Please help me not ruin my dog(7 Posts)
This will be long; I have a few problems and a need to vent/talk through what I know I need to do/work out what I don't know. Apologies for any time wasted through the reading of this post.
I have two dogs. The older is a mixed breed rescue from Romania. He was 5 months old when I got him, and was a nervous puppy. He's now 3 and can still be nervous on occasion, but is well-behaved and very human-focused. He was well socialised with people and dogs, and we attended training classes (albeit too early IMHO - should have waited until he was less worried about the world)
The younger dog is the one I have so many problems with. I'll preface this with an acknowledgement that these are problems of my own making, and that I most likely got the wrong dog at the wrong time.
He's a lurcher, at my guess a whippet x saluki x terrier-of-some-sort. I got him from a UK rescue at 12 weeks. He'd had at least two homes before the rescue, and had an unsettled stomach after moving in, but otherwise seemed to settle well with me. He was crated overnight for a couple of months until house trained, but outgrew his crate and has free range of the downstairs, the stairs and the landing (used to have babygates splitting downstairs into dog and dog-free zones, but he can jump them with ease) He's now 13 months old; was castrated at 10 months. As with Dog1 he has been socialised with dogs and people, and we attended basic obedience training.
The problems mostly stem from failing to continue with his training, and are influenced by his breed(s). I have a 3 month old son, so a lot of Dog2's time with me, I've neglected his training in favour of pregnancy exhaustion, and now actual baby things.
1 - house training; my mornings are a lot less structured whilst on mat leave, sometimes meaning I'm not able to get downstairs to let the dogs out, meaning Dog2 messes in the kitchen. This should be easily solved by getting up earlier and letting them out, even if it means the baby gets grizzly - it's a 10 minute task. Done.
2 - recall; I have never quite cracked this with Dog2. In the house he comes when called (more promptly if he knows I have treats) but outside I seriously struggle to get him to respond. We practice recall in the garden, again, if he knows I have treats he might come back, but not 100% of the time. Once we get anywhere else, the urge to run and play seems to take over. I've tried taking the tastiest treats I can find but still it's incredibly hit or miss. If there are other dogs around it's even more unlikely that he'll pay me any attention. It's got to the point that I barely let him off lead which means he's not getting enough exercise, and he's become a terrible puller on the lead, meaning I'm hating walks due to the constant correcting his pulling (plus walks these days are done whilst babywearing, so there's the stress of worrying he might pull me over.)
He's not that interested in toys or treats when outdoors, and I'm scared his sighthound breediing is going to make it so much harder to teach him recall. I'm going to look up long-line recall training on youtube, as I tried that with Dog1, but always ended up with a tangled mess. Both dogs are walked on harness, so no risk of him picking up speed and damaging his neck. Any tips on recall or long-line usage?
3 - nerves; I don't know if it's me, the whippety side of him, or the influence of Dog1, but Dog2 seems to be quite nervey. If I've called him in from the garden and he's not returned, so I've stepped out of the house toward him, he rolls over onto his back.
More serious and worrying, tonight he was lying on my dad's sofa and when Dad went to sit down, moving the dog's leg, he growled. Dad continued moving the dog and he moved his head to bite. Clearly he was guarding his spot, and when his growl was ignored he felt he had to act. Dad can be fairly gruff, so I think dog sees him as more threatening than I am, as he's not acted like that to me. I suggested using food to encourage the dog off the sofa and to reward him for moving on command, which Dad did, and it worked well, ending up with the dog curled up on the sofa next to him without growling. We'll keep that up and I'll be working on the 'off' command at home so we don't put the dog in that position again.
Even more worrying, I think he's afraid of children. He's not been around young children much in his life. When he has been around children he seems really anxious and skittish. Recently some family children visited and he followed one from room to room, keeping his distance and occasionally barking at her. I removed him from the situation, and we've not had young visitors since. Likewise, if out walking I ensure he's on lead if there are young children about. I don't worry about him with my son as it's so far been older, mobile children he's reacted to. I don't leave the two alone together and don't intend to until my child is much, much older (10? 16? I'll work that one out eventually!) and knows how to behave around dogs.
I'm avoiding family events which I would usually take my dogs to, because I don't want to risk him being scared until work out how to deal with his anxiety. He has never shown any aggression toward children, but I know fear can escalate, and wouldn't want to create a situation which could go wrong.
Dog2 is lovely, aside from the above issues. He's sweet and affectionate and funny and gets on so well with my other dog.
I'm a bit of a tired, hormonal mess at the moment, but I have 3 more months of mat leave, plus local family (with dogs) who can lend a hand/hold the baby so I can give the dog my full attention. I know he needs time and effort, but it all seems a lot to deal with at once, I'm not sure how/where to start. Any advice?
Sorry this was so ridiculously long! Many thanks to anyone who made it this far.
Sorry but I am not a behaviourist however if you got him from a UK rescue they should have given you access to a behaviourist at the centre. Is it worth calling them for help? It does sound as though you are doing all you can to help him but some dogs just do not manage recall that well sadly. We are going back to lessons for the same reason!
My dog is a little temperamental also. I'm saying this gently but he will need some training time if anything is to improve.
This doesn't need to be a massive long session but even just 20 seconds or so throughout the day.
Also, wrt your dad. I would try to bite him if he manhandled me off the sofa! It's good that you're aware of this because if your dogs 'space saving' signals are not respected then he will escalate. Eg my boy rarely shows his teeth any more because he finally realises that putting his ears back is enough of a space saving cue and that we will listen to it. The more we show him we respect that the less likely he has been to escalate quickly
Might be worth putting peanut butter in a kong in a crate when kids are over so he associates kids with being safe and rewards
Well, reading your penultimate paragraph is sounds to me like you really are in the right mindset to get this sorted - that, in my opinion, is the most crucial part of dog training.
Firstly, do you think you're a bit anxious around the dogs (regarding their behavior)?I only ask because you say you worry about a lot of things, plus you wonder if he's picked up nerves from you. I know it's hard but try not to show the dogs you're worried - they really do pick up on it!
The house training - sounds like you know what to do with that. Do you have a partner? Can he not open the back door so the dogs can relieve themselves first thing?
Recall - There's a great book called "How To Bond With Your Dog" by Victoria Schade - she uses a lot of case studies of recall issues and there are loads and loads of tips in there. Really worth a read if you can. Hounds are a pain, TBH! We've used long lines with our dogs in the past and you're right about getting in a muddle. Is there anywhere enclosed you can go? There are some disused tennis courts around here which are great for recall training. It's a bit of a vicious cycle, as you say, because the less you let them off, the more excited they are when they DO get to go off lead. When you DO let DDog off lead, do lots of practice of recall - call him back, treat him (or fuss, or play, or whatever), then (and this is important) let him go again. Show him that coming back to you does not mean the end of the fun!
The growling on the sofa - well, that was very silly of your dad! If you ignore a growl, it's not really surprising if a dog escalates to a snap. It will also reinforce the negative associations for your dog (as he's a rescue, you don't know if it's resource guarding, or if something horrible once happened to him when on the sofa). You need to build up positive associations. What do you think the dog would have done if your dad had given him treats when he approached the sofa?
Finally, the children. That's obviously the most risky and although I can make some recommendations I really, really think you should see a reputable behaviouirist. It's really not something you can work on via the internet!
Best of luck OK, and congratulations on your baby!
Whoops! I was attempting to add my own thread! Sorry, I will report this and get it deleted... For what it is worth, OP, it sounds like we are having similar issues (ish).
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