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We adopted Penny about 4-5 months ago (she's a little over a year now) from a local shelter. In the beginning she was a little nervous, which I'm guessing had to do with new surroundings.

The first week was alright. She was OK being around me when we were alone, then outta nowhere she started developing a strong sense of fear towards me. Whenever we were alone, she'd hide from me and cower. If I got anywhere near her, whether it was intentional or not, she'd start shaking real hard and whine. This developed into her urinating and pooping out of fear.

As time progressed she started getting worse. She would start doing this weird scream (she's part Husky) at me, if I got too close. At times I would see her staring at me, and if I moved, she would lift her leg; as if threatening she'll pee if I come any closer. When she pees out of fear, she'll lay down, and lift her leg before releasing her bladder. She has thrown "tantrums" when I try to put her in her kennel when I have to go to work.

A few times she has attacked me, actually biting me. I don't provoke her, and I've never been abusive. Rarely have I ever raised my voice, so I'm not quite sure where this is all coming from. Any time I take her out for walks, she starts yanking on the leash hard; and has managed to break loose a couple of times. Once I took her out to go potty, and she went berserk, she started doing her Husky yell and was jumping around wildly.

But when we're around other people, she shows me affection, and actually listens to me. It's like there's no fear in her eyes, and her body language is relaxed and playful.

I've taken her to the vet, and followed all of his instructions; yet nothing is working. I'm even taking her to obedience classes, which aren't working either. I've left her alone with other people, men, and women, and she doesn't act scared or throw tantrums with them. I don't know what it is about me that causes her to act that way when we're alone.

  • Where does she sleep, when and where does she eat? does she eat before you? It would be good to get more background on her from the shelter if possible and if they know her history. Was she abused or neglected? – user6796 Apr 6 '17 at 17:14
  • She sleeps in her kennel now, because she has developed a bad habit of chewing wires. I don't feel comfortable with the possibility of her ruining anything or electrocuting herself. I feed her twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. she usually eats around the same times that I do. Unfortunately the shelter has zero background information on her, except that they found her wandering a large field. It's a possibility that she was abused, but why is she afraid of just me and only when we are alone? – Justin Apr 6 '17 at 17:21
  • I'm trying to work that out, which is why I'm asking questions. So she's been chewing things? If she chained up? Or does she have free reign of the yard? How often is she walked and how long is she left alone during the day? Is she allowed inside at all? If so for how long? Do you live alone? do you have other pets? bear with me, I'm trying to get a full picture – user6796 Apr 6 '17 at 17:23
  • Yes, she's been caught chewing a couple wires and my wallet once. She's never chained up, and she's not out in a yard. I live in an apartment, so I have to walk her on a leash. I take her out as often as I possibly can. Our walks usually last anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours. It just depends on where we are and what's going on for the day. I will take her to the dog park to run free and play with other dogs at least once a week. Shes usually alone maybe 4-6 hours a day. I live with my fiancé, and no other pets yet. – Justin Apr 6 '17 at 17:31
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    It's in the dining room, which is open to the living room. She's not secluded or hidden away. – Justin Apr 6 '17 at 19:49
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Activity Levels

An issue you have is she is an active breed and a working breed and she is shut in an apartment. Husky's tend to enjoy company of other dogs and to be free to run around. They are also known for escaping from yards and wandering, as that is their nature. Being in an apartment most of the day is unlikely to make her happy. I also live in an apartment and researched breeds for months before deciding on a greyhound. They are one of the laziest dogs around, they need 20 minutes of exercise and then they want to lie down.

I'm not saying you should get a greyhound, I saying this is going to be an issue in understanding Penny's demeanour and emotional state. She's stressed.

She was good the first week, it was a novelty and a new home and there would have been more attention given to her. This is perfectly natural and usual when bringing home a new pet. She wouldn't have missed the outdoors so much, but as she's settled into a routine, she will start to miss running around and possibly feel a little stir crazy being camped in an apartment.

Her enthusiasm and perceived disobedience on the leash, trying to (and occasionally) breaking free is symptomatic of her need to run and work. She's excited and fresh. Plus she's still a puppy and will be until she's 2-3 years old and completely settled. so there's that extra exuberance and need for play.

Puppy hood

This also leads to chewing. All dogs in the puppy phase will chew and they will chew anything that feels good on their gums. The onus is on the owners to dog proof the home from teething gums. A job easier said than done. She will need plenty of items to chew on, in fact a variety, particularly when being left alone. Boredom will make her want to chew more, as she will not be distracted from annoying gums.

Her Fear

Whether she came from a loving home and was lost, there's likely to have been at least on painful experience with a person for her to be so terrified of you. It sounds like she is also biting out of fear. The fact she has bitten you more than once is serious, a husky is not a small dog and she can inflict quite a bit of damage.

There's something about your demeanour when your alone that frightens her. We all have different faces when others are around. Try and note you body language when you're approaching her when you're alone and compare it to when you're in company.

Try videoing yourself when you're alone and ask your partner to watch it.

A solution - building a relationship from the ground up

1. Alone

I would recommend trying to get her to approach you. If she is looking terrified, so not approach her. Sit down. Preferably take a step back and sit down. Tell her in a low calm voice that it's ok. Put your hands out in front of you palm down as you say this. Let her know she's safe.

You'll need to start training to overcome this fear from the ground up. Back to basics. Rewarding her for small gains. This is most difficult if you are the primary carer for the dog. If there's any chance your partner can help take over, so when you are alone with the dog, you can just sit with her. Offer her a food titbit, toss it on the ground away from you near her and praise her for taking it. With the goal that eventually she will take it from your hand.

2. In company

When others are around do the same exercises with her and reward her. So when you come into the room, you can sit and then ask her to come. Give her a titbit and praise her. Tell her how good she is and lots of pats. Not on top of her hear, under the sides of her face. So she doesn't feel you are trying to dominate her, it will be non threatening and supportive.

If she comes and takes a titbit from you in company repeat as above with the praise. It's important to put both vocal and physical praise at the same time as giving the food reward, so later any of these are viewed as pleasurable and will be rewards within themselves the dog will seek.

Physical Stance

Another thing is to try and approach from a low physical stance. So crouching. You could even try lying on the floor when you're alone with her and see how she responds. Make your body language as less threatening as possible.

One thing is, throughout all this, patience is key.

It's important you maintain her walks, it would be preferable if you are able to put her on a leash while someone else is in the apartment. If possible avoid having to approach and handle her on your own, as this will interfere with the process of trust and safety that you are trying to build. I understand that this might not be possible.

Support

Also speak to the shelter, and check local husky groups, for any possible guidance. If you are able to meet with other owners of the breed for play dates and some guidance it will help you.

Re-homing

I am concerned about this situation. Both for you and Penny. She is at a point where she has bitten you and depending on the laws this may make re-homing her difficult, which would be sad indeed. She deserves a chance, she's not a bad dog, we need to work out ways to improve her security levels with her. If you are unable to resolve this, then the best thing would be to (again) approach the shelter or some husky groups and see if there is someone who already has a husky who would be happy to take on a special case. I've found the best way to get help with any breed of any animal (especially dogs) is to approach enthusiasts of that breed. I have never recommended re-homing here before, but when there is aggression that involves biting, it is something that needs to be brought to the table.

Best of luck, please let us know how you get on.

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    Very thorough answer Yvette! I concur on all points. I think apartment life is the primary concern here. This puppy needs outdoor space and other dogs. Re-homing might be necessary. Justin, have you and you fiancée considered moving into the dog park? Good luck and please follow up here at the site. – M.Mat Apr 6 '17 at 19:41
  • thanks @M.Mat I was on this site when it first launched and haven't been so active lately. It's good to be back and contributing more. It's good to get to know the community, since I've been away :) – user6796 Apr 6 '17 at 19:43
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    I will take everything that you have said, and really do my best to work with her some more. If need be, I will reach out to those that are Husky experts. The very last step would be re-homing. Thank you so much for hearing me out, and giving me a ton of great advice. :-) – Justin Apr 6 '17 at 19:57
  • @Justin your most welcome. I have quite a few rescue pets currently and although they are more "work" the relationship that we end up building with them is amazing and special. I really hope you can make progress. Please come back with more posts about her. :) – user6796 Apr 6 '17 at 20:16
  • Oh most definitely! I'll keep y'all up to date. – Justin Apr 6 '17 at 20:33
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You are her main man. It might be that she trusts only you enough to let her guard down and act out. Presume, however, that she has previously been abused in private. Possibly beaten while potty trained? She might just be testing the waters in her new environment. As much as you can, a regular schedule of feeding, exercise, training, socialization and play time will help a lot to keep her temper even, but these things take time. And patience. And, at times: forgiveness.

I am reading a lot in to your description, but it does seem that she is expecting the other shoe to drop. Behavioral disorders will take time and patience as well as gentle loving encouragement and affection. If there's been abuse, you'll want to establish a pattern of behavior on your part so that when she trusts that you will not repeat the abuse pattern, she won't need to act out. Do not push her past her comfort zone - when she gets anxious, give her her space and time. Remain calm. Do not, however, let he acting out become a way of training you. You do need to remain boss. It might be best that you simply ignore her when you two are alone until she feels comfortable with your routine.

It is very important that she have a safe zone - be this a dog bed/pillow, a kennel/crate, or just a comfy spot with her favorite toy. Note that it is not uncommon that dogs are afraid of men - whether this is the deeper voice, hormonal scents, behavior, or what, it seems like she is afraid of being alone with a man. Have you tried socializing her with any other gentlemen?

Does she have anything to do while she is alone? A hanging rope toy? Chew toys?

The good news is that it reads like she feels safe and confident in a social atmosphere. You can build upon this. Try training her at the dog park. Simple things like leash training (wait, stay) and commands like sit, down, off, paw (to hold up her paw for shaking while she is sitting). Make sure to use your stern "command" voice when issuing commands. As soon as the command is obeyed, use your "affectionate" voice (doesn't have to be baby-talk, just distinct from the stern command voice, e.g. smile as you talk to her) to say "good sit" or "good paw" (you are also teaching her the word "good" as well as the command words). You can use treats as rewards, but I think you would be better off using affectionate touch and voice. Be wary not to pet your dog on top of her head. This can be intimidating to dog's as a dominance move. Instead put your hand below her head, palm up, and from under her, bring your hand to her cheek for a rub and massage. Then move in for a little belly and hind rubbing as a reward for good behavior. This is more like how dog's greet each other. This routine of train, reward along with social time in the dog park will build her trust with you.

To help her feel at ease in the house when she is alone with you, it might help to arrange a play date at your home with another dog? Arrange to spend some time so it is just you and the two dogs. That way your dog can read the other dog's reaction to being alone with you. Once they've acquainted (and it might help to introduce the other dog to your house and get the familiar before trying alone time) you can just ignore them and let them figure it out. Maybe once they've settled in give them each a chew toy as a reward for calm behavior.

It could simply be that her previous owner gave her no training and she only got socialization from being around other dogs, hence she acts out when alone with you. Whatever the case, she's young and still very trainable. It just takes a little extra time the later good training practices are made a part of the dogs routine.

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