Canine Behavior/Anxiety?


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. Also, when he gets scared, he tried to hide under my bed. Should I block that access to prevent him from going under my bed?

First: temporary quick fix:  DO NOT approach this dog directly with "intention" to touch and never pick him up.  You are seeing a strong conditioned fear response.  "Rescue" dogs are such FOR A REASON.  We usually begin to see that "reason" after the first three weeks to first six weeks after re-homing.  Instead of going him with attention, try this:  as you walk in his direction, no direct eye contact, no use of his name, no speech at all from you. Walk on a curve, slowly, and as you pass him drop a high value treat (bit of string cheese) right in front of him.  He may not "find" it so easily, he's not bred for that (sight/nose) but he will know it's there and he will then begin to anticipate that your approach/passing is highly rewarding. Do this three to five times a day when he is relaxed (not ASLEEP) for the next week until you see the dog understands that your approach/passing is rewarding (and you will know this when you see it).

Second:  There is NO REASON anyone needs to "pet" your dog.  He is not there for their entertainment and it will take quite a while of counter conditioning for him to accept a treat from "just" anyone.  This dog was not socialized, most likely, to humans; or he has had (as I said earlier) many "bad" experiences.  Don't even try it.  He's far from acceptance and he may never be but that's okay, he just needs to trust YOU.

Third:  Do not "reach" for him, NEVER CHASE HIM for any reason.  If you need him to be available instantly, put a very lightweight "cat" leash on him (only when you are at home); walk toward him at a curve, eyes averted; step on the leash; squat down, make no eye contact, let him approach you no matter how long it takes.  WHEN he does this, "jackpot" (bunch of string cheese bits) and then let him walk away (do not get up until he does).

Fourth: A great many dogs will NOT eat so long as a Human is standing next to them, this is a statement of social hierarchy: the lower the dog's self perception in social hierarchy, the less likely he will eat if you are standing there or even take treats directly from your hand.  This is a NON ISSUE.  Simply put his food down (2x daily) and walk away.  Once he has eaten and left the area, pick up the bowl.

Fifth:  Your dog follows you at the dog park and "listens" to you because he is afraid; he has not been socialized to other dogs, you are the highest in social hierarchy in his world, he does not know how to "play" with other dogs (most likely).  I suggest no dog park until I have more information.

That information is (copy/paste answers and use followup feature):

1.  Where did you get the dog
2.  Was he an owner release to a rescue organization or dumped and picked up by animal control, then taken by rescue group
3.  Do you know anything about his past - people LIE when they "dump" a dog but even lies are better than nothing
4.  How long have you owned him
5.  WHY do you pick him up?
6.  WHY do you CHASE him?
7.  Define "when he gets scared"....why does this happen, what is going on when this happens, who is scaring him, etc.
8.  Did you keep the "name" he came you use his name when you are frustrated or angry

I'm "blind in one eye" without further info and the more you can tell me the more I can help you to help this dog.

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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