How do we make Joey a more socialized, better trained, and happier dog?
February 8, 2010 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I am in the increasingly frustrating position of being housed with Joey, my room-mate's dog, who is poorly socialized, and barely trained. What should I do?

Joey is a Burmese cross, medium sized, very cute, generally pleasant temperament, around a year and a half old, and energetic. That's the good news. A brief rundown of my room-mate, and Joey's walking pattern:

Room-mate is 22 years old, single, female, and working. She works a couple jobs with varying schedules, totaling around 45 hours a week, in six to eight hour increments. When she is home, she usually sits on the computer, knits, or watches movies. She will take the dog for a three-quarters-of-an-hour to hour long walk in the evenings, and a round-the-block pee walk in the morning, generally not more than half an hour. On the weekend there will usually be at least one good, multi-hour walk. Around once a week Joey will spend a day or so at room-mate's mom's house, where walks/attention will be frequent.

To reinforce the point, Joey spends the majority of days at home, alone, in an suite in a house without a yard. I work 8-5, Monday-Friday, so I am only available to spend time with Joey in the evenings. Even then, I have a busy life, and generally not a lot of time to help with dog care outside of feeding, and the occasional walk. This is something that I would be willing to adapt to if it meant improving Joey's life, but what little I can do will not alone solve these problems.

Now, a brief run-down of the issues that I am hoping to understand and solve:

When we are away from home, Joey goes to town. Shoes, laptop cords, nice chairs, and perhaps worst of all, the original trim on our hundred year old suite. This is a big deal, because I was the one who gave my word to the landlords that there wouldn't be any problems. Yes, I understand that such a promise was premature.

Joey is a year and a half old, and the only commands she has mastered are 'sit', and to a lesser extent, 'lie down'. 'Stay' is intermittent, 'come' is non-existent, 'no' works on occasion, and only if Joey has nothing to gain by disobeying.

Room-mate's take on the training situation is that Joey is 'just one of those dogs', and she points to small improvements (such as Joey no longer jumping up and licking/biting guests) as signs of improvement, despite these small improvements coming and going being based on Joey's moods, and not on any kind of training. Puppy classes were gone to, 'young dog' classes were gone to, but room-mate has taken the path of least resistance and surrendered to Joey's bad habits. I believe more classes are upcoming, but this is a tentative plan rather than a set-in-stone schedule.

I chose the title for a lack of a better phrase to explain Joey's habit of running away, such as when being told to come when she doesn't want to, or when she has an item in her mouth that she wants to keep. It can be a half hour long adventure to fanangle Joey into a car to leave the park, and it is useless trying to get an object from her that she wants to keep. Room-mate doesn't use a commanding tone with Joey, either using the cajoling 'come here joey, that's a good girl' or the angry 'JOEY, YOU'RE PISSING ME OFF! COME HERE!! JOEY COME HERE!'

Joey interacts with other dogs in a way that makes me ashamed to take her to the dog park. She chases, jumps on and bites at other dogs long after they have no interest in playing. Off leash areas are terrifying; I feel as if there is a danger of her doing that to a kid, or to a dog that would rip her face off, and both of those possibilities are not acceptable. Even with people she knows, such as me and room-mate, Joey will bite, jump up on, and generally misbehave with abandon.

This list is incomplete, but it serves more as a testament to how many problems there are with Joey than as an index of the issues themselves. I'm appealing to you out there in the dog world to shed some light on what is creating these problems, and how we can go about changing them. Feel free to ask for any more information as you see fit, and thank you very much if you managed to get to the end of this long and ranty question. This affecting my relationship with my very good friend, and I want to find a way to solve this.
posted by seagull.apollo to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Joey needs crate-training. Desperately. When roommate isn't home, Joey goes in a crate.
posted by purpleclover at 7:07 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ay. This is not good. When the Room-mate gives her take on the training situation, can you press for what training has taken place? (Which, if I'm reading correctly, is none.)

I can tell you exactly what is creating these problems - your room-mate who has brought a dog into a home and not given the dog any help understanding how to get along. Joey is a dog and while she may have a friendly attitude toward you, she has no manners, no idea what is expected of her, and perhaps some impulse control issues.

What does she do when Joey chews her things? Does she offer to pay or repair when Joey chews your things? Does Joey have any chew toys?

You might want to teach Joey something - to shake or lay down or come to heel position - and then point out that she's obviously not just one of those dogs. (You local shelter or library will have training resources. Or you could ask someone with a good dog at the dog park.)

If nothing else, get her name on the lease, too, in case there are legal issues with this untrained, out of control animal.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:08 PM on February 8, 2010

I am not a dog expert but it sounds like Joey thinks she is the boss of everyone and you need to figure out how to assert that Joey is, in fact, the least dominant personality in the household. The only one who can, and should, be doing this, is your roommate.
posted by Mizu at 7:12 PM on February 8, 2010

This seems like less of a dog problem and more of a roommate problem. It's your roommate's job to get the dog to behave, not yours.
The problem is how do you diplomatically get your roommate to deal with her dog. Has it been made clear that she's going to be the one paying for the damages when you guys move out?
posted by dunkadunc at 7:29 PM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm going to second crate training. I recently got a new housemate and she came with two ill-mannered huskies. When she's not home the dogs are in their crates, unless I feel like letting them out. Anything that happens when she's not home and I let them out is my fault. If I don't want to be responsible for them, then I don't let them out. And my roommate knows not to be gone longer than they can handle being crated, because I am not her dog-sitter and I won't always let them out if I don't feel like dealing with them. It sounds like it's time to lay down the law with your roommate, and your roommate needs to lay down the law with her dog.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:38 PM on February 8, 2010

Joey needs crate-training. Desperately. When roommate isn't home, Joey goes in a crate.

Yes, putting it in an even smaller space than a tiny suite with no yard is an amazing idea.

Your roommate needs to train it. This isn't your problem. It also isn't the dog's fault. It is bored senseless. Dogs are not furniture, they are living breathing thinking feeling creatures that want adventure and love.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:39 PM on February 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

Crate training isn't cruel.

Chewing can be dangerous, not only to your electrical cords and suits, but also to your dog. Having Joey in the crate when no one's home will make the house safer for him and reduce general destruction.

I mean, that's my second answer, behind Make roommate magically more responsible, but I figured crate-training was a more concrete solution.
posted by purpleclover at 7:56 PM on February 8, 2010

Joey needs crate-training. Desperately. When roommate isn't home, Joey goes in a crate.

Yes, putting it in an even smaller space than a tiny suite with no yard is an amazing idea.

Oh, ffs. Bajillions of dogs are crate-trained to no ill effect. The dog is walked at least twice daily, so it's not as if she never goes anywhere.

I do agree that this is not the OP's dog to train. In fact, the roommate herself needs some training: she must be held responsible for the damage Joey has done. Otherwise, the roommate will not understand that the dog is a problem and that it is the roommate's responsibility.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:57 PM on February 8, 2010

Our trainer told us that a walk is passive mental stimulation while training is active mental stimulation. Joey clearly needs training. Crate training would be a good stopgap measure to prevent further destruction to the apartment and your things.

I realize that I'm preaching to the choir here, but this situation is untenable, and you need to get your roommate to realize this. I was in a very similar situation with my fiance and his dog, which led to some severe incidents and a lot of counseling. Does your roommate think that a) things will change somehow and/or b) she alone can improve Joey's behavior? At this point, I think a professional trainer is necessary. It sounds like you're willing to put in the effort to retrain the dog, but your roommate must take responsibility. If Joey snaps at some point in the future and injures another dog or a human, she will be legally liable and she could face restitution or Joey being taken away from her and euthanized. And if she is ever in a housing situation (or romantic relationship) with a less understanding roommate, she is setting herself up for a lot of heartache.

We used Bark Busters and we've had some good success with them, although it's still a work in progress. I don't know how Joey is with food, but Bark Busters uses non-treat training. For our dog, this was great because he became way too hyped up when food was involved.

Feel free to memail me if you want to know more about our experience. It sounds pretty similar to yours. Good luck.
posted by emkelley at 8:07 PM on February 8, 2010

Don't shoot the Dog is an excellent book if you are interested in training. IMHO, training is a lot of work, and you might just be better off getting rid of the dog.
posted by rebent at 9:10 PM on February 8, 2010

Many great answers already. I will try to address those with questions as best I can.

One thing that many of you brought up was the issue of restitution for chewing. Money isn't the issue in this case. Dogs will all go through a pair of shoes or two when they're young, and I knew that I had a dog coming to live with me. Room-mate is paying for things that can be replaced (shoes, new laptop cord etc), but the woodwork is in a sense priceless, because it will never be original again, and is leading up to an unpleasant damage deposit inspection for me, even if she will pay for it. The chewing is indicative of other things, namely a lack of discipline. There is no lack of chew toys around, either. It's just that Joey prefers things that get her more attention.

Crate training is a suggestion that many of you have brought up, and the idea seems good. Joey rarely leaves the top of the stairs when she's home during the day, mostly sleeping or keeping watch, so a crate in that position would be no great hardship for her. On that note, thank you purpleclover for the links. If anyone has a reputable anti-crate article that would be great to read too. This is something I will be bringing up with room-mate.

The third thing that a lot of people were adamant about was that this is room-mate's fault, and that she needs to take responsibility, and train her dog. This is something that I agree with, wholeheartedly. However, easier said than done. One of the reasons that I posed this question was that I wanted some other people's opinions and testimonies on these issues, for when I do sit her down and talk about this. I have never been a dog owner, so I don't have any personal experience to call on, but even limited in this way I can see that she is not going about things in the best way.

emkelley, I have gotten the sense from room-mate that she does think that Joey will change on her own. This attitude will be challenged, with help from your experiences, when the time comes.

Just to make it clear, while Joey is not my dog, I do feel some sense of responsibility in having her properly trained. I want to take her on more trips and help her have a more fulfilling life, plus, selfishly, it's great having a well trained dog around! I also take something good away from the training; it's an interesting challenge with a potentially beneficial result. I don't need to crate her when the roommate isn't around, I'm fine to have her hang out as a member of the household. I just want to try to stop or mitigate her destructive behavior, for herself and the people/animals around her.

Okay. Thanks again if you read all that. If anyone else has had similar experiences, or if anyone who has already mentioned theirs wants to elaborate further that would be great. I will read every response and get back to every one that I can.
posted by seagull.apollo at 9:15 PM on February 8, 2010

I'm not a fan of leaving a dog in a crate all day AT ALL and don't think it's a long term solution but having said that if they're destroying stuff? into the crate they go. My own dog is a young husky (basically a perpetual mischief machine) and I am lucky because I have the luxury of being able to dog-proof an entire large room for her while I work, otherwise you bet your ass she'd be in a crate. Dogs can do thousands of dollars in damage pretty quickly. When she gets a bit older she'll have the run of the house but for now not so much.

Two walks a day is pretty reasonable although I firmly believe that dogs need off-leash play time with other dogs. If the dog has no social skills they need that play time more, not less. Unless she's starting fights continue to take her to the dogpark and keep walking to limit her time with a single other dog unless they are getting along very well. Some dogs play rougher than others and they usually figure it out amongst themselves. If she's gets threatened or bit well then, she'll learn not to be such a pain in the ass. Which is sounds like she badly needs.

As far as the behavior at home, I personally have a no tolerance policy for bad behavior in the house. If my dog is bugging me we spend 10 minutes working on commands. It's amazing how 10 minutes of "down, stay", sit, heel, being made to find things etc inspires a dog to amuse itself instead of bugging you for attention. We do have a lot of games that I set up for her (mostly hiding stuff that she has to find) and that occupies hours of her time too.
posted by fshgrl at 9:52 PM on February 8, 2010

I am a dog trainer/behaviorist -- you and your roommate need to get a reputable professional in to work with you two ASAP. Joey isn't going to magically change. She's a dog, and she's behaving in a way that makes perfect sense to a dog. Training isn't about breaking a dog's spirit or anything like that, it's about enriching a dog's life. Training is about teaching dogs how to understand what humans want, and humans learning how to understand what dogs are telling them. Training is mentally stimulating, emotionally satisfying, and the best thing you can do for your dog.

You can find a good, positive trainer through organizations like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Both have good certifications in place.

And please feel free to MeMail me if you have any questions or want some specific points made to your roommate to come from the mouth of someone currently working in the field. :)
posted by Concolora at 9:57 PM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

You obviously like your room-mate, but unless you're really close friends (or perhaps especially if you are) move out or move her out before the damage to your relationship, your house, the dog and your bank balance is irreparable.
posted by smoke at 10:02 PM on February 8, 2010

Why not show your roomate how easily your dog could learn some new things? It is quite easy to get dogs to learn "say please by sitting" which essentially means having them sit whenever you're doing something - walking in/out a door, for their food, to go on a walk, etc.

Here's what I would do:
- hire a trainer for an hour or two. Could be a cheap solution to an otherwise long-term expensive problem. You are looking for a reward-based trainer only. You can ask them what kind of training they do. Food or other reward only. Not punishment/correction in that Dog Whisperer sense.
- get a crate. Read about crate training. Do not start crate training until you understand what it means. Otherwise you will take her out the second she whines and that is a no-win solution for everyone.
- no more food in a bowl. That guarantees her resources for the day. Instead, put her proportion of food in a bag. That food gets delivered to her through some mild training. She will soon start to associate good behavior with food. And you will have created a training-ready dog. So if she is out of her crate, and you are eating dinner, and she sits or lays down nicely, give her some food. Seed the crate (with open door) with lots of food. She will wander in and out. She will start to look for ways of pleasing you and looking to correlate her behavior with rewards.
- at the very least, buy several kongs. Put her food in the kong with some peanut butter plugging the little hole in the bottom and fill it with water or broth. Add a bit more PB. Freeze kong. These are puppy babysitters. When you put her in the crate, give her the kong. She will start to love it in there.
- learn a few very basic training tricks. You can get her sitting, staying and laying down in no time at all. For reference you might want to look up "clicker training" which is essentially a technique used for marking the dog behavior you want to replicate.
- for examples of the above, with clear, dog-friendly, postive/reward training, see the following:

Sophia Yin - videos. Book.
Ian Dunbar - video. Book.
Great videos and blog at Dogstardaily.
Don't shoot the dog.
Some clicker training basics.

Think about how cool it'll be if you can get her to start to learn something. I suppose this could really annoy your roommate, but you might broach it as, "hey I've been doing some reading on animal psychology and I think we could get Joey to learn something! How cool would that be! Do you mind if I try a few things?" Then she might see the rewards and pick it up from there. But you must do this with a fun, gentle and open spirit. Like, "this is cool!" and not "I am quietly seething in anger and no I'm not showing you how, do your own research."

Because one way or the other, you have a dog. Puppy. Chewing. You can leave, they can leave, or you can try to fix puppy. Pick one!
posted by barnone at 10:36 PM on February 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

Sine you are dreading the landlord
seeing the trim damage you should have a professional fix it now and have the roomate pay. That may may also motivate her to take her dog seriously.
posted by saucysault at 5:38 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Regarding the chewing: Bitter Apple spray can be found in most pet stores. Put Joey into a room and close the door. Spray the cords and woodwork that you want protected and LET IT DRY. You must let it dry. Then let Joey out of the room.

My puppy took a lick of the stuff and nothing got to the point of chewing. I am not sure how it would be on shoes or fabrics though. It didn't do anything to the trim of my apartment but then again, it wasn't 100 year old trim.
posted by spec80 at 12:00 PM on February 9, 2010

Okay everybody. Long time concluding this, for that I apologize to anyone that's still reading.

Joey now spends days when room-mate is gone in room-mate's room. Happy to report that Joey has not chewed anything since. Also, since beginning this regimen, Joey has been less hyperactive, barks less, and generally seems far happier. Big thanks to the number of people that recommended this.

In an unexpected twist, room-mate repaired the beloved chair, going so far as to make a new strut, stain it to match, and install it. The trim damage was also stained over, and looks a lot better now. Maybe we can pass it off as adding to the character...?

Joking aside, I just want to thank all of you. This is a great community, and I'm proud to be a part of it. Pats on the back all around, and hopefully somewhere in the future I will have the opportunity to pay it forward.
posted by seagull.apollo at 9:51 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

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