE command word and say it, so he starts to associate the action of peeing/pooing with that command word ( I use 'clean') 2 weeks of that training alone and you can say " go be clean" and he will start to toilet on command. Very fearful dogs NEVER toilet away from 'home', they never sniff other dogs pee or other dogs, as a fearful dog is ALWAYS on guard and fears everything, so they can't relax.

So, just incase you don't know or have forgotten direct eye contact in 'dog language' is aggressive, walking directly towards him is agressive so think how we build pathways and walk directly towards other people/dogs as we pass and as dogs get closer you get the lunging/barking/growling and if you watch the person and their dog both stare at the dog coming towards them and we do at their dog ...so that will cause fear in him... FORGET any 'meet and greets', give him space, walk him alone in silence, if you have a long training lead then tie it to yourself instead of holding the lead ( so no looking, talking or touching) as you are sending 'messages' to him down that lead, keep a look out for dogs/people coming towards you, if you are on a path, cross the road, if an open field then 'arc/curve' walk towards them, if you watch well mannered/well socialised dogs off lead they arc/curve towards each other as it tells the other dog they are no threat. keep away from places with lots of dogs/people and no way go to any 'play dates' or play parks they are not any good for a sensitive/fearful dog. It sound like your other dog is doing the right thing ignoring the rescue.... watch your other dog as he knows best and copy his lead.

Keep it simple and straightforward, stop trying too hard and you will start to take the pressure off him. If you push him into things he can't cope with or have expectations of ' quick;fixing him' by over loving him he will likely become reactive and that could be he runs away from everything or attacks everything...the most dangerous dog is the very fearful overly sensitive ones
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
I had this issue about them letting me know they had to go. I taught them to ring a bell with their nose or paw. Once they had that down well, I began telling them to ring it and as soon as they did, I took them out. Over and aver again. I'd ask, "potty?" They'd get excited and ready to go, but I made them ring the bell them took them. Now all 3 ring to go potty. It just helped everything.
We added a bell to both doors that lead to the back yard and are ringing them when we take him outside. Not sure how to get him to ring the bell himself, but am hoping he'll get the picture with time.
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
@TTouch, thank you for taking the time to explain so much about fearful dogs.

Ozzy was first rescued from a cage at a hoarding house. He vigorously shies away from anything that resembles metal caging or crates, including the wrought iron fence that separates our yard from the pool and gates in front of our house. He can't get away from them fast enough. So crating would seem to be a non-starter for this dog.

At night he sleeps on his bed in our bedroom and seems quite comfortable there.

We've learned to remove his 6 foot when he's in the back yard (one time he got caught around a tree and another he dragged it through some poo). He tends to not potty when he can see us, so we've started setting a timer for ten minutes when letting him out. Before bringing him back into the house we put the lead back on him. It doesn't disturb him to drag it around the house.

Of course I feel sorry for him. I'm human and that's a normal human response. I'm also angry that he was abused. However, those emotions don't come into play when I'm interacting with him - scant as that interaction may be right now.

Ozzy may live in the present, but like all sentient beings his past experiences affect his behavior and responses to stimuli. My husband and I are observing and noting what triggers him - walking behind him makes him very skittish, for instance - and want to avoid over stressing him. Sometimes we obviously do have to walk behind where he's standing, but we do so calmly and casually, without comment or interacting with him. He's gradually becoming less sensitive to that now, and the amount of safe space he requires (with us, at least) is smaller than during the first week. Good progress on that front.

He's very well behaved on a leash and seems to like being taken for walks, though he rarely toilets during them.. Our neighborhood is filled with humans walking alone or with dogs. As you said, we cross the street or otherwise avoid people coming our way.

Thanks for the info about eye contact. I will work on avoiding looking him in the eyes.

We will press on and I'll post updates about his positive progress and any behavioral issues as they crop up.
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
Update: Ozzy is still not reliably toileting outside despite numerous opportunities to do so. This morning he was outside for 10 minutes. Came back inside and within 15 minutes he'd pooped on the rug. No warning or indication he needed to go out, That's probably the most frustrating part of all of this. He is completely uncommunicative about his potty needs.

On a positive note, he's a little less skittish around us, but progress is glacial.

We have yet to hear him bark, whine, whimper or make any noise, other than an occasional whimper in his sleep. He runs to the door when the bell rings, but doesn't bark at the noise.
 

Beautiful Beasties

New member
Joined
Aug 13, 2022
We added a bell to both doors that lead to the back yard and are ringing them when we take him outside. Not sure how to get him to ring the bell himself, but am hoping he'll get the picture with time.
You've started right then. I rang the bell then said "ring it", don't give a treat until they at least try. Once and attempt is made, treat. Even if it doesn't make a noise. Once they are regularly touching it, you can change the 'rules' and don't give a treat until they make the bell actually ring. Once they actually know how to ring the bell, you can then ring it before taking them out and tell them to ring it. Don't let them out until someone rings the bell.

Before anything else, I had to teach mine to shake before they learned to ring it. Then they figured out they could use their paw to ring the bell in my hand, after that I hung the bell. And did what I said above.
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
Original Poster
You've started right then. I rang the bell then said "ring it", don't give a treat until they at least try. Once and attempt is made, treat. Even if it doesn't make a noise. Once they are regularly touching it, you can change the 'rules' and don't give a treat until they make the bell actually ring. Once they actually know how to ring the bell, you can then ring it before taking them out and tell them to ring it. Don't let them out until someone rings the bell.

Before anything else, I had to teach mine to shake before they learned to ring it. Then they figured out they could use their paw to ring the bell in my hand, after that I hung the bell. And did what I said above.
Unfortunately, Ozzy isn't motivated by treats or food. He's not yet interactive enough for us to teach him to shake - or to sit, come, stay, etc.
 

Beautiful Beasties

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Aug 13, 2022
Unfortunately, Ozzy isn't motivated by treats or food. He's not yet interactive enough for us to teach him to shake - or to sit, come, stay, etc.
Right, it'll take time. Once you're relationship is comfortable with each other you can take this approach, Youll just need to find out what does motivate him. Usually it's affection or toys/play time if it's not food. Though if he's just not food motivated because he's not comfortable enough yet, that'll make it easier once he is motivated.

For now, just work on getting him comfortable and building a relationship. It takes anywhere from two weeks to a month for dogs to get comfortable in a new home. And that's if they don't have any fear related issues. In my experience, 30 days is the mark where they act like they feel like it's their home. I use the behavior of coming to me for on their own for attention and barking at the door when they hear a knock as a sign.
 

StarSong

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Aug 24, 2022
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He shows no interest in treats, toys, play, praise or affection. Other than wanting to know where we are, he doesn't seek us out.

It's been 6 weeks and we have yet to hear him make a single sound, other than a few yips and one howl during his sleep. He is alert to outdoor noises and runs toward (but not all the way to) the door when the bell rings but doesn't seem protective of his turf.

He obviously had severe fear issues. Some days he's incredibly skittish, other days he's less so. He does better when our daughter's dog is here, but he regresses when that dog returns home.

I don't know if we're up for acquiring a second dog just to rehabilitate Ozzy.
 


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