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Canine Behavior/Dog is suddenly scarred


Hi Jill,
I have a black lab who is a typical dog. Last night while I was cooking, she started pacing and running around like she did something bad. I scoured the house for anything she may have done and nothing was wrong. When I finished my check, I notice that she's hiding from something. I go over to comfort her for a few seconds and go back to what I was doing. When I finish, I notice that she's hiding in the tub. She refuses to come out. Fast forward to this morning and she managed to get enough courage to make it to my room and she just stares at me while sitting next to my bed. I finally let her up and she sleeps like normal. When I get up I try to get her off and she refuses. She shakes when I try to move her and when I close the door she hesitantly gets down. I let her go potty (which she hated the walk through the living room) and then she won't go back inside. I have never seen her afraid like this. She's a hunting dog that has no problems with loud sounds or anything. I'm just not sure what's going on or how go get her out and into the living room acting normal. As I type, she's in the tub. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

SOMETHING caused this and, to the dog, it was something HUGE.  BTW...going around the house to see "what she did" is a normal response but let me tell you this:  a dog does not "remember" it "did" anything "wrong" unless we point and make a big deal out of it in which case the dog only knows we're angry and it has something to do with whatever is "wrong" in our minds and the dog, itself.  So let's not do that.

Trying to comfort a dog that is in absolute emotional agony is a normal, humane response.  You are a loving and caring owner.  Unfortunately, what you have done is legitimize the dog's fear ("good dog, be afraid").  So let's do this:

Do nothing to try to entice the dog out of the bathtub or to make the bathtub a really unhappy place (by filling it).  Put a very lightweight leash on the dog (cut off handle) so you can use that leash to lead her outdoors.  You must have another door (back door?? or garage door??) you can use to bring the dog outside.  For the next few days, I would like you to use ANOTHER DOOR.  I want you to go OUT with the dog.  The moment her feet reach the outdoors (and she should now be on long leash, no choker collar), pop a tidbit of something really good (hot dog) into her mouth and just wait for her to make the next move.  Stand there.  Do nothing, say nothing.  Let her decide to go further and eliminate.  Praise.  Now slowly make your way back through the "other" door.  As her feet PASS OVER THE THRESHOLD back into the house, pop another hotdog bit into her mouth.

When she's in the house, just let her do whatever she pleases (even if she appears terrified).  You can't "fix" this by attempting to soothe her.  You must demonstrate a happy, carefree and FEAR free attitude.  At this point, you are obviously (and understandably) upset!  The dog reads your body language and smells your adrenaline and this is making her strong conditioned fear response worse.  IGNORE HER FEAR.  If (and when) she attempts to come out of "hiding" and approaches the living room, don't look at her, don't use her name, just have a "party".  Laugh, be casual, sing a little song.  Let her make her own decision about whether or not to come into the living room.  

Report back Monday using the followup feature.  She was "hiding from something" and we may never know what that was/is.  Rack your brain: have you seen or heard evidence of "little visitors"?  Is there even the smallest clue?  Our job is now to restore this dog to her normal self.  And we will do this.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


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.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, 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.

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

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

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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