The dog of one my relatives suffer from extreme fear reactions and his life is about finding ways to hide in a dark corner of the house and spend half a day there.
I'll try to describe the dog's behaviour and give my understanding of the problem. In short: how can we help the dog overcome his general fearful state of mind ?
About the dog
From time to time he just "shuts down" when noticing that the owner wants to go for a walk. He'll either hide or just "act dead". He often does that while on walk too, for no obvious reason. It doesn't to be related to a specific thing (like cars or other dogs). He think he's in such a general fearful state that with time he associated many neutral situations with things that were initially starting his fear reactions.
He is clearly afraid of fireworks.
The dog was (in my view) not properly socialised and/or exposed to enough stimuli (cars, people, other dogs, loud noises, etc.) in his early life (from 8 weeks to his final shots, probably around 16 weeks). The reason was that the vet advised to keep him in the house for that period to avoid any potential problem before his first shots. Now that I know how important early socialisation is, this seems a bit crazy to me but that's what happened.
The dog is not showing signs of agression. When facing a "fight or flight" situation he definitely chose the second option.
The dog is a two and half years old Border Collie, pure breed. I don't have much information about the breeder. The family of the owner reports that the mother was fearful.
So all of that is far from perfect and it is quite sad to see the dog in that state of mind.
I don't have detailed explanation but apparently the vet tried to help the dog reach a more relaxed state with micro massaging. I think he was referring to the Tellington TTouch method (see the related question, the picture there is not the dog I'm talking about here).
Potential solutions and questions
For dogs with specific fear-related problems I think the way to treat the dog is with classical counter-conditioning and desensitisation. However I think the difficult part is that it is too easy to go too far too quickly and to actually flood the dog. There have been many criticism that it is what Cesar Milan does quite often in the presence of fearful dogs (not my goal to start a debate here but in this case it is my main concern).
So as in this case we have a generally fearful dog, how should we proceed ? I don't know if the best strategy is to work on each fear reaction individually, gradually exposing the dog to them. Or if it is better to treat the problem as a whole. If so, I don't know how and I don't know what the techniques are. This is my main question. What is the clinical definition of the situation ?