so, about that “going for a walk” thing . . .

Hi Buddies,

I thought I’d ask everybuddy for some advice, because I’m kinda having a confusingness. See, I reallyreally love my foster dad, and I reallyreallyreally love my foster mom. The problem is, when it’s time to go outside for a walk, I only want to go if foster mom is going too. If it’s just me and dad? ¡No way, Jose! It’s weird, because I love to play with my foster dad and snuggle with him (just look at the photos of him and me goofing off like two peas in a pod, below), but I just don’t want to leave the house with mom left in there all alone (with her Chick). Even if the four of us go together, I get kinda whimpery and baby-like if dad holds my leash and mom isn’t close enough for me to get a quick nuzzle on her leg when I want one. Anybuddy know what to do?

Oh yeah, one more thing. I also love my dog walker, but the last few days I just haven’t wanted to go for a walk with her. I went walking with her for the first couple of weeks with no problems (though I never did go potty cause I was too nervous), but just this week I decided that I’m not leaving the house with her. Today the feeling overcame me so strongly that I didn’t even want to get out of the crate! If she sits on the human bed (that fun colorful one that is in the pictures), I will hop up and talk to her with my tongue and waggle my tail at her, but if it looks like it’s time to go outside, I just jump right back in my crate. Mom says I’m being silly because our dog walker is a super nice lady (I agree) and she is great with dogs (I agree with that, too), but I just can’t help myself.

Any ideas?

XOXO, Stevie Wonder

PS- I want to wish everyone a happy long weekend. I’m going to be trying my hand at swimming! I even got a new life jacket to make it extra safe-like!

Don’t forget to check out our facebook page for even more foster fun:

40 responses

  1. I sort of have a similar situation. If both T and I are home, Molly won’t go on a walk without both of us. If one of us tries to go without the other person, the farthest Molly will go is to the edge of the front yard, and then she’ll pull to go back inside. I think with her though it’s a case of being hyper loyal to the both of us – it’s not that she doesn’t want to walk with who has her, it’s that she doesn’t want to leave someone behind.

    It doesn’t sound like that that’s what’s going on with Stevie though. The only thing I can recommend is taking baby steps and giving her lots of praise each time she does well. Like when Ben has the leash on walks, he can routinely give her treats and praise (and when your dog walker comes she can give Stevie a leash for coming out of the crate, then when she picks up the leash, etc. etc.). I’ve never dealt with this exact situation, but that’s what I would try first. I’m interested to see what other people suggest.

    I hope Stevie likes swimming! We’re going to see if Heidi likes swimming next weekend. Are you going somewhere local? I’m always trying to find new places to take the dogs swimming. Happy long weekend!

  2. Yeah Felicity may be on to something. Does everyone else walk her the exact same as you with praise, treats, direction/no-direction? Same leash up routine? Who is the routine setter in the family? If you tend to be with her more and are “working” with her more she may see you as the pack leader and want to simply be with you.

    I know you mentioned you will have her spayed soon… I had a random idea that it may have to do with hormones. There is no way she is pregnant right? Or would be going through some degree of a false one?

    Have you tried going out for the walk with them initially then breaking away? Or just using you to get started? She probably won’t fall for that. I say in a way if you can’t think of a reason she is doing this that they need to just keep working with her and help her get over it. Even if the have to pull out some high value treats while they walk her.
    Good luck, interesting for sure

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I hope she’s not pregnant!! If I go for a walk together and then break away, she gets super panicky. She either lays down or starts acting ultra anxious (freezes, pants, whines, cries). With our walker, her behavior has shifted over the course of a few days (Diane was away on vacation for 4 days so that probably contributes), but now she just won’t even come out of her crate. This is more problematic, since not going out with Diane means that Stevie-girl goes 10+ hours confined.

  3. Wish we had some advice for you, but it loos like others have some ideas. Hopefully with time and LOTS of treats and praise, Stevie will realize how cool the hubby is and want to walk with him!

  4. i have no new advice but i agree with lots of tasty treats for baby steps (but i’m guessing you could figure that out!). hopefully someone knows a few other tricks!

    we have this problem from time to time with basil since sean is his favorite and i am That Other One. but he is such a fearless bulldozer of a dog, i feel comfortable pushing him a bit (not physically pushing him but you know what i mean ha). also, his love for walks outweighs his love for sean i think (i win!).

    good luck! keep us updated!

    • Stevie-girl seems to like us both, but I am clearly her favorite. I’m sure it’s just because I spend so much time with her and she has bonded swiftly. She is not fearless at all, but she is very steady, so I’m not worried about aggression or anything– I just don’t want to force her into a more panicky state than needed 😦

  5. Is Stevie more attached to you in other ways? Izzy is obsessed with me because I have established myself as the softie. We had issues where if Skinny Fat Kid would walk her to meet me as I was getting home from work, she would jump all over me, pulling at my clothes, barking and just going nuts. I had to re-establish myself as a pack leader. Even now, if we both walk her, and I lag behind (because sidewalks are skinny) then she is always turning around to make sure I’m there. It’s important to keep her “moving forward” in mind and in “feet”. If she’s going on, then she isn’t focused on the fact that I’m behind her. We do use cheese on our walks for good behavior as well. Easy enough to grab a string cheese from the fridge to help keep Izzy going!

    • Hey SFK, she is definitely more attached to me in other ways. I believe it’s because I have spent way more time with her than Ben or others. I should get some more cheese to keep in the fridge. We have some high-value duck treats, but they still aren’t enough to keep Stevie Wonder going without me. Ay yi yi!

  6. We’re not so sure about this one either, though our trainer once told us something about dogs liking to know that all the pack members are accounted for. So if you’re being left behind, she might be afraid that since you’re not with the pack something might happen. Though I’m not sure how this would work when the dogwalker comes, unless maybe she’s afraid Chick isn’t accounted for? Or that she is supposed to watch the house? Tricky.

    • Interesting thought . . . it’s just so hard to know. I don’t think it’s a pack members thing unless I am the only other pack member; she never freaks when I take her out and Ben stays in the house. Only if somebody tries to take her without me (whether I am home or not).

      I think I’m going to have Diane just start working with her in the house first– trying to get her out of the crate as a first step, then into the hall the next time, into the kitchen eventually, maybe into the yard in a week or two, etc. Who knows what will work.

  7. Hmmmmm we have not heard of this situation before either.Please let us know how the situation works out. Happy weekend to you all & have a fun time swimming 🙂

  8. I’ve heard of some people having success using the Thundershirt to help with aggression or fear on walks, maybe it would help her to feel more secure when you’re not there?

    • And I have pretty much determined that the Thundershirt does nothing for my buddy and would be happy to give it to you if you wanted to give it a shot! I’ve seen it do wonders for dogs with anxiety before…but some dogs just don’t care, like mine.

  9. Well, I don’t have the issue w/ the walk thing figured out, but do have a similiar deal w/ my Phil. We have had him about 6 years now & he is totally bonded to me. I made friends w/ him even before we rescued him from a neighbor at 7 months old. Phil will not get out of the car for my husband when we go for rides. Only when I open the door for him. If someone else tries to take his leash, he flattens to the floor like a big limp rag & you cannot move him. I am the one who walks the dogs daily & do all the other doggy duties & he will let my hubs walk him but no body else. At the vets office where I worked, they all adore him. He is just the biggest mush of a sweetheart, but they know that unless I take him back to be weighed, etc..there’s no way he is budging from the spot he is anchored to in the floor! Phil is a really sensitive boy too. If we are talking loudly to each other …ie: I am in kitchen cooking & hubs is in the computer room down the hall & we are trying to hollar back & forth in coversation, Phil gets so nervous, he goes to his cot & starts shaking all over. Good thing we never argue or he would be beside himself! Maybe Stevie is a super sensitive girl like my boy is?

  10. Yep we went through this! At first Beau wouldn’t go for a walk with either of us – we’d get him down the stairs, he’d do his business, and then he’d want to come right back in. Then, he started walking with me. For a week or two he wouldn’t walk with my husband if I was left behind at home. Even now he’s a bit reluctant to leave me behind at the apartment to go for a walk with my husband. As for the dogwalker, we first went for a walk with her as a “pack” – with her holding the leash. That seemed to help but still for the first two weeks the only thing that would get Beau out of his crate for her was string cheese, and even then he didn’t want to go for a walk – just go outside to pee. Walking him with another one of her dogs helped a lot to get him moving. Is Stevie at all food-motivated, yet? Or perhaps a toy to get her moving?

    Now, one of our couple friends LOVES Beau and would really love to take him for walks (and so would we to save money on fewer dogwalker visits!) but he won’t go with them! We’ve tried three times now and he just freezes and won’t go outside with them. Next step will be to go for a walk all together as a “pack” to see if that helps him understand that it’s safe with them.

    The other time we’ve had this issue is at my parents’ house when we were visiting and left him with them to go to a wedding for a few hours. Even though the crate door was open, he chose to stay in there and would not go out for a walk with my mom and dad. This was a new environment, though, so it makes a little more sense to me than in his own home.

    So anyway, this wasn’t much help…just commiserating! I do think going for a walk as a pack with you and the dogwalker should help, and you should take steps to have Ben be the treat-giver as much as possible. My husband gives Beau more treats than I do in nervous situations, and I think that helps. Overall Beau has blossomed into such a confident boy (the star of his advanced obedience class earlier this week!) but this is still a little hangup of his. Hopefully he and Stevie will conquer it soon…please keep us posted!

  11. Sounds like she may have some attachment/separation anxiety issues with just you…? Maybe you can start walks, and then ween onto Dad or dog walker meeting you to finish the walks (first together and then alone)? I agree with Andrea, boosting her confidence will also help. Baby steps, too.

  12. One of our dogs does this too and keeps looking back at the house if me and our other dog are at home. She goes out readily, but then keeps stopping and looking back, as if to say, “woah…I thought everyone was coming!” It hasn’t really been an issue though because once she gets a couple blocks away, she gets into it and starts walking normally.
    One thought I had…what about you maybe temporarily pulling back a little from Stevie? I hope that doesn’t seem a little mean, but it sounds like you are the ultimate reward to her, more than going out or getting treats, so my thought was what if you temporarily act a little cooler to her when it is just you two, and reserve lavish praise, petting, and cuddles as a way to reward Stevie when she interacts with others? Maybe she will be more motivated to be with others?

  13. I go thru this with my 3yr old pittie girl every other month or so….She will just ground herself and completely fight me out of the driveway as if there was a snarling big lion in the middle of it. I asked my vet and they suggested she may get bored after a while with the same smells and route of our blocks etc. And to take somewhere different for one or two days in row should do the trick. So when she gets in her funk I scoop her into car and off to the state park half hour away we go. A nice 1-2 hr walk there and she is refreshed and ready for our neighborhood 10block morning walk the next day 🙂

  14. I have no helpful suggestions for you, unlike the other wise folks here. I just wanted to say that I love the posts written by Stevie! They’re my favorites 🙂

  15. You are probably all over this already but it helped my dog to do tricks when he was too panicky/scared to go for a walk. Just focusing on something else like giving a paw or lying down and sitting up again would get him out of the pattern of panic. Sometimes it would only get me a few steps but the more I would repeat the better he got. Treats just made him suspicious that he was being bribed so they tended not to work.

  16. Nuttin wrong with wanting be a family. Bet you are afraid of being abandoned. Wish they could keep you
    Benny & Lily

  17. Poor Stevie. That must be rough.
    Darwin get’s a little freaked out if one of us is home and the other tries to walk her alone. She’ll stop constantly and look back at home. Sometimes she’ll sit and wait. If we just pull her along after a few blocks she forgets about the other person left at home and will walk normally.
    But it doesnt sound like the walker is even getting that far with Stevie.
    I agree with the other commenters about slowly treating her and reinforcing baby steps. Even weening you away from her a bit so she isn’t as attached to you.

  18. We had a similar problem with our rescue who is extremely fearful. It’s taken a long time and very short walks to try easing into solo walks. We started by just going to the end of the driveway and now we’re up to a full mile, not with great enthusiasm but not desperately trying to get home either. One thing which makes a difference for us is, if everyone is out of the house and I take Shuna for a walk, she is much less inclined to look back and drag behind me. Perhaps you could try having everyone else leave before dog walker or foster dad try taking Stevie out and see how it goes.

  19. That’s a poser… Our Best Friend will go with anyone who has a ball, a leash, a bit of food… the whole world is his friend. BUT, if we walk as a family (mom, dad, three girls), he is WAY more anxious than alone with me. He barks and yowls and tugs if the girls are too far ahead of him. I think it has to do with that “pack” thing a number of commentators mentioned.

    Does the dog walker come when you are home, or when Stevie is at home alone? I don’t know if you trust the dog walker enough to give her a key to the house, but maybe she’s a better alternative than being alone. If you’re already doing that… all I can think of are big rewards. Big ones. Huge.

    • It’s so odd, isn’t it? Our walker comes during the day while we are at work, so it’s not a matter of me being left behind; I’m not even there. I’m going to have to go buy some increasingly stinky dog treats!

  20. I didn’t have time to read all of the responses, but something that I thought of immediately was have you had her checked for a urinary tract infection? I know that sounds really strange, but since this came on all of a sudden, it could perhaps be something as simple as that. Good luck!

  21. First of all, I can’t believe there are 2 Felicitys on here. I think I am the second one and may have accidentally stolen someone’s blog identity. If so, I am so sorry. I’ll be Felicity Ann from now on.

    As for the walk situation, it’s just amazing to me how every dog seems to have their own special quirk. Just when you think you’ve seen it all… I don’t have anything to add to the suggestions above, but wanted to wish you luck.

  22. I think a combination of many of the suggestions are in order. I worked at a training kennel (guide dogs) for many years, and sometimes you just have to wait it out and persevere at the same time. Stevie came to you from a world that has no resemblance to the one she left. She adjusted very well and quickly, maybe a little too quickly. I think she loves her new home more than she respects it.
    I would try a multi-fold approach. You can step back a bit and have your husband do more of the caretaking; feeding, grooming, (grooming is a HUGE gateway to bonding) putting her to bed at night, getting her out in the morning, etc.. She needs to learn to trust and respect all her caretakers. Can the dog walker open her crate (ignore her) and then leave her while she takes Chick for a quick walk? Sometimes coddling a stubborn dog can make them more stubborn. These are strong willed dogs that we love, we just have to be stronger. (which is CRAZY hard to do when they look at you with those eyes…)
    BTW, Stevie, I think you answered your own question: “…I get kinda whimpery and baby-like if dad holds my leash and mom isn’t close enough for me to get a quick nuzzle on her leg when I want one.” You can’t always nuzzle on mom’s leg just because you want to. She is the mother, and, yes, she is the boss of you.

    • (just noticed that sentence is way wrong. I meant she now lives in a world that has no resemblance to the one she left. get it? also, please don’t think I’m one of those overly tough-love people. Forcing a dog to comply never works in the long run. Patience, consistency, and little drops of love go a long way, but you already know that!)

  23. You might want to try (or maybe you have) going on a walk with the dog walker and Stevie. Then come back, put her in the crate, leave the room. Then go again, on this walk lag behind a step or two. Then if she is walking ok, lag behind a few more steps. If she looks back to you don’t make eye contact. The goal being for her to realize during the walk that it’s ok (as opposed to pre-walk). You may have to do a few walks in order to drop out of sight completely (maybe no a weekend day).

    Hope you get it worked out!!!

  24. I hope I’m not repeating someone else (I’m short on time, so I skipped to the end). It sounds like she has been establishing a routine of anxiety, and is just adding more situations that bring about the same unwanted behavior. You can gradually alter the routine one step at a time by rewarding wanted behavior at each step of the walking process, but it definitely takes time. For Stevie there is one trick I’d try, which works quickly to reverse behavior if it works at all. If you are walking her, stay boring. Give her positive feedback, etc as usual, but minimize any food rewards. If you’re there, the walk is already rewarding.

    If it’s Ben or the dog walker, pack up some of her favorite things. A kong freshly stuffed with gooey peanut butter, a tug or squeaky toy, and high value treats she never gets otherwise (I’m picturing string cheese). If you are there, accompany them out to avoid her hiding in the crate, then have the other person engage her with a goody. She can lick a kong while walking, and you can sneak off when she’s distracted. If she panics, they can pause the walk and try some easy obedience with her until she relaxes, then play a game of tug or get a reward and move on.

    I’d say if she panics 3 times on a walk it’s time to go home. It’s important that you don’t turn around and go back while she’s showing the anxious behavior, because a lot of dogs quickly associate the “act terrified. go right home” pattern, and use it more quickly in the future. Wait for some semblance of calm and control, then go home. Obviously if she is too worked up to accept food or play, then this method isn’t going to be helpful at all, but I’ve trained a few dogs who conquered their fears after 1 or 2 walks like this, and looked forward to walks from then on. Either way, keep us posted and good luck!

  25. I never experience that kind of situation. So, I can’t share any advice. But let me know what happen, when you pick the best advice. Mean while, I hope you did a happy long weekend. Keep safe and enjoy your swimming!

  26. I don’t know if this has been suggested or not….try having Foster Dad walk her on the leash inside the house. Stay inside and keep walking for at least 5 minutes. Get her used to the idea of following him and getting lots of treats and praise for it.

  27. hmm…maybe the walker or Ben could just take her out and play fetch, rather than a walk, at least for a little while? Then they wouldn’t have to do the leash, and she could build up some confidence with them. Or would it help if Stevie got a special bone or stick to carry with her while she walks?

  28. Lots of good advice here and I’m late to the game, but I think moving Ben into more of a caretaking position is a good start. After that, tiny steps equal big rewards. At least that’s what worked for Toni. If we could even get her out of the door at first, she got high value treats. First we added minutes to the process, then steps. Pretty soon (in retrospect – it felt like forEVER at the time) she was practically making it all the way to the first floor of our building without a panic attack. I also like the suggestion above of having the dog walker change up the approach. Maybe for a bit her role is just to become comfortable again (no leash-on routine immediately, some together-but-not-interacting time, maybe practicing tricks or grooming). Even if they can get back to where they make it out the front door and far enough for a wee, that’s better than where they are now. I’ll keep thinking….

    formerly T2 – my life with pit bulls

  29. Pingback: weekend with daddy |

  30. Pingback: Dear Doodlebug: Dog addictions, French grandparents, and being a dog model « Love and a Six-Foot Leash

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