I'm a 20 year old male who is trying to train and bond with a dog scared of men. How do I do this?

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#1
Hi,

First a little background:

—Occupants of the house:

Myself (20 years old), my father, Abbey (younger sister, 18 years old) and JJ, our cat.

—Onyx and Abbey

From the start, we wanted to adopt a dog for Abbey, as she always wanted one and was also slightly depressed so we figured that getting her a dog would help.

About a year and 2 months ago we adopted a very scared and anxious puppy, Onyx, who was at the time about a year old. According to the adoption centre, Onyx was abused, they don’t know how but apparently by men because he is very scared and anxious about men, not so much women.

When he first arrived he showed the classic signs of a scared dog in distress and we heeded the advice given to us and as time passed he slowly bonded *only* with my younger sister, Abbey.

As the months passed the connection between Abbey and Onyx strengthened drastically, to the point where they are now both extremely attached to one another.

In addition, Abbey has been able to train Onyx to the point where they can go on walks together without him having a lead on him and running away. On her command, he sits, lays down, comes to her and can sometimes jump.

It is worth noting that now Onyx sleeps with Abbey in her room.

—One more snippet of information

I don't live at home but return most weekends (Thursday until Sunday morning). That means that Abbey and my father are the only people at home during most of the week and I don't interact with Onyx that much.

—Difficulties

Right from the start my father and I were having trouble bonding with Onyx. No matter what we tried, he would always bark at us, growl at us, run away from us, run to Abbey and so on.

We invited at least 4 different dog trainers over the past year, each one advising us to do different things:

- One trainer advised us to stop allowing Onyx to sleep with Abbey as that is only strengthening the bond between them and hindering progress with myself and my father.

- Another advised us to throw spoons at him every time he barks or growls at us, something we all now think was very stupid and hindered any progress we had.

- A third said that it seems that the only way to move forward is to put Onyx on medication - anti-depressants - so for the past 3 months he's been taking Prozak. It doesn't seem to have made any difference.

—My father and Onyx

When one looks at it from the outside, it seems that Onyx has a dual personality disorder:

When Abbey is at school, Onyx and my father stay home and there are no problems - Onyx stays on her bed and actually sometimes comes to sit with my father. When my dad calls Onyx to go on walks he instantly comes to the door and on the walks, Onyx has his tail up and seems to enjoy himself. It all seems very promising.

*However*, the second Abbey steps through the door there seems to be a switch in Onyx's brain and he instantly turns on my dad, barking, growling, sometimes jumping at him and twice almost almost biting him.

So it seems that Onyx thinks we pose a threat to Abbey and he must protect her.

—Myself and Onyx

As mentioned above, I'm out most of the week. When I return home, I experience the same problems as my dad - Onyx is with Abbey and the second he sees or smells me he starts growling or barking.

Sometimes when Abbey isn't home I try petting him but most of the time he runs out of the room before I even have a chance to touch him.

I've tried giving him treats, going on walks with him, sitting with him and Abbey together and so on.

As time passes I feel our relationship gets worse and worse to the point where I actually dislike Onyx. Imagine - every time you return home or walk passed

him to get to the fridge or walk passed your sister's bedroom into yours or stare at Onyx one second too long - he starts growling and barking at you. It's not nice at all and at one point I actually wanted to take him back but that's not an option anymore as he has bonded too deeply with Abbey and such a thing would hurt her.

—The problem

Onyx is Abbey's responsibility - she wanted a dog and she got one. Having said that, we all contribute our time to him. Because he is Abbey's dog, she has done all the research herself about how to train him.

We've got to the point where I think Abbey has sort of given up hope. When Onyx barks at me, instead of doing something about it she just tells him to be quiet. When I ask her why she doesn't do something like putting him outside, she starts making excuses that putting him outside won't help bla bla bla.

When I offer to try and do things that may help she also makes excuses.

My father and I both think that if we put in the right amount of effort, we can achieve our goal of bonding with Onyx and "fix" him.

So I've taken things into my own hands and I'm writing this long post hoping somebody out there will be able to help.

Thanks,

Tory
 
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#2
I forgot to mention that Abbey tried on a number of different occasions to use food as a means of getting Onyx to bond with us but for some odd reason Onyx doesn't like to eat. Not food and not treats. Even Abbey has to coax him now and then to eat his food. All the trainers have tried different foods and different treats but they just don't help.
 
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#3
Hey Tory, I met a few dogs with similar behavioral issues in the past. When i come across dogs that are afraid of men, as a guy one thing i do that seems to work every time. is get down eye level with the dog, to reduce any form of intimidation. It sounds stupid, this works. I talk to the dogs like they know what I'm saying while turing into some kind of game. Some are pretty rough to gain trust with. but usually within a few minutes of hanging out, the dogs usually end up on my lap or by my feet bugging me to rub their butt.

I never really understood the facination with butt rubs. They seem to like it though.


In a nutshell its pretty much telling guys what they need to do to help get the dog to chill out. shoving it in a room or keeping it away from guys is the last thing you want to do. to be safe its always good to keep it on a leash until you know the dog wont freak out and bite the guy. But honestly from what it sounds like, Your new friend was abused by the guy who had the dog before you. It'll take work on everyones part to help build trust with the dog.

As for not eating. It sounds like the dog is scared out of its mind. For that, don't force it. Just leave a bowl of food in each room of the house so no matter where it goes their will be food for it. Also Dogs are a lot like humans, some are super picky eaters, while dogs like mine will it anything in sight.

It's fustrating at first. but given the fact you guys are still strangers, and the dog never experienced loving owner before.
The best thing to do is don't put emphasis on the bad behavior, just ignore the bad but reward the good.

Heck, I praise my dogs, when they fart. If I catch them nosing through the trash or somewhere they're not supposed to go. That's an easy solution, just move the trash can somewhere the dog can't get to and keep the doors closed of where you don't want it to go. Just never shove it in a room, that's just adding to the problem.

I'd be willing to pay the dog a visit, to see what exactly is going on. It's hard to know how to help without knowing what exactly is going on.
 
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#4
I think Romerrover is giving excellent advice. I have also adopted a dog who was afraid of men. My husband, a serious dog lover, was not with me when I picked up our new dog, a rescue. Well it turned out our new dog was afraid of men and my husband is very tall and very intimidating looking to a dog like this. This dog would bark and run away from my husband who loves dogs and was heart broken that this dog would not run to great him at the door. My advice is that it takes time. Abbey can not indulge bad behaviour, any barking deserves a firm 'no' 'stop it' from her. If anything she should be helping to create opportunities for you to bond. Follow all of remerrover's suggestions, especially getting down to the dog's level to greet and play with the dog. My husband has an infinite amount of patience with dogs, he is not the 'head' disciplinarian for the dogs, that's me, he is mostly interested in just giving our two dogs affection and he has a ton of affection to give them, so that has really helped. It's been a year and a half and our new dog is not afraid of men anymore and being with my husband now gives this dog confidence. They now enjoy each other's company.
 
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#5
I have also noticed that nervous dogs don't always eat a lot. When we first adopted our dog he was quite skinny and would go without food for a day sometimes. I did not worry about it too much, recognizing this dog was nervous, I was not wanting to indulge by giving a lot of unhealthy food to make him eat. I would let him go a day and if his stomach was growling I would mix a tiny bit of tasty wet food into his dog food. As he grew calmer over the months his appetite increased and I no longer mix anything into his dog food. A year and a half later and he has put on a few pounds and has a much healthier coat on him too. Provide a calm stable routine for him and don't let him starve but it's okay for a dog to go a day without eating as long as there is food available for him if he chooses, I'm sure you will find his appetite will increase as he continues to adjust to your home.
 
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