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Does my dog prefer his trainer to me?

(12 Posts)
Solo2 Sun 18-Sep-11 05:27:06

Had a really upsetting time yesterday when Rollo and I accompanied his dog trainer and her 2 dogs on a new off-lead walk. We're getting Rollo used to wearing a muzzle so he doesn't scavenge all the time and it's all going really well....but....

The trainer was going to walk on a lot further and Rollo and I needed to turn back. He became incredibly distressed that he couldn't follow the others. He was leaping around madly on a lead , going beserk and whimpering, which is unique for him. It took me about half an hour, even after the trainer and her dogs were well out of sight, to begin to get him to go back. We couldn't do off-lead at all and it turned into a battle for me to get him to come back with me. At one point, I just had to sit down on the side of the path and cuddle and stroke Rollo to calm him down.

Eventually we got home and Rollo began to settle but then the trainer called round, as arranged, to exchange leads we'd swopped etc. She was at the front door and Rollo in the kitchen but he even seemed to know the sound of her van pulling up and of course her voice and he went beserk again in the kitchen, obviously desperate to go to the trainer.

She was only at the door about 2 minutes but Rollo was unsettled for hours after this and everytime he heard a noise, it was as if he thought it was her again and he'd stand waiting to see her and whining.

Now on the one hand, I'm very pleased that he loves her so much as he's stayed with her and her dogs twice before and she's been helping us out one-to-one since he was 7 weeks old. on the other hand, it's clear that he never wants her to go, never wants to leave her when he comes back home, obeys her instantaneously and is MUCH better behaved at her home than with me.

Yesterday really highlighted just how much he adores her and I felt jealous and also worried that he considers her to be his 'family' and not me and my DCs. Is this because she also has 2 dogs and so he has a fun time playing with them whenever he sees her? Is it because she's the one whose done off-lead walks with him, long before I've dared to do any?

Is it because her home is more 'relaxed' than ours - as I'm regularly stressed and too busy with juggling a fulltime business, solo parenting twins and of course managing Rollo's recurrent diarrhoea, nights up all night, rushed, stressed, hurried etc etc.? His trainer lives alone in a small flat where her dogs have free run of the entire place (Rollo has restrictions in our home) and she devotes her whole life to her dogs, has no DCs and just does a few dog training sessions a week.

Is it something about her voice, her looks, even her scent that Rollo prefers? I feel a bit like a parent whose baby prefers the nanny!

Has anyone else had or has got a dog like this who seems to be in ecstasy over another person more than over the owner?

Thistledew Sun 18-Sep-11 07:55:10

I would guess that it is because, being a trainer, she handles him in a more dominant way than you do (hence him behaving better with her etc) so he sees her as the pack Alpha.

Being a pack animal he feels more confident when he is with the Alpha, and is anxious to ingratiate himself with her and sees being in her presence as something that confers benefit to him.

You just need to become a bit more of an Alpha to him! Have you spoken to the trainer about it? What does she say?

DooinMeCleanin Sun 18-Sep-11 12:50:47

She's fun. She has dogs he can play with. It's nothing more than that. He still loves you.

MotherJack Sun 18-Sep-11 13:25:39

Thistle - if the trainer is a decent one, she'd probably say something like "where have you been for the last few years? Pack Theory has been well and truly debunked as a load of tripe". wink

So basically, what Dooin says. Dogs respond to objects (people) which are fun and exciting and give them things to be interested in. You probably need to invest a little time in Rollo, as hard as it sounds smile

Solo2 Sun 18-Sep-11 15:43:02

MotherJack, my entire life seems to revolve around Rollo at times! smile He gets 2 good walks a day, play sessions in the garden, cuddles etc, although this has to be fit in between all the other demands. He's never left alone in the daytime for more than about 2 hours at a time.

But I feel I can't do much more, am up every morning at 5am to do everything for him before my normal day starts at 6am and between every single other thing I do, I'm 'doing' the dog - ie play, walks, toileting etc etc. However, I don't have other dogs and I also feel stressed a lot of the time as there are so many responsibilites, including Rollo. Might he be picking up the stress? If you've read the other threads on him, you'll know he's had recurrent diarrhoea for several months, now temporarily stopped by medication, has had several thousands of pound spent on his hospitalisations and investigations, that I can ill afford (no insurance) and a lot of the time my 'feeling' around him has been stress and guilt (that I can't devote even more time to him).

Over the last 2 days only, as he's started to wear a muzzle on walks and can now go off-lead, life is considerably less stressful with him for me and for Rollo too but if/when he comes off medication, and his diarrhoea returns (leading to sleepless nights etc) I know my stress will increase again and so even now, I'm looking ahead to that time and worrying about it. It'll coincide with school end of term/Xmas preps. for my twins too....

How much can a dog 'read' stress from a person? How can I be more fun if I'm so stressed??? I'm torn all the time between my DCs needs and Rollo's needs and the two are rarely compatible. The trainer always seems so relaxed, calm and jolly and at ease with life and I'm sure Rollo picks this up.

MotherJack Sun 18-Sep-11 16:24:45

I know. I do really feel for you, Solo. You've had a really rough ride with him and you're up to the eyeballs. I didn't mean to add to any guilt you already feel.

I think that dogs probably can read stress and I have to hand it to you, you do have a bucketload of reasons to be stressed. However, I think that Rollo probably just gets rewards from the trainer... not rewarded by her joviality, but attention rewards and he gets rewards by being with her other dogs. I honestly don't know the answer to this, Solo. Perhaps in the time that you do spend with him there is some kind of game which will meet his needs in a more saturated way. So if you spend half an hour throwing a ball for him, spend half an hour teaching him a new trick that he has to think about so he'll be mentally tired. Also, how old are your twins? Are they too young to involve them in the training/game? Minimu11 is always the one I look for in situations like this as she's always got an idea of some sort.

minimu11 Sun 18-Sep-11 16:25:35

You really are overthinking this Solo.

You were out for a walk and then your turned back - of course Rollo wanted to carry on the walk he is a dog he will walk all day!

Rollo really doesn't have favourites he may like to be out playing with other dogs and people. Most children would also like to play with others but it does not mean they don't like their parents!

You really do need to chill and just enjoy Rollo - stop thinking of what ifs - it is a long time to Christmas and you are already worrying about it.

If you start analysing how stressed you are and how you have to be less stressed the result will instantly be more stressed!

Look at the good things

Rollo is now used to a muzzle
You have medication that does control his diarrhoea - so you and the vet know the solution IF and a big if he does have another attack.

He is on food that you can now use for training so can have some fun training him and maybe getting the boys to enjoy him more.

Don't feel torn just enjoy time with Rollo and your DC's Mums are always busy so he is not having a hard time.

Just enjoy your lovely bundle of goldiness and relax.

Rollo is your dog and he will love you whatever (thats the great thing about dogs!) but life may be easier for YOU if you relax a bit about it all.

DaisySteiner Sun 18-Sep-11 16:31:14

I have a friend who I dog-walk with regularly and ddog adores her dogs. If she comes round for another reason, or he's see her across the road, or hears her name mentioned shock he goes crazy and is a pain in the arse for ages afterwards. It's just because he's missing out on a fun walk with her dogs, not that he likes her better than me (I hope grin)

MotherJack Sun 18-Sep-11 16:32:57

Oh, look! There she is!! grin

DaisySteiner Sun 18-Sep-11 17:06:41

Sssshhhhh! grin

Solo2 Wed 21-Sep-11 09:57:25

Many thanks everyone and Minimu - having just read a thread suggesting you're leaving - can I just give a massive thanks to you (even if you're not leaving MN). smile

Everything you've said on any of my threads about Rollo has been very helpful and turned out exactly as you've suggested - eg having an area of the garden fenced off for him transformed our lives; getting him used to a muzzle so he can't graze and exacerbate his tummy problems has transformed our lives (he has figured out how to squidge fresh horse dung through his muzzle, so he can still slurp it but at least he can't take full mouthfuls!); relaxing and just enjoying him...well I'm still working on the relaxing bit but when he's not got diarrhoea, he really is pretty easy now, at 8 months.

He goes into his crate at night when I point him in that direction and sleeps until I wake him in the morning and is rarely any trouble except when he gets bored and snatches things from the kitchen surfaces! He's brilliant on off lead walks, never straying far and if one of the DCs stumbles or gets left behind, he goes back to them and rests his head on them and checks they're OK.

He's happy to be cuddled like a teddy bear, snuffles into laps and flops, belly up on our knees, though he's really too big to do this! As a first time dog owner, it's still very hard work but I can see that he is what other experienced dog owners say he is - a very 'easy' puppy.

Have taken on board what everyone has said about him not really preferring the trainer and will aim to be more laid back from now on smile

Ephiny Wed 21-Sep-11 10:08:42

My dog starts bouncing around with excitement when the dog walker comes to pick him up. I think it's just 'yay, I'm going out for a walk', and also that it's someone he only sees a few times a week whereas he has me around all the time. He likes the doggy company as well, I think.

He will also attach himself firmly to the side of anyone who gives him a treat - so much for 'loyal' breeds!

Don't think it means he doesn't love me though, and I'm sure it's the same for you and your little Rollo! I know you've had a very difficult time with him and his health problems, don't blame you for being stressed and struggling to relax and enjoy him, he sounds an absolutely lovely boy though smile

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