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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yet another newbie human question.


Our JoJo has taken to cowering. Although she did it when we first adopted her, she's been doing it more and more lately.

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Prime example</span>: We had someone knock at the door a little bit ago. She, of course, was at the front door, and as I got closer to answer it, she crouched down close to the floor, lowered her head to the bottom corner of the door and turned her face back towards me a little bit, almost like please don't get mad at me.
No way could I get mad at her...she was just looking out the front door.

<span style="text-decoration: underline">Another example</span>: It's time for us to run some quick errands and she needs to get into her crate. There are times that she'll just go in and sleep, or go in with a treat. She's never really given us any issues. But for weeks, when she knows it's time to go in, she cowers on the floor, even rolling over and showing us her belly. She REFUSES to go in and we end up having to coax her in with a treat, or helping her in. We've tried waiting patiently and telling her to go in. She'll lay there showing you her belly forever until you give up and put her in the crate or get a treat.


Is this a sign that she was abused at a past home? Or is this normal quirky behavior?? I feel so bad b/c it makes me feel like maybe she's scared of me...but she's very well-adjusted at all other times so I just don't get this at all.
 

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Welcome to the world of rescue baggage. These are obvious behaviors/reactions (cowering) that she learned/did prior to coming to you. Keep using positive re-enforcement with her and in time, it will change.

As for the rolling over and showing belly, she simply doesn't want you to leave. If a treat is what it takes to get her in, then use it. Our two always get treats before we leave the house.

Our Murphy HATED the crate to the point of biting, digging through the pan and chewing the wire. Treats would not work and he was VERY food driven. He finally got his wish and got the run-of-the-house. We never had problems after that.

Was it abuse? You may never know, so don't dwell on it. She is yours and has a good home now. Her new life history start with you.
 

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Ya, it's sad but true. That is probably why she was given up to begin with. The owner wasn't a very good parent to her. She was probably scolded and possibly hurt physically at a young age. It's really a shame and sad to see a dog act that way.

If I were in your shoes I would bring in a professional dog trainer. Find a good one who preferably has Beagle experience. Make sure you ask lots of questions on how they're going to approach the situation. I don't think it's going to be an easy fix but rather a long term process.
 

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I agree that it may be because of the past enviroment that she came from. However, you need to be careful not to reinforce the behavior by petting her or giving her treats while she is cowering if you want it to improve. She will then learn that when she cowers, she getting belly rubs and treats.
 

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Oreo was very skittish when I adopted him last July (my how time flies when it becomes furry!) so I do think he was mistreated in his prior life.

He's still a little jumpy at times but he's adjusted to the normal sounds of the house as well as my movements. It took a while though. Best thing is to pretend as though nothing ordinary has happened rather than reinforce the behavior by showing affection while she's scared.

Try varying your routine a little bit of when you put her in a crate. Do it a random times; even when you're not going to leave, put her in it for a few minutes so she knows that going in the crate isn't always associated with you leaving. Maybe even give her meals in the crate. Does she sleep in it? Oreo gets a well-stuffed Kong when I'm going to leave so that he's occupied while I leave.

I know it's frustrating and heart breaking to see her so scared but time and patience will be your greatest aid. Good luck; you'll do great!
 

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I'd never heard that about not being comforting when a dog is scared to not reinforce that behavior, but it sounds like it might work. So hard to hold yourself back when you want to comfort your pup, though
 

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Eve, I definitely agree that it's hard to hold back when you see your dog is scared or cowering!

What I was trying to say is to accentuate the positive - when she wags her tail or seems happy - talk to her in an excited voice, pet her, give a treat, etc. When she seems scared, try to distract her into a happier state, then reward the happy state.

Case in point - Oreo used to be very scared of passing cars when I first got him. He would cower and try to run away. So I would just stop walking and let him see that nothing bad happened. Then when we started walking again, I would praise him. Now he barely flinches at passing cars.
 

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Funny thing, Coco does the same thing when ever he is sitting & I lean over to pat his head. He always lowers his head as if he had been hurt before. I've had him since he was 4 months. Can it be that it's his personality or the breeder wasn't good to him?


In regards to the crate, he never was place in one and did (and still) what he wanted & wants


I agree with A Jolly Bengali, I usually distract him to get him into another state of mind whenever he acts scared.
 

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Originally Posted By: williebeagleI agree that it may be because of the past enviroment that she came from. However, you need to be careful not to reinforce the behavior by petting her or giving her treats while she is cowering if you want it to improve. She will then learn that when she cowers, she getting belly rubs and treats.
Please read this article by Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. [She received her doctorate in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin, researching communication between people and dogs. She is the owner of Dog's Best Friend, Ltd., which offers family dog training classes and treatment for serious behavioral problems and specializes in the evaluation and treatment of aggression in dogs. She is Assistant Adjunct Professor in Zoology at the University of Wisconsin, teaching The Biology and Philosophy of Human/ Animal Relationships.]:

Fear Reduction in Dogs

The article focuses on dogs' reactions to thunderstorms but read through to the end as Dr. McConnell extends her topic to address other fears. Hopefully, this will help to dispel the theory of withholding affection/treats for dogs who are experiencing fear.
 

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Judy...I read that article when it was published. I think Patricia McConnell makes a lot of sense. I have read all of her books and am impressed with her research and training techniques.
 

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I read the article and there are things I agree with and things that I don't. Thanks for the article though, its definately a different way to think of things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I do actually tend to pick her up when she's cowering at the front door. But that's more b/c I need to answer the door.
Could I stand there and be firm until she gets up, while I ask the person at the front door to wait a moment? Yes. And that's probably what I should be doing.
However, I think I have the mindset of a mom (I have two young children) and know that I comfort them when they're scared so I tend to do that with the dog, but only at the front door. When she rolls onto her belly before she goes into the crate, I stand firm.

Yesterday, I used a treat every time she had to go in, and started the process before she was able to cower. She was very receptive to this and didn't resist going in at all.
Ironically, the crate we use upstairs, she'll go into no problem. The downstairs crate, though, is the one we use when we have to run errands and that's the one she doesn't like to go into when she needs to. She will go in at random times during the day on her own, to sleep or eat a treat or just hang out. So I do think it's more of what Joe Beagles has said about her just not wanting us to leave. There are also times that we'll put her in there if we need her contained for a short time and she's fine with that, too.
I know it'll be a process. She's getting there. We've been working on the simple shake command and she's got that down pat. It's her favorite! And she's getting better about stay. Walks are getting better, but still a big struggle. I know I need to get to a trainer. But we are trying very hard here at home.


Now to work on her relationship with our cat....that's her new favorite thing...harrassing the cat.
 

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Sounds like you are doing excellent on your own and yes it is a process. You will be fine as long as you dont get frustrated, the dogs will pick up on that and become frustrated too. And who knows, maybe the cat enjoys being harrassed as much as she likes harassing the cat. LOL
 
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