Dogs/Dog afraid to go outside
We were trying to train my 12 year old mixed breed to a new underground fence. We thought she had the hang of the beep before shock but she aparently got buzzed and we saw her running for the house. Now, she will not go out during daylight hours. She shakes and cowers down. She will go out at night and in the morning when it is still dark. We have taken the collar off but I don't know how to correct this. I did get her out (panting, shaking and cowering) this afternoon then rewarded with a bone. Any advice?
Thank you for writing to me about your dog's traumatic experience. I am so sorry that this happened. I've heard so many similar stories over the years around these electric fences.
What you would have to do now is some desensitization or counter conditioning. To ease your dog's trauma, positive associations have to be formed with the prior negative ones.
Choose a treat, something incredibly delicious that your dog doesn't typically get. Use ONLY that treat for your training. Perhaps some slow baked chicken bits or cut up string cheese. I'm referring to very teeny pieces, perhaps the size of a pinky fingernail.
The process to be used is basically pairing something that was producing an unpleasant response (the shock from the fence) with something pleasant instead (special treats work well in this plan). Treats naturally help a dog relax because they cause the release of a pleasant chemical in the dog's brain.
Food is the best way to read your dog’s level of stress, fear and anxiety. If you are going too fast and your dog is not ready, she will stop taking treats if the level of fear is too high for her. If this happens you can take a step or two back in your training.
Come up with a plan for your dog. I would start with feeding your dog near the door to the yard. Next meal move it a little closer. Next meal open the door and let your dog eat by the threshold. If your dog cannot handle being that close to the yard, draw the bowl back a little. Let your dog guide you in terms of what she can handle. I would walk her in the street until she is more comfortable with being in the yard. Do not push her.
Once she is able to be closer to or in the yard, keep giving her treats and praise her as she is able to move around the yard without wanting to dash inside. You can work with a leash but don't force her because it can increase the fear.
Observe the distance where your dog shows mild to no response at all to the yard and in particular the area where she was shocked. If she reacts to the yard at a distance of 10ft, you need to move back and try a 20 or 30 ft distance. You need to work at the distance where your dog won’t show the signs of nervousness.
Once you have discovered that distance, that is the safety distance where you will start your training.
I would also like to suggest putting an anxiety wrap on her when you are introducing her to the yard again. This wrap tends to reduce a dog's anxiety to many triggers such as thunder (a big fear for many dogs).
You can also get some pure essential lavendar oil and put a couple of drops on a bandana and tie it loosely around her neck or put a drop on her collar.
The last suggestion is to give her some calming herbs. I recommend ProQuiet and TranQuil-Tabs. You might also speak to your vet about temporarily putting her on an anti-anxiety medication but note that it will take time to become effective.
Using a combination of these methods will get you your best results. There are many articles and videos on line that describe desensitizing your dog to a traumatic experience. Your dog currently associates the yard with what she perceives to be a horrific experience. It's going to take time, possibly a long time and a lot of patience on your part for her to feel safe again. She may never return to the girl she was prior to the trauma but she can most definitely improve and become less fearful.
I wish you the very best of luck.
ps- Please remember to rate your volunteer expert!