Milo is a fearful dog due to not being socialized as a puppy. He joined our family when he was 5 months old. His first month with us showed a glimpse of the severity of his fearfulness. Milo’s next 6 months were filled with more fear reactive behavior, struggles, and some improvements.
I had a new gorgeous whippet puppy I wanted to show off. So, of course, I invited friends to come by to meet him. Milo wouldn’t go near them. He’d tremble and cower when they tried to get near him. It also happened with my husband. Milo was afraid of people, especially men.
The people fear caused peeing inside incidents. Milo was fully crate trained, his first 5 months was in a crated kennel environment. The issue is fearful dogs feel vulnerable when peeing or pooping. When my husband or most anyone other than me would let him out, he’d be too afraid to relieve himself. Then he’d come back in and be terrified around that person and do submissive peeing. We had to start covering our bed with a vinyl tarp. It was frustrating.
Walking is great for dogs. All my previous ones loved going on walks. I couldn’t go near the drawer where we kept their leashes without them going crazy. Same with when they saw me pick up my walking shoes. I thought walking would be good for Milo. Our first walk was a disaster. Everything terrified him. Every. Single. Thing. It was a traumatic experience for him.
One day someone brought their dog to play with Milo. We were apprehensive at first. We weren’t sure how he would react. The second Milo saw the other dog he immediately relaxed. They started playing, running and chasing each other. It was the first time we saw Milo look happy. We decided to look for a companion for him. Our hope was another dog would show him how to be a “regular” dog. Luckily, a whippet rescue group had one that needed a home. Zephyr joined our family to be Milo’s big brother.
We saw the first improvement the day after we got Zephyr. Before then, Milo would not go upstairs. Zephyr went upstairs and Milo followed him. We thought “WOW, it’s going to be great!”. We couldn’t wait to see a transformation. Well, not so much. Milo’s improvements were few and far between. One was he finally started to play with toys on his own – only in the early morning and when it was just me and Zephyr around. (See video below).
We decided to get professional help and hire a dog trainer. I asked the breeder if she would help pay for it and she refused. Her response was she would be willing to take him back for a while and work with him. Absolutely no way I would send him back to the place where he got mentally damaged.
The training went well. We learned some techniques to do with Milo. Some we implemented right away and others have to wait until he improves. Too much would be overwhelming for him and he would shut down. The trainer said Milo was the most fearful dog she had seen. She could tell he was completely not socialized as a puppy. She also said it would take a long time plus a lot of patience and love to help Milo improve. It is likely he will never fully get over his fears.
Milo started handling walks better. Zephyr’s enthusiasm for walking helped greatly. Milo would no longer panic and try to back out of his leash to run away. Some things like big trucks going by still startle him.
He also started to venture around the house. One evening while I was brushing my teeth, he walked behind me and took a couple of steps into our closet. Then the next night, a few more steps into it. A few days later he was sniffing around in it. Progress was happening albeit very slow.
Months later he walked out on our deck on his own for the first time. He sniffed the flowers and plants then came back inside. I got it on video! Here it is along with the first time he played with toys on his own:
Milo’s progress came to a halt. His big brother Zephyr is an older dog and didn’t want to play (something we discovered after rescuing him). My husband was upset because he couldn’t touch his own dog and it would run from him if he came near it. I was upset because of how much I desperately wanted Milo to be a happy, well-adjusted dog and felt I was failing to make it happen. Yet I was determined and I wasn’t going to give up.
We were frustrated and at a standstill. Something had to change. We decided Milo needed a fearless, energetic playmate. So we got a puppy as a new hope for him. Milo’s next 6 months with us would certainly be different. Stay tuned…
More Fearful Dog series posts:
I also purchased a whippet from breeder and it has taken her 5 weeks to settle.
Similar picture as milo, she had never been inside a house or socialised, walked on lead so everything was stressful.
She still shakes and pants in the car, hates other people in her home to the point she flees to the yard to max out safe space. Stranger danger to the max, other dogs terrify her.
I got some advice and changed her diet to raw, gave her plenty of space, avoided all eye contact, only pat her when she initiated it, feed her 5 times a day to reinforce I will care for you …and got my son to feed her as well so she associated him with the provider of yummy ness.
I feel for you cause you just want him to be happy.
It’s like fostering a grey…slow baby steps..best of luck
Thanks Julie. Milo is very slowly improving yet he still has a long way to go. My greatest wish is for him to not be so afraid and on alert at all times.
What did you do with Zephyr?
We recently lost Zephyr due to liver failure. He is missed. He was a wonderful big brother to Milo and Luke.
Even though my whippet attended puppy class starting at age 11 weeks, she still demonstrates all those fears you described, just not as intense. At age 7 years, she still is somewhat shy with my husband. We love her dearly despite being eccentric, that’s what makes her so special!