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Please help me calm my dog down! What can we do?

(15 Posts)
Quarantini Sun 05-Apr-20 10:03:17


We have a 3 year old lab x cocker and she is CRAZY!

She's a beautiful dog and of course, full of energy, which I could handle, but this is something else!

She is constantly on watch. She runs from one part of the house to the other, all of a sudden, as though she's been given an invisible signal. Sometimes we only need to move in our chair a certain way and her ears prick up, as though somehow we've told her she must seek out the danger! Sometimes it will be a certain word or tone we use that gets her all worked up, but we don't need to be anxious or cross. We can't work out the pattern.

I don't know how our french windows are still standing, she throws herself at them that much!

We have a cat who effectively lives upstairs, but she will occasionally see her in the garden and go absolutely nuts, so I do wonder if it's all about the cat. She does act like it pretty much constantly though, even when the cat is nowhere to be seen.

We do have another rescue dog and have had her for about 18 months, but our lab x has always been like this. If anything our new dog calmed her down a bit confused and that's saying something!

Anyway, is there anything we can do to just chill her out?

She does get daily walks and she also runs in the garden a lot. She's very clever and picks up new tricks very quickly, so we try to keep her occupied with that, but sometimes we want to be able to just sit down and enjoy a bit of quiet time, without her demanding our attention.

Any suggestions and advice would be very much welcomed smile


OP’s posts: |
GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Sun 05-Apr-20 10:44:47

If she picks up tricks, she is trainable. Have you tried teaching her to settle? Lure her into her bed (or send her there is she knows the command) tell her to stay if she knows that, and add 'settle'. If she gets up before you release her, put her back. Rinse and repeat until she stays put for half a minute or so, click and treat if that works for you when she is waiting quietly (ideally lying down), then release. Do this at intervals through the day, reinforcing the 'settle' command and upping the time she stays put, and between reward and release (you don't want the reward, if you give one, to be associated with either getting on her bed or getting off, but with staying there quietly.

You will find yourself putting her back in her bed every five seconds to start with, but it's 100% worth the effort. Once she starts to lie down quietly and actually settle, you might want to reward with a chew. That way settling becomes something that might have a fab reward.

Once she has nailed the idea in one place, you can extend it to others.

Caveat: I am not a dog trainer, this is just what worked for me.

vanillandhoney Sun 05-Apr-20 11:55:17

You need to teach her a "settle" command.

What worked for us is to keep him on a lead and collar inside the house. We would literally have him tethered to us so he couldn't race about. Eventually he would get bored and lie down, and we would treat his calm behaviour. Him being on lead meant he HAD to settle down eventually because he couldn't run off iyswim.

We trained this from the day we brought him home and now he does it pretty much automatically (he's two) though he still has his moment. As yours is three you'll need be quite persistent as at the moment she's learned that racing around is okay (as you've never correct it) but if you keep going then it will pay off eventually!

jinxpixie Sun 05-Apr-20 12:50:06

I agree a calm needs to be taught. I use the clicker a lot but would not do so for teaching a calm as it tends to make most dogs be on high alert and concentrating.

I would start off with a mat any interaction with the mat gets a treat on the mat,looking at the mat,standing on the mat etc. No praise no click just calm slow treat on the mat.

As the dog realises the mat is the cue for getting the treat withhold the treat and your dog will sit preferable y go down on the mat. Do not lure do not ask for it just reward with calm quiet treat on the mat.

One thing to look out for with clever quick highly charged dogs is that they start to ping off the mat to get the reward when they go back to the mat. So they are getting rewarded for a high activity not a calm activity!

If they do start to ping increase the rewards but in a slower method of delivery ignore the pinging off and reward after a longer period of calm.

Good Luck

Quarantini Sun 05-Apr-20 13:29:46

Thanks for all the advice so far.

Will definitely try the calm command. She's easily taught, but isn't always treat lead if it's something she really doesn't want to do iyswim. She's very stubborn by nature.

For example, her recall is shocking. Basically, she doesn't have one and no amount of treats of any value, lure her.

If we are at home and teaching her tricks and commands, then a mix of treats and praise will usually work. I think because she enjoys doing the tricks and not just the rewards.

Her bed is a funny one. It's her safe space and she has been known to guard the area and certain items which she has put a high value on. By this, I mean growl and snarl, which has always made me very uncomfortable. If we go out (which obviously we don't at all right now) then all I need to say is "go to sleep xxxx" and she goes straight in, but if I told her to go to her bed at any random time, she would completely ignore me. Even with the same command, if she didn't think we were going out, she wouldn't go to her bed.

Maybe we should get a special mat and practice the calm command there, as suggested. I think I would be nervous to involve her bed in training.

I should say, she did have quite bad behavioural issues when she grew into adolescence, which included barking at us for attention and even biting, but that wasn't for attention, that was if we had accidentally startled her. So if she was up sleeping on the sofa and the remote was next to her, if we went to get it when she was asleep, she would sometimes snap and her bite is very strong.

Thankfully, that appears to have stopped now, but the constantly on edge, running back and forth doesn't seem to be getting better. Apart from today of course! I think she's sensed I'm writing about her and is trying to prove me wrong grin

OP’s posts: |
GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Sun 05-Apr-20 14:40:33

OP, it sounds as if you need to go back to basics with this dog. She has resource guarding issues, she has no recall and she doesn't settle. You are nervous of using her bed during training. I don't want to make you feel bad at what is a shitty time for all of us, but you have a problem here. I think, with my limited experience, that it's probably a fixable problem, but a problem nonetheless.

She happy to go along with trick training because she wants to do it, but as soon as you do something she doesn't want you to do (approach her bed), or ask her to do something she doesn't want to do (come back to you), she either tells you off or gives you the finger. She has no idea that you are in charge. In fact, you're not. She is.

Dogs were bred over millennia to work with and for people. Your dog has never had that, but she needs it: she needs to know that she has a job no matter how simple that job is. She will be a calmer and happier dog for it. In your position, I'd be getting her to wait for everything - food, fuss, a walk - until she was sitting and waiting. I wouldn't walk her on the lead if she was pulling. I wouldn't let her off the lead until I'd done some work on her recall. I'd take away anything she guarded (except her bed, she has to sleep somewhere) and take advice from a professional about the guarding of her bed. And I'd teach the settle on a mat, not her bed, till you've dealt with that issue.

Is she a rescue? If so, would the rescue still give you behavioural advice? If not, given her breeding, I'd go to a gundog trainer and if that didn't appeal, a behaviourist.

FoamRoller Sun 05-Apr-20 15:15:22

I don't have time to reply in detail but please, please, please do not take away items a dog is guarding. This will only make the problem worse, there's no need to guard an object unless you are worried it is going to be taken away so this is completely the wrong advice.

Please see a registered behaviourist, one that uses positive reinforcement methods and they will state this clearly on their website. Look for those registered with the APDT, IMDT or have a CCAB qualification. All these problems can be helped but you will need more advice than that a stranger can give you on the internet.

vanillandhoney Sun 05-Apr-20 15:19:14

Having read your update, you have much bigger problems than her not settling. She bites, resource-guards and has no recall. That's really worrying.

Outside of lockdown, how much exercise is she getting? A young working dog needs more than walk a day - I would say two walks of at least an hour off the lead would be ideal for a dog of her breeding. Young dogs need to run and sniff and you can't do that on a lead. Is there a secure field or similar that you can hire for her to have a run about in? (Obviously only once this is over).

However I really think you should consider a behaviourist. Resource guarding can be really dangerous if it's not dealt with properly, especially as she's already a biter.

feelingnervousnow Sun 05-Apr-20 15:27:19

We just signed up for the Absolute Dogs course called Sexier than a Squirrel. It’s 25 days of playing a game a day. The games are just 3 minutes each. Some are for calmness, some for recall etc. We’re only on day 3 so I can’t say if it’s working yet (we need it for recall more than anything).
Regardless if it works it has taught us some good games to play with our dog, she loves it.
The trainers do live chats on boundaries etc. It cost £27.99 I think and I reckon it’ll have been worth it.
They also do a daily kid game called kid vs squirrel which my two have enjoyed doing.

GrumpyMiddleAgedWoman Sun 05-Apr-20 16:13:18

Sorry, by take away I didn't mean when she had them, I meant put them away when she wasn't with them and hide them. One less cause of conflict.

jinxpixie Sun 05-Apr-20 17:56:49

To me she sounds like quite a stressed dog.So initially I would try to bring down her stress levels.

There are lots of resources on this but the main one that people find their head hard to get around is decrease the exercise. Calm onlead walks in quiet locations may be ok but no offlead running or chasing etc.

This alone for some dogs after a few days can make a huge difference.

Take away anything that causes stress so anything your dog is guarding, if possible can she be in rooms where she can not see the cat for a few days?

If she barks for attention just quietly and calmly walk away - if she does this when you are relaxing (and can't be arsed to walk away) have her in another room from you - do not let her repeat the behaviour.

Things to increase in this period :-

Sniffing - get her to hunt for her food, scatter feed her food on the grass -this is a real calming activity. As a cocker/lab cross she will be amazing at this smile

As she gets used to this make it harder and hide the food in flower pots, under rocks etc.

Just let her mooch initially you my see her ramp up the energy and pacing but hang on in there and she will calm down.

Then you can start with more proactive training. Now actually is quite a good time to get in touch with a behaviourist most are doing online consultations which may be a bit cheaper.

jinxpixie Sun 05-Apr-20 17:58:43

I forgot chewing is also a good thing for relaxation (as long as she does not resource guard!)

Quarantini Tue 07-Apr-20 15:39:25

Sorry for the late reply!

I completely agree that we have a problem.

We did have a behaviourist come round a few times about 2 years ago and she told us to really focus on the training and to concentrate more on mental stimulation rather than physical, as we could be "creating an athlete", making a rod for our own backs. Things did slightly improve and as I mentioned, having our rescue dog has seemed to put her in her place a bit.

I will search for a new behaviourist and see if perhaps we can do some online training, like you suggested @feelingnervousnow.

OP’s posts: |
Stircrazyschoolmum Fri 10-Apr-20 12:28:00

We have a ‘full on’ WCS who is nearly 3. We found mental stimulation has definitely helped calm him.. he would be on the go all day long if he could.

Something else to try (especially at the moment when we are spending so much time at home) might be some extended grooming sessions? I have found it a really good way for us to bond and it completely zones him out. We have an array of combs and brushes and I’ll often trim his nails and clean his ears too (mucky spaniel ears!) He quite often falls asleep with his head in my lap and continues to chill for sometime later.

Obviously this won’t help with the wider behavioural issues but it might build the trust between the two of you?

Stircrazyschoolmum Fri 10-Apr-20 12:32:58

A second thought.. ours is definitely more antsy when I am stressed/on the go, it’s like he has an antenna and picks up the mood in the house! He is calm and happy chewing a tree root or calves hoof whilst I’m watching tv or reading!

Obviously you have to get on with your own lives, but it might be something else to be aware of as I think the more they practise being calm the better they get at it.

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