In need of some happy tails...
February 27, 2011 8:14 PM   Subscribe

Dog Filter: If you have a really awesome dog that you adopted when they were around a year old- tell me about it. Specifically, the journey from crazy wily pup to well mannered dog whom you can take anywhere and not have to worry about a thing.
posted by MayNicholas to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not knowing exactly what you are looking for... but we adopted our golden retriever at about nine months. Luke is now almost six and is the best dog I've ever had. I can walk him without a leash and he keeps by my side and largely ignores distractions. He stays in our completely unfenced yard without any effort on our part even though we live on a golf course with constant traffic in the summer (although as a matter of safety we do not allow him to do this unsupervised). He is also gentle and patient with my two toddlers and our fat slovenly cat.

We chose Luke for the breed's gentle and smart characteristics and wow, has he ever delivered! How we got him here from the howling, piddling, chewing ball of fuzz he was the day we brought him home----- First, we took him everywhere. So he got used to car rides, other dogs, distractions, from day one. Second, we walked him a lot and put him out in the yard with us as much as possible so he'd learn where his house was. Third, we took him to good manners class and tried to teach him all kinds of neat tricks-like his graduation trick was that he knew all his different toys by name-so he knew how to "Get the Dinosaur" as opposed to "Get the squeaky ball." Fourth, we accepted what we couldn't change-he still chews stuffed animals to death-so I buy them on clearance after holidays and let him have this one bad habit and he never bothers my kids' toys or my shoes or anything else he wasn't given by me.

For us, having him before kids was the best thing-we had the time to do it right and help him be the best dog he can be. Now that my kids are distracting me and I haven't the time to make him #1 like I used to, he still has all those great habits and training. So he is an effortless, awesome, family dog.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:30 PM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

One other thing-we talk to our dog like he is a person. Dogs learn language just like babies do. So we keep up a running dialogue (monologue-he doesn't answer back, sadly) with him as we go about doing things and he picks up what we mean and learns how we want him to respond. Like our dog knows that "scootch" means move over for instance. Not commands exactly, because we never set out to teach him, he just picked them up over time.
posted by supercapitalist at 8:50 PM on February 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

For me and my (I think) Lab-Border Collie mix, it was roughly equal parts:

1) Hanging out with her at the shelter before I adopted her. The place that I got her (which I had spent some time previously volunteering at when I needed a doggie fix but lived in an apartment with a strict no-animal clause) had a couple of fenced-in outside areas where you could "test-drive" dogs. This gave me an opportunity to see how she dealt with various stimuli, meaning I could walk around with her, play fetch with her, and get a general feel for how she dealt with commands and how she'd be if I tried to, say, take a ball out of her mouth with my hand. I also fed her some treats while I was there to see if she would have food-aggression issues.

2) Finding out a week after I adopted her that she was heartworm positive. The shelter provided the treatment for her, but she also had some underlying respiratory issues and was so emaciated that two different vets didn't like her odds for surviving the regular treatment. So we wound up doing a partial treatment and waiting (while she went through a round of heavy anti-bacterials and I put some weight on her) and then did the full treatment a few months later. Meaning, I had to kind of keep her activity level pretty minimal for the first few months I had her. It may sound kind of morbid, but the fact that she wasn't feeling very well for the first bit that I had her meant that it was actually a lot *easier* to leash-train her, show her where she was allowed to be and where she wasn't, etc. It was rough for her, but I do believe we got some really good bonding time in during that period.

3) After that, it was mostly socialize, exercise, and a healthy dose of Jean Donaldson's knowledge. The thing I *always* remember from that book is that any time you introduce a dog to something new (and I mean anything new) it's a powerful learning experience and you only get that opportunity once.

4) Pure luck. To the best of the shelter's knowledge, she'd just been a street dog until someone picked her up and hauled her there, and I adopted her a week or so later, but she's never met a person she didn't love, isn't a total maniac when food is around, and is generally well mannered around other dogs, so long as she gets a chance to ascertain that they're not a threat to her.

Its been a shade over five years now and I'm still annoyingly smitten with her. Best damn $40 I've ever spent.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:01 PM on February 27, 2011

Oh, and to clarify, she was about 9-10 months when I adopted her.

And per AskMe Terms and Conditions: her Flickr set.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:08 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

My fiancee and I just adopted a 1-year-old dog a couple months ago. She's a medium-sized (33ish pounds) hound/german shepherd mix who lost a leg in a car accident. We love her to pieces, but she's a challenge. Leash pulling, jumping on people, chewing socks, lunging at other dogs, whining - there's been a lot to deal with.

The thing is, any 1-year-old has had a past you just can't really know about. You may get some info about their past, but you weren't there for it. You say in your question "well-mannered dog who you can take anywhere," and of course that's the goal, but I'm not sure we'll ever be able to take our pup everywhere. Off-leash is a big maybe for us. We work very, very hard to train her, and she's gotten better as she's settled in, but a number of her traits have us unsure that she'll ever be an off-leash dog.

It's been a massive commitment. But she's sweet, loyal, adorable, loving, hilarious, and above all, she's a dog. Dogs are weirdos. They do things I will never understand. I've had to keep the mindset that as long as we work with her, train her, be firm but loving, that she'll get to whatever her "best dog" is, and we'll love her for it. Even if it isn't perfect.
posted by ORthey at 9:26 PM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Lyle was about a year when I adopted him. He's charming, ridiculous and delightful. He's not a "well mannered dog whom you can take anywhere and not have to worry about a thing" but that's probably more because he's a Jack Russell Terrier, and less because he was a rescue. Most rescue dogs I know are big sweethearts, and I wish you luck with yours.
posted by judith at 9:55 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the past 12 months my husband and I have adopted two rescue dogs both were about a year to 18 months old when we got them.

One an Australian Silky terrier handed in because the owner thought he was a teacup Yorkie when she bought him and was disappointed that she got a 14lb terrier with a mind of his own.

We also fostered, then adopted a poor rat terrier, who had obviously been hit a lot as was terrified of doing anything wrong and cowered when you raised your hand to just pat him. He also shows signs of having been attacked by a larger dog at some point and has broken bones and scars.

Everyone told us we were mad taking on 2 terriers in an apartment and when we first got them they fear barked at anything that moved, pulled, would attack each other in fear and would try to bite people that passed too close. The silky wasn't house trained and barked constantly at noises outside and had separation anxiety.

It has taken us a good 8 months of solid clicker and positive reinforcement training but we now have 2 dogs that are well behaved in the apartment, with only the occassional woof when they are playing together, and we can take for walks and they behave maybe 90% of the time. They're not completely bomb proof yet. We call them our works in progress, winter has damped the progress a little. They are HUGE love sponges and love nothing more than piling on the couch with us and watching TV.

I think the keys are patience, patience and more patience and consistency and lots of dog treats. I would also recommend dog training classes if you can afford it. If you can't there a lots of resources online, and these are the first dogs I tried clicker training on, and the difference it made in just a few weeks blew me away.
posted by wwax at 10:49 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our golden retriever was a rescue at 9 months. He had lot's of issues that we weren't able to turn around, even though were with him 24/7 working from home. We bought a few books on training, but after a month of small results we were wondering about his future with us.
Basic obedience training at a local training center made the unbelievable difference. He got his training and (more importantly) so did we.
Took 6 classes, one a week. To us, it was worth way more than the $150 charged.
posted by artdrectr at 10:58 PM on February 27, 2011

Fun stories so far! We have a lab-border collie mix. He is awesome and super loving, but as dogs do, gets in to stuff if we leave him out while we are at work.

I keep telling my fiance that some day we will look back and laugh at those messes in a couple of years. He is always talking about his friend's dog who is just so cool. His friend can take him anywhere and the dog is fine and dandy in any situation. I keep telling him to have faith & patience, with the proper training we will eventually have that with our dog.

That was why I was looking for stories.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:38 AM on February 28, 2011

If you can possibly swing it, I can't recommend highly enough that you go to formal obedience classes with your dog. People who are certified as pet dog trainers really do know a lot about how to teach people to teach their dogs. (That's what the classes really are, after all: teaching you how to teach your dog.) And don't just do one "basic obedience" class -- keep going all the way through "advanced" if you can and work with your dog at home, regularly practicing "sit", "down", "stay", etc. For example, EVERY meal our dog gets he has to "work" for. It might be a simple "sit stay" or something more complicated, but EVERY meal. It's not being mean -- it's reinforcing the importance (and the rewards!) of doing what we ask.

We really saw the benefits of doing this much obedience training with our dog when we took a long car trip with him over Christmas. He was fantastic in the car -- just laid down and slept or was quiet for hours and hours at a time in the car. When we stayed at hotels, he was really well behaved. We took him into friend's and relative's homes and he was an absolute prince of a dog. This is what everyone wants, right? A dog they can take places. Obedience training is the way to get there.

(And, btw, our dog isn't one of those easy-to-get-along-with breeds. He's a naturally hyper terrier terror!)
posted by rhartong at 5:45 AM on February 28, 2011

I'm not sure we have what constitutes a "success story"--we're 6 months in now with a very reactive dalmatian mix that we got at the age of 10 months. I'm not sure she'll ever be a bombproof, chill dog you can take anywhere. Our previous dog was exactly like that, without us ever having to do a thing--that was just her nature (a calm, submissive, quiet as a mouse beagle). But the "mix" part of the current dog is something more sight-houndish than (say) retriever-ish and as a result she's rather independent-minded and has an incredibly strong prey drive. This means that working off-leash may not ever be safe except in certain highly restricted situations. And her life on the streets has made her a dog that is inherently distrustful of a lot of situations--bark first and ask questions later. That said, we are making slow, slow progress, with two major components to our efforts:

a) Training. As everyone has said, lots of obedience work.
b) Management. Understanding her limits and carefully managing her opportunities and exposures to situations where it is possible or likely that she will make bad choices--most especially when you're not in a position to control, correct, redirect, and/or reward the right choice. So, if your main problem is that your dog gets into stuff while you're gone, more than half the battle is setting up the environment so that this cannot happen (crate training, confinement to a part of the house where there is little opportunity for destruction, providing lots of appropriate outlets for chewing urges, and more exercise than you can imagine). For example, our previous, ultra-chill beagle you could take anywhere was still not to be trusted alone with the run of the house while we were out, lest you wanted to find the contents of garbage scattered across the floor (even when she was 10 years old).

In fact, I'd reverse the order of these two components, because until you get the obedience in place and the puppy yahoos out of their system, every time the dog has the opportunity to screw up (and this is something I wish someone had stressed to me 6 months ago) you are reinforcing the exact opposite behavior of what you want.
posted by drlith at 7:14 AM on February 28, 2011

Fortunately our dog is trusting of everything and everyone he has met so far. He is just a little too eager to display his love for the world (jumping and pulling on the leash). He has learned that the cats are not his play friends, and has stopped trying to get them to play with him (other than a quick nose up the bum if he can get away with it). He just gets so excited to meet new people and dogs. I am looking at the Canine Manners classes at our local SPCA.

My old pup was a Silky terrier and she was the best travel companion. She never left my side. Her only problem was that she hated kids and would bark at them if they approached her. (FYI- she passed away 2 years ago at the lovely age of 10- just so you know I didn't give her up :) ) This boy is great in the car, so that is good.
posted by MayNicholas at 7:27 AM on February 28, 2011

Not to ruin this for you, but I have three border collie/aussie/heeler crosses ranging from 5 to 17 years old. They all stopped chewing and destroying stuff at about 2 to 2.5 years old, but everything else -- escaping the yard, pulling on leashes, puking in the car, chasing neighborhood cats, biting random people, barking, etc. -- have not abated one bit. This is despite all sorts of training classes and lots of exercise.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:25 AM on February 28, 2011

I adopted our 3rd pug when she was a year old, a lady had called our vet and aid she had a pug she wanted to "get rid of" and did the vet know anyone. Well, they know I'm a sucker so they called me and went and picked her up at a Target. Yuki is the one on the right. She was not house-trained and was pretty fearful. It's been about 7 months and now she's doing great. She is in love with my husband, uses the doggie door and walks on the leash just fine. The first month or so, she peed on our bed every chance she got, it felt like I spent every waking moment doing laundry! All our dogs are rescues, all our dogs are weird and I adore them all!
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:40 PM on February 28, 2011

I adopted my dog Chorizo at 10 months. He's just hit 2 years old. The road hasn't exactly been an easy one, and it's far from over, but there's some key things that helped.

As others have said, get both of you to a dog training class, and ASAP. You may have had dogs before, but as I'm sure you are finding out, dogs can be very different, and the classes are as much about teaching you as teaching the dog. Make sure to put in the time to find a place you are comfortable with the teaching methods of also; for instance I avoid anywhere that does negative based training. More than just the learning, these places can be great socialisation for the dog too. I stuck out better part of 14 weeks, nearly every week, to get me and the pup to a decent baseline (and get our bronze award for it), and got in a ton of dog-dog socialisation as a side benefit.

Lots and lots of exposure to everything you can, helps build a well rounded dog. He had really bad car sickness, a ton of car journeys to cool places and a ton of driving overall, and he got over it. Tendency to get over-boisterous and too much in other dog's faces, wanting to play, I tried to give him as much time as possible to meet lots of other dogs and play, especially off the lead. He got a lot better at reading body language and being more careful around dogs who don't want him anywhere near them, and I wasn't afraid to let him learn this the hard way. I'm a big fan of letting dogs sort things out between themselves, off lead (or even on the lead if you must), they learn nothing if you just yank them out of the situation. There's a risk of things turning bad, but they're pretty small in my experience, and the only times I ever did see a situation turn remotely bad was when a person got involved.

Your dog only learns by doing, by seeing; keep exposing him to stuff, don't let bad behaviours fester, unchecked. Guarding gets nipped in the bud, but it's a constant battle, and if I stopped trying, it'd just start getting worse instead. Same with his prey drive and tendency to run off chasing things, or his recall. I'm always working at it, and I'm sure I could do better, but at the least I'm not letting things get worse. Accept that some behaviours you're never going to completely curtail, some things are very deep rooted in their personality or breed and the best you can do is mitigate. Some dogs are bred to bark a lot, or pull a lot, or run a lot.

Make sure you keep setting your dog up for success. If you know he's going to keep doing a bad thing in a certain situation, do everything you can to deny him that chance. He keeps getting into stuff while you're at work? My dog did that a lot too. It's a hell of a good motivation for keeping a clean house. No food is left out, ever. The drip tray of my George Foreman grill has to go up on a high shelf. The kitchen bin gets a weight on top of the lid. Rooms are closed that I don't want him in at all. Cardboard is hidden. Now when I'm at work, nothing happens, my stuff is safe and he's not continually getting the reinforcement that the bad behaviour is okay. There's certain parts of certain walks where he'll always zoom off and disappear for longer than I'm happy with. So he gets leashed by those areas, so he can't keep doing the bad behaviour. Ideally you want better voice control, so the good behaviour can be a choice, not something forced into. Ideally you deny him the bad choice in a more passive way, so he gets to choose the right way.

He's come a long way in the last year, but training never stops, training is never finished. And now he's entering the 'terrible twos' where he really starts to assert his confidence and independence, and I'm starting to feel it. But I keep at it, I don't let things get bad unchecked. Generally he's a really good dog, I do take him a lot of places, I can take him to a lot of places, but I also have a really good list of his behavioural problem spots. I try not to let him fall into them, while at the same time trying to get him over them.

He's gone from vomiting every 10 minutes in a car to being perfect in a car. From no recall to 90% recall. From no commands to a dozen commands. From skittish round kids to perfect round kids. From shoving past me through doorways to waiting his turn. From toy guarding to toy playing. From no road sense to pausing at every kerb until I give him the OK. From jumping up at everyone to only jumping up at some people, some of the time. From not wanting to play or chase anything, to chasing balls at 100mph until he drops. From never barking at anything, to barking at more and more people (or dogs) that he doesn't like (Yeah you can't win them all). From running too far from me off-lead, to running less far from me off-lead (because I keep hiding behind trees). It's been a fun year and a bit, and I wish you the best of luck :)
posted by Elfasi at 7:30 AM on March 3, 2011

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