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Need advice for my neurotic junior Lab!

(18 Posts)
littlevic Thu 09-Jan-14 17:55:41

Hello! I've lived and worked with dogs on and off for years, so thought I knew all I needed to know when we rescued our 4 month bitch yellow lab from Battersea! However, although things started well with puppy classes, excellent socialisation due to my job dog walking and my training in house with her, she is becoming more and more of a pain in the butt! She's now 11 months, due to be neutered in a few weeks ( I wanted her to have her 1st season as she was very immature) and is ridiculously attached to me! I don't make a huge fuss of her, never have, I'm always consistent with training etc, don't make a fuss when I leave the house and return, tell her "in your bed" with a treat as she literally follows me everywhere! I can't move for her, she panics and runs to the door to say "don't leave without me!" I have put up stairgates to stop her following me and she's not allowed upstairs, but the gates are becoming a real pain - we all keep impaling ourselves on them! I listen to her howling when I leave (which is only ever a few hours max), and then discovered she's been up on the dining table today when I was out for 20 mins, and tries to get into the bedrooms etc... What else can I do?! Adaptil plug ins and rescue remedy doesn't scratch the surface... !! Any advice appreciated!!

LEMoncehadacatcalledSANTA Thu 09-Jan-14 18:00:55

Have you tried DAP instead of rescue remedy? How was she when she had her first season? when is the next one due? Is it you that feeds her? can another family member do this? or swap it around a bit so that you don't provide all of her care. I quite like that my dogs follow me everywhere, they are JRTs but having two trying to get on my lap when i am trying to have a piddle can be a bit wearing! She does sound pretty insecure. Could you put an item of your clothing in her bed? How does she sleep downstairs when you are in the house? What about a kong with frozen chappie in it? those sort of stimulating things - what sort of training does she do? maybe shes a bright spark?

LEMoncehadacatcalledSANTA Thu 09-Jan-14 18:02:00

sorry - i missed that you were using the adaptil plug ins - i don't know how - im tired!

littlevic Thu 09-Jan-14 18:15:49

Hi, yes I'm thinking annoyingly she is too clever - although she seems to be intelligent but lacks serious common sense. Acts 1st thinks later! Have done Kongs, chews, puzzle balls, radio on, lights on. ugghhh! She's seriously trying my patience! She does seem better when left if she's allowed on a bed - any bed - or, it seems, a dining table! Found her on the coffee table too when I forgot to shut the lounge door! I just made a rod for my own back with our 1st dog of 15 years, and she hated being left, and was allowed access to the entire house - I really didn't wanna do that this time, but it seems she just has that kind of panicky personality?! Thanks for the message!

LEMoncehadacatcalledSANTA Thu 09-Jan-14 18:23:22

My dogs sleep in my bed, we were sort of beaten down blush but i can't allow them in the bedroom if i'm out because JRT2 ate my bed!

With one of our dogs we got a note from our neighbour that he was howling when we went out. We would shut him in the back living room and i suppose he thought we were somewhere else in the house - we stopped doing that and he settled down. Could you make/buy her a raised dog bed?

She does sound pretty skittish, maybe that will settle a bit when she is speyed. She is a teenager just now so hopefully will settle down. Otherwise, there is only one alternative - you are gong to have to get her a friend! wink

moosemama Thu 09-Jan-14 18:27:41

My new pup was like this, he's a rescue and had a very bad start. To begin with I literally couldn't take a step away from him, but we've gradually built it up over the past few months to the point where he doesn't follow me around anymore, but still doesn't like it if I go upstairs without him (dogs aren't allowed upstairs in our house). He is very vocal and after just over four months I can still only leave him at home for 40-50 minutes maximum and that's if he's left with a green feeder full of kibble and a couple of frozen kongs. The minute he's finished his food he starts yelling.

I would recommend trying to build up the amount of time she separate from you when you're home to begin with. Start by just standing the other side of the dog gate from her and rewarding her for not reacting. Do LOTS and LOTS of repetitions until she's almost bored of it, then, when she's used to that and totally comfortable with it, start trying to take a step away, then back quickly and reward if she's calm and quiet. Gradually build up the number of steps and length of time you are away from her, until she's totally happy with you being separate from her, but in sight - and only then try stepping out of sight and straight back in again. I used a clicker to mark the desirable calm/quiet behaviour, but I know some people don't as they think it makes the dog to expectant/attentive.

Once you've reached the point where you can be out of sight for a minute or two you can try giving her something like a loosely stuffed kong or chew to keep her occupied while you try extending how long she's happy for. If you do this enough times she will, hopefully, start to become counter-conditioned and begin to associate your departures with something positive and find it more rewarding to stay where she is, rather than follow you everywhere.

As you can see, there's no quick fix, it takes time and a lot of effort but it can be done. My boy used to literally scream the house down if I left the room, but now - at 7 months - he takes himself off to his crate in another room to sleep and if he's in the room with me he doesn't really bat an eyelid unless he hears the living room/hall door open and then he does get up and whinge a bit, but it's not loud and he shuts up pretty quickly.

My next plan is to desensitise him to the sound of the living room door. I had hoped having all the dcs constantly in and out of it over the holidays might have helped, but I must have a distinctive way of opening and closing it, as he always knows when it's me, even if he's in another room.

We live in a semi and I have pretty much been trapped at home, other than school runs, since August for fear of falling out with my neighbours. Oddly he's ok if we have to leave him in the car - but I don't drive, so that's not an option during the week and I don't really like leaving dogs in cars, even in winter. He is getting better, partly due to the ongoing training, partly as he matures, but it's not been easy and I have had a serious case of cabin-fever at times. I love him to pieces, wouldn't be without him for the world and will never give up on him, but it's hard not to feel some resentment towards him at times - even though I know it's not his fault.

Finally, I would recommend going to training classes with her. It really helps to build their confidence and you develop a different sort of bond, where the dog starts to develop and employ a certain degree of self-control and offer you the behaviours you want in order to reap the greatest rewards - be that treats, toys or your time and attention. She is still very young, especially for a Lab and whilst training is by far the best way for her to learn some impulse control, which will spill over into every day life, some of it will also come with maturity.

moosemama Thu 09-Jan-14 18:32:54

Oh and I wouldn't advise getting a 'friend'. This pup joined us as the companion to a dog that started howling when left when we lost our old girl early last year. First dog is now totally relaxed and happy when left - but the pup is even louder than he was. hmm

Forgot to say ddog1 used to get on our kitchen table when we were out when he was a youngster, for some unknown reason. We kept coming home and finding the table covered in fur, then there an unidentified scratch appeared and finally we caught him in the act. He was actually sleeping, stretched out on the table when we walked in. The only thing we could think was that he must have been trying to get higher to see out of the windows.

whereisshe Thu 09-Jan-14 18:55:39

Our dog is fairly attached to us and hates being by himself (just needy not really separation anxiety). A few things helped:
- we taught him "wait" ie stay here and I'll come back. We use it for short absences (eg he stays in the front room while we open the front door)
- we show him when someone leaves so he knows they've gone (he can see them leave, not just hear them go) - if he doesn't then he moans. Also he gets a treat when someone leaves so he thinks it's a good thing
- we don't greet him straight away when we get home, so he's learned to be patient about our presence and his place in that situation (hellos and goodbyes)

Not sure if that would help you?

moosemama Thu 09-Jan-14 19:19:39

Great advice whereisshe, all things we also do, but I completely forgot to mention. blush

littlevic Thu 09-Jan-14 19:25:16

Thanks everyone! All advice is gratefully received! I've actually studied Canine Behaviour and offer training myself as a side line from the dog walking - So it's pretty embarrassing that I can't get to the bottom of my own dog's problems! Thanks moosemama for your advice, that's exactly what I suggest to clients with Separation Anxiety issues, and have tried following my own advice but to no avail! It's as if that's just her mind set, and I can't change it, argghh! And thanks LEMoncehadacatcalledSANTA - you made me laugh! I feel the same sometimes about my Ddog, like what have I done and can she please pack a bag! But I do love her and think I just need to accept some dogs are needy and hopefully over time it'll ease. And if not I'll get some horse tranquiliser.... ;))

moosemama Thu 09-Jan-14 20:38:29

Me too littlevic, although my study was many, many moons ago now and I chose not to take it up professionally in the end (I get too frustrated with people that don't put the work in and expect you to wave a wand and fix their dogs blush).

I always find it's the hardest thing, sorting out your own dogs' issues, as - just like with kids - you're too close to the problem and too emotionally involved. Mum is a psychologist and says the same about her kids vs clients, iyswim.

I definitely agree that some dogs are just needy by nature and we sometimes have to learn to accept what we can't fix, but also that they do change as they mature and it will get better - I'm hanging onto that last one for dear life at the moment! grin

littlevic Thu 09-Jan-14 20:48:11

Haha! Me too! Good to know I'm not the only one!! Thanks ;)

Blistory Thu 09-Jan-14 21:13:00

When I look back to the 10 - 14 month stage for my big girl, I still want to hide in a cupboard. And that was after thinking that the mouthy, psycho teeny pup stage was bad.

It's always possible that it's just a stage she's going through ?

littlevic Thu 09-Jan-14 21:39:08

Blistory - that's hilarious! And worrying... just another 15 odd years to go of "stages" then!! Can I hide in your cupboard too?!!

Blistory Thu 09-Jan-14 22:01:03

She comes into the cupboard with me now !

Seriously, the witch had such a detrimental effect on my life that there were times when I doubted the wisdom of having a dog. All her training just seemed to disappear, it felt like if I said sit, she stood. She constantly scavenged, she started biting, she lost her recall, she only wanted treats from me, nothing else.

And then, I realised that I hadn't come back from a walk in tears and in pain from her constant pulling in over a week. I realised that I hadn't had to stop her eating rubbish off the street in a wee while. And then one day off lead in the woods, I realised that although she ran on ahead, she would stop and wait as soon as she could no longer see me, she started looking up at me randomly during walks, just checking to see if I was with her and when I smiled at her, she came to my side immediately for cuddles. And then I fell in love with her all over again, not because she was a cute teddy bear puppy or because I could see the promise of the dog that she would become, but because she had become that dog. And the more I trusted her, the better she responded.

Once my tension disappeared, she blossomed and that, combined with a little bit of age and calming down, changed things completely.

Oh god, that sounds like she's my baby, she's not but she is very much my best friend.

Blistory Thu 09-Jan-14 22:23:57

Actually thinking more seriously about your dog, what harm does it do to let her wander a bit more freely ?

Maybe she'll get bored with it once she realises that she always has access to you when you're around. And you can then build up to the separation issue once she's a bit calmer about it. I left all doors open and when Mags realised that I was in the bath for an hour and wouldn't be giving her attention she stopped asking and slowly became a bit more independent. But she had access to me if she wanted it and once she got what she wanted, she stopped needing it quite so much. I may have bored her with my pottering.

moosemama Thu 09-Jan-14 23:10:56

That's not a bad idea actually Blistory. I had a similar thing with my boy and the bath. Our bathroom is off the kitchen, about four feet from his crate, yet he stilled cried whenever I went in there. Then I had a few baths during the day when I was the only one home and left the door open. He came in a few times, stuck his nose in the water, sneezed and left - and thinking about it, he hasn't bothered when I have a bath since. I hadn't even realised until I read your post.

I'd actually consider doing the same with going upstairs, but dh and ds1 are both asthmatic - with dh actually being allergic to dogs blush so we like to keep the bedrooms as fur free as possible.

He did come up with me tonight, because I was on my own for bedtime stories and sleepy songs and didn't want him bothering the neighbours. Little so and so spent the whole time crying to go back downstairs, but I know if I'd let him he'd then have started crying to come back up. hmm

trashcanjunkie Thu 09-Jan-14 23:24:31

did you watch 'the secret life of dogs'? It had some fascinating insights on separation anxiety.

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