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At my wits end.. please help!!!(30 Posts)
We moved house in December, dog settled really well and got back into normal routine quickly, or so I thought...
Bit of background, he has been a fairly reactive dog since the age of 6 months when he was attacked by another dog on a walk. Up until moving we were doing really well with his reactivity but since moving house it seems that every single sound, no matter how quiet it is he goes absolutely crazy, runs around the house barking and growling, this is ten times worse when he is let out into the garden, the neighbour has a dog which sometimes barks in the house and he will howl at the top of his voice in the garden with no end in sight.
Then when it's dark, times by ten again, his recall disappears and he bounds up and down the garden howling and growling and there is absolutely nothing I can do to get him to listen to me, he has this evening done it on a walk when hearing a car door shutting.
I really do not know what to do?! As soon as he is let into the garden he is gruffing and pacing, just to say as well he NEVER did this at the old house and there were plenty of noises there too.
I really hate the idea of upsetting the neighbours when he is doing this at 11pm when he is let out to the toilet
Does anyone have any suggestions? Up to now I've tried spending time with him in the garden giving him treats etc to show him he doesn't need to be stressed out there but that didn't seem to have any effect so now as soon as he goes off he is brought straight back inside.
He is currently intact and I had heard that having him neutered could calm him, has anyone had any experience with this?
Any advice is appreciated x
Do not neuter him.
Neutering can worsen fear related behaviour.
This won’t go down at all well because he is a controversial figure in dog training but I really recommend Jeff Gellman.
He is in America but does Skype for UK clients and has lots of free training videos on YouTube.
I tried positive reinforcement training for my dog for years and I am sorry to say she got gradually worse.
I used to be very against the type of training Gellman advocates.
I think I've seen him on Instagram, with the bonkers and what would Jeff do?
I was introduced to CARE and although I'm sure it really does work for some people I do just feel like we are going backwards, even more so now.
I will check out some more of his videos, thank you for the advice
I don’t have Instagram.
I watched the videos and messaged him directly on Facebook messenger (solid K9 training)
I reached a point of desperation where I was considering if it would be kinder to euthanise her.
She was dog reactive and over time became noise reactive and fearful of strange people aswell.
She was fine on a walk if I had treats or a ball but A) that is not cured and B) she’s not crazy food motivated so after a handful she stopped behaving and her ball obsession is very unhealthy.
I didn’t want a dog so transfixed on a ball that it took no notice or enjoyment whatsoever in its surroundings.
He is controversial because he advocates clear yes and no.
Clear praise for good behaviour and clear punishment for ‘bad’ behaviour.
I used to think he was appalling.
I think he is great now, totally changed my opinion.
Jeff Gellman is frankly dangerous. He advocates the use of what he calls "remote collars" which is another term for the electric shock and spray collars that are being outlawed in the UK on animal welfare grounds, after much campaigning by major animal welfare organisations, notably the Dogs Trust. He also advocates prong collars, which dig into the neck causing pain, and slip leads which can tighten like a hangman's noose and throttle the dog.
The trouble with using methods that cause pain, fear or discomfort to deal with problems that have fear at their root cause is this: you won't change the dog's underlying feelings, but they may become too scared to express their fear (see also: dogs that are 'shut down'). This then has a nasty habit of popping up again later, manifesting itself in different and worse ways. To use an analogy, if you were scared of spiders and screamed every time you saw one, I might find this annoying. If I punched you every time you screamed, you would still be scared of the spider, but you would probably be too scared to scream. The fear you would feel when you saw a spider would then be twofold - of the spider itself, and of what I might do to you. The human-dog bond is thus also damaged. By way of contrast, I've taught my reactive dog that whenever his trigger appears he gets a treat so long as he doesn't bark, so now when they appear he looks at me because he knows he's going to receive liver pate.
I would agree with the advice not to neuter; your dog has a lot of fear and anxiety, and is currently benefiting from the confidence boost that testosterone brings. The loss of testosterone wouldn't benefit him and would likely make his behaviour even worse. The only behaviour that neutering reliably improves is scent marking, but that's not an issue for you!
Your current instincts aren't wrong - bringing him inside when he starts being noisy is encouraging him to walk away from what's worrying him (always a good idea). However, I would say that you need in-person professional help on this one. Depending on your insurance policy, you may find that it's covered. Look for someone APBC or CCAB accredited (lists on APBC and ASAB websites) as those are the gold standard qualifications for behaviourists in the UK.
When I was researching anxiety in dogs the papers that had actually done research rather than just spouting an opinion did cite moving home as a real trigger for this.
I would get a behaviourist in to help you (my insurance would cover this but if you don't have any or it doesn't you could also ask your vets for recommendations). In the meantime I would have tv's or white noise machines on in the rooms to try and create a background noise which can be settling and also help muffle sounds. You could attach a long lead to him when in the garden to bring him in, again until you get professional help.
Newhouse the poor dog sounds severely mentally unwell. I know that the dog attack at 6 months was obviously very unhelpful to his confidence, and that the house move probably has also been a real issue for him; however he is now at the age where we tend to see the nature of the animal and when an innate tendency to anxiety can appear to transform into a much more serious problem. I say this because I've seen it often where people worry, ascribe undue levels of blame to isolated past events, feel like they have made a mistake in training etc. You cannot change a dog's personality or innate tendencies. You can work with a behaviourist to tackle this, certainly, but be realistic: you have a very abnormal dog and nothing is likely to turn him into a relaxed, cheerful, confident animal.
Speak to your vet. They can recommend anti anxiety meds (zylkene and ADAPTIL can be bought over the counter).
They can also recommend a trainer to come to your house and give you some help using KIND methods.
Another one who agrees not to neuter yet as it can increase fear related behaviour.
This all sounds very stressful and you really do need help from a behaviourist.
To use another human analogy - if you had been beaten up in the street, chances are you now wouldn't just be scared of that happening again, but you could be generally fearful ( perhaps of going out after dark, strange noises in the house,strangers who reminded you of your attacker...).
Dogs are not humans, but imagine being punished for being scared
As I said, controversial figure.
I will post one reply but then no more because I don’t wish to enter into debate, you’ll have to do your own research and go with whatever you feel sounds best.
I used to find the idea of a prong collar utterly abhorrent.
And I quite agree the idea of correcting a behaviour based in fear sounds utterly dreadful and inhumane.
It is why I counter conditioned for YEARS.
Staying under threshold, staying at a non reactive distance, feeding high value treats/offering a ball or tug as soon as the dog came into view.
When I had treats my dog would walk at perfect heel ignoring dogs, for about a handful or two (teeny weeny size treats) then back to bad behaviour.
I ALWAYS walked her hungry but there were never enough treats to maintain the good behaviour.
If she knew I had a ball she was a dog possessed and walked with glazed eyes transfixed on my pocket, oblivious to literally everything around her.
I started with a relatively confident dog that liked most (single) dogs but would lip curl at the odd one and was anxious in closed environments where other dogs were present like vets or cafes.
She loved people and was generally unfazed by noises like fireworks or refuse trucks.
Over time I ended up with a dog that would immediately enter ‘fight mode’ on sighting a dog considerable distance away.
She would react to every dog, big or small, young or old, lively or placid.
The lip curls became nips and lunges.
Then she started to become nervous around everything else.
Random noises like a fly being swatted or a neighbours dog barking and she would skulk away and hide.
She started to exhibit nervous behaviour like lip curls and frantic low tail wagging as soon as anyone entered the room!
On walks, she started trying to hide from groups of people and children.
So, I tried Jeff.
I haven’t gained the confidence to remove her muzzle yet on walks but I can tell you we have had a few walks now where she has had a great time running around and playing with other dogs, bouncing around, play bowing, instigating chase, barking with joy.
She is far far less noise reactive.
She doesn’t get nervous when people enter the room anymore.
She is overall a much, happier calmer dog.
Lip licks I meant to say on entering a room.
She has never shown her teeth at people.
Jeff does not, as far as I am aware, advocate spray collars.
He does support remote/electric collars.
He told me not to use a slip, only a prong so I am not convinced he is in support of slip leads either.
He is very against choke chains because they have unlimited tightening ability so I would assume he is also against slips.
The ‘correction’ on a prong is tiny, a very gentle motion.
It is not a yank that old fashioned trainers used to do on choke chains.
In fact, if you yank hard on a prong it is highly likely to snap open.
I know you don't want a debate, but just to be clear - you believe you have a happier dog because of using a prong collar?
I KNOW I have a happier dog!
Before I had a dog that when faced with a bouncy, rude dog was deeply tense, up on the toes, tense muscles, closed mouth, tail straight up, that would at the very least snarl if not outright nip and lunge.
Now I have a dog that has met dogs like this and responded with relaxed, loose body, open, smiling mouth and ran about, play bowed, chased, encouraged them to chase her.
Having a really lovely time.
The change is very obvious.
Stressed out, nervous, aggressive dogs do not race around playing happily with other dogs.
Yes. The prong collar.
There has been no other change on her walk aside from a (gentle) correction on a prong as soon as she starts to tense up.
A prong collar is horrific.
My only suggestion is perhaps consider a thunder vest when the dog is showing signs of stress. My girl can on occasion become stressed if her routine changes. There isn’t any aggression, but she barks and doesn’t settle. The thunder vest calms her down quickly and she is so much happier.
Your poor dog OP. He is frightened. I know there are neighbours to worry about but tough, your dog is more important. He is in a new house with new sounds and is clearly very anxious. Understanding is surely what he needs. Patience too. The longer he lives in the house, the more likely he will calm down, once he gets used to the noises and learns they won't hurt him.
I totally agree with getting a specialist in and totally disagree with any sort of punishment. He is scared, not bad!
My puppy went through a phase of being anxious around people coming to the house despite good socialisation. I was so embarrassed and thought her behaviour was a reflection of me as a dog owner and people were judging me. Then I thought, sod them! I had done everything by the book but she still became fearful of strangers.
I thought about it and I thought, would I like people just coming up to me and touching me? Hell no. A lot of toddlers go through a stage of hiding behind parents legs etc. So I decided I would just go with it. If she didn't want to meet new people, well fine. I didn't get a dog to please other people, I got a dog for my family to love. I still encouraged new people and people coming to the house to offer treats but asked them not to approach her. Four months on, she is much happier about meeting new people.
My point here, is that whilst dogs are dogs and people are people, we share similar emotions. A dog that is afraid is not much different from a person that is afraid. Punishing an afraid person just isn't right. Nor is punishing an afraid dog. Time, understanding, patience and expert help is what's needed. No different than the support of a person suffering high anxiety. Good luck.
Prong collars are horrific.
Putting a prong collar on an already traumatised dog? Beyond words really.
@Doggy The fact that treats stopped working probably indicates that there is some trigger stacking going on - when the dog can cope with the first few triggers, but eventually seeing more triggers (each of which, individually, DDog could have coped with) collectively tip the dog over threshold.
How long have you been using Jeff's methods? It sounds like it's a relatively new addition to your training repertoire. The trouble is that while these methods promise quick results - and appear to deliver - but the problems can tend to reappear later, often presenting in different ways but still with the same root cause.
Have you ever come across the saying that "punishing a dog for growling is like taking the batteries out of the smoke alarm"? If you teach a dog that they're not allowed to growl they go straight from more subtle signs of stress to a bite; they become less predictable and hence more dangerous. The same applies with punishing other forms of stress related body language. Don't be surprised if your dog starts an unexpected fight with one of the dogs he's been playing with.
On his website, under FAQ, he explicitly says he uses slip leads in the video about tools. Slip leads also have unlimited tightening ability, just like a choke chain www.solidk9training.com/faq/
Remote collars are an umbrella term for both shock and spray collars which can be triggered by the owner remotely. I haven't watched enough of his videos to check if he advocates spray collars or 'just' shock collars, but both have an equivalent effect and are both abhorrent. Finding out he only uses one isn't going to affect my opinion of the man.
The treats haven’t ‘stopped’ working.
They work great, until she is too full to want them then they don’t work anymore.
She is not a massively food motivated dog, after a few handfuls she just isn’t interested.
Not long admittedly.
Of course if she does indeed suddenly turn I will know I was wrong but her whole demeanour is so vastly different I don’t think so.
I have definitely heard this about growling.
It was one of the reasons I stuck to positive only training for so long.
Her body language now is vastly different.
It doesn’t ‘fit’ with a shut down, stressed dog suppressing signals.
For example, the resource guarding dogs with soft, silent mouths but furrowed, tense brows and hard eyes.
Clearly massively stressed just not growling.
With other dogs for example, she has no hard stare now, the tail is slightly above neutral not bristled and straight up, there is no muscle tension, she is not up on her toes, her mouth is soft and relaxed.
In other words, there are absolutely no body language signals to suggest she is anything other than happy.
Or to use another example, her nervousness got so bad that when the front door opened and someone walked in she would jump off the sofa and hide. Or stay on the sofa with head down, closed mouth, ears back, frantically wagging tail held super super low.
All classic signs of stress.
Now, as with other dogs, it’s relaxed, happy wagging tail, relaxed mouth, forward ears etc.
When I was using positive reinforcement she wasn’t punished for growling or lip curling, I was calmly calling her away.
But she still escalated her behaviour into nipping eventually.
I followed positive reinforcement to the letter and she slowly but surely got worse and worse.
When you have tried something for years and the behaviour is getting worse, it clearly isn’t working.
When you get to a point where your dog is so stressed and miserable they spend all day asleep in hiding under the bed, are frightened of even their own people entering rooms, there are only really two options left after this point, try the other variant of training, so called ‘balanced’ training. Or euthanasia.
Are they being used for correction purposes or to stop the dog escaping should a prong break?
Prongs are not built to withstand pressure.
Deliver sharp corrections or allow a dog to pull in them and they are likely to break.
So many trainers use a back up collar.
Jeff, as far as I know, only does corrections in a prong and is against choke chains for their unlimited tightening capacity so I can’t imagibe him being in support of correcting with a slip.
The slips use as a back up collar should the prong break seems the likeliest to me.
I had this problem (though not as extreme as yours admittedly) years ago after moving house. A previously calm yorkie became yappy at any noise, started soiling in the house and going bonkers in the garden.
The garden problem was because of multiple cats and foxes criss crossing it. I think the smell sent her loopy. Other than that, she was out of her comfort zone I suppose, as after a few months she settled down and returned to her normal self. I ignored the behaviour as much as possible as I didn't want her to think there was anything to get upset about. I was calm, ergo she should be calm.
Do you put your dog on a lead when in the garden at night? Perhaps he might feel reassured by having you close by?
@Lucisky it seems similar although as you say he's maybe slightly worse. He was always calm before in the house and very rarely barked in the garden, but just completely losing it at the minute. I always go out with him into the garden and although it is a good enough size for him to have a run, it's not huge so he's rarely too far away from me so I don't know if putting him on a lead would be that beneficial.
I think I may need to spend more time with him out there, play with him and practice some training, I thought this could possibly show him it's a safe environment and he doesn't need to stress at noises from other houses? This may possibly calm him down... thoughts?
Please explain the mechanism by which aversive techniques work - i’d Love to understand a ‘logic’ that advises against neutering as it can make fear worse (correct) but promotes punishment as a mechanism for alleviating fear - how??
All reputable scientific and dog welfare organisations advise against punishment-based training strategies.
Your dog is exhibiting classic hyper-vigilance behaviour arising from anxiety - punishment relies on creating fear and will only worsen his anxiety.
I’d suggest continuing the positive reinforcement that you’re doing but also speaking to a vet and/or APBC qualified behaviourist as he may we’ll need some short-term medication to reduce his anxiety to s level where he can cope and learn to accept his new environment