Archive

Posts Tagged ‘hoarding dogs’

The ASPCA opens a new center to help fearful dogs

March 14, 2013 17 comments

Various 2008 018Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.

If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.

This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come  those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).

Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.

I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?

Advertisements

Meet Debbie Jacobs! The Fearful Dogs’ Friend

January 20, 2011 13 comments

I have been wanting to interview Debbie Jacobs (from FearfulDogs.com) for some time now. Her dedication to helping fearful dogs and their owners makes her not only an interesting person but also a great one. But, I think she is a great resource for ANY dog owner. That’s why I wanted to highlight her on my blog. Read on to learn more about Debbie Jacobs and fearful dogs.

Debbie Jacobs CPDT-KA, CAP2, is the author of “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog”, which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition. This popular Ebook is now also available in hard copy.

She lives in Vermont with her husband and 4 dogs and created the fearfuldogs.com website to help owners and trainers learn about the most effective and humane ways to work with fearful dogs. She met her fearful dog Sunny, the inspiration for the fearfuldogs website at the Humane Society of Louisiana’s Camp Katrina after the hurricanes of 2005.

Debbie – Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. To start with…

What is a fearful dog?
Good question. Plenty of dogs are afraid of some things, some of the time. Being afraid helps keep animals alive. Zebras wouldn’t last long if they weren’t afraid of being eaten by lions. I use ‘fearful dog’ to describe dogs that suffer from anxiety related disorders or phobias.

What causes a dog to be fearful?
Certain medical conditions can cause dogs to behave fearfully. It is important to rule these out. Pain or injury can cause a dog to behave in a fearful way. If your back hurts when people pick you up, you might start acting afraid when you are going to be picked up. If your hips hurt you might try to avoid going up stairs.

A genetic predisposition can cause a dog to be fearful. Anyone who has raised children can attest to the fact that personalities in children can be observed from very young ages. Some kids rush right in, while others hang back. Dogs can be the same way. Since we cannot test for this and since many of us get our dogs as adults, we will never know if this is why our dog is fearful, shy or anxious.

Trauma and abuse can cause a dog to become fearful. Most people assume that a dog that behaves in a fearful way was beaten, hurt or abused. That well may have been the case but one of the leading causes of fear based behaviors in dogs is the following- The lack of adequate and appropriate socialization when the dog was a pup. There is a window of opportunity during which puppies need to be exposed, safely, to novel objects, situations, new people, sounds and experiences. If this doesn’t happen, there is no going back and ‘fixing’ it.

Are there certain characteristics or behaviors people are more likely to see in a fearful dog?
Most people can identify when dogs are afraid if they cower, hide or run away. These are ‘big’ behaviors that are easy to notice. There are many other ‘smaller’ more subtle behaviors that dogs perform which indicate varying degrees of fear or discomfit. A dog might yawn, lick their lips, lower their head, turn their head, tuck their tail, squint or close their eyes, freeze, pant, drool, shed, sweat from their paws, pee or roll over. A dog behaving in an overt aggressive manner is often afraid. When we see aggression in dogs it can be scary to us and we are less inclined to empathize with the dog. Most dogs go through a series of attempts to make whatever scares them go away or leave them alone, When it doesn’t work they may begin to escalate toward a more aggressive response. This is not an attempt to ‘dominate’ their owner, a stranger or other dog, it’s how a dog says, “Really, I mean it, back off.”

How does a fearful dog’s behavior differ from a “normal” dog?
In some cases a fearful dog can behave like other dogs that are not fearful. If a dog is not exposed to the things that scare them, they may be happy and confident. It is only around these things that their fear based behavioral responses are seen. Dogs without problematic anxiety or fear, typically recover quickly from being scared or startled. A fearful dog may need a longer time to recover from a scary episode. Fearful dogs’ behavior will often get worse, rather than better the more they are exposed to things that scare them.

You help a lot of people with fearful dogs, what are some of the common issues you come across?
Common issues for the dogs include; fear of people, other dogs or novelty (sudden changes in their environment)
Common issues for owners include; a lack of understanding of how to handle dogs that are afraid. They usually don’t realize the time, energy and patience their dog is going to require in order to develop more confidence.

What are some common mistakes people make when working with their fearful dog (i.e., one they adopted)?
In general most owners put too much pressure on their dogs without understanding how counter conditioning and desensitization are used. They try to change their dog’s behavior rather than try to change their dog’s emotional response. Change the emotion and the behavior usually changes along with it. People often want and need their dog to behave a certain way and use force or coercion to get these behaviors from their dog. Dogs are punished, corrected, yelled at and generally scared, in the name of ‘training’.

So what are some basic things an owner can do to help/work with a fearful dog?
Understanding triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization provides the foundation for the work with do with our fearful dogs. To begin with, stop putting your dog in situations in which the dog is afraid. A dog will not learn to feel good about something or someone until they stop being scared by it. Each fearful response just makes it more likely that that response will be repeated in the future. Our fearful dogs’ brains have become very good at being scared and easily startled. We need to stop having them practice that. Keep your dog in situations in which the dog feels safe and never feels the need to run or resort to aggressive behavior to protect themselves. Only when you understand how rewards are used to change how our dogs feel should you begin to expose your dogs to its triggers. Figure out what rocks your dog’s world. What do they love to do, what makes them feel great? Give them as many opportunities during the day to experience these activities. Building a positive, trusting relationship with your dog is also key. Few of us would want to hang out with someone who always made us do things that scared us. Why would our dogs?

What videos/blog posts/etc (from your website) would you recommend a new fearful dog owner check out?
Owners should visit fearfuldogs.com and click through the site. There’s lots of information and resources. The first step to changing our fearful dogs’ brains usually includes changing ours.

My many thanks to Debbie Jacobs for this interview!

As an added note, I would also recommend you check out Debbie’s blog. She not only shares some great food for thought (applicable to all dog owners), but also some additional info for owners with fearful dogs. It’s also a great place to meet other people with fearful dogs. We’ve created a nice little community of support there which has been greatly helpful to so many people, including ,myself.

%d bloggers like this: