Skip to comments.Any ideas/advice for teaching respect to a difficult dog?
Posted on 11/27/2012 5:52:50 AM PST by needmorePaine
My wife and I have a 3.5-year-old female English Springer Spaniel. We got her as a puppy from a breeder, and for the first two years of her life, we were happy with her. She's a beautiful dog bred for the field, not the show line of the breed.
During the year after her first seizures, our focus was largely on seizure control, and I think we made a mistake there in babying her too much because it seems as if she has taken advantage of that and become more dominant in the household.
To complicate matters even more, we've added three kids (1 daughter and 2 twin boys), and the dog has dropped down the pecking order...or should have.
Even with all of the exercise she receives--tricks, obedience training, time off leash to run and use her nose--she still has to be a nuisance in the house. She counter surfs, paces, begs for and steals food, chews up the kid's toys and other random items, eats out of the trash, and jumps on guests.
My wife is about ready to give her up to a rescue for the breed, and I am inclined to agree with her. The dog dominates the day, and my wife has a hard time dealing with that and watching the kids. We're ready to give the dog one last chance simply because of the emotional attachment, but it's not looking good.
I know there are some dog lovers here, so do any freepers have any advice or suggestions on teaching respect to a dog? I believe the issue is that she no longer respect us, and we have failed to assert leadership, especially during the past year or so following the onset of her seizures. We have a trainer who echoed these sentiments, but his techniques have resulted in the dog becoming more pushy rather than gradually improving. The only bright spots are that she is friendly (probably too friendly), smart (probably too smart), and patient with kids. There never has been a sign of aggression.
What sort of vet/med costs are you facing per month? What are your options for shifting her to being an all-the-time outdoor dog?
We had great success using a small water gun. If Elmer started chewing on something he wasn’t supposed to, we would say NO and pick up the water gun. When he saw we had it and if he still kept chewing, we would again say NO and squirt him. It took two days to untrain all of his habits that were ‘incompatible’. He had been an outdoor dog, completely undisciplined but turned into the best dog in quite a short time. Good luck!!!
Actually, they are disposable if they have serious medical or behavioral problems.
I had a family member on phenobarbital for epilepsy for some time. Pretty strong meds with side effects. I wouldn’t discount the possibility that this has been a complicating factor as well.
ESS’s are beautiful dogs, btw. Sounds like you’ve got a full household, but your kids would surely love interacting with her if you could hold on until her more mellow years.
I have to agree with Clintons Are White Trash, its consistent training, we also have a difficult dog in the extended family who graduated obedience school with my daughter and she is very strict about telling everyone in the house for holidays etc what is expected as far as working with the dog. He sits in the family room while we eat in the dining room by himself, but we don’t have anyone sneaking food etc. Its all about consistency.
counter surfs - lock her up behind a see-through gate in a well traveled part of the house during the parts of the day she’s the most trouble.
paces - this may be a mental thing as a result of the meds and/or condition.
begs for and steals food - is she fed from the kitchen around meals or dinner table? stop if so.
chews up the kid’s toys - buy her chew toys and scold heavily / lock up any time she chews up something that isn’t hers. my dog eats anything made out of synthetic fiber and is proving a major pain to train otherwise.
eats out of the trash - get a flip-top heavy / decorative trashcan, like this: “http://homeimprovementstip.com/wooden-trash-bin-for-kitchen.html".
jumps on guests - this one is the trickiest, but also seems the least of your issues.
The plan is to try another round of training, but it may be a last chance for us.
STep one. I’m not impressed witht he trainer’s response. Find another trainer. You are hiring them to help with behavior modification and if they can’t help or “give up,” then they are not the right trainer. Not all trainers are the same. I know around here I can tell clients to interview 3 different types of trainers and most will consult the firt time for free. One trainer here actually has a 12 day ‘boot camp’ and the training is gaurenteed for life.
Step Two: Speak with your vet. The medical condition can potentially be affecting her impulse control. Epi-drugs can make inhibitions difficult. Again you don’t want to change the drugs, but you do need to be aware of the side effects and it may help you to redesign how you are going to live with your dog.
You lost control of the situation a long time ago, needmore :-)
A breeder told me once that it is essential to let the dog know who’s in charge. This dog didn’t get that memo.
I would do what you suggest ..and if you get another dog, get a labrador. They are smart, good with kids and usually very obedient. Your kids would be thrilled with a purebred puppy. But you have to start training and discipline from day one. and crate the dog when you’re not home and at night until they learn to behave.
We have a large fenced-in yard, and she spends hours a day outside, either with me or the wife working with her or just by herself.
Bless your heart.... I have a beagle mix who has diabetes/cushings. One thing that my vet mentioned straight away is that she can sense our “pity” and will take advantage. She’s of average intelligence and so she was easier to put back into place but a springer is smarter and so you may have a little more of an issue.
The first thing that you can do is go to ceasar milans website. His understanding of dogs is complete.
With Chloe we essencially had to take her to boot camp. First the walks....always on a leash and the demand that she walks next to us, never pulling the leash or running ahead. It’s very frustrating to re-teach that and time consuming. I bet I stopped during a walk 30 times.
To assert your dominance you can use your body. When you walk into the door do not talk to her, touch her or look at her until she is in a submissive state. And one of the big ones that we do as dog lovers is reward bad behavior. Dont pet her and love on her to calm her down. That reinforces that behavior.
I hope that you get to keep her, I had to put my Golden down a few months ago and I’m still grieving. : (
Please go to Ceasars website...he has amazing advise for all of that behavior.
This sounds like normal dog behavior to me.
We used a shock collar on our dog...but he’s a 90 lb Pit Bull
The squirt bottle thing worked better then the shock collar. All we had to do is pick up the bottle and his bahavior changed. Until he realized he could drink the water shot at him....
Put the dog up during meals, or at least give it a raw hide or something to chew. They can smell the goodies, so of course they want some too.
Put the trash where the dog can’t get into it....it’s a dog...they like to put their noses in all the wrong places.
Cesar is amazing.
Recently heard of a great trick for dogs that jump up on people for their greeting...
Keep a cookie sheet by the door
When you or guests walk in - grab the cookie sheet first and put it up on your body where the dog usually lands, the dog apparently can’t stand it (fingernails on chalkboard)and won’t jump up (praise for ‘down’-’sit’)
Begging - always feed in one dedicated spot - treat in dedicated spots for tricks.
Trash - get a cover for the barrel - move it to cabinet/closet
Counter-keep stuff to the back of the counter - keep higher
I’ve yet to see a dog that couldn’t be turned around.
First off, a lot of the problems you are experiencing are from the meds. Our alpha male GSD had cluster seizures every month and became a problem due to the medications which were having a very minimal impact on the seizures.
We had to find out what was causing the seizures... turned out it was the water out of the faucet. We now filter our water.
But, on to your issues, you’re going to have to get tough with your dog. No sliding on it. The bad part is that you’re also going to be fighting the meds your dog is on. Our GSD would go from happy happy joy joy to full on rage with nothing in the middle while on the drugs.
My advice is to seek a professional trainer. If that fails, I’d recommend surrender to a breed specific rescue that can find the dog an appropriate home.
The difficulties we are having started following the onset of her seizures. As I said, we focused more on controlling the condition and less on showing leadership, but the situation was much better the first two years of her life. I'm not using the epilepsy as an excuse, but it was a turning point in how we dealt with her.
Eh, yes and no. I’ve had dogs that were perfect companions, that didn’t destroy stuff the moment you turned your back. My current pup knows when we’re no longer looking and does whatever mischief he’s into until we’re about to turn around or come back around the corner. That makes squirt-gun-training impossible.
Anything or anyone who demanded more of my attention than my young children would have to go. No if, ands or buts. Who's more important to you?
I agree totally. I love animals and have/had all variety of pets (dog, cat, bird, fish and a rodent) but when one becomes a serious nuisance, a serious financial drain and is detrimental to the harmony of the home....sorry to say...a change is in order..
Rolled up newspaper; or a 2x4 if that doesn’t work.
1. My wife and I and the rest of the family members that come by regularly are consistent in dealing with the dog. That's the frustrating part; the consistency hasn't helped.
2. She walks well on leash. She no longer pulls and looks up at me rather than constantly sniffing the ground. That's the only real area of improvement. The problems are inside the house.
3. We have moved the trash can out of the room.
4. She is crated during meals, but the moment I go to grab a cracker for me or for one of the kids as a snack, she is right in our faces looking to snatch it. We use a verbal command in a deep voice as correction, but it sometimes barely registers. If it does, she walks off only to return a few seconds later.
5. Squirting does nothing.
6. I would not use a shock collar on a dog with an existing neurological problem. It's been tempting, but I wouldn't do it.
7. We are aware that phenobarbital can cause some issues with behavior. Our vet stated that it usually makes dogs more sedate, but there are some cases where it can worsen hyperactivity. I think that is the case with our dog.
8. Our trainer is a professional and offers a lifetime guarantee, but as I said, his techniques are having little to no effect, except in walking on leash.
"....so,wats dis job pay?"
The wife and kids, which is why, as I stated in the first post, we’re looking to give her to a rescue.
>Even with all of the exercise she receives—tricks, obedience training, time off leash to run and use her nose—she still has to be a nuisance in the house. She counter surfs, paces, begs for and steals food, chews up the kid’s toys and other random items, eats out of the trash, and jumps on guests.<
Does this dog have a crate? When she gets obnoxious, she needs a time-out, given in a matter-of-fact, unemotional way.
Frankly, I see a couple of things going on here. The epilepsy and the dog’s genetics. Field dogs are by nature workers and need that work to burn off their higher energy levels. In addition, the dog may be experiencing hyperactivity as a result of the meds or simply from the condition itself.
You have my sympathy.
Having two dogs tends to solve a lot of the problems of having one dog.
When we had a single dog, discipline with a rolled up sheet of newspaper seemed to be effective. It causes no harm, makes a lot of noise and gets the point across. Also a firm voice, rolling them on their back and grabbing a handfull of scruff, seems to communicate dominance in a way that is natural for the dog.
Once you get a couple of dogs properly socialized, they teach it to a new dog, the last two dogs we have had learned submission from the old dogs and never required intervention to keep them from being dominant in the house.
The genetics are probably a problem in that, while we give her plenty of exercise in the yard with games and tricks, she may just need to be an all-day hunting dog because those are her instincts. I am not a hunter.
Take it back.
No matter how smart the dog, I have found that the most effective way to correct behavior issues is to keep it as simple and consistent as possible. A very firm "NO" while making eye contact with the dog is amazing--as long as you say it while catching Dog "in the act," and maintain that eye contact until the dog looks away. That's dogese for "you win." I know this sounds like ridiculous advice, but over the years I've owned and fostered a variety of rescues, all with some behavioral problems, and the simplest and most consistent route has always proven effective.
Incidentally, my parents had an ESS with severe epilepsy. I wonder if that's a commn ailment in the breed. Crash had to be put down fairly young, just past seven, due to liver failure (drug related). Best of luck with yours!
1. Never give the dog human food. This has to be enforced throughout the house.
2. When eating in the dining room, she must be put in another room.
3. Whenever the dog seems to be trying to be the boss in the house, roll the dog on their back and put pressure on thier neck. It is amazing how well this works. It is dog language that is very clear: You are the leader, not the dog.
4. You may wish to keep the dog out of doors for the major part of the day. Dogs and horses do well outside, they are designed for it.
5. Next time the dog jumps up on you or someone else, gently roll them on their back and press their neck and say no.
I have had extremely good luck with training my animals to respond to my commands that are given in a strictly conversational tone. No is absolutely no, but it is said softly. This turns what could be a screaming battle for dominance into an informational conversational conversation.
It works on 1200 pound horses too.
I’ve pinged AnAmericanMother to this post. She has worked with field Labradors for years and might be able to give you some idea of what might take the place of field work in this Springer’s life.
One thing that may possibly work with the food issues is to make her down before she gets any food. She’ll learn that pushing and getting up in your face gets her nothing. She can’t be in your face from the down position. Toss the food directly between her legs so she dips her head to get the food. This encourages staying down.
If you yell its name when it does something like jump on a guest, it'll think it's doing something that it will get rewarded for.
Both Springers and Cockers have problems with epilepsy. I did not know this before getting the Springer. I knew that they can have problems with hips and eyes (as many breeds do), but I never saw anything about epilepsy when reading about Springers before we got her. Show-bred Springers also have problems with a Springer Rage Syndrome that seems to stem from one male, but it doesn't show up in the Field-bred ESSs.
She always has to do some command before eating. On the advice of the trainer, we have tried feeding her a portion of her meals by "scatter feeding," which is just tossing her kibble into the grass outside and letting her sniff it out, making her work for her food.
I highly recommend “The Dog Whisperer”!!
His phrase: “I rehabilitate dogs and train people”.
He will show you how to tell your dog no (timing is everything as I have discovered), and how to be a good “pack leader’ which is what you seem to be asking for.
PLEASE go to his website for more info. And if you have National Geographic channel, you will find hs programs there.
Learning his stuff gave my out of control dog and I, GREAT pleasure and the most awesome relationship. It’s more than obedience training when it comes to dogs. Cesar is a dog psychologist. He knows how they tick and communicate.
Correct. A dog will telegraph his intention a moment before he engages to see if you approve. Silence is consent to dogs.
We're big Dog Whisperer fans. We're always loaning out our DVDs to family and friends who have problems with their dogs.
Diet? Is the dog getting a food very high in protein? Only working dogs need very high protein food.
Dogs are scavengers. They look for food hungry or not. Try feeding more or more often. Maybe the dog is just really hungry.
Pheromones. There is a product made with lactating female dog hormones. It calms dogs, making them feel soothed like a nursing puppy. Can be put on collar or plugged into wall
Flirt pole. You can wear a dog out fast with this exercise tool. It’s a prey chasing game. Instructions on the net for making these.
Ignore bad behaviour. Isolate immediately when dog acts up.
When dog acts up do not escalate by yelling. Become calmer
My pit did all the things yours did till he was about a year. Then he calmed down and is the very best dog we have ever had. Seems like your dog should have matured by now. Your dog has epilepsy. It’s not a normal, healthy dog.
Is it really imperative upon you to maintain an animal that is ill and may not ever be able to function normally in a family setting? Do you really want to put this dog up for rescue when the next family might abuse it in their anger and dissapointment? This is a dog, not a human. If you’ve done all you can, then maybe the adult thing is to have the dog put down humanely. That’s what we would have to do with our pit if he ever shows signs of human aggression. It would mean he has a breeding defect that, we did not cause but that we must address as responsible dog owners.
The problem here is that you've got the seizures AND the meds on top of whatever training problem there is. Sometimes it's hard to disentangle them.
There shouldn't have been deterioration of the training as the dog ages -- my experience has been the exact opposite, age brings calm and better obedience (at least until they become senior dogs, then they take shameless advantage.)
If you've removed the "pity" factor - i.e. treat her like any other dog - then what's left is probably neurological.
I would consult with your vet and with the trainer about possible changes in strategy to accommodate those. My own inclination would be LONG walks with plenty of work and mental stimulation - for Labs, that would be periodic marks and blinds in the course of a 2-3 mile walk.
I don't know if I'd rule out the Ecollar completely - perhaps consult with the vet, then carefully collar-condition her and keep it on a very low setting - you shouldn't set it where the dog vocalizes or jumps, just look for a blink or hesitation. On a good variable-intensity collar (Tri-Tronics, Dogtra, Sportdog) the lowest setting is BARELY perceptible. I always test a collar's settings against the inside of my forearm before using it on my dog. And good collars have a separate tone button that you can use as a warning before hitting the red button - one of my dogs NEVER gets nicked anymore, she knows when she hears the tone that it's time to shape up.
Given that kids and a lot of work are also in the equation, re-homing may have to be an option. I wouldn't rule that out, so long as you can find a good placement. If there is a local rescue devoted to Springers I would give them a call. Our local Lab rescue is run by a lady with an immense amount of knowledge (former Master Nationals handler) and she almost always has a solution for just about any training problem.
I tried the water gun trick (actually a squirt bottle) on our new Sheltie last year, and it only makes her angry, and she not only barks at the water bottle, she tries to eat the stream of water. She does the same to the garden hose, running under the water stream and biting at it, trying to bite the nozzle, and even the faucet when I’m turning on the water.
Otherwise, this dog is pretty good - and smart - and doesn’t chew things up, but she barks at EVERYTHING. When I sneeze, it sends her into a barking frenzy.
I’m told it’s the nature of Shelties, as is herding. She tries to herd everything that moves. I think she’s really a democrat.
But, she’s not quite a year old, and we’re hoping she’ll grow out of it. I think I’ve made a little progress, as I only have to yell “Shutup” three times now before she starts to quieten down.
Dogs are pack animals. There's only one leader of the pack, and that should be you - not the dog. I find in most cases, the human leader backs down and isn't consistent enough, so the dog automatically sees itself as the leader of the pack.
Gut instinct tells me your dog, because of it's "gluttony", may have a mineral defincacy as well. It's "craving" something.
Please do not seek the advice of a trainer who still bases their approach to dog ownership on dominance theory, which has been debunked by veterinary animal behaviorists who have spent years studying the adverse effects on dogs AND people from using these techniques.
Most “normal” dogs are so resilient that Cesar’s way will not harm them, but that’s not the case for novice owners of puppies or adoptive dogs turning to him as a guide for training their dogs.
Dr. Karen Overall, faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania, is a diplomate of the American College of Behavior Medicine (ACVB) and is board-certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as an Applied Animal Behaviorist. Here is what she writes about trainers like Cesar Milan:
“The single most devastating advice ever given to people with dogs is that they should dominate their dogs and show the problem dogs “who is boss.” Under this rubric, untold numbers of humans have been bitten by dogs they have betrayed, terrified and given no choice. And for dogs that have an anxiety disorder that involves information processing and accurate risk assessment, the behaviors used to dominate a dog (e.g., hitting, hanging, subjecting the dog to dominance downs, alpha rolls and other punitive, coercive techniques) convince that troubled, needy, pathological dog that the human is indeed a threat, resulting in the dog’s condition worsening.”
I speak from experience here, as we were advised years ago by an “expert” to show our rescue “who was boss”, against my better judgement from years of working as a behaviorist with humans.
We ended up consulting Dr. Overall and our aggressive dog was able to live with us for the rest of his life. Even no-kill shelters had told us that they would have to euthanize our dog as he would be deemed a threat to their staff. We did not have children in the home, so it was possible for us to do what was necessary to give this abnormal dog a chance at life.
In my humble opinion, the characteristics of your breed, combined with the medical issues and the nature of a household with 3 children are not a good match.
The fact that your dog is not aggressive will make it much easier to find a suitable home for him.
If it were me, I would speak with the breeder of your dog or the breed rescue volunteer in your area. If the breeder and/or volunteer agree that your home is not a good match for the dog, they can reassure you that the decision to turn the dog over to them is in the best interest of the dog.
You will feel guilty, some may shame you for not following through on your commitment when you purchased the puppy, but put yourself in the dog’s place and consider things from his point of view. For a dog who needs a calm environment with clear and consistent expectations and consequences, can your home provide that? If not, do what is best for the dog and give him the opportunity for a life with someone who can provide what he needs. Forget value judgements from yourself and others—do what is in the best interest of the dog and you will make the right decision.
If you feel that your wife and kids can REALISTICALLY work with a trainer who can help you set up an environment for success in living with this dog, realize that there are NO QUICK FIXES (despite what Cesar Milan’s snapshots may show).
Working with anxious, nervous dogs who may have underlying neurological issues requires a training coach who truly understands animal behavior.
For more science-based information on dog behavior, please refer to these articles:
http://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/?/dominance.php (some good video here)
I am sorry if I’ve offended anyone. Trainers like Cesar Milan have been a “pet” peeve for years.
To me, you sound like a responsible family trying to do the right thing for your dog, given your current situation. You can use this experience to educate others about the need for researching the characteristics of a breed prior to purchasing or adopting a specific breed, the benefits of working with a breed rescue group (HOPEFULLY you will have a positive experience—there are nuts out there in every endeavor) and what it means to truly love a dog. Sometimes that means admitting that your home is not the best place for the dog, or that you made a mistake in choosing a breed that wasn’t a good match for your family/lifestyle.
This is true. The timeline is that from 8 weeks to 2 years, she received consistent leadership and was a good dog, not perfect but good. From 2 years to just over 3 years, we failed to provide consistent leadership after the onset of her seizures. Our desire to control her episodes overcame our desire to maintain her good behavior. As a result, some really bad habits emerged because of our failure and, in part, because of the impact of the medication. We are now trying to re-assert dominance, but it isn't going well.
I would say the best advice you have gotten is be consistent! Every dog wants to be part of the pack; they will do what pleases the master of the pack. Since you admit you spoiled her you will now pay the price.
You say the dog is smart so it should pick up your cues easily.
A) Feed her once or twice a day but always try to keep the same time.
B) Never feed her directly from the table. If you want, give her a leftover plate when everyone is done.
C) When you catch her chewing something she should not, scold her and give her an acceptable chew toy. (Never use old shoes or socks use doggie toys) Then praise her.
D) For counter surfing and garbage picking you must catch her and scold her. Then praise her when she listens
E) For jumping everyone must not allow it. Teach her to sit and command her when someone comes in to sit and wait for a greeting
F) When she is bad try sending her to bed or some place for a time out. (Dont lock her up) When you are unhappy with her tell her to go lay down or something away from the fun. She will quickly learn if she does something bad she is sent away from the pack and in a short time she will connect counter surfing, jumping or stealing food with the unpleasant experience of being sent away.
G) Have the kids help with training her the sit ,down ,and come command with treats it helps the dog understand the pecking order and the kids bond with the dog.
It seems fine to take the dog to a breed specific rescue. But the next owners should be fully informed of all the dogs problems and completely willing to take them on. If not then, you have to take the dog back or have her humanely down. I so hope it never comes to that.
I am sorry it didn’t work. Our beagle was so receptive to it that he even stopped baying inside. We would aim for his haunches and he just DIDN’T like it. It was just so quick for him to understand and learn what we considered to be unacceptable behavior.
Your post about your Sheltie reminded me about a video about these three dogs at a bar.
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