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Thread: Tommy's cringing to held objects

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
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    Chicagoland, IL
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    8,496

    Tommy's cringing to held objects

    As I have mentioned in other posts a couple times, Tommy is a rescue golden retriever that we adopted when he was 6 months of age. We don't really know what his first home was like except that it wasn't a particularly happy one and he lived chained in a yard, and after he was surrendered, was discovered to have poison in his blood (strychnine I think, common in rat poison).

    Well Tommy is 3 years old now. Some of the problems we had for awhile after we got him (big problem with submissive urination), have almost completely resolved. However he's still pretty shy and fearful around people he doesn't know (not typical for a golden), and he cringes and cowers when an object is being held towards him, unless it's his own toys which he is familiar with. It's really heartbreaking for me and I have tried various things, such as when he cringes to the duster, sitting down with him and the duster and letting him smell it, and praising him when he works up the courage to sniff it.

    Some dogs are just naturally timid of new things, but it isn't very typical of a golden I don't think, and I suspect strongly he has been hit with objects, because of his fearfulness and cringing. Tasha is somewhat timid-natured (loud noises, unexpected shadows, strange people), but she has NEVER cringed or acted fearfully when I've held an object over/towards her. To the contrary she thinks it's an invitation to play with some new toy.

    I was taking a spoon out of the dishwasher tonight and nearly stumbled over Tasha who was interested in what was going on. I playfully shook the spoon at her and she immediately did her play bow and wagging and growling playfully, but Tommy who had been nearby ran and hid in the hallway and was hesitant to come out when I called him.

    I'm just not sure what to do about it. It breaks my heart, truly. I can't bear the thought of someone hitting him. I should point out if I raise my HAND above him, he's fine. It's only if I'm holding something. It's so specific that I feel pretty certain it is a buried memory in him of something bad that happened before. Any suggestions/ideas on how to help this situation?

    Of course, it goes without saying he has NEVER been hit here.
    Mom to Raven and Rudy the greyhound

    Missing always: Tasha & Tommy, at the Rainbow Bridge

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Cincinnati (Help - the cats are Taking OVER!)
    Posts
    224
    Dear K9soul, Hi. I'm new to this site, but have had some experience with what you're asking about. Maybe you could do the same for your Tommy.

    I adopted/rescued Sascha, a darling American Eskimo dog about a year and a half ago that had been mistreated and was very afraid of all kinds of things. The trainer I worked with suggested that we make a game out of whatever it was that scared her. For instance, movement scared her. Umbrellas scared her. OK, we opened up and umbrella, put some treats on it, had her come over and reach over it to get the treats. Twirl the umbrella a little, more treats, etc. Eventually she had to step on the umbrella to get the treats. Increased the difficulty a little bit at a time. She's no longer afraid of umbrellas or movement.

    She was also afraid of quick hand movements, (obviously someone hit her in the past) so we made it into the zoomie game where I made funny noises and moved my hands and arms around her face, and gave her treats for putting up with me. Gradually, she realized it was a game and started playing back, and learned not to be afraid of quick hand movements.

    Direct eye contact was threatening to her, so we made a game out of staring at her and moving my face closer and closer to hers while holding the eye contact. This has helped her allow other people to look at her without becoming aggressive towards them.

    With Tommy, I'd start with holding the spoon or something that she's shown to be afraid of unthreateningly in your hand. Have her come to you and receive a treat. Then raise the spoon a little bit, give her another treat. Each time, raise it a little higher, and reward her for staying near you and receiving a treat. Go real slow with it and use lots of treats.

    Good luck!

    Evelyn & Kitties: Chelsea, Punkin-Head Jones, Black Magic, SweetPea McGee, Anastasia - and Sascha, the dog

    ***Lots of pictures at http://community.webshots.com/user/evelynblack

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Buffalo, NY
    Posts
    1,093
    Originally posted by Dog1,Cats2
    With Tommy, I'd start with holding the spoon or something that she's shown to be afraid of unthreateningly in your hand. Have her come to you and receive a treat. Then raise the spoon a little bit, give her another treat. Each time, raise it a little higher, and reward her for staying near you and receiving a treat. Go real slow with it and use lots of treats.

    Good luck!
    Just what I was going to suggest. You need to teach him to associate these items with good things - treats, pets, loving etc. Use really great treats - pieces of hot dog, chicken, etc. Also if someone else is doing it - laugh and toss a treat. He will get past it - it will just take some time.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Chicagoland, IL
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    I haven't worked with treats before. I'd probably need to make sure Tasha was elsewhere so that there wouldn't be the element of competition for treats going on. She's alpha so he backs down.

    I agree trying to make a game of it is a good way to go. I'll have to get some one on one time with him and some tasty treats and a few objects and make it a fun learning experience.
    Mom to Raven and Rudy the greyhound

    Missing always: Tasha & Tommy, at the Rainbow Bridge

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