Posted 03-04-2004 at 21:17:50
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Don't give up on your dogs! I have a 11 year old Chow-Chow who was given to me when she was 2 yo because she was covered with sores. She had been chained in a backyard south of Albuquerque. People do that as a cheap sort of burglar alarm. Anyway, chained as she was, the neighborhood boys came and beat her with sticks. My sister gave these folks dog houses, waterbowls, etc. These things kept disappearing. Finally Animal Control took her away because they hadn't been feeding and watering her, and she was covered with sores.
My sister asked my help since I am the only person she knew with any sort of health care training. This dog would not let you get near it. It wouldn't eat. 30% of its body was covered in open, weeping sores.
The dog was hiding under a shed. I sat out there for several hours on 3 successive days, just talking to the dog. The dog just growled at me. It never barked. I also offered it chicken--tossing very small pieces under the shed. It wouldn't eat that at first, either. On the second day, Missy (the chow) ate the chicken. On the third day, Missy let me coax her out to eat the chicken. After a couple of days, she let me touch her.
She was tense, but I kept my voice soft, and always approached her slowly and at her level. I would sit on the ground or the floor 3 or 4 feet from her and not look at her directly. Then she would approach me for food. It took about a week, and she would let me put a leash on her. She was too sick to act up.
We went to the vet. I won't go into all the medical care, but it took 3 months to clear up her skin with about 1-1/2 hours of work every other day. It was a month before she took interest in being petted. Then she liked me and my husband but no one else.
Got some dog books from the library:
"Don't shoot the dog" by Karen Pryor.
Started positive reinforcement training. When she did something I didn't like, I just ignored it. You train one thing at a time, rewarding the dog when they do even a small part of what you want. It's great! I have rehabilitated 24 dogs in the last 10 years and found homes for them.
Missy, was the hardest, however, due to the abuse and her breed.
For dominant dogs, it really helps to hand feed them until they are accepting you as the leader. I did this with Missy. Let her eat her food one handful at a time out of my open palm. Once she did that easily, training was much easier.
Shooting your gun or yelling at your dogs will just get their nervous systems wound up to such a high pitch that they don't hear a thing you say. They think there's some big danger around because you are "barking" so loudly! So they bark and growl more--trying to scare off the danger, which is the normal thing for dogs to do.
I would really try hand feeding them. You need to do at least 5 minutes of training every day with each dog. MOre if you can.
After I got 4 dogs, I couldn't build a fence that keeps them in. I read in a Cornell Veterinary College bulletin to keep the dogs in the house when I was gone. The dogs stay cleaner, so the house stays cleaner. They are in their "den" so they are calm. IF they do bark, it doesn't bother the neighbors of people walking by.
I set aside one room, dog-proofed it, and put their beds and water bowl there. I also left lots of toys--Kong toys are great--you fill them with peanut butter and kibble, and it takes dogs hours to get everything out of the inside.
On work days, a neighbor comes over and lets them out in the yard for half and hour. I dog sit for her when she goes on vacation.
Another good book is
Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog by Pat B. Miller Pat writes the dog training column for Whole Dog Journal. Her advice is practical, easy and works. Her book only costs about $14 on Amazon.com
The Karen Pryor book only costs about $9.00. If you can just get one, get Pat Miller's book. Karen Pryor's book give the background of positive training and how you can use it in your human relations.
It took about 3 years, but Missy the Chow dog began to love people. She lets strangers pet her. She almost never barks.
It took another 3 years to be able to cut her nails. Pat Miller's book will tell you how to do that. I started by leaving the nail clippers by her bowl. Then, gradually, I touched her on the back, rewarding her each time with a treat. For a couple of years, I only cut one nail at a time. Dogs that did not have their paws handled as puppies take a long time to get used to nail grooming. Now, I could cut all 4 paws at once, but that's pretty stressful, so I just do one paw at a time, with her dinner bowl in sight. As soon as nail clipping is done, she gets dinner.
Your dogs already like you, but you and they do not know how to communicate with each other. Positive training is based on what really works. Shock collars will make your dogs more wound up.
You see those killer whales that do all those tricks? That is done with positive training. You can't yell at, hit, or put a shock collar on a killer whale. But people manage to get them to do incredible things by using positive training.
Good luck. A dog trainer or a dog training class with a positive reinforcement trainer would really help.
The positive training class I took is one of the best investments of time and money I ever made. Suddenly, I started noticing positive things my family, friends and coworkers were doing, rather than the negative. Paying attention to the positive things caused people to do more of them. It really helped me in all areas of my life. I grew up in a family that only noticed the negative. My parents would say, "You'll know you're doing the right thing because we won't say anything." It took me quite a while to start noticing the positive in my dogs and rewarding it, and ignoring what I didn't like, but once I did, it was easy.
I hope this helps.