I have a 2 yr old min pin mix. He was a rescue. He has problems approaching people including me and have a hard time letting other people pet him. When we go to the dog park, he would follow me and listen to me. When I come home, he would be really happy and jump on me. But when I try to reach towards him, he pulls pack. He doesn't like to be chased or picked up. He would let me pet him only if I move very slowly and at least bent down. At night, he would cuddle with me. When I feed him and I'm right next to the bowl, he would not approach until I walk away. How do I fix this problem? I have tried not using eye contact and move very slowly but that doesn't work. He just naturally don't like to be approached or handled by a human being.
Thank you for contacting All Experts,
And thank you for opening your heart and home to a rescue dog!. Rescue dogs often come with a baggage, but with loads of love and some time, they get to bloom into wonderful dogs. These are cases where you get to enjoy the improvements and reap the rewards. In cases as such, slow and steady wins the race, baby steps are needed and you must be very observant in not pushing things too far. In training lingo, we like to say not to push the dog "over threshold." Generally, going too fast creates setbacks, and this is a common reason why owners report that behavior modification is not working. I hope you don't mind reading a few articles to delve deeper in the issue. For a read about threshold levels, see the following article:
Understanding the meaning of threshold also entails paying close to body language and signs of stress. If you see signs of stress, this is often an indication that you are going too fast and pushing the dog over threshold. Turid Rugaas has a wonderful book on calming signals I recommend all dog owners to have. It's called "On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals" and has lots of pictures. These articles will introduce you to some basics on dog body language 101,calming signals and displacement behaviors:
Your dog will also need to learn to trust you. Without a foundation of trust, things can get more challenging. There are many ways you can build a foundation of trust so your dog feels safe around you. Here are a few tips:
Now that we touched some building blocks, lets take a closer look at some of the behaviors you are observing.
Problems approaching people: this is not at all uncommon. We're used to thinking of dogs loving people and looking forward to being around them, but not all dogs are social butterflies. Just like people, some are more on the reserved side, some people love mingling with others, others prefer quiet evenings at home reading a book. By nature, many min pins are rather standoffish towards people they do not know. Forcing an interaction, when it's not enjoyed, only makes problems worse. Many dogs do not crave attention and may dislike being looked at and having people loom over them to pet them. Instead of having people trying to pet him, I would encourage them to not make eye contact and talk to him for now but to instead toss a treat past his shoulders instead of hand-feeding it. Here is a helpful game for dogs who aren't much confident near people:
Now, with interactions with you, you mention you try to reach towards him but he pulls back. This is another common behavior seen in insecure dogs. This is often referred to as approach/avoidance behavior. Your dog may wish to interact, but then goes into avoidance and feels in conflict. This article tackles this issue:
Many dogs, especially the little ones, of course, do not like to be picked up. Some may move away, others may even engage in defensive behaviors. You do not want him to get to the point where he becomes defensive, to avoid this, read this:
To teach that wonderful things happen when your dog makes eye contact with you, try this:
This is an article about how the world may feel in the eyes of a little dog:
And finally, to get him to eat his meals with you nearby, try sitting on the couch and placing the food bowl next to you on the floor (not in front of you) instead of staying by the food bowl and possibly staring at him with yourself in front of him. Try to not look at him and move very little to not startle him. This should teach him that he can eat with you nearby and nothing bad happens. If he doesn't move it a bit farther. When he's done, toss a high value treat in the food bowl, followed by another one past his shoulders. I hope this helps and I hope you are not overwhelmed by all this information!! My very best wishes!
Disclaimer:all answers provided are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary, nutritional or behavioral advice. If your dog is sick or has a behavior issue, please seek out a professional for a hands-on assessment and treatment plan. By reading my answers you accept this disclaimer.