Help me help my neurotic dog.
June 21, 2010 6:36 AM   Subscribe

After 5 years of the same routine, my neurotic dog still has not adjusted. How do I teach her to be patient?

Sorry if this is a long explanation. My husband and I have 3 dogs - a lab mix and a Weimaraner (aka little puppies), plus a Great Dane (big dog). Several years ago the lab mix and the big dog decided they don't like each other any more, and so the little puppies and the big dog are kept separate with a complicated gating and switching situation. We've managed to make this work and keep everyone happy and well loved for several years now.

At night, the little puppies sleep in a crate in our room, and the big dog sleeps on a mat on the floor. Keeping a Great Dane-sized crate in our room isn't really an option, and neither is locking any of the dogs out of the room.

In the morning when I wake up I take the big dog downstairs, let her out to do her business, and then feed her. She's pretty quick about it and then just wants to go lay back down. So I take her back up and switch them out, and the little puppies come downstairs, eat, and then spend some time in the back yard.

The Weimaraner was abused in her previous life, and has some issues, but she has gotten much better in the time that she's been with us. However, she freaks out about food and eats like she hasn't eaten in months every time we feed her. The issue is that when I go downstairs to feed the big dog in the morning, the Weimaraner flips out and makes noises like she's dying. Anyone passing by has to think we are kicking/beating the poor dog. This has been going on every single morning for about 5 years, and the routine never changes. By the time I get back upstairs she has usually calmed down, so she is never let out of the crate while she's still making noise.

We are hoping to move to a quieter neighborhood soon and would rather not piss off the new neighbors with loud yelping every morning. So how do I get through to this dog that she will get to eat in 5 minutes, just like she has every morning for 5 years?
posted by thejanna to Pets & Animals (7 answers total)
Weimaraner's perspective: "Ever since I started flipping out and wailing for five minutes every morning, I get fed regularly. This wailing technique works, and as traumatized as I am by past abuse issues, I'm never going to stop doing what works so well!"
posted by orthogonality at 6:50 AM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

Can you feed the Weimaraner/little puppies first so she has nothing to freak out about?
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2010

Are the Weimaraner and the lab mix in separate crates? I was thinking put just a few pieces of food in for the little ones while you take out the big one, then proceed as usual - but that might not be a good idea if the littles are in together.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:39 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: One of our dogs does a similar thing. The only thing that has worked for us, is to distract him by making him perform some obedience tricks or catching his attention with a milk bone if he is really out of control. He doesn't get the milk bone unless he is completely quiet and calm. He also doesn't get the milk bone until whatever is causing him to freak out has passed. So he must remain calm for the duration, if he does this he is petted and verbally rewarded and then finally he gets the bone. The obedience trick works like this- I catch his attention and repeat different commands such as sit, stand, lie down, come here. When he starts to get distracted and wants to howl, cry, yelp, I call his name and give him a command, if he obeys, he gets verbal rewards and scratching, petting rewards.
It has helped and has greatly diminished his screaming yelping freak outs.
Is it possible for you or your SO to stay in the room with the screaming puppy while the other one of you walks Great Dane and try some of these techniques?
posted by citizngkar at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our rescue beagle was a neurotic mess. The only thing that's helped him is obedience training. Like what citizngkar said, having the dog focus on his own good behavior, and a positive reward from that, distracts him from his neuroses. Unlike a specific behavior for a specific problem behavior (the morning crate routine) we found that a regular routine of training for all his behaviors throughout the day makes him feel safer. Then a specific bad behavior can be addressed also.

We started our pooch at PetSmarts training class but he was too neurotic for a class and we ended up converting the payment to one on one trainer sessions. The trainer taught both my son and I to train the dog at home. I think we did about 5 total lessons with her over 6 or so months. The dog is miles better now and he actually loves training. Like a kid, it gives him all kinds of positive attention.

If you don't have the time or money for that, there are clicker training/ positive reinforcement dog training videos on YouTube and elsewhere. Do your research and commit to it. It's work but it has a huge payoff.
posted by toastedbeagle at 8:29 AM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: I think citisngkar has a good plan - make the husband get up and entertain the little puppies with some training and treats. That has to be more effective than staying in bed and shushing her from across the room. I'm not sure why we didn't think of that before.

She has had some basic obedience, but it might be time to revisit some of that as well.
posted by thejanna at 12:07 PM on June 21, 2010

Having multiple dogs, with multiple issues, may be rough on the dogs. You might want to consider finding somebody a loving home where they could be the beloved Only Dog.
posted by theora55 at 1:07 PM on June 21, 2010

« Older A to the C   |   Give me your poor and huddled masses. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.