1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    How to get my dog to not be afraid of wet things and the dark?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Link the Writer, Jul 17, 2010.

    Backstory: My beagle mix, Howie, had a serious back problem a year ago and I had to take him in for surgery. The vet told me that I can't let him strain too hard or else his back will go out again, that also means going out to the doggie restroom to do #2. (If I don't let him out enough, he could get constipated.)

    So far, it was doing well until a few months ago where he, for some unexplained reason, decided that he hated being wet. When it rains, he refuses to budge out from the garage, and even afterwards, he doesn't want to go out because he'll be stepping on puddles, wet grass and dirt.

    It's gotten to the point where he pretty much listens to his fear rather than doing what he's supposed to do. (Even when it's clear he needs to go)

    He's also afraid of the dark as well. I used to wake up very early, just before sunrise and take him outside. We'd go around the backyard, but there's one portion of the yard, where it's nearly pitch-black, he just won't go in. He pulls back on his leash.

    So what I have to do now is take him out on a leash, not because it makes him comfortable, but so that he can actually have a chance to go rather than stand at the door, not moving a muscle. Oh, and I do this when the sun's out.

    What can I do? Why is he so afraid of the wet grass and the dark? How can I get him to stop?
     
  2. Lavarian
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    Lavarian Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing you could try is physically putting him in whichever place, then squatting down next to him and comforting him. Tell him he's a good boy and pet him. Maybe even give him a treat if he actually goes.
     
  3. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    This seems quite unique. My dog is afraid of anything that makes a suck/blowing noise. This includes vuvuzelas, vacuum cleaners etc. I've heard of lots of doggy phobia, but never the wet or the dark. First, don't get him to confront his fears, this'll make things worse.

    Also, and this is just speculation, I'd consider getting his eyes checked. Dogs generally have very good sight in the dark. It confuses me as to how it can be afraid of the dark, when, theoretically, dogs are never in it. I may be wrong about this. No doubt cogito may correct me if so.

    As for the wet thing I have no idea. Has your dog ever been in the ocean? I know it contradicts something I just said but... well I have this friend, his dog was afraid of swimming, so he threw it in, right off a pier. He said it worked, but I doubt it. If your going to try something like this make sure your dog has someone to turn to afterwards. Likely it won't trust you for a while.

    One more thing. Perhaps your dog is associating the dark with the wet. The dew falls at night. Could be your dog has picked up on this.

    Hope it all turns out for the best
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, you have to give the dog reason to relate whatever it is with positive things.

    My dog Lee Lee was adamant about NOT getting haircuts. She's a Shih Tzu ~ Cocker Spaniel mix (Cock-a-Tzu) and her hair grows. FAST!

    I made hair cut time = snack giving time + belly rub time.

    She's all good with the idea now. Even let's me trim her face which used to induce nips and growls.
     
  5. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    When dogs have fears, humans usually exaggerate it by comforting them. Dogs live in the moment, and generally if something scares them the first time, they wont even think about it the second time --unless a human conditions him to fear the object. Your dog is not your child, so dont treat him as such. It will only make your dog unhappy. :) But that's not necessarily your problem. I guess I'm just saying that with your dog's fears, you can reassure him, but dont coddle him.

    Do you bathe Howie regularly? How does he do at the groomer's, if you take him? Wrey is right when he says that he needs to associate wet and dark things with positive rewards, so maybe give him a bone or a treat or lots of love to focus on when you bathe him. Maybe start out with a sponge bath, and take it sloooooooooow. :) If he's already scared, treating it like normal will not be effective. I would never throw a dog who's afraid of the water into the water. I know of some animal behaviorists who use this method, but especially if you're not a professional animal handler, that's just asking for trouble, and the dog could drown! As for the rain, try going out with him when he needs to go potty but doesnt want to because of the rain. If you project confidence, your dog should usually do whatever you ask of him because he trusts you will not put him in any danger.

    Dogs are wonderful that way. Trust, loyalty, and love. :love:

    For example, not all dogs are swimmers. I have a boxer, and she does fine with rain and baths, but she will not go swimming with us when we go out to the lake, which is totally fine for her breed. Her feet are not webbed her bone structure makes her topheavy. She would sink. She's very thin and is brachycephalic --AKA smoosh-faced, so breathing would be especially difficult for her if too much water got around her face. Swimming would be a nightmare for her. Some fears are healthy for your dog, and you should never force anything. I'm sure you know that, Link, but I just cant believe that anyone could even suggest that as an option, so I had to say something. :) It's dangerous, and just like a drowning human, it can be very hard to rescue him if he's panicking.

    Dogs dont think like humans because dogs are not humans. They wont realize that they can swim after you've thrown them into a pool... they will only associate the water with negative energy.

    As for the dark, I've never heard of a dog who is afraid of the dark, but! I do work with horses, and many horses spook when they see shadows, so it's not altogether uncommon in the animal world. Then again, dogs have much better visioin than horses do...

    Like with water, generally reintroduce darkness into her life. Take walks with her around the block at night and carry a flashlight if the path is not well lit. Eventually she will stop associating the dark with whatever scares her and associate it with a positive experience --walks with her favourite person in the world. :)

    Also, one last thing that you probably know but I want to say anyway. Dogs generally have a sixth sense... energy. They pick up on how you're feeling. Your dog is usually much calmer and protective when you are sick. They can tell if you are tense. You cant fool your dog like you can fool a human. So you need to come off as the pack leader to your dog, and she will follow you to the end. Dont anticipate a problem, but know that you can deal with one if it happens. Dogs can sense if you're worried or tense or afraid, and it doesnt make for a good leader. So if you constantly worry that your dog might freak out, you're pretty much entering a self-fulfilling prophesy.
     
  6. SonnehLee
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    SonnehLee Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just going to suggest that you buy a litter box and grow grass in it and keep it in the house for days where outside isn't accessible.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    My dog also hates water. Though she will go outside to pee after it rains. She's also terrified of thunderstorms. We've tried comforting her but then I read that makes it worse and it doesn't help. The thing is if you comfort a dog a lot when it's scared then it thinks "oh my master is agreeing I should be afraid". Weird I know but apparently true.

    Helping him to associate it with something positive is definitely the best route. So is conditioning him to these things by slowly introducing them so that he gets used to them. If he absolutely refuses to get wet or go in the dark then try doing it in smaller steps. Like dimming the lights until it's almost dark in the house. Then sit on the outer edge of the light with treats and encourage him to come to you to get a treat and belly rubs, ear scratching, neck scratching, whatever his favorite is. Then just make it darker and darker as he makes progress. I'd suggest doing something similar with water. Maybe hosing down one part of the yard where he prefers to go to the bathroom but just make it barely damp. Like dew. Give him a treat and his favorite form of petting as a reward and praise him for it.

    I've read some stuff about dog behavior and how to help them overcome fears. The general consensus is to introduce it slowly with lot's of praise and some treats. Best of luck. :)

    edit: my dog was abused prior to us adopting her and is terrified of anything you can hit her with. Brooms, flyswatters, belts, rolled up newspaper.. you name it. We started laying the broom at the edge of where we were playing with her while playing tug of war (her favorite game) and she was wary at first but after a few times got where she ignored it. She still leaves the room if someone is carrying a broom but she doesn't cower and hide any more. Also she doesn't freak out if it's just laying on the floor. Same with flyswatters. She doesn't get scared unless someone is trying to hit a fly with it. Just carrying it around doesn't freak her out any more. :)
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    hie thee to a doggy shrink!

    yes, there are such things, virginia...................
     
  9. Mercurial
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    Mercurial Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just going to say it again because there have been a few people whose posts seem to indicate otherwise, and proper animal care is something very close to my heart as most people here know.

    (And Link, I'm sure you are very wonderful dog owner, and I'm not really saying this for your benefit, but for everyone's.)

    Dogs are not people. You cannot treat a dog like you would treat a child. You cannot expect to throw your dog into water (or immerse him in another situation he sees as equally terrifying) and expect him to react like a human does. If you throw a little kid into water, he will eventually realize that there is nothing to fear. (Although he may very well be traumatized for years.) If you throw a dog into water, he will always associate water with fear, and you have done nothing but make the problem worse. Your dog doesnt remember he can swim, even if he's swum before. He does it instinctually.

    Intentionally terrifying your dog is cruel and can be very dangerous. You have to remember that dogs were once wild animals; thousands of years of domestication has given us the kind and docile dogs we keep as pets today. Sometimes I feel like people could do well with a very vicious reminder. And if you put them in a situation that activates their survival instincts, it is very likely they will become aggressive. You see this all the time with abandoned, abused, and feral animals.

    Not only that, but terrifying your dog for your own interests is wrong. Your dog is a living creature that has needs and desires and feelings just like you do. You need to work with him. You need to be a pack leader, but putting him in danger (perceived or real) is animal abuse.

    Your dog is of a different species. Dogs thinks differently than people do. A dog doesnt dwell on the past or worry about the future --he lives in the present. That's why dogs who have been abused can come to love their new, kind owners.

    Dogs like the Pekenese, Akita, Xoloitzcuintli, and Maltese were once treated like royalty. They were respected and in turn master and dog had a beautiful relationship and both species prospered. Now dogs are abused, abandoned, breeded for money, and exploited for digusting human "sport" (or, more appropriately put, sadism).

    It makes me sick that anyone can just walk into a pet store and buy a dog. This is why thousands are euthanized daily, and shelters can hardly accept any more strays these days. Our local humane society is broke and overpopulated. It's very sad.

    I'm not saying I know everything about dogs (anyone who read my post about my dogs who get into fights occasionally knows that) or that I'm a saint. But you need to know to treat animals with respect, if not kindness and equality.

    "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Mahatma Gandhi.

    /end rant
     
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  10. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I agree, Mercurial. I would never throw Howie or any other pet in the pool.

    I'm not sure how you think of "The Dog Whisperer", but in an episode, Millan said that the way to get the dog to stop being afraid is to ignore what it's being afraid of. (He said this about a dog that was terrified of shiny floors, and he got the dog to stop being afraid by leashing the dog and simply walking across said floor.)

    I was thinking I could just go to Howie with a happy, confident mood and simply take him out into the wetness and, like I did when I was potty-training him as a puppy, say what a good boy he is for actually going.

    It all has to do with their sensing the energy, and they can sense it many times stronger than a human can.

    EDIT: He also has a playmate, a black lab namd Bibbs who goes out at the same time. Not that it probably has anything to do with his fear of the dark, but it could be that he probably forgets Bibbs is out there and he hears strange rustling in the bushes? Also, the lights on the outside of the house are on, creating a shadow of myself on the ground. However, I don't think that's what scares him, because I turned off the lights and he still wouldn't go.
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    His methods have been shown to work so I see nothing wrong with thinking he's good.

    Yeah coddling him will make it worse. We did that with Ellie during thunderstorms before we knew it was bad to and she got worse until we started just going about what we were doing acting like all was well. She is still scared though. I really think conditioning him to see it's okay by slowly introducing it and rewarding him for being in that situation would be best.

    You're right just throwing him into a pool would make him more scared. lol
     
  12. Layla
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    Layla New Member

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    I can attest to this. My sister and I used to live in a dog friendly apartment complex that had a pool and exercise room. Well, this place also used to do community get togethers and the like and decided one night to do one for the owners and their dogs since so many people living there had dogs.

    My sister decided to take that opportunity to try to forcibly put her Vizsla(a type of supposed water-dog)- shepherd mix Rusty into the pool where a bunch of his furry pals from the complex were already swimming.

    It didn't go well. Rusty still doesn't like water, though he's gotten over his fear of walking in the rain, and more than that, he became pretty afraid of his mom (my sister, and the one who pushed him in the water) for a very long time after that. When she complained a week later that he still wouldn't sleep at the foot of her bed, opting instead for the foot of mine, I said, "DUDE, you threw him in the pool. What'd you expect?"

    What's more, she was a vet assistant for 4 years so you'd think she'd know better :rolleyes:
     
  13. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Lol. Well, I guess if Link wants his dog to be afraid of him then that'd be the way to go! :p
     
  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Howie cannot get into the pool anyhow, because of his bad back.
     
  15. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    My dog loves going in the pool. :D And he likes going in the shower too...I guess my dog is weird. :p
     
  16. Layla
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    Layla New Member

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    Nah, not necessarily. My parents have a black field lab who used to jump in the lake at the end of our allotment at least once a summer. And we had a collie-golden retriever mix when I was growing up who used to like to take a swim too while he went after ducks. He wasn't terribly fond of baths, but he didn't seem to mind them much either.

    Our boxer mix tries to get in the bathtub with me whenever I'm soaking in there reading, even though she hates getting a bath herself. She's a very snuggly thing though, so I tend to rationalize this behavior is motivated perhaps by her wanting to snuggle up next to me whenever I look comfortable. Dogs aren't humans, that's true, but they have their own individual quirks, just like humans do.

    Speaking of quirky dogs, other dog owners may get a kick out of this. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/07/dog.html I know I sure did.
     
  17. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Poor puppy. :( If he wasn't afraid of water maybe water therapy would help his back feel better. I've heard of people doing that for dogs that have arthritis, recovering from an injury, etc.. I've heard of people doing it too. :p
     

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