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Is my rescue dog ever going to fully settle into our family? Concerned..(29 Posts)
I adopted a Sprocker spaniel bitch at the beginning of October last year. She is 3 years old (turned 3 two weeks after we got her) and was spayed by the rescue. She is clearly much more anxious/highly strung than we were told. We were told she's come from a home with 3 dogs and due to relationship breakdown the younger sprocker half sisters were miserable and needed to be rehomed- no issues. She was the youngest and we were told she was very submissive.
The issues we actually have, 7 months on, are:
- refusing to poo in the garden in the afternoon, no matter how long we're outside
- toileting in the house overnight if there are stresses in her day/changes in her routine
-refusing to walk with DH and I and if the DC are in the garden, and even just in the house sometimes which is awkward now if not everyone wants to walk
-barking constantly at the DC and I on walks if off lead- would never run away, and so very frustrating that now she's on the lead more and more as she doesn't walk well on the lead. Her anxiety/ excitement levels are so high she often won't take a treat, can't listen. Of course, she also won't toilet on the lead...
- refusing to go with a dog walker (when not on lockdown) . We've tried day care, a group walk, a local walk, and a different walker and 1:1. She either runs away, tries to run away, walks very reluctantly and will not wee or poo or refuses point blank to walk
- barking at the children playing in the garden, stressing if shut into the house- very car sick/ anxious in the car
I have been going to training with her, based on the Absolute Dogs programme, so all positive work, games based. I think the trainer would say her stress bucket is too full/ too over stimulated, but in lockdown walking her separately isn't possible and I am despairing at how awful she is with the whole family walking her together. Half th point of getting her was to get out walking more as a family. Now, she won't even come running with me as I never leave an empty house, walks are stressful and miserable, with either constant barking or constant pulling on the lead.
My DH, always reluctant to have a dog, has also said if she goes back that's it, he won't get another dog, and the Dc adore her (DTs age 8 and DD age 9)
I am really conflicted. I feel she should have gone to a much quieter home. One lockdown is over she'll be left again due to refusing to go with a dog walker (I work 3 days a week, term time only). Is she ever going to fit into our family or do I need to accept she isn't the right dog for us?
This is outside my experience but I would suggest a full vet work over (if you can find a vet to do one at the moment). If she's healthy, do you do any spaniel stuff with her? Get her to hunt for tennis balls in grass, or scent work round the house? Retrieving a ball or toy in the park or garden? Those activities might bring her stress levels down and help her focus on training like heelwork.
Some rescues - not all - do seem to place dogs in unsuitable homes. It's not fair on either the dog or the new owners.
Does sound like she needs to be 'working' to burn off that mental/physical energy.
So if you want to take her out for a walk/run, but leaving others in the house, she won't go with you?
Who is she most bonded to?
It does sound like you need a behaviourist to help you. It would be a shame to return her to the rescue, for her, but also for you as I doubt you will be allowed another dog again by husband!
She is most bonded to me as an individual, but is also extremely tuned in to the children.
No, she won't come with me at all at the minute. I used to be able to persuade her, and have run 50 miles with her since lockdown started but she's been getting worse and now absolutely can't persuade her with food bribes, games, being firm. I'd have to physically drag her along, which obviously I don't.
She hunts/works for all kibble, we did the "ditch the bowl" . I hide part of her food around the house for her to find, she plays boundary games, I scatter in the garden.
We've had a better day with her today but I am under no illusion that one slightly better walk is anything other than a fluke. This is the madam today- NOT BARKING!!
Oh, and she has been vet checked. We got her day 8 post spay. She got a wound infection. Then bilateral ear infections. Then a vomiting bug. I think stress and change and infections kept her immune system on its back foot. She's been well since early Jan (though is scratching her ears a lot again...)
I know it is possible to get anxiety medication for dogs. A friend of mine who works in a chemist says she dispenses it every day. In your shoes I’d be discussing this with the vet.
I’m not saying it’s the only thing you should do however. Working with a behaviourist would also be important.
What about trying those plug-in pheromone diffuser or essential oil diffusers? I've had no experience but if they work it might help de-stress her at home. Does she prefer treats or toys or praise as training rewards?
Omg I can’t help, but she’s gorgeous.
I grew up with labs but occasionally we’d have a lab springer cross and yes they were mental, mainly with separation anxiety or excessively loyal. So sorry I can’t help.
Spaniels aren't the easiest of dogs. I know a few (some are working dogs, some are pets) the working dogs are definitely the happiest IMHO - the pet ones can be quite neurotic & sensitive - so you have your work cut out (sorry, I know you know this).
Maybe she hates running? I assume you run with her on a lead with you? (if she is off lead ignore the below).
Most dogs don't enjoy this, just running on a lead, they prefer to be off-lead so they can indulge their natural behaviours, they want to stop and sniff, scent mark etc.
Is she better at going with you if she knows it's a 'fun' walk? Maybe that's why she wants the kids there? She knows they don't run with you, eg she knows when you are all going out for a walk she will enjoy it and have fun off-lead?
Do you have a set routine for walks & training & separate time as well? Now that people are home 24/7 perhaps dogs are becoming more dependent. Your DCs are old enough to understand that caring for a pet means putting their needs first & walking even if you don't want to, so hopefully they can support you with trying to establish a good routine?
Does she sleep alone?
I think my rescue dog has become better at separation partly due to me letting her sleep on my bed.
I have had dogs most of my life, and they have never been allowed upstairs even during the day, so I am the last person that would have a dog sleeping on my bed!
When I was looking for a rescue dog I spoke to a charity who turned me down for a lovely dog as I refused to agree to let the dog sleep in my room/bed. I subsequently did get a rescue dog from a different charity, and although the dog was great and settled in well, she hated being apart at night, she was so upset at having to sleep away from me I gave in after a month of trying.
She became so much more relaxed after that, and of course, this was also in part because she has now been with me 2 years so she is used to being left, and knows I will come back, but there might be something in that?
I personally wouldn't have a spaniel on my bed, so feel free to completely disregard the above, especially if it doesn't work, you are stuck with a smelly dog on your bed for the next 10 years, and no improvement in daytime behaviour, it could also back-fire on you and make her worse at separation, which is why I think you need an expert.
Spaniels are worth it for the way they look at you with such love & devotion ....that's how they get away being such twats!
Perhaps you are asking too much of her too soon. I know October seems a long way back but for a rescue dog it isn;'t and she is obviously stressed.
Have a look at Drax's galactic adventure on facebook... he is a wolfhound rescued at about 10 month of age and severely traumatised. He has made amazing progress but his new owner took every step incredibly slowly..and that's the key.
It sounds like she is overwhelmed. Stop the walks... just take her out to the nearest patch of grass that isn't the garden to toilet her. Strip it right back and stop making demands on her. She has made it very clear that she is not ready for walkers, groups etc etc..she's not trying to be difficult.. she simply isn't ready to cope and it sounds like she has been tried with far too many options when what she probably needs is everything scaled right back to the minimum.
Your ideal may be walks as a family but she is simply not ready for that. In time she may well be but if you force the issue you are just going to get a more stressed and reluctant dog.
PS many dogs including mine won't toilet in the garden... Mine won't even pee there.. she has to go out, just across the road to a small green area. It's a pain but I just run with it.
My second dog was a very stressed out girl when she came to us. The vet gave me adaptil in tablet form, plus I had bought collars for both her and our existing dog.
Those helped ( and you can get them online).
Sounds like you are working on the right things and it may actually be that she’s over stimulated with everyone home, or she’s playing you ( it happens) . As pp said, stripit back, work on leaving her calmly in her bed during the day etc, just the puppy stuff. Don’t give attention /play on demand and let her self soothe.
She is a stunner 😍😍
still I do agree. She has improved hugely and will wee in the garden and poo in the morning. Nearest patch of grass is a playing field with a warning it'll be shut to dogs due to increased fouling which I pray won't happen, or a field which is okay in the winter but has cows on it frequently in the summer. She will only "go" if off lead and wont leave the house without the dc now we're in lockdown.
On the advice of the trainer I had stopped the walker and was just starting to work on adding it back in (because we restarted DC swimmibg lessons on a Wed so she would hav e been left 8:40am to 5:45pm and I just couldn't face that) Paying the walker to sit at mine for an hour and see if she'd go into the garden and gave a wee for her.
I'm trying to shut her in the house to chill/rest and be away from us but she jumps at the back door and cries. I'm trying to crate train her amd it took 4 months for her to go in. She'll go in now, but if I shut the door she won't eat a longer lasting treat and just frets to be let out again. So, still a work in progress.
I hate that we can't, when life is normal, have a day out without her as I can't arrange her to go to my friends or have a walker come.. but accept it may happen in time. Maybe. Though my hope is fading. I also feel guilty about the dc having done almost nothing bar walk the dog all winter due to our inability to have someone come in to her.
I have checked her insurance today and she is covered for £250 for behaviour so will look into that next. Our trainer recommends Dr Tom Mitchell, founder of Absolute Dogs, who is vet behaviourist and does online consults so may look into that.
I'm feeling really overwhelmed about it all.
dreamersandwishers thank you- I have just checked and her Adaptil collar has run out!! We do always notice a big difference with that so I am hopeful it'll help. Amazon prime and yes, it is essential!! She used to have the plug in too but she sleeps in the kitchen which opens on to th3 garden so door constantly open now. I think it wouldn't build up enough.
I am trying to avoid her in the bedroom due to her toileting overnight as it is carpeted and she wees and poos overnight fairly regularly
terrigrey she is off lead when i run with her, i stop for all sniffing/swimming anyway and don't run any of "my" routes where she'd be on lead. She's ruined my pace . If the dc take bikes and I run she'll come perfectly happily.
And yeah, spaniels... I didn't want a spaniel particularly but she melted my heart in 0.1 seconds flat in the rescue
Talk to your vet about medication for anxiety. It can be miraculous. Currently it sounds very tough for all of you including or even especially the dog.
villianousbroodmare I love your username! I'm intrigued!?
Thank you, I think I'll try. She's actually a fairly calm dog in the house, not manic and dashing about, which is great. But I think it has come to the point of looking at medication as I am worrying about her/her behaviour non stop, we can't enjoy walking her as a family though she refused as usual to walk or run with me today and ran happily with dd and dh once I was back, and he said she seemed to just wait for me while I was gone?!) I'd definitely try and a big part of my worry is guilt, that our household and lifestyle is too busy, chaotic and noisy for her which keeps her feeling overwhelmed. Poor dog. She is so loving, and she is loved. It is heartbreaking that I'm even thinking of giving her up but hope we're not at the end of the road yet
I have found Pet Remedy more effective than some of the other calmer. You can get it as a spray as well as a plug in.
You sound as if you are very anxious. I don't know whether this normal for you but you will be feeding her stress. Chill and give her some space. Get the children to leave her alone as much as possible to let her, hopefully, calm herself. Without seeing how you all interact with her, it is difficult to tell you what would help. For that you need expert advice , preferably in person. It can take rescues a year or more to really settle. She has lost all her dog family as well as humans so it will all be a huge change for her. Good luck with her.
I'm a worrier but guess I wouldn't describe myself as very anxious. I am not unable to do anything because of anxiety, I am not overly worried about the current pandemic where I have family and friends too afraid to go to the supermarket...(not that I'm blasé, DH is frontline NHS) but you may have a point. We'd had a better day yesterday so I was actually hopeful today would be too and I wasn't too worried til the utter walk refusal. But maybe she knows?! I also think loss of her half sister and older dog companion and being an only dog have really not helped. The trainer has also agreed she should have gone to a qquieter household with a resident calm, older dog. But she has us, and we do love her.
Would you use Pet Remedy as well as the Adaptil collar (that does work for her)?
Do get her ears checked asap. Ear infections or inflammation can be very irritating.
On a completely different topic, I have the same set up as you with twins and a not much older child. Mine are 2 x 2 and 4. I am dreaming of a full night's sleep and now extremely worried that you still haven't had one...
I had the same problems with my rescue. With hindsight I didn't let him settle into his new life for long enough. Had him 18 months and life with him is (almost) perfect now.
From your dogs point of view she had a major op, less than a week later was rehomed and had to adjust to a new family, including 3 (while lively, to dogs are strange and unpredictable) children. She then had an infection to the wound and ear infections at this crucial adjustment time. She has also had unsuccessful attempts with Dog walkers, daycare and you are doing training with her (great to train but maybe it has been too much too soon). That's a lot for her to deal with in a short space of time. Stop trying to take dog for walks just now. It can takes weeks, if not months for stress to leave her system, especially if she finds walk s stressful, her 'bucket' will be continually overflowing. If the dog plays fetch, stop or reduce it as that causes stress hormones to build too.
Play calm games, scentwork etc, in garden, just chill together in the sun and let her rest and get used to her new life. Make sure she has places to rest where she won't be disturbed. Look at where her beds are located. If close to a door with people going by maybe look to put it in a quieter area. And learn to chill yourself because our dogs really do feel stressed sometimes just because we do, they are sensitive buggers.