Nabbing Nibbles

No recall is complete if you can’t get your hands on the dog.

I am continuing to try to get footage of Nibbles as we take the journey from fearful foster dog to playful pet dog (who needs a forever home BTW). I apologize that I haven’t improved my wardrobe.

When I interact with any dog I always think about how my behavior is going to 1) affect our relationship and 2) what the dog is going to learn from it. Most of the ‘work’ I have done with Nibbles has been done on a day to day, interaction by interaction basis, as opposed to structured training sessions. My goal has been to help Nibbles feel more comfortable and safe with me. As he’s become more comfortable with me, his behavior has changed.

I held off on doing this kind of leash work with Nibbles until I saw that he was not fearful of the interaction. When I did finally get around to doing structured sessions with him he was already ahead of the game. We start off in his pen with me sitting down, then I stand up and finally work with him outside his pen. I can call Nibbles when we are outside and get a hold of his collar and put a leash on him. This is an important skill for any pet dog.


15 comments so far

  1. Jen on

    Yaaay, Nibbles! He’s such a good student! It’s nice to see these achievements.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Thanks Jen. He’s a resilient little dog who really tries hard. Next we need to start working on riding in the car.

  2. Jen on

    It seems like they do try hard, once they realize it’s worth it. From what I’ve seen from peoples’ rescue stories and wonderful videos (like yours!)

    Oh, the car. Elka really likes short car trips (going to the store, going to the vet), but longer ones (going to see the family in NJ), she starts drooling and hurling at about the half hour mark. She does so quietly and calmly, laying in the back, she doesn’t bark or try to jump around, but I still feel so very bad for her. We’ve been doing slightly longer times in the car, so she could get more acclimated to it.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      Some people give their dog ginger to help calm their stomachs.

  3. Alan on

    I just came by to check on what you have been doing recently and to give you an update on Dany D, Dog.

    It looks like little Nibbles is doing great!

    Your blog has been invaluable to me in working with Dany. I have never had a dog that exhibited as much fear as she did. Even with the excellent advice and demonstrations you provide, I have to admit that there were a couple of times I seriously thought of throwing in the towel and taking Dany back to the shelter…I’m glad I didn’t!

    I got Dany on a low dose, 15mg daily, of Prozac and it has helped reduce the constant level of fear she seemed to have. I can work with her and get into some counter conditioning.

    One of Dany’s fears, originally, was new people. She would stand off or try to find a place to hide but was never aggressive at all. She would sometimes try to sneak in a very quick sniff but shy away if the person tried to pet her. That has all changed in a big way! In fact, I really can’t predict if she will shy away from a new person or run up to them, tail wagging, and want to play! I can say that any new person she meets will soon be one of her favorite people if they just pat her on the head…she has lots of favorite people now.

    I noticed not too long ago that Dany very quickly will associate “scary sounds” with objects. That came to light one day when I opened a soda can! When I took the soda out of the fridge, Dany couldn’t care less but as soon as she heard the “psssttt” when I opened it, every soda can became scary to her…we have since worked through that one! Now, I have a “sound socialization” CD and Dany is actually able to ignore the sounds but objects still bother her sometimes. One of the “objects” that she thought was scary was an air hose here at work. She would not go near it and always eyed it with suspicion as we walked in that direction. By encouraging her to “investigate” it over and over again, she no longer has the slightest fear of it.

    Another thing I found is that Dany is more willing to do things while on her leash than if she is roaming free. That realization has helped me work with her more…now, Dany will go into PetSmart even though she still eyes the automatic doors with great suspicion and kind of “bolts” through them.

    The short of it all is that you inspired me to keep trying. Dany is almost a perfect dog for the house and is on her way to being a good companion for camping I think…one thing I have to do is find a way to work on her “dog manners”…she tends to irritate other dogs and they get tired of her pretty quick.

    Again, thank you for your blog!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for the update on Dany. You are learning a lot about behavior from her that’s for sure. Nice to hear things are going so well. It often just continues to get easier and easier.

  4. Kim on

    Great job, Nibbles! Thanks for sharing the video on this one. Daisy runs away when we show her a leash…this should help us work through this!!!

    Any ideas for fear-related pulling on sidewalks? Daisy doesn’t take treats outside, so it’s hard for us to reinforce her positive actions other than with lots of verbal praise and baby steps…

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Kim. I’d suggest changing the way you think about the situation. Instead of thinking about rewarding behaviors you like (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I’d be thinking about how to break up the experience or create a routine so that you are addressing the emotion not the behavior. Think about the conditions that cause the pulling. Can you change them? Can Daisy walk on leash when scary things aren’t around? What skills and behaviors can you practice so that when something scary appears she knows something else to do that will help alleviate her fear, but does not involve pulling? We can’t just keep putting our dogs in situations which scare them and hope they’ll learn to be cool with them. Either they do, or they don’t, and if they don’t we need to change our approach.

      • Kim on

        Thanks for the ideas…sorry for my delayed response.

        Per my comment today, it seems like there are so many triggers outside, it’s tough to change the conditions. We try to avoid as many triggers as possible, though. We go outside early/late when there’s no traffic, we try to have doggy play dates scheduled so she can play and enjoy being outside. We take her on hikes in the suburbs instead of walks around the city.

        If she’s near a bike and leans away from it, that’s great. Separation is good. But she can’t avoid every trigger that way…wind, cars, people speaking foreign languages, bikes…and when there’s a combination of factors at play, it’s tough to break them up. She gets overwhelmed. And at that point, it’s hard for her to pay attention…she’s in the fear zone.

        We have been doing a lot to break up the whole experience on the leash, concentrating on work inside, where she can pay attention to us without fear. We spend a lot of time walking around the house, feeding her meals, working on basic skills, all with her leash on, just to keep the routine upbeat. And we play/snuggle a lot with the leash on.

        The pulling seems to be part of her flight response…as soon as she’s within a block of our apartment, she’ll drag us home. Is that normal?

    • fearfuldogs on

      Here’s how I think about fearful dogs. I need to do whatever I can to lower the stress and anxiety they are experiencing, as much as possible. A dog who is afraid of being outside is not just experiencing fear ‘when’ they are outside but also is experiencing anxiety before they go out, or when predictors occur which indicate that going outside is forthcoming. It sounds that one of those predictors for your dog is a full bladder. That has got to be a rough way to live.

      If I cannot manage the triggers my dog is exposed to I would be speaking with a vet about behavioral meds to help them out. Just feeding a dog treats in the presence of their triggers is not necessarily counter conditioning. There are plenty of people who go to work each week, pick up their check and still hate their job.

  5. Deborah Flick on

    Absolutely brilliant demonstration of desensitization and counter-conditioning. I just loved watching Nibble’s emotional response change from wary to “come on already, attache my leash!”

    Kudos to both of you.


    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Deborah. It was very nice to have him start moving toward me instead of away. Those are sweet moments with a fearful dog.

  6. Kay Liestman on

    Thank you for these training videos. It’s great to see Nibbles’ progress and it reminds me that Mattie is progressing, too–it just takes time.

  7. Mel on

    Really helpful. I think my problem is I have been skipping a few steps to allow of her to get outside for potty breaks. I need to start again starting today.

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