HomeBabysittingOverly Sensitive and Skittish Dog Wont Learn?
Posted in Babysitting on 11th June 2011

Overly Sensitive and Skittish Dog Wont Learn?
I have a 2.5 yr. old Australian Shepherd/Labrador Retriever female named Joey. I’ve had her, her entire life since she was 6 wks. old. When she was 12 wks. old, she was put into Puppy Classes, then about 3 wks. later was taken out, as she was not excelling at-all in the class. She was then socialized by being taken to parks, schools, stores, etc. with other people and dogs, and did great that way. But still had shown skittish behavior. When she was 6 mo. old, she was enrolled in Obedience Classes, but once again, had been taken out around 3 wks. as she was not doing good at-all, and hadnt learned anything.
I’ve been fostering dogs and training them for over 6 yrs. now. And have -never- had a dog like this. I’ve had dogs who were beaten, starved, abandon… Pretty much everything, and have never had a dog that was this overly sensitive, clingy and skittish. Especially when she hasnt had a bad life. She is -never- spanked, yelled at, or has been hit at-all. There has been no changes in the home since we had gotten her, such as moving, new dogs, baby, etc. So it’s not an environmental factor.
I have been using the Clicker Training Method to train all my dogs. Joey was able to learn “sit” and “down” using this method. But everytime she is given the commands (I dont use that stern of a voice when talking to her) she pees as she performs it. If she doesnt do the commands, she just decides to get even more clingier than she already is.
She behaves very well if left at home. But is usually taken with me everywhere I go. And also does very well being left alone in the car. We do have 2 other dogs that she gets along greatly with. So isnt left alone whenever I do have to leave her at home or she’s in the car when I run to the store.

SO… My question is, is how should I go about training her, since she is -very- sensitive, clingy and skittish? If you’ve ever had a dog like this, please let me know if you were able to train them, etc.

Thanks for reading!!
Joey was gotten to be a therapy dog. She loves other people, and I have worked with her in my sessions with my mentally impaired patients, and they love her, as she does them. She does go for several walks a day (I take her on a 4 mi. walk to town, take her to the stores, parks, etc. then head home.) all the walks I take her on are quite long, and she loves them.
She’s in no way shape, or form a stubborn dog, just very skittish. So it’s not a problem about her listening, it’s just her being very afraid of alot of things. But she will be continued to be worked with, Im just not entirely sure how to correct the “problems” she does have.

Best answer(s):

Answer by HAGAR!!!
I hope you come up with a good answer here. I adopted a dog that is about 8 years old and she has the same issues. She is a yellow lab/husky mix and she is great around kids. But when it comes to playing with a ball or just wrestling, she refuses.

Answer by Jade
Dog’s can be very stubborn at times, just like my dog used to be. But if you want her to listen you have to be more strict with her. Yeah I know sometimes it can be hard when they give you those adorable little puppy eyes but still just be the boss. When she does what she is supposed to do give er a treat. But if she doesn’t just give her a little flick/tap on the nose. Dogs do not like that. So continue to be strict and try to train her. Also stop taking on car rides, I mean you can just not as often the more clingier the more spoiled especially with out training. So just try doing what I said it and it should work! :]
peace out-
Jade =)

Answer by Kelle
It’s all in the breeding. With a sensitive, skittish dog you have to be very patience and take whatever time is needed.

Answer by T
I had a similar experience with my dog in the beginning. he is a cattle dog mix and he is very sensitive and used to be afraid of men and kids especially. He was in general very shy around people and really clingy to me. I have done a lot of work with him and now he is a therapy dog, and has his cgc and tdi certifications. It can take quite a commitment and a bit of time and exercise with a shy dog.

1st thing I would do if she does something wrong is, rather than using even the slightest corrective tone of voice, just ignore her. Turn right around and walk away if she pees. That is punishment enough for her since she is so attached to you. She is looking for your approval.

2nd thing would be to make a ritual of a 30 minute walk in the morning, and/or plan to take her to a unique place every day Coffee Shops with outdoor tables are always great for dogs like her. People love to help shy dogs and feel proud of themselves if they can make a connection in any way. I would often carry really good treats and anyone interested in my dog I would ask them to give him a treat and not look him in the eyes or try to pet him. My dog learned (a little too well) that strangers have the best cookies.

3rd, in combination with the first 2, so she is a herding breed mix? You have a whip smart dog just hiding under that shell. So practice (without any frustration, just keep things really fun) teaching her some cool tricks. About 15 minutes a day, try to teach her how to wave, or spin, rollover or something just to give her a sense of accomplishment and boost her confidence. I really love the book 101 dog tricks by Kyra Sundance. It has easy step by step guides for each trick and my dog has learned to do several things including bring me a tissue if i say achoo. The reason a say practice trick training every day is teaching tricks are fun and lighthearted, and if you are having fun, then the dog senses it and has fun as well and is just more at ease. Its not the same as sit, down, ect.

4th- Being a skittish girl, its a must that you act as her protector. With my dog, when I saw kids racing up to him like they wanted to jump on him, I had to be quick and assertive and tell them to stop in their tracks, and show them how to properly approach a dog. If I had to, i would jump otu in front of them in order to protect them and my dog from a bad interaction. I knew if I hadnt communicated that to the kids, my dog would have felt forced to tell them he is uncomfortable in the only way an animal knows how (growling, snapping, biting). Something, thankfully he has never come close to doing no matter how scared he was. Just remember to be her protector. She needs to trust you will not bring her into a situation where she will be harmed. She just needs that constant reinforcement.

5th….be calm in most everything you do with her. Dogs often mirror their owners. Its funny, but if you go to the dog park it quite interesting to take note. Anxious dogs have anxious owners. Defensive dogs have defensive owners. However you are feeling, she is sensing and feeding off of it. I guarantee doing all or at least some of the above can help her to feel better about herself and that is what you want. She will probably always have a little skiddishness in her but when someone really commits to their dog, changes in behavior do happen, so best of luck 😉

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