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Dog problems, advice but no 'bad owner' comments please

(26 Posts)
Zadocthepriest Mon 14-Mar-16 14:15:34

We are having ongoing problems and I am desperate for suggestions.
When we got our springer spaniel 21/2 years ago we did lots of research, saw both parents and we're a household of husband, myself and 3 young adults, 2 at home and one with long uni hols so it was an ideal time to have a puppy with high energy needs and almost constant company supplied (we have previously had a Weimaraner and a rescue dog when the children were younger so plenty of experience)

But he has been a nightmare from the start, due to constant destructive chewing and also snapping.Being a springer, nothing is out of reach so now the kitchen looks like a deconstructed show home. Even so, he will grab anything and aggressively refuse to give it up, even a scrap of paper. (Today it has been a cookery book, 2 biros and the remains of my sandwich)

We took him to puppy classes and persevered but got demoralised by being shouted at by the teacher for allowing him to play up.
We brought in a trainer who had several long and sensible chats about dog psychology which made sense but didn't help in practice. She demonstrated low command voice, high praise voice, working for praise, showing disapproval with water spray etc. All worked for a few days but he soon got oblivious to the treats and disapprovals.( He is not worried by anything, happy with sudden noises, new experiences etc etc)

On the plus side he is affectionate and very well behaved outside on walks.

Sadly circumstances have changed dramatically recently. 2 of the kids are doing unexpectedly intensive uni courses and are only home for long weekends at Xmas and Easter and the 3rd has unexpectedly left home. Meanwhile, I have been diagnosed with cancer, had a major op and now on chemo and finally my husband has injured his leg!
Obviously he needs far more exercise and attention than we are able to give him at present although he gets at least 2 walks a day and almost constant company.

So, suggestions please.......
Do we give up and rehome him?
Do we dog-proof the house even more and put up with his behaviour until we are well enough to give him the attention he needs?
Do we need a different approach to handling and training?

Any helpful suggestions gratefully received, but no criticism please; we never expected to be in this situation.

Whitney168 Mon 14-Mar-16 14:30:41

If time is not the issue then in the first instance, I would suggest mental exercise rather than physical. Put his food in something he has to work to get it out of. Play hiding games with him. Teach him tricks. Hopefully keeping his brain busy will help.

Presumably you/your husband can sit down and use a ball chucker for some physical exercise, in between walks.

Is he a working type Springer?

Dieu Mon 14-Mar-16 16:43:06

Re-home. The last thing you need is any extra pressure right now. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Your health comes first flowers

Wolfiefan Mon 14-Mar-16 16:48:18

Just a thought. Is he bored? Needs more exercise? I don't think you said how long the walks were.
Cinnamon Trust might help given your situation.

LocalEditorEssex Mon 14-Mar-16 16:49:59

Where are you located ?
How is he with other dogs and cats?

Abraid2 Mon 14-Mar-16 16:55:28

Could you buy in extra walking help? We sometimes use a dogwalker and/or local teenagers if our children are away and can't help us.

I have had high energy dogs and sympathize. It does seem that many of them will naturally calm down a bit by the time they are three or so. My FIL, who owned a dozen dogs in his lifetime, said you couldn't really tell what a dog's personality was until it was at least three. So perhaps he will be less of a handful soon. It would be a shame if you rehomed him just as he was naturally about to calm down, and you might miss him at a time when he could be providing you with love and affection.

Sympathies about your illness.

Dieu Mon 14-Mar-16 17:04:18

You have really tried, but 2 1/2 years on nothing has changed, and I don't feel from your post that your heart is in it any more. Please don't feel guilty if you decide to give him up (it was tough enough in your best case scenario, let alone now!). I really hope you make a full recovery.

Dieu Mon 14-Mar-16 17:07:01

Oh, and a friend has just very sadly had to give up her springer after 5 years of ownership. Changes in circumstances played a part, but the dog (although lovely) didn't become easier or any less energetic over time. Good luck.

AlpacaLypse Mon 14-Mar-16 17:09:30

I can't help worrying that if he's still a destructive chewer at 2.5 years he may never grow out of it. Most pups chew a bit when they're 'toddler' stage, but they've usually stopped by eighteen months or so.

Have you spoken to breeder? Would they be prepared to take him back, perhaps on a temporary basis until you've both regained your health?

sparechange Mon 14-Mar-16 17:09:32

How much exercise is the dog getting each day?
It all sounds like the dog is bored and not getting enough exercise. If the dog is responding to the trainer initially, it is clearly clever, but 'giving up' is probably more likely 'dog training owner' and finding your weak spots.

Honestly, if you haven't managed to give the dog enough exercise and stimulation when you had a perfect set up, you're not going to be able to do so now.
But rehoming a dog with a long and persistent track record of being destructive, and being poorly trained, isn't going to have rescues queuing round the block to take the dog so you have to really accept that it is most likely to be a death sentence for the dog.
Yes, you could find a non-kill rescue to take it, but frankly the boredom of being in kennels for the next few years would send the dog out of its tiny mind and be far worse for its welfare.

lookingforafriend Mon 14-Mar-16 17:10:30

I am sorry to hear of your current ill would be fair for you all as a family and also the dog to be revoked as soon as possible...

You will be able to concentrate on your health and the dog will hopefully be with a family who are in a position to care for it and exercise as necessary etc....I appreciate it would be extremely difficult but I think it would be far better for everyone all round...

Take care,,,

Dieu Mon 14-Mar-16 17:40:12

Sparechange, it doesn't necessarily have to be doom and gloom. The OP may well be able to find fantastic new owners privately, as my friend did for her Springer.

sparechange Mon 14-Mar-16 17:52:45

While it is possible to get a suitable home for a dog, it is a one in a thousand sort of chance.
You might have more luck going via the breed society but I would be enormously wary of privately rehoming a dog via the Internet. Experienced, responsible owners with time to rehabilitate a dog simply do not not find their dogs that way. So you run a huge risk of the dog being passed on in a few years time when the new owners get tired of the dog.

Yes, it is possible but it is much more likely the dog will either be PTS after an initial assessment, or spend years languishing in a rescue...

LineyReborn Mon 14-Mar-16 18:11:53

Hi, OP. I've sent you a PM.

I think you should concentrate on your health, and look to re-home if you can, and if that's what you want.

WhoTheFuckIsSimon Mon 14-Mar-16 18:19:13

What sort of stuff is he chewing? If it's shoes, bags, etc left about then I would say dog proof the house better. But I know someone who has a dog who chews the carpets and the kitchen cupboards! I used to have a greyhound so she would get anything off the kitchen worktops or dining room table. We just had to make sure nothing was left out!

Scuttlebutter Mon 14-Mar-16 18:59:01

Sparechange has a view of rescues which I personally don't recognise. hmm

The dog described in the OP could be rehomeable - as most PPs have said, plenty of exercise and positive training would almost certainly sort out these issues. Many rescues keep their dogs in foster and never actually use kennels, and even ones who do use kennels make sure dogs have plenty of enrichment activities, trips and walks out with volunteers, etc.

Given the OP's health issues, and the age of this dog, I think rehoming could be a sensible solution. I would try Black Retriever X Rescue as a first stop, as they specialise in gundogs.

TheoriginalLEM Mon 14-Mar-16 19:17:23

I see someone else has mentioned the cinammon trust. I walked my friend's dog for her when she was undergoing chemo and it was one less thing for her to worry about. The cinammon trust would most definately help in your situation as an unwalked springer is well, a coiled spring (incidentally, my friends dog is a springer and whilst lovely is totally crazed if he doesn't get enough exercise).

The cinammon trust or breed rescue may well be able to help with a foster family if you feel he is too much at present but don't want to have to give him up forever. This would work especially well if someone was able to train him at the same time.

I agree with scuttle, he sounds perfectly homeable but choose your rehomer sensibly if it comes to that.

Dieu Mon 14-Mar-16 19:47:23

I think any dog owner worth their salt would know to steer well clear of Scumtree and the like, when rehoming their dog.
For all we know, the OP could have someone in mind already, a person with whom she has links in everyday life/through family/friends/colleagues. It's often the way with these things.

Zadocthepriest Mon 14-Mar-16 20:08:24

Thanks all. This morning I was in despair; now he is being very sweet and cuddly!

He had stopped most of this difficult behaviour at 12-18 months but seems to have picked up on the fact that I feel more vulnerable and is taking advantage. He doesn't 'defy' my husband.

I know the main problem is lack of stimulation and I could do with more suggestions for activities. Having just read the 'bored' post I realised that he won't settle for a boring bone or toy. He wants to seek out the wicker bread basket on top of the 6ft fridge freezer, work out how to reach it then chew it into a thousand pieces. Or identify my favourite cookery book and extract it from the tightly packed book shelf in order to chew each individual page. Or, if I am in the room, search out a biro to chomp on, just to get a reaction from me.

Most of the time walks are not a problem, but ideally he would spend all day racing through the woods and we can only manage an hour at weekends doing that. Luckily the evenings are getting lighter so long walks will be easier.

So I think we will have to dog proof the kitchen again, increase the evening walks, concentrate on activities and go back to basics with behaviour training.

hollinhurst84 Mon 14-Mar-16 20:18:49

Any friends that would take him walks with their dogs? Or use borrow my doggy? My colleagues all take each other's out on walks. I don't have a dog so I often borrow a friends husky if I feel like killing myself off with a 10k grin

Wolfiefan Mon 14-Mar-16 20:21:52

Zadoc please don't rule out Cinnamon Trust. They can send someone even just a day or three to do a mega walk!
They do respite/foster care. Eg if you needed another op (hope you don't!)
All volunteers are checked out.

shadowfax07 Tue 15-Mar-16 01:10:26

As a fellow Springer owner (and I had finished chemo a year ago), a couple of thoughts have come to mind.

Firstly, what are you feeding him? Some dogs react very badly to certain foods, so swapping his food might help.

Second, do you make him work for his food? We feed a dry food, and put our dog's evening meal into a treat ball, so that he has to roll it around the house or garden to get his food. This also had the added advantage of making his rear end less noxious grin . You could also try scatter feeding in the kitchen or garden if you don't have a treat ball. You could also put a treat or part of his food under one of three plastic cups, switching them round and getting him to find it. Once he's mastered that, hide food/treats around the house when he isn't looking, and then get him to find what you've hidden.

Third, when he grabs something he shouldn't, swap it for something of a really high value to him, like a piece of cheese or sausage.

Getting your dog to use his nose and brain will wear him out more quickly than exercise, and hopefully he won't have the energy to be quite so destructive.

Good luck, and I hope your chemo side effects are minimal.

noddingoff Tue 15-Mar-16 09:47:29

Shadowfax has good ideas
- get on hypoallergenic food in case E numbers etc adding to the crazy
- you will never get to the bottom of a young spaniel physically on an ordinary walk. Need to work out how to get maximum brain and body energy spent by dog while minimum for you so if possible don't walk him on flat boring playing fields. Take him to the woodiest bit of park or forest that you can easily walk to, get off the paths and throw the ball into the densest cover you can find while you stand still. If it's too easy, make him wait till the ball has landed before he can go and search. If it's still too easy, cover his eyes while you throw then teach him hand signals so you can work him onto it
-swimming is hard work so if you have a safe lake or river nearby, get him retrieving out of water too
-if you have to walk somewhere boring for convenience eg playing fields or racecourse, see if you can find a dog walking buddy with at least one high energy dog and let them off lead to chase, wrestle and generally run the legs off each other as much as possible

Good luck with chemo x

noddingoff Tue 15-Mar-16 10:19:01

Look up "paul french videos" on youtube for ideas. You don't need a cap gun, dummy and whistle...some manky old tennis balls and your voice will do. You'll notice that the humans in the videos are walking slowly and stopping a lot, while the spaniels are working like crazy. Result!

caravanista Tue 15-Mar-16 10:27:04

It sounds as if rehoming is your best solution. My DD and her DP had very similar problems with a Springer which they simply couldn't resolve. They were fortunate that a colleague with a large house and garden in the country took him on. Dog and new owners very happy several years on.

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