Dog's behaviour is getting out of control

(42 Posts)
BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 17:55:51

Any help would be welcomed as my dog is driving me nuts. He's never been well behaved and we've had lots of issues with jumping up/on people, walking badly on the lead, no recall, excessive barking, stealing/destroying, attention seeking...almost anything you can think of. He still does all of these although we've had some improvement on some after lots (and lots, and lots) of work.

He's a cavalier aged 3 and I've had him since a puppy. He's been to puppy classes, adult training classes, and had a private session with a behaviouralist and nothing has made much impact.

I had a baby 8 months ago and things have gone from bad to worse. He has always been obsessed with stealing things like tissues, cardboard, post, wrappers and food. For the first few months of the baby's life he didn't go anywhere near his toys which seemed miraculous, but in the last month or so he's been steadily stealing more and more until now, when barely 20 minutes goes by without him nicking a dummy/spoon/toy/comforter etc. The other day he took a breadstick out of the baby's hand!

He knows 'leave it', we have done it 500000 times but he will run off with stuff into another room, and I have to leave the baby and get a treat for him to drop it. I'm currently having to do this about 20 times a day and it's driving me spare. Trying not to chase him/take things out of his mouth as he can get growly but a couple of times I've had to because they were dangerous.

I think he's doing it for attention and while he's always been a tricky dog (both the trainer and behaviouralist said he was not a usual cavalier due to the fact that he doesn't respond well/quickly to training) I think it's probably mine and my DHs fault too, we're definitely doing something wrong. I have felt very frustrated with him since having the baby due to the extra stress he's causing, although try very hard not to show it. He gets walks, toys, games and cuddles (although my partner does much more than me these days) every day but I think I spoiled him pre-baby and he had lots of bad habits that have now become bigger issues.

Rehoming is not and won't ever be an option so please no one suggest that, he's our dog and I love him deep down (just not IN LOVE with him at the moment grin).

OP’s posts: |
BiteyShark Sun 18-Aug-19 18:02:25

Personally I would pay for a series of 1-1 training sessions in the home over a period of weeks.

I know you said you had one 1-1 but I think it helps to have a few as then you can work on it with help as say what is or isn't working.

BlackSwan Sun 18-Aug-19 18:08:09

Has he been neutered? I have a cocker spaniel just over 1YO, and dislikes kids a lot... yesterday pulled a chair he was tied to more than a metre (restaurant) to have a go at some kids he didn't like the look of. I have decided to neuter him, calling vet tomorrow. Like you we have done 1:1 training, lessons etc. He is a precious teddy bear with me, and is never aggressive with other dogs - plays nicely in the park, though he barks non stop while doing so (but not at home).

Veterinari Sun 18-Aug-19 18:13:09

Use stair gates to separate him - make sure he has a comfy secure den and get some long lasting treats - frozen kings or puzzle feeders to occupy him. This will give you time to spend with the baby and prevent him taking anything.

Make sure you spend quality time with him when you can - if baby is napping then do some clicker training with him. Reinforce calm quiet behaviour. Ignore attention-seeking or unwanted behaviours. Stealing is a classic attention-seeking behaviour. You can stop this from happening by separating him, then reinforcing the good behaviours that you want

Veterinari Sun 18-Aug-19 18:16:37

@BlackSwan

Neutering is unlikely to change this behaviour - removing the testicles doesn’t result in a personality transplant - it will only affect behaviours that are driven by sex hormones and dislike of children has nothing to do with testosterone. In fact if his dislike is driven by fear, you risk making this behaviour worse as removing testosterone can exacerbate fear-related behaviours. I’d strongly suggest that you seek professional behavioural advice or trial a suprelorelin implant to evaluate the impact on behaviour first

BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:17:15

yes @biteyshark maybe I need to ask her to come back and to observe us again

yes hes been neutered, had it done a couple of years ago. He's pretty good with kids and is usually uncharacteristically gentle around little ones. Obviously we never leave him and the baby alone together and heavily regulate/monitor their contact but generally he's been good with him, no aggression etc. He's not good with other dogs- not at all aggressive but very scared and doesn't know how to behave. Straight on his back and won't play with them

OP’s posts: |
Wolfiefan Sun 18-Aug-19 18:22:06

If he steals things then you have to prevent him having access to them. Stair gates or whelping pen to isolate him. If he jumps up then keep him on a longline and harness. Prevent the behaviour you don’t want.

You also say you’ve done lots of training classes but what about in between them? My dog is nearly three. I don’t open the boot without reinforcing that she has to wait. I randomly throw in training commands to wait or follow my hand or do “touch” or I hide and she has to find me. Something every walk. Without fail. An hour a week won’t train the dog.

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BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:24:22

Thank you @Veterinari that's really helpful. He has a crate and also likes to sleep under the sofa. He often barks if left behind a stairgate but maybe with a kong he'll be more distracted. I think quality time is definitely lacking- I feel like all I'm ever doing is trying to stop him from doing stuff/damage control and we rarely get to sit down and have a proper cuddle and one on one attention any more. As I said he was a nightmare pre baby when he had all my attention but I'm sure the current situation is making it lots worse

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BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:28:40

@Wolfiefan we've done lots at home too but probably not enough. He does know commands but usually won't do them unless there's major bribery. He's not allowed near visitors usually, unless they know him and know to ignore him till he's calmed down...we keep him behind the stair gate but he will bark and bark and bark 🙁

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picklemepopcorn Sun 18-Aug-19 18:29:43

You'll find it easier if you structure the play times more. Don't think in terms of baby on the floor, baby toys everywhere. Think: play time for dog and baby, baby on my lap and dog toys out OR playtime for baby, baby toys out, dog behind stairgate or on a house leash.

It won't take long to rethink, and the cues will be much easier for your dog to read what behaviour is appropriate.

Wolfiefan Sun 18-Aug-19 18:31:56

TBH just sounds like you haven’t done the ground work and now he’s acting up as you have a baby and little time for him.
Brain games to stimulate him?
Praise and treats for good behaviour.
Prevent behaviour you don’t want.
Be consistent.

QuitMoaning Sun 18-Aug-19 18:35:31

Unfortunately I don’t have a dog because of working hours so I am not an expert but one thing struck me when reading your post. He steals things and then you have to chase him and give him a treat to get it back.

If you gave me some chocolate or a glass of wine every time I stole something of yours or the baby’s then I would do it continuously. It sounds like you are rewarding him for stealing stuff. I may be wrong but that seems to be the behaviour you are rewarding.

pensionpot Sun 18-Aug-19 18:41:55

I agree with @QuitMoaning it does sound like you're rewarding him for stealing objects

BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:42:18

@wolfiefan I think that's a little unfair, we could definitely be better but we've done much more than many. He's got puzzle games, we've tried scent work, he's had lots of training in between classes and over the last 3 years. We have worked relentlessly on recall, barking and him not jumping up. I am busy because I have a young baby but he has a nice life with cuddles and fun, nice treats, walks, days out...he's not exactly hard done by!

OP’s posts: |
Wolfiefan Sun 18-Aug-19 18:44:53

You said in your OP “he’s never been well behaved”. Dogs don’t know what’s desirable and what behaviour you don’t want. If he won’t come back? Only ever let him off in a secure space or use a longline so he can’t ignore you.
You can’t complain he’s behaving badly if you haven’t taught him how to behave.

BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:46:26

@QuitMoaning @pensionpot unfortunately we've been told that's the only safe way to get him to drop things. He will destroy them and eat them if he keeps them, which is dangerous so we can't completely ignore it, but taking things off him/pulling them out of his mouth is also not safe as he has a tendency to guarding at that point. If he associates us taking things off him with fear then that could turn really nasty

OP’s posts: |
BiteyShark Sun 18-Aug-19 18:49:37

I do think it is much easier if someone outside observes what is going on.

It's very easy to reinforce bad behaviour and I have done it myself in the past.

Decide which behaviours are the 'worst' and if corrected would make everyone's life much easier and focus on them first.

picklemepopcorn Sun 18-Aug-19 18:51:01

We have a dog who's been described as 'not easy' by trainers grin. You can do everything right, but still have a 'character'!

BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:52:43

We have tried to teach him. At our dog training class they gently told me that it was great we were trying so hard (he won dog of the week for effort!) but some dogs find it harder than others and that he probably wasn't going to be able to get his certificate. Our behaviouralist said that he was a lovely, sweet dog but a challenge. He's a combination of not very clever and extremely high energy with almost no impulse control. I've only ever had easy dogs before him so we've probably done things wrong along the way/used the wrong methods but it hasn't been for lack of trying

OP’s posts: |
Wolfiefan Sun 18-Aug-19 18:53:23

Do don’t let him have access to stuff he shouldn’t have. Ever.

picklemepopcorn Sun 18-Aug-19 18:53:27

Speaking from experience, you really need to prevent him having access to the naughty stuff, so he never gets the opportunity to play that game.


I know it's tricky- one phone, one tv remote, the iPad case and several shoes attest to that.

BiancaDelRiooo Sun 18-Aug-19 18:54:18

@picklemepopcorn yep! grin god love him but sometimes I REALLY miss my chilled out old rescue greyhound that just napped on the sofa all day

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picklemepopcorn Sun 18-Aug-19 18:57:14

Several people have expressed surprise we stuck with him- he really is 'characterful' stubborn.y daft and determined.

At times we think he's just not very bright. Other times he looks at us as if to suggest 'I know what you want me to do, but it's not convenient right now'.

Winsomelosesome Sun 18-Aug-19 18:58:19

When you say a 'behaviouralist' do you mean a qualified clinical behaviourist who asked for a referral from your vet or just someone who calls their self a behaviourist? Because unfortunately the term isn't protected therefore anyone can call their self a behaviourist. If they are qualified and reputable they will be listed on the apbc.co.uk website, they'll also insist on contacting your vet to rule out any clinical concerns.

picklemepopcorn Sun 18-Aug-19 18:58:21

He will only do his training on carpet. His bottom does not sit on cold hard floors, deary me no!

'Yes, I know you don't want me to talk to that dog mum, but it's Billy so it's ok.'

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