How can I get my little rescue dog past her terror?

I have acquired a beautiful little shih poo mix, as pretty a little thing as you’ve ever seen. She must have been through something horrible, though…she is terrified. Most of the time, she hides under the couch or under the bed. When she does come out, she is wary, and will run when anyone gets near her. When I do pick her up, she trembles violently.
I’ve had her for a few months now, and she still is terrified, in spite of all my efforts to make her feel safe. She has her own kennel, her own bed, her own dishes, and her own little collection of toys that she has never played with. I’ve tried coaxing her with treats, but no good, she isn’t interested even when I put the treat on the floor and walk away. No amount of soft talking and gentle stroking calm her, she just cowers and trembles till the ordeal is over and as soon as I put her down, she runs back under the furniture. I’ve even tried introducing her to other tiny dogs who are perfectly secure around people, but she hides from them, too.
Is there any way to help her, or is she doomed to hide under the furniture for her entire life??

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8 Responses to “How can I get my little rescue dog past her terror?”

  1. □■□■□■□ Genna □■□■□■□ says:

    DJL was spot on. Don’t label the dog as abused if you don’t know that for certain, that will create a mental block for you. The dog most like has a genetic disposition to these neurotic behaviors from bad breeding. Soft talking and gentle stroking won’t help, it will make it worse. I don’t usually agree with Mr Millan but he is right when he says it will make the dog terrified that you are also acting weak.
    This may be something that you need to live with for as long as you have her and may just have to get used to it. You can invest in a GOOD trainer and see if it helps but i wouldn’t expect much.

  2. TapDancingRocks says:

    I’m glad that you want to help your shih poo mix! Most people wouldn’t have the patience to deal with a dog that has been through a traumatic experience! People usually tend to think that if your dog isn’t friendly or social, that there is automatically no hope which is NOT true!! I want to tell your right now that your dog isn’t doomed! You can help her! It will take a lot of time, and patience but don’t give up hope! And you CERTAINLY DON’T have to put her down!!

    Your right though, someone definitely must have abused her! The poor thing!

    You need to take her to a dog trainer. Not just any dog trainer, you need to take her to a certified animal behaviorist. Unlike dog trainers, animal behaviorists know more about dogs with special needs. My dog was a rescue too. She was terrified of people and dogs except for her family. We had taken her to a regular dog training class, but that trainer didn’t have the slightest idea on how to help her. We then took her to a dog trainer/animal behaviorist. It took a year of going to this trainer, once a week, and she is now not that scared anymore. She has learned that the world isn’t a horrible scary place. She is still scared, (when a dog goes through something traumatic, they will never completely get over that fear, you can’t “cure it”) but she isn’t as scared as she used to be!!

    This is what you can do when you’re at home. If your shih poo hides under the furniture or cowers in a corner, don’t try to coax her out. Let her come out on her own. I know that it is tempting to pick her up and talk to her and soothe her, but that is actually reinforcing her. Petting her and fussing over her, when she is scared, is actually reinforcing that behavior and telling her that it is “Ok to be scared.” Whenever she comes out, if you have time, sit down on the floor, so you don’t look as threatening, and let her come to you. Talk to her in a happy quiet enthusiastic voice. Don’t pick her up that will come later, when she starts to trust you more. Right now she needs to become comfortable just being close to and around you. That is the first step. If she goes back and hides, don’t become discouraged. It will take a lot of time for her to trust you or anyone else for that matter. When she seems more at ease just coming out with you around, get a treat and let her take it out of your hand. Put the treat on the ground nearby if she doesn’t want to take it from you just yet.

    It is a good idea to try to introduce her to other tiny dogs, that don’t have any problems, but you shouldn’t do it in your house. Even though your shih poo is terrified of being anywhere except for under a bed or couch, she still lives there and meeting new dogs in her home or territory might just be making it worse.

    You will be meeting “neutral dogs” when you find a certified dog trainer/ animal behaviorist at their training center. A neutral dog means that nothing really bothers a particular dog, so if they see a dog that is terrified, it isn’t going to bother them at all. This is called desensitization. When you go to a trainer, you will slowly start desensitizing her to people and other dogs.

    All dog trainers/ animal behaviorist all do things a little differently. But for the most, part, they should be on the same page.

    I will give you the website of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. You can find a certified Animal Behaviorist near you, at their website.

    When you find one, go to their training center see if you’re comfortable with the trainer and staff. Go with your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right to you, then there is probably something wrong. Make sure that whatever trainer you go to, that they ONLY use the positive reinforcement approach to training.

    You can’t expect your shih poo to suddenly become fear free, but who can blame her? If I went through whatever she went through, I won’t just “get over it” either! If anyone tells you that your dog should have been “cured” by now, that she is a “hopeless case” or that she needs to “Get over it now”, don’t listen to them!! They obviously don’t know what they are talking about!!

    Remember, patience is the key! I can tell that you really love your shih poo and that you want to help her!

    Good luck! I really hope I helped! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them!

    PS. My family has owned five dogs. Four of them have been rescued.

  3. DJL says:

    First of all, call it what it is. A mixed breed mutt.

    What you have is an ill bred dog, where no one cared about temperament of the parents.

    More likely then not your dog is just a product of bed termperament and no socicalization.

    By thinking its been "through something horrible" you are further crippling your dog, and unconsiously keeping it in this mode.

    You need to enroll her in a REAL dog training class and start training her.

    There is nothing better for a dogs confidence then training it, and having expectations.

    Coddling continues it being an emotional cripple.

    She IS doomed to hide under the furniture her entire life if you do not change YOUR behavior and expectations.

    I had a dog who was SEIZEED by Animal Control for real abuse and neglect. She was terrified of everyone and most things. I put her in a real dog training class, and she became a titled AKC Obedience dog and even more wonderful a Therapy Dog.

    Had I treated her like an emotional cripple, she would still be one to this day.

  4. Lauren says:

    I think the key thing to remember in this case is that it will take a lot of time for her to overcome her fears.

    Do not spoil her in an effort to make her better, simply be consistent, always use a quiet voice when talking to her and always be nice.

    Establish a schedule for your dog and stick to it as it is one of the first ways you can demonstrate that you can be trusted.

    Ensure you take on the leadership role within your house.

    Do not reinforce his ideas that he should be scared.

    Here are some websites to help:…/page1.aspx…

    Good luck with your dog 🙂

  5. Launi *puppymills = HELL* says:

    Whoa. This has been going on for months? Sounds like a severely traumatized dog. You are going to need a good dog behaviorist to help with this one.

    At this point the dog should be responding. Since she isn’t she has completely shut down.

    I watched a show on the Dog Whisperer about a rescued mix named Luna. The dog was absolutely scared to death of everything.

    Cesar Millan said she was his biggest challenge. It took him over 4 months. She was at his compound with him the whole time.

    You need a professional. And may I add, though this is not going to sound good, but if this dog has completely shut down and cannot be rehabilitated she is miserable and has no quality of life.

    That’s all I can say. I am so sorry for this situation.

  6. Rach H says:

    It is great that you rescued a dog. one thing that i would suggest is to go back to the shelter and see if they know what caused her to be so frightened. for example if it was falling in a pool and there is a glass door to a pool where she is she could be scared that she will fall in again. Was she trying to hide when she was in the shelter? if she wasnt, maybe they know a trick that helps her.

    Hope this helps!
    Good Luck

  7. Michael M says:

    my german shep was very similar to yours in the beginning, but after 2-3 months together she attached herself to me and trusted me.
    it may take time, but the dog will learn to understand you.

  8. Natalya says:

    First of all, No SHE IS NOT DOOMED 🙂
    I rescued a puppy mill pomeranian two years ago, and he was A LOT like your little baby for quite a while. He would only sit in the bathroom, and would not let anyone touch him, etc. It took me around a year for him to really start coming around,and after 2 he is ALMOST like a normal dog (still frightened of strangers and runs away at loud noises, etc.) The thing you need is patience and time. There is no training program that will make her better, she needs to learn that the things that happened to her will never happen again, and that she is safe now. You should try and form a strong bond with her as that will allow her to trust you more. Don’t try to pick her up that much, especially if it scares her,but instead just go into the room she is in, sit down on the floor nearby and just talk to her. I remember spending many hours a day just sitting in the bathroom with my dog, and eventually I was able to touch him, then pick him up (he still gets nervous when picked up). You need to realize the fact that some cruel person did some horrible things to her and that she may never be like a friendly people loving dog, but she will get much better, and she will become everything you have ever wanted in a dog.:) A man once told me that a dog that you rescue from an abusive situation, once rehabilitated will become the best dog you have owned, and that is so true with my pom. He is so respectful, calm, gentle, and is just the sweetest being on the planet 😛
    So give her time,and love, but also space. Don’t rush anything, and she will come around.
    Best of luck and you should feel really proud of yourself for rescuing a dog that no one else probably would. You really made a difference 🙂

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