Chronic nervousness

Hello all!

We just got a very sweet b-boy from BRAT. He is soooooooo sweet butttttttttttt,,,,,,,,,yes here comes the but,,,,,,,,,,he is sooooooooooooooooo nervous. We really dont have a lot of history on him other than he was found along a very busy interstate. So, we dont know what happened to him in his past, how long he was gone or what his breeding was like. The two biggest problems we are having with him concern his nervousness. The first problem is that he seems not to be able to relax around the house (inside I mean). He paces around and always seems to be on the look out for someone or something that is going to hurt or scare him. It is especially bad when my 17 year old son comes in the house . We have told him to come in quietly and not to initiate contact unless Wrigley does first (we have even asked him to stop bringing all his guy friends over for a few weeks so that Wrigley wont get upset) but as soon as he walks in the tail goes down and the extreme nervousness begins. However, we have only had him a few weeks and I think this will go away after some time. Right ??? The second issue we are having is him wanting to go out all the time. He will go to our french doors and scratch and scratch until we let him out. He has done this so much that our door is going to have to be refinished at some point which isnt a big deal in the long run but we are concerned that he is doing this because he is still so skiddish. Anyway, we were wondering if any of you had any suggestions for how we could make him feel safe and secure so that he doesnt have to feel like he is always one step away from danger. By the way, we try to walk them as a pack every day and he is finally sleeping with us – which certainly is progress. Any suggestions ,,,,,other than a valium-- ha ha.

My squiggy is anervous boy. I got him when he was turning 3 and we just celebrated the 2 years of having him with me. His home life was not good, and he was not used to a calm environment. And he he paced and trotted and wouldnt look at you.
Now, he is doing so much better. He still paces when somone new is over, or if he senses I am nervous or rushed. We go to my parents house a few times a week (they have a Bboy too and a HUGE back race track, I mean yard) But even after 2 years, he hardly ever lets them pet him. Only after being there for awhile and when he gets tired will he go up and sit by them on the couch.
When they come here he is pretty good about not getting nervous and letting them pet and play with him.
But yeah, it does get better. It may not be great. The main thing I have learned that helps is to remain calm. keep somewhat quite and act like everything is normal. I dont baby him when he gets nervous, I think it rewards or confirms his behavior. And he calms down quicker when I ignore it and he sees me acting fine.
I would have a special treat that ONLY your son gives your new dog. Cheese is the biggest value treat I have, and Squiggy ONLY gets it if the goes in his crate (we are slowly crate training).
Good luck, I love my strange nervous boy. Your's will get better, jsut give it time, lots of time.
Just get used to him and he will get used to you:)

I am no expert in this…but his behavior sounds like it may be previous owner seeking? Could be that he came from a well loved home, but escaped and got lost...and maybe he misses his family. But I think it will definitely get better. Sounds like you are doing everything right. Don't push it with new people, or people that make him uncomfortable. You can't convince him that he is safe...it just takes time.

Good luck, and good job....

How is he with a crate?
He might do well in a covered crate, in a quiet area, sort of a den for him until he gets his bearings.
I would put some special treats in the covered crate, and let him "find" them.
leave the door open and he should get the idea that its a quiet safe place to be.
The "outside" could be his way of coping with your new house.
I would take him out on a regular schedule, babygate him in the crate room and give him some time alone.
Do things like you normally do, but do not baby him when he is fearful.
Will he play with any toys, use distraction if he will.
He should come around, but it will take time.
Some dogs just take longer than others.
What is his "guestimated" age?

@Quercus:

I am no expert in this…but his behavior sounds like it may be previous owner seeking? Could be that he came from a well loved home, but escaped and got lost...and maybe he misses his family. But I think it will definitely get better. Sounds like you are doing everything right. Don't push it with new people, or people that make him uncomfortable. You can't convince him that he is safe...it just takes time.

Good luck, and good job....

Andrea, I think you could be right because it sounds like what Ruby does and I don't think it is because of fear in my situation.

I can't leave the house with Ruby out of her crate downstairs and leave her with my brother or father (both of whom she loves) and have her see me leave. Otherwise, she paces frantically and gets more and more nervous to the point of really potentially causing harm to herself by knocking over chairs, etc. and they end up having to crate her so she doesn't hurt herself. I've even tried crating her downstairs, and having them let her out, but the problem seems to be her seeing me go out the door to the outside.

Now when I leave her with them, I have to leave her upstairs in a room in her crate and then my brother goes and lets her out. Even then once she is out, she will initially check for me and from time to time get up from resting and start looking for me (but not frantically), but eventually will settle down and there are no problems.

The only way things have gotten better is to have my brother and father take care of her more both when I'm around and not around. I've been having my brother feed her and let her out of her crate when she is done or I've been anywhere…even if we both arrive at the house at the same time. I've also been having him walk her on her leash, while I walk with them. That sort of thing. The other thing I've been doing is if I'm in a room, I'll close the door and leave her outside of the room so she can't constantly follow me but knows I'm coming back.

Even though it has been slow, there have been huge improvements from when I first got her, because back then I couldn't even close the shower curtain without her getting frantic. The first week or two I had her, I had to keep the show curtain open so she could see me.

They key also for me was not to force my brother or father on her...she had to accept them on her terms. She was terrified of my brother because he is 6'5" and I think the biggest man she had ever seen. After the first week, she would start to go around him and sniff him, but he never reached to her to try to pat her...just let her do her thing and talked quietly to her. After about a month, eventually she'd come near him and sit next to him and he would rub her sides and talk to her. Now she runs to him and jumps up on him and stretches out to make herself as tall as possible to see him. He is the only one she jumps up to.

I think it will just take time for your boy to warm up to everyone...

This sounds a lot like my german shepherd mix when she went through a traumatic experience years ago. I'm sure it is not as bad, but my neighbor's kids next door were using a cap gun. This set off the pacing, fearful behavior in Pepper, and she literally couldn't eat, sleep, or stop pacing for two days. Our vet tried tranqilizer pills–but she was throwing up everything she ate (due to her body being in this "flight" mode the vet called it), but what we ended up doing was leaving her at the vet to be injected with tranquilizers and rest. After a couple of days, I picked her up, and she was back to normal. I would have your vet check her out and see if they can offer any advice.

I think all you folks who adopt older basenjis with unknown histories are the kindnest most courageous people in the whole world. Thanks to all of you. :)))))))

Thank all of you for your suggestions. Earlier someone asked for some info on Wrigley – He is approximately 2-3 years old and does really well in a crate. Also, I have been thinking about what Quercus suggested -- that he was missing his family-- and I think you may have a good point. Wrigley almost instantly learned house training and he seems to know how to play fetch which makes me assume that someone has taught him these things. It makes me sick to think of what he went through on his own out there before they found him next to the highway and also what other people did to him (I know some people can be downright cruel to a stray animal). Hopefully though if anything bad happened to him while he was on his own he did have a good family before that that loved him the way that he should be loved.

I went to a seminar several months ago. It was about evaluating shelter dogs. And one dog was brought in for evaluation in front of the group. And that dog was scanning the room…looking at every person's face hopefully,pacing, quietly whining as she looked around and around the room. It was crushing to watch....the lecturer called it 'owner seeking', and said it is really common for dogs that come into the shelter..whether they have been dumped by their owner, or found running stray.

She passed the behavior evaluation (yay!) and hopefully she was adopted soon.

@luvsmy2bs:

Hopefully though if anything bad happened to him while he was on his own he did have a good family before that that loved him the way that he should be loved.

And he certainly has a good family now that loves him the way he should be loved. 🙂 It does sound like it's probably just going to take some time. Zoey would run from me the first couple of days after I brought Tyler and Zoey home. But with her, it only took a very short time before she realized I wasn't going to do anything bad to her. And she's a little cuddle bug now.

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