Another miserable new dog owner

(84 Posts)
lainiekazan Thu 13-Jun-13 09:32:05

I am so worn out and worried.

We were all eager to welcome a dog and prepared by and large for what it entailed.

However, 3-month old puppy is displaying some really challenging behaviour. He is getting increasingly aggressive - snarling and growling if he's prevented from doing something (eg eating stones/attacking tv). Or if I try to tempt him into his crate if I have to go shopping/school run. He is quite big already and frankly it is a bit scary. He is well house-trained, but if I have to go upstairs he leaves a well-placed poo by the stair gate.

Also, dd said last night, "Look, Mummy, he's dancing with your cardigan.". He was most certainly not dancing, unless it was dirty dancing... He is only 3 months old!

Ds loves him, and is getting upset with me as a couple of times this week I've burst into tears. He also rises at 4.30 every morning and refuses to bed down again.

MumnGran Thu 13-Jun-13 10:14:47

Personally, I think tempting with better offers panders to dogs being 'in control' because it offers them a choice (not that I would start an argument with those who do operate that system, its just not for me). Firmly believe in teaching the word 'no' from Day 1 .... and using that to stop inappropriate behaviour, with a reward for compliance.

But then, I am the biggest bitch in this house grin

coffeeinbed Thu 13-Jun-13 10:15:19

Oh yes.
Golden retriever puppies are the cutest looking ever and can be a growling nightmare.
Puppy classes, stay calm but firm, she will be fine.
They respond well to treats and affection, use it.
And l

coffeeinbed Thu 13-Jun-13 10:16:08

And long walks to tire them out.

littlewhitebag Thu 13-Jun-13 10:17:54

I second the random treat idea. We all had pockets full of kibble at all times and whenever pup was behaving well she got a treat. We also used to scatter a few way from her if she was doing something undesired to distract her away. For example she used to bite our feet/ bottom of trousers. We would throw kibble away from us she would go and get it and we would walk on calmly. No fuss no attention.

ClartyCarol Thu 13-Jun-13 10:25:27

You have to be careful with Goldie pups and long walks, can lead to stress on their developing bones and cause long term problems.

HoneyDragon Thu 13-Jun-13 10:29:19

The dog ladies aren't scary, I promise. And they won't scare you. It's a lot easier to help people who want it thanks

The snappiness is a normal phase. My lab went through a brief snarly phase over being requested to get of the sofa. I consistently rewarded her for getting off nicely and ignored the bad behaviour.

Pups are hard work. Please don't be scared, you'll get
Lots of support here.

D0oinMeCleanin Thu 13-Jun-13 10:33:32

Your puppy hasn't decided he is leader of the pack. Honest. He really, really hasn't. He is a puppy and is doing what puppies do.

Please don't try and be pack leader.

Calm, positive training, is all that is needed. If you eat a cracker before feeding your dog he won't know you are asserting your leadership, you'll just look and feel a bit crackers grin

If he's guarding the sofa he is doing it because it's comfy, not because that is where the leader sits. I'd stop him from going up there unless he is invited. Not to assert dominance over him, but simply as a way to stop the bad behavior before it starts. Teach a good "off" command. Every time you spot him on the sofa give the off command and lead him to his own bed. Hide treats in his bed and randomly click and treat whenever you find him in his own bed. He'll soon get the picture. My terrier has a bad habit of guarding the sofa. We both covet the same spot. He knows now he has to get off when I walk into the room, he soon jumps back up on my lap, but I don't mind that.

If he's snarling when you try and crate him he hasn't been crate trained properly and you need to start again Kikopup can help with this start from scratch. Also keep the best treats and toys only for when he is in his crate. He'll soon see his crate as the best place in the house.

littlewhitebag Thu 13-Jun-13 10:41:13

Oh and get great chew toys. A kong which can be stuffed with all sorts of things and stag bars are firm favorites in our house.

Blistory Thu 13-Jun-13 10:45:22

You've made the classic mistake of assuming that a 12 week old puppy has intentions that he simply doesn't.

Whatever he does, he does because it's rewarding in some way. You need to find a way of ensuring that he gets rewards in ways that you're both happy with. That might involve more playtime, food treats, walks or even the odd firm no with the right tone, or ignoring him. Rewarding for positive behaviour doesn't mean simply ignoring the behaviour you don't want. You need to learn what works for you and him.

For my dog, positive food rewards resulted in her doing the negative behaviour in order to then demonstrate the positive behaviour that got a treat. Entirely my fault as I obviously mistimed the treat and underestimated her intelligence.

It took a while for me to realise that what worked for her was ignoring her and for more extreme behaviours, a sharp no with the right tone worked wonders but had to be followed up with immediate 'forgiveness' so she could associate the no as beinf only about the act itself that I didn't want. Demonstrating anger would cause her real distress and demonstrating fear or anxiety would send her hyper.

The more time I spent finding activities that she enjoyed and incorporating training into playtimes, the better behaviours she offered. Obviously I can't overcome all her natural instincts so I no longer worry about the rolling in fox poo, squirrel dashes etc and I've had to accept that she is a dog and not to put her in situations that go beyond what is controllable. So she's on lead if there are likely to be squirrels to chase but the area is unsafe and off lead if we're somewhere safe.

Get the additional help you need but remember when you're frustrated and upset that he's still brand new and learning.

BTW, you don't need to get up at 4.30am because he does. If the house training is going well, you can gradually increase the time before you go to him in the morning. Don't underestimate the effect that the lack of sleep is having on you.

spiderlight Thu 13-Jun-13 10:49:53

There's quite a good article on guarding in the current issue of Dogs Today.

Pandemoniaa Thu 13-Jun-13 11:03:40

Please ignore the now thoroughly debunked dominance theories. Your dog isn't trying to be any sort of pack leader. It matters not a jot which order the family is fed in nor who goes through doors first. Your dog is not hard-wired to dominate your family.

At 3 months, he's mainly behaving like a puppy but obviously you don't want him to develop bad habits. Snarling at humans is not allowed in my house. I do permit dogs on furniture but this comes with a simple rule. Furniture is mainly for humans. If humans want to sit down then dogs are expected to get down without complaint.

I've achieved this by positive encouragement from day one. Not that I'm any sort of expert dog trainer! However, with two Jack Russells (an extremely independently minded breed!) it would be sheer chaos if good manners weren't introduced at the outset. I've also got a (very nearly) 3 month old pup. He's not particularly bitey but he has started to test boundaries. Only this morning he treated me to what he thought was his Most Fierce Bark when reluctantly put in the wet garden for a wee. It got him precisely nowhere. But he did get huge praise and a little treat for having the wee. So I emphasised the positive rather than the attitude.

My experience of retrievers is limited but I'm afraid I have come across some growly ones. They always seemed rather unhappy dogs and I suspect that the bad habits got entrenched in puppyhood. Given that they are quite big pups, I can understand that their behaviour is scarier than, say, my small but bold terrier. But also, I suspect that your pup is picking up on your fears.

He needs kind, consistent training so that you can all enjoy each other's company. Doin has provided some really helpful advice and I'd also suggest you get some more training for him. Retrievers are clever dogs and will thrive on being given more to occupy them.

D0oinMeCleanin Thu 13-Jun-13 11:14:10

I've just read your comment where you say he won't work for treats or praise. Try a different kind of treat. Liver cake, sardine cake, raw mince (v popular in our house) ham, cheese cubes, squeezey cheese. A game of tug or fetch etc.

Different things work on different dogs.

D0oinMeCleanin Thu 13-Jun-13 11:16:21

Also feed less at meal times so he is hungry and willing to work for food. You could always turn meal times in to a clicker session. Split his meal into a small parts and get training instead of just putting the bowl down on the floor and leaving him to it (don't use Nature Diet Fish flavour for this, it stinks and will not wash off your hands <<bitter experience>>) grin

lainiekazan Thu 13-Jun-13 11:17:13

Thanks. Closely observing him this morning, I realise that he is associating treats with his fun being stopped. He is no fool - he sits, waits, lies down, presents his paws for cleaning after going out - so has worked out that if I loom towards him with something tasty it means he can't eat the washing, has to go to bed, has to go outside to the loo and so on.

Spero Thu 13-Jun-13 11:23:20

It may always be the owner's 'fault' but different dogs have different temperaments, personalities and sizes. If you are a small gentle human, you need a breed that reflects those characteristics otherwise I find it difficult to see how the both of you will ever get on well together.

I agree dominance theory has been debunked - I don't care when or how I feed my dog but she does know I am in charge which I think is essential. so to that extent alone I am 'dominant'. But I certainly don't think she is plotting to take over the household and make me the belly rub slave. But she does need to know where she fits in and what is acceptable and what is not.

belly run slave smile

'rub' - bollox smile

Hercy Thu 13-Jun-13 11:26:02

I have a 9 month old Labrador retriever who also went through a bit of a snarly phase. What worked for us was simply standing up and turning our back on him. After about 30 seconds or so, resume playing or whatever you were doing with him, and give praise for being good, and as soon as you get another snarl, stand up and turn your back again. Repeat to infinity. It can be frustrating I know, but you need to be consistent and yours will get there in the end.

Ours got particularly snarly when he needed a poo! So you might want to check yours doesn't need to go out (I would do this after you have turned your back etc so he doesn't associate getting snappy with getting to go outside).

Blistory Thu 13-Jun-13 11:26:03

Sounds like you're mistiming the treats. I had that issue and had to be really quick to ensure that a treat marked the correct behaviour and nothing else.

Blistory Thu 13-Jun-13 11:27:27

Are you using treats as a lure rather than a reward ?

lainiekazan Thu 13-Jun-13 11:33:09

Both. He only responds when he wants to.

tabulahrasa Thu 13-Jun-13 11:45:48

My puppy had horrible snarly bitey tantrums when he wasn't getting his own way - I treated them exactly like toddler tantrums, didn't let him get his own way and ignored the carry on. He'd stopped by the time he was about 5 months.

Remember he is a doggy toddler...nothing about his behaviour now is any indication of what he will be like anymore than human toddlers grow up to be psychopathic dictators if they're not allowed to be when they're little anyway. Think about how violent and unreasonable little people are, lol.

Having a puppy is soooo hard, I genuinely worried for a while with mine that I had some sort of vicious devil dog...he's 11 months old tomorrow and he's by no means a well behaved adult dog yet, he still steals things and tries to chew them and we have an ongoing issue with him being rude and overfriendly with both people and other dogs, but he is a soppy amiable big thing. He has elbow dysplasia, which has meant lots of vet's visits, an operation and leaving him with a completely unfamiliar vet in a place he'd never been before, hundreds of examinations of a leg that has been very painful and every vet we've seen has commented on how easygoing he is - I so could not have predicted that from the snarly bitey puppy he was at 12 weeks old. In fact I'm pretty sure he was 12 weeks old when he bit a friend of mine hard enough that it's left a tiny scar over a spilled cat biscuit. confused

If you're having an issue with the timing of rewards - have you tried clicker training? I couldn't see how it was any different than using praise and a treat until I actually tried it. It makes it so much easier to time things better, it makes you so much more precise that it works loads better.

Chazz88 Thu 13-Jun-13 11:46:12

Also when learning more completed things I found using a more valuable treat very helpful e.g cheese, sausage

Ilovehistory Thu 13-Jun-13 12:26:54

I disagree that all dog problems are caused by owners. Dogs are no different to humans. Some have a tendency for aggression, laziness, etc etc...

wriggletto Thu 13-Jun-13 12:28:37

I had a horrible teenage dog too - he went through such a snarly, bitey phase (unheard of for his breed) that I thought I'd made the worst mistake of my life. One 'expert' told me to roll him on his back - hmm - which I have to admit I did once, in desperation, and he promptly weed himself in fear which was awful for us both. Never did that again.

Like others, what worked for me was completely ignoring the tantrumming, and either removing him or myself from the room so he got no attention for acting up. When he was quiet, he got lots of praise and treats. I also taught him to give a paw, and to sit, and sometimes asking for those and rewarding, would be distracting enough to snap him out of his barking. (He seemed to do that thing toddlers do, of getting so into the barking/crying that he couldn't stop.) Similarly, with the sofa, I taught him that 'off' meant cheese. I also tried to notice his body language more, to work out what it was that he was really kicking off about.

Ultimately, though, I think what really helped was time. We were consistent, and he grew up. And now, while he's still a bit Victor Meldrew, on the whole he's a sweet dog to be around. Get some proper advice - GRs are smart, and very trainable but they're too big to be in charge of the house!

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