Old Dog Is Timid And Nervous
We recently adopted a senior rescue ("retired") sled dog. He is 13 years old. Obviously this is a large transition for him, but even still he is a lovely, smart dog. He is very timid when meeting new people, and often flinches when being touched, however gently. He sleeps inside but it is stressful for him being inside. He has some sight issues (cataracts as well as prominent third eyelids on both eyes, which I am trying to figure out with my vet). He appears to be partly deaf. He has some signs of physical traumas and many small scars (likely from dog fights). I understand that he had to fight his counterparts for food so there was not a tight pack mentality. He does LOVE to be touched/belly rubs once he warms up to you. He is already (after 3 weeks) becoming easier to walk without pulling.
My question is whether there is anything you can suggest for making indoors feel safer to him. We confine him to one room which has glass doors leading to the outdoors. He seems comforted by not having too much space, but is still nervous. He is also nervous in vehicles. He is terrified of the sounds of chains and very nervous of most metal noises. I covered his dog tags and metal collar bits so they don't clang on things, and changed his dishes out for plastic (dark coloured plastic to be specific because the light coloured plastic contrasted with the grass to much I think and made him fearful). Of course I want to do everything I can to help him feel safe and comfortable and would greatly appreciate any suggestions you have. We've come a long ways and I am so impressed with how much he is already settling in considering his background. So far I am finding that he responds very well to repetition (we do the same walk every morning and most evenings, we always turn left when we leave the yard, etc.).
Answer: It sounds like you are doing everything you can for your dog..and it appears he has suffered a lot of trauma over the years. I wanted to ask if you have your dog on any pain meds, holistic or otherwise? third eyelids often represent a lot of pain...however, you vet would know that of course and glad you are working on it.
His inside issues need to be addressed and you seem to be on the right track by giving him a "den" like place to be. I had a dog like this many years ago, and in the end he slept on the porch no matter the weather, because it was too stressful for him to be inside the house to sleep. IF you have a secure area, you might like to consider this, if not carry on with what you are doing. His whole life he only has known the outside...it is where he feels the most secure, sadly. His fear of chains suggest his past of course, because he would have been chained to his dog house, plus sleds are generally chained to trailers before releasing them to run...best to keep those away from him, at his age, he does not need them in his life. There are collars out there now that have all information sewn into the collar itself so that you don't need tags...
Feeding, if you have lawn, you could try "chicken" feeding him...that means just sprinkle his food on the grass ( as long as it is kibble of course) and let his nose do the work. He may not have many of his other senses, but the nose they keep until the end generally... It will take a while, but you are doing great, and thank you for saving a "sled" dog...
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