Micky's got a new fear issue... he's afraid to leave our apartment. Specifically he's afraid to be outdoors within the gates of our apartment complex. Once we leave the apartment complex and get about a block away he gets better, but still not his usual self.
I've got a trainer scheduled for a first in-home visit next Wednesday, and I spoke with her about this. She gave some advice that is helping, but I'd love any advice you all can offer too.
I think this is what triggered this: A few days ago a stray dog got inside the gated apartment complex. Micky and I walked past a stairwell, and unbeknownst to me, the stray was under it. When we passed the stairwell he came after us. He didn't bite Micky or me. He was barking and growling at our heels. Micky didn't seem too bothered by it at the time. (the stray's gone... the apartment management took care of that right away). At first, Micky was afraid to go near that stairwell, so we avoided it. Over the course of the last few days, that fear-area has expanded to the point where Micky is afraid to go in any direction the minute we step out my apartment door (I'm on the third floor... if we go to the right there are two stairwells to go down and out in that direction. To the left there's one). He freezes outside the apartment door. Tail tucked, ears back, a terrified look on his face and he'll sit and not want to move.
Obviously, I need to get him downstairs to go potty, so I was luring him with high-value treats... kind-of working but not very well. I talked to the trainer about it and she suggested that the position of my body when I'm luring him could make a difference... to think of myself as a bridge between Micky and what he's afraid of and to focus on making him feel safe in crossing that bridge. That different mind-set has helped quite a bit. With that approach I'm able to get him downstairs and out of the apartment complex.
Once outside the complex, he pulls to get away from it. Once we're a block or so away, he's better, but still not relaxed. He does his business and then pretty much wants to go home. Once we're within a block of home we have the same problem in reverse... same "bridge-treat" approach. Once we're at the bottom of the stairs he starts pulling towards our apartment and doesn't let up until we're inside.
This problem is worse at night (starting at about 8:00 p.m. it's much harder... it's not dark here yet, but not as bright as in the day).
He's fine inside. No one's been over except friend, who is family to Micky.
From now until next Wednesday when I can get hands-on help, here's what I'm planning:
1. Only take him out when needed for him to do his business.
2. Continue to use the "bridge/treat" approach to get him out.
3. Once out, take cues from him regarding where he feels comfortable going and how long we're out for. This means he won't be getting his normal amount of exercise by walking, but I'll up the indoor games and training.
4. No guests other than friend.
Does that approach sound okay? Any other suggestions?
it is JUST AWFUL seeing him so scared. He could use some vibes!
eta: I said Micky is fine inside, and he is... he doesn't seem the least bit frightened. He is more clingly though. Spends more time right next to me, and twice when I've gone into the bathroom and closed the door he's stood outside waiting for me (not normal for him). Once when friend was here, friend told me he stood outside the door for a minute and then went through the living room and into the bedroom to see if he could get in the bathroom from that direction (bathroom is an L with a door into a foyer on one side and a door into the bedroom on the other).
And, I discovered this morning that friend may be the highest value treat. When we went out this morning, friend met us outside, at the bottom of a stairwell. When Micky and I got to the top of those stairs, we went through the same "bridge-treat" process... once Micky realized friend was at the bottom of the stairs, he excitedly moved forward to greet him.