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Canine Behavior/My dog won't go in recently purchased house

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QUESTION: My dog won't go in the house next door that I just bought. She is a 12 year old yellow labrador and has been with me since she was 2months old. We have moved a couple of times before and she never had this issue. I tried tricking her with cookies and food with no luck. She wouldn't even go up the front steps. I carried her inside once. She walked around for a minute and then went back to the front door and lay down. I want her to feel comfortable since this is going to be our future home. Any suggestions?

ANSWER: Please answer the following questions:

*  Who lived in that house
*  Did your dog have ANY INTERACTION with them that you know of
*  Did those owners have animals (dogs, cats, etc.)
*  Has anything occurred in that house (police presence) which may have frightened her
*  Have you had an exterminator examine the house for rodent infestation, bats, etc.
*  Is there a gas furnace and, if so, has it recently been seriously evaluated
*  Describe in detail what happened when you first attempted to bring the dog in, including YOUR  reactions to her hesitancy

Your answers will help me to get an "eye" on the situation.  A dog under emotional stress will not "bait" (accept treats).  If the value of the treat is quite high, the dog might accept the treat but then you will be REWARDING FEAR.  Before rewarding a dog for behavior, you have to know what the dog is thinking and read its body language, otherwise you are rewarding the "wrong" thing.

*  Has anything in your household changed (new partner, divorce/separation, children, new family members added).

Give as much info as possible.  Meanwhile: DO NOT FORCE THIS DOG to go into this house (unless you have no choice because you sold or vacated the house next door).  Use a DIFFERENT DOOR from the one she shies from.  Feed her twice daily AT THE THRESHOLD OF THAT DOOR, OUTDOORS, by hand if you must.  She might refuse being fed for a few days but, by then, you will have answered the questions and I will have attempted to understand the dynamics and help you to correct them.  ALSO:  if you have a digital camera, have someone with you (dog on leash) to take photos of the dog as it approaches the dreaded house.  You can upload photos to Photobucket and share them, or just send me one (imbedded) so I can read your dog's body language.

Please use FOLLOWUP FEATURE to respond since I am then able to see your original question and my answer.  Thank you.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Jill,
Thank you for your reply. I'm very confused as to what's going on with my dog. She is always very happy, likes people more than other dogs and walks in to all my friends houses like it it was hers. This is the first time I've seen her frighten and shivering. When I try to walk in with her, I'm very encouraging and playful with her. Never get angry. I'm working on feeding her at the threshold. Hopefully it will help. A little history about the house. The previous owners were an older couple in their 80's that bought the house about 20years ago and had a mentally challenged son. During the 90's the house was abandoned, used as a crack house and occupied by homeless people until part of it burned down. After that, the city renovated it and sold it to the couple that sold it to me. Currently, I'm renovating it completely. There was a strong musty odor that seemed like they never let the air in. Not sure if my dog had a problem with the smell.  Once finished, all the appliances will be electric. Right now there are two gas appliances (water heater and dryer). As far as I know, there was never police presence but the EMS was constantly showing up. They didn't have any pets and there no signs of rodents. Do you think there could be a presence in the house. Can dogs feel it? Thanks again for your help.

Answer
The musty odor might be a contributing factor....black mold is deadly.  Any gas leak your nose can't detect the dog can, also, so gas appliances need to be switched out ASAP but, if you are actually LIVING in the house, call in the local supplier (propane or gasline) to check for carbon dioxide.  It has no odor to us (which is why it's deadly) but the dog's sense of smell is somewhere about 200X greater than ours (and there is conjecture that it is even higher in certain breed types).

Is there a "presence" in the house.....I'm going out on a limb here but I can tell you from personal experience the answer MIGHT be "yes".  You send me a private question (I do not usually answer private questions because they set me up for extremely bad feedback, a trick some people use just to do that) and I will tell you how to eliminate the possibility of such.  

Feed the dog on the threshold; if she refuses to eat, feed her only high value treats and only when she is paying attention to YOU and no longer visibly fearful.  You accomplish this by: walking the dog in figure eights, tight at first, then broadening to circle left, then right.  Circling changes brain waves (in you, too).  Carry Tic Tacs or Altoids and pop one in your mouth because at this point you are anxious, also.  Carry a squeaky toy the dog never gets to see or touch or interact with unless outside this house, walking the house structure outside, and only when she is totally relaxed after her "circles".  When you have circled, and dog's body posture is relaxed, you can attempt to hand feed her part of her two daily meals or you can opt for a very high value food reward she gets ONLY when she is "performing" with you, fearlessly, near this house and its thresholds.  As gross as it sounds, the Oscar Mayer cheese weiner happens to be quite a high value food reward for most dogs.  Once the dog's FEAR is side tracked by the circling and "attention", a small chunk or two of such "treat" is a great reward.  Then ask for "sit".  Be upbeat, sing a happy song, be sure the dog is still relaxed, then walk away.

Let's do this for the upcoming weekend.  Report back Monday with any results.  As for private question, ask any time.  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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