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Fee

Sophie Is Breaking My Heart

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Sorry - this is a long one :(

 

For those who don't know Sophie's history, she's a whippet/collie X who was one of a number of dogs taken in by GAP from a pretty awful situation, where she'd spent the first 7 years of her life caged in a barn :angry:

 

She came to me nearly 3 years ago, and despite everything was a happy, friendly little girl - always a bit nervy and inclined to be jumpy with sudden movements etc, but very affectionate and loved fuss from people she trusted. She bonded with me straight away and was my little shadow, was always as close to me as she could be in the house and loved to snuggle up on the sofa for cuddles.

 

In September she had a fairly major operation to remove 3 mammary lumps. She's recovered physically very well, but unfortunately the experience seems to have to have destroyed all her trust in being handled - at all - by anybody. She's probably worst with me, perhaps because I had to do the 'bad guy' stuff holding her while she had her check-ups, stitches removed etc.

 

She's now become completely hand-shy, flinches and cringes if she's touched, avoids any kind of physical contact if she can. It's absolutely breaking my heart to see her like this, it is just not the friendly trusting little girl she's always been.

 

So far I have just been giving her space, not trying to force anything on her and hoping things would go back to normal in time, but up to now no real sign of improvement (well maybe a little, at one point she wouldn't even come close enough for me to get her lead on to take her out, but she's obviously figured out that wasn't smart as she loves her walks, and she will now let me put her coat and lead on, but she's absolutely rigid while I'm doing it).

 

I'm finding this very hard, but it's not about me and I'd just let things take their course if I thought she was happy, but she seems so torn - on one hand she's jumping around with the rest of the dogs wanting fuss when people come in, on the other she's cringing and backing away if anyone reaches out towards her. There's obviously a part of her that's desperate for contact, and another part that's afraid of it. At night we have a little routine when she goes in her crate I reach my fingers through the bars and she rubs up against my hand - it's a way she can have the contact she obviously wants and feel safe :mecry:

 

From a purely practical point of view, it's hard to care for her physically and do all the routine things like checking teeth, ears and paws. She desperately needs her nails cut and I think I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and get the vet nurse to do it with me holding her, and hope it doesn't make things even worse.

 

I got her a DAP collar, though can't say I've seen much obvious benefit, and I'm hoping to take her to a TTouch workshop in January, though whether TTouch is going to help a dog that doesn't want to be touched I don't know.

 

Other than that I really have no idea what else to do but to continue to give her time and space. Please - any thoughts, ideas or advice would be welcome.

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Fee - a really experienced Ttouch practitioner can work with a completely handshy dog, but I would be very careful of going to a top notch one. If you can, talk to Sarah Fisher or someone on her team at Tilley Farm direct for advice, they are in your neck of the woods. I wouldn't recommend going to a general workshop as it sounds like a severe case and little Sophie is in need of some one-to-one.

 

:GroupHug: for both of you

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Thanks Abby, the workshop I was hoping to attend is at Tilley Farm, but I'm not sure if Sarah is personally involved, it's another practitioner using the facilities there. I'll think I'll give Sarah a call and see what she advises :flowers:

Edited by Fee

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No very good suggestions, only sympathy - but I just had a vague thought and thought I'd mention in case it was any good - if Sophie feels safe in the crate and can touch you there, I wonder if there is any mileage in giving her other clear signals that it's safe to be touched in certain situations?

 

I mean, she presumably realises that if you really needed to, you could open the crate door and get her out of there physically, but she knows that you won't, so the crate is more a symbol of safety than an absolute barrier.

 

Could you maybe have specific clothes that you wear if you are going to have to do a vet visit, and only ever force essential contact if you are wearing those, or something like that? Then work on the rest of the time being 'safe time'? Maybe work on other barrier situations?

 

I know it's not ideal as you might still have to grab her in an emergency... Hope the Ttouch will help.

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That's an interesting idea, Victoria, perhaps I can extend the 'safety zone' she feels in her crate to other situations, I shall ponder on that.

 

I wondered if there might be some way of clicker training 'touching', framed so it could be under her control how much/how far she wanted to go, but I'm worried I could get it wrong and do more harm than good. From her point of view she'd really rather just be left alone :(

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Thanks Phebe, will definitely look into that :flowers:

 

This is a bit weird, but for the first time since the op Sophie just came up to me voluntarily as I was sitting here and put her head on my lap and let me stroke her for a couple of minutes. She's such a sensitive little thing, I can only think she's picked up something in my mood from writing this. I'm not pinning my hopes on anything dramatic, but it feels like a bit of a breakthrough.

 

Unfortunately I've just made an appointment for her to have her boosters and her claws clipped this evening, so am now dithering whether to postpone both for a bit or just get it over and done with :wacko:

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I seem to remember Sarah using a paint brush and then a false hand/arm in the TTouch TV programme she did - is this a possible idea to bridge the gap for the time being?

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:GroupHug: :GroupHug: No real advice to offer, but I've experienced similar (though not so bad) with my Sophie and Logan.

 

My Sophie sounds quite a bit like your Sophie.  She absolutely hates to be manhandled, and her trust is such a delicate thing - it takes ages to build up and is so quickly destroyed :(  If my Sophie does get handshy, which she does occasionally, particularly after traumatic vet visits, I find gentle massage of her ears when she is sleepy is a good starting point for contact.  I then start moving down the ear to a gently stroke of the head, etc.  But it sounds as if even that might be too much for your Sophie.  

 

Logan wouldn't let me near him for a while, as I was having to put in ear drops which he hated :(  If I approached him, he'd run and hide in his crate - it was a really horrid week.  He came around fairly quickly after we'd had a couple of days without ear drops, and is now fine again - he's a completely different personality though, and bounces back quite quickly.

 

I do think TTouch would help your Sophie - I did a 1 to 1 session with someone with Sophie a few years ago - it was amazing to watch as Sophie, who wouldn't let the person near her to start with (I did all the initial work) relaxed and calmed and by the end was leaning into her :)

 

 

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don't know if you've been tot he vets yet but maybe don't hold her yourself, ask the nurse to do it, then you can concentrate on been the "good guy" from her point of view.

i've heard t touch is supposed to be very good, and aren't those wrap things meant to be good for scared or timid dogs, i know usually it's for dogs who are scared of the environment, at least i think it is, but from what you said about her feeling safer in her crate with a barrier between the two f you perhaps one of the wrap things would give her some portable security? i'm not sure where you get em but i think it's a t touch thing.

good luck

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I can really imagine how heartbreaking this must be :mecry:

 

The only thing I would say - and this is only my opinion - is that I don't tend to find the softly softly approach as effective. We couldn't get near Begley for a long time after he came to us. It was only when we were advised to gently but firmly insist that he sit with us and be stroked that we made any progress. The same approach also worked well when Barney came to us and with nervous rats etc I always find being proactive works better. Food was a great help here so perhaps you could hand feed her and gently stroke her while she is eating so that she starts to associate being touched with positive things again?

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That's interesting, I have been wondering whether leaving her to come round in her own time is the right thing to do, as we've really made no progress in nearly 3 months. I think she's found herself a comfort zone and it might be hard for her to move on by herself. It's one of the reasons I thought about TTouch as that would (hopefully) be contact in a very positive way if I can bring her round to it.

 

One of the things she won't do at the moment is take food from my hand :(

 

She will tolerate being stroked, but she's so tense, and the minute you stop she breaks away and goes to the other end of the room.

 

I've e-mailed Sarah Fisher for advice about whether TTouch is the right thing for her at the moment, and if she'd recommend an individual or group session so I'll see what she says.

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My heart goes out to you and Sophie. Timmy was very much like that when he first came here so I know how difficult it is. I would agree with the suggestion to get someone else to hold her at the vets, then you aren't seen as the bad guy. Also, a tshirt can help (acts like a ttouch wrap) to make them more secure, but I guess the problem would be getting it on her.

 

I wish you luck and hope she will be back to herself very soon Group_Hug_Emoticon.gif

Edited by merledogs

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I can really imagine how heartbreaking this must be :mecry:

 

The only thing I would say - and this is only my opinion - is that I don't tend to find the softly softly approach as effective. We couldn't get near Begley for a long time after he came to us. It was only when we were advised to gently but firmly insist that he sit with us and be stroked that we made any progress. The same approach also worked well when Barney came to us and with nervous rats etc I always find being proactive works better. Food was a great help here so perhaps you could hand feed her and gently stroke her while she is eating so that she starts to associate being touched with positive things again?

 

 

Done properly positive reinforcement isn't softly softly, nor is it all treats, I rarely use treats. I have taken on very nervous and aggressive dogs, all responded well to positive reinforcement but if I had taken the softly softly approach, they wouldn't have made an progress.

 

TTouch isn't softly softly, the person doing the TTouch keep working on the animal no matter what the animal wants, depending on how bad he is it could be a feather, brush, hand etc. The animal eventually learns that he enjoys this touching.

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Poor Sophie and poor you, Fee :GroupHug:

 

Ronnie was (and still is, to some extent) a rather aloof character and would rather blend into the background than experience any sort of attention. He ducked his head, his eyes would flick around looking for an escape route or he'd just go rigid when touched. I was really unsure about TTouch but when we arrived at the practitioner's house he jumped onto her sofa - something he'd never ever attempted before. He got comfortable and we just chatted until he relaxed enough to let her gently touch him. I was amazed at how effective it was, even within minutes. I was shown some touches and I also bought a TTouch book and a Mekuti harness for general confidence.

 

I think we've come on quite a long way for a dog that had never experienced anything positive. He still very rarely wags his tail (about once a month on average) and has only recently started to accept food from anyone other than me but he let Ange touch him on the OC walk and he didn't look terrified. Yesterday, he didn't cringe when two strangers wanted to stroke him on our walk.

 

TTouch can be great for gaining your dogs trust. I only wish I spent more time on it! :rolleyes:

 

I really hope it brings some new positives for Sophie and you.

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