I'm at my wits end with my 10 month old puppy
January 4, 2015 12:04 PM   Subscribe

The past 3 months since adopting my puppy have seen relatively no progress in his myriad behavior issues. I'm beyond stressed out, annoyed with him to the point of regretting the adoption and need a serious game plan and pep-talk.

I'll try and bullet point this because there is a fair amount going on:

- Oliver came from a high kill shelter 3 months ago, he's 10 months now
- Best guess is some sort of Malinois/Whippet mutt, he's leveled off at 45 lbs
- He has an older brother, our 18 month mutt Fin (pit/lab) we've had since birth.
- both are neutered
- we have a large backyard both have access to
- I work from home - play time, walks, attention and love are in abundance

The issues:

- he is trying to dig to China via my backyard
- he barks, constantly, until someone plays with him
- he pulls on the leash
- he has zero recall if he sees another dog at the off leash parks. Zero.
- Fin is his toy, constant nipping and stealing of toys. If Fin has it, Oliver needs it
- I don't trust him unattended, anything over 10 minutes = crate
- lunges/jumps at other dogs on leash
- he has extreme separation anxiety, letting him out of the crate after a trip to the store = 20 minutes of barking and jumping
- he's kind of an asshole in general

The Plus Side:

- now house trained, he holds it
- seems to know his place in the pack at home (some alpha/beta issues with Fin)
- understands feeding time and sitting/eye contact means bowl on floor
- understands bedtime routine (quick pee, go to sleep)
- pretty dang smart, figured out by watching Fin that nosing the bell on the sliding door means I get up to let him out to the yard
- I've taught him sit, down, toy, paw and come
- he can be really, really sweet.

What We've Done So Far:

- structured daily training walks with all sorts of different harnesses/collars (Yes, we've tried the one you will recommend)
- crate training, his crate is a happy place, not a penalty box
- extensive general obedience training with treats/praise
- extensive recall training alone in the yard
- extremely arduous hikes/walks/runs to wear him out (I've taken him on my daily 5 mile morning run with hills). He is a machine. Barely made a dent in his energy.
- reinforcing the routine, what is ok, not ok and what his role is
- running him in to the ground with the ChuckIt at a local field

Things we will not do:

- give him back, he's mine, for life
- hit him (aside from a mild slap under the chin when he nips too hard)

Please assume we've googled, read, watched and digested every permutation of YouTube/ASPCA/Ceasar Milan (e.g.) video out there.

Thing is, I love this dog, I made a commitment and he's mine, but he's just so hyper and un-manageable right now. His brother Fin is such a sweetheart that I'm amazed with his patience. My one saving grace is the hope that "he's a puppy, he'll calm down", but right now the dynamic in the household is so overwhelmingly "Oliver" that I'm at my wits end.

So. What do I do here? We are comfortable paying for a trainer, but honestly I think this is an anxiety and energy issue, not one of obedience. We simply don't know what to do with this dog to make him fit in with our routine.
posted by remlapm to Pets & Animals (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely don't want to diagnose your dog, but maybe talk to the vet to see if a prescription would be the right choice? If it's an anxiety issue, that might be the answer; my parents' dog and I are on some of the same psychiatric medicines and they have helped us both.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:11 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

You mention training... To be clear, was this formal training in person with a trainer?
posted by mochapickle at 12:13 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'll start with reiterating your "he's a puppy, he'll calm down" hopes. Keep that as your mantra. :)

I'd say start with a good behaviorist trainer who will work with you, preferably in your home, to help this particular dog fit better into your life while he's growing up. Sounds like you're doing everything right, but you still may benefit from some specific professional guidance. Hang in there! And congratulations!
posted by erst at 12:14 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

You need a trainer or behaviourist. A good trainer will be able to work with you on anxiety and energy management if this is a component of what's going on, though a lot of it sounds like standard training issues. Nothing you list is outside the remit of a good professional. I wouldn't consider drugs without giving this a solid try.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:15 PM on January 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to be clear, we have never hired a professional trainer. Everything we have done has been the careful deliberation after google searches and applying what we felt was the best method.
posted by remlapm at 12:21 PM on January 4, 2015

Other people will have more specific advice, but I just want to echo erst and say something I say often to my girlfriend, whose 9-month-old puppy has a lot of problems very similar to the problems your puppy has; he jumps up, he gets super-excited at the wrong times and completely ignores commands, he's needy, and he digs a ton.

What I tell her is this:

You're doing an awesome job taking care of this puppy. This is the kind of stuff a lot of puppies do. In time, your efforts will be rewarded. Usually behavior doesn't really start to level off until they're 18-24 months old.

A professional trainer will probably help you cope with the here-and-now, but if you keep taking care of this puppy as well as you do the chances are strong that he'll turn out excellently.
posted by koeselitz at 12:29 PM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Ah, thanks, remlapm.

You are doing good things! And puppies can be holy terrors at that age for sure... Particularly the smart and active ones. I'm going to nth trying the in-person training to see if it helps.

Something that also helped me and my pup was having a super-consistent schedule. I work at home, too. So we get up at 6:45, go outside, get breakfast. Out again at 12:15. Out again at 7:15 for a walk. And then again at 10:15 before bed. At bedtime, we get a night-time treat (a greenie that she only gets at night). And then we do it again every day. She comes and reminds me when it's time. I could set my watch by her.

Also consistency in always reacting the same way when she tugs on the leash or has a behavioral issue. Which it sounds like you're doing, which is great.

For us, the extra consistency in our lives seems to have made her more amenable to training.
posted by mochapickle at 12:33 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh – I also wanted to say: with young puppies it's often a good idea to try to work on their focus by figuring out what they tend to fixate on. I am no expert but from what I've heard whippet mixes are tough because they aren't quite as food- and treat-motivated; not sure if that's the case with yours. That means you have to spend some time searching for the treats that the puppy likes best; then you can work from there (although it sounds like you've already done that, since you're doing treat-based training).

The puppy I'm helping my girlfriend deal with, we've found searching out time-wasting toys that they can engage with is the best sanity tool for us. The sorts of toys where they have to do something to get treats out of the toy are great because they'll afford them even five minutes of quiet concentration during which time we can relax a little, and at times when he's likely to be most hyperactive (when we first come in, when we're about to go to bed, etc) we can fill a toy and hand it to them and have a few minutes when things calm down.

Thus far the most effective toy we've encountered for this is this bottle toy. The classic Kong toys, when filled with a little peanut butter and some things to nibble, are also good. Even a standard bone can be good if it's sturdy and holds the puppy for a while.

Sorry if my earlier comment sounded glib; sometimes "it gets better" isn't the best thing to have to hear, particularly when you're kinda going nuts over the situation right now and are having a hard time imagining how you can wait a year. Good luck – I know it isn't easy.
posted by koeselitz at 12:38 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

You are so very stressed,(I'm sorry you have to go thru this) but your puppy knows you are
stressed. He feels this. Emotion and Behavior travel down the leash.
It sounds to me like it's time for puppy boot camp. This involves you wearing a leash around
your waist and the pup on the other end. He goes everywhere all the time (AND I MEAN EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME) with you. Yes, even when you go to the bathroom. He must be by you when at rest or at play.
At night it's either a longer leash or a crate.
This must go on for two weeks. He will learn the proper way to behave. You will give him
'A' type treats when he does exactly what you want. You will give him "B' type treats when you see that "look of love in his eyes'.
Type 'A' treats are anything he truly loves and never gets-bits of cheese, dried liver, bits of hot dog, etc
Type "B' treats are dog treats bought/made by you.
When he behaves- treat
When he misbehaves-IGNORE HIM.
You may also try going to danesonline.com and read all the training pages or answers to all
the questions. (your pup acts very much like an untrained Great Dane.)
You can memail me if you want, but I think you'll find all you need on that site.

Good Luck, I know it's frustrating, but it does work.
posted by donaken at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is vet and professional trainer territory. I agree that a good portion of this is just puppy behavior, but at the same time it does seem like Oliver has some obsessive tendencies that may need to be addressed using anxiety medication and/or very stringent puppy training. If you haven't been comfortable establishing alpha dog status in the house so that your dogs know who's boss, now's the time to enlist assistance from someone outside your family to get everything as it should be. PetsMart and other big pet supply places usually have training sessions that could be beneficial, too; since Oliver is aggressive towards other dogs, though, I'd suggest starting with private lessons only until the trainer feels he can graduate to being with other animals.

You are such a good owner! Don't stress. Everything you've done is great.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

If he barks until someone plays with him, and then someone plays with him he has just won. NEVER give in and give him what he wants when barking. If he's barking calmly lead him to a location out of your sight (behind a closed door?) let him out when he's quiet.

He sounds like a really smart dog and should pick up this quickly. Nice quiet behavior leads to "OMG WHOS A GOOD BOY?!?!", obnoxious? separate him from his pack briefly.

He seems smart. You might want to do the "he's grounded" technique. Everything that happens he has to ask for. Food? Sit calmly and wait before you put his food down. Going to go outside? Must sit at open door and wait until you say "ok". Wants to get on the couch? Sit and ask first.

FWIW, I had a lab puppy from 8 weeks, spent lots of time training. He was perfect. At about 10 months he became a teenager and I (mostly) jokingly contemplated dropping him off in a farmers field. He was an obnoxious teenager for a couple months.
posted by beccaj at 12:45 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not a dog trainer, but spend a lot of time with trainers and dogs, and the one thing I have learned is that it is SO EASY to reinforce bad behavior, even when you think you are doing things right. People work with dog trainers to eliminate reinforcing behaviors of the dog handler, not the dog, as often as not, so yes, get a professional dog trainer to work one-on-one or go to a good class. Don't do anything else (waste of time), until you do this one thing. (And Ceser Milan, while charismatic and photogenic, is a lousy dog trainer with outdated behavioral ideas that can make unwanted behaviors worse, don't use his techniques, virtually any bona fide dog trainer working today will have a much more effective set of techniques). And with some dog training, you will get a stable, well behaved and lovable dog for a lifetime. Bonus.
posted by nanook at 12:57 PM on January 4, 2015 [10 favorites]

Most of the behaviors that you list are things that can kind of be explained by him being an adolescent. That period keeps going until they are around 2 years old almost. We have a trainer here in town that specifically specializes in adolescent dogs, and will work on exercises to rein them in. You may see if you have a similar trainer in your region. We got a puppy at 10 weeks old, and for a while (I'm even a certified trainer) I thought I was going to lose it...and he was actually a really well behaved puppy, considering. Its just that adolescent stage... and they will grow out of it eventually. Especially if you keep doing what you are doing, and maybe just take a basic obedience class with him. It helps a lot more than I would have ever thought as far as just getting them to pay attention to you, and listen. Our pup is just now turning 2 and we still can't leave him out of the crate unmonitored for more than 5-10 minutes. I'm not sure he will ever grow out of his getting into things and eating them phase!
posted by Quincy at 1:05 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

We had the most hyper, insane puppy in the world, and she's now the best, dearest 4 year old dog in the world who likes to just sit there in one spot smiling at us. The day (at age 1) she ate an entire shelf of books, a new pair of expensive shoes and an American Girl doll, we called a trainer. The one tip from the trainer that worked instantaneously to cut some of the aggressively crazy energy was to give her lower protein food than we were giving her. Before, I'd often feed her plain chicken and it was like amphetamines for this pup.
That, and normal training, and time. Now as a grown lady dog she can eat high protein anything and just be normally playful...
posted by third rail at 1:07 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you considered doing agility training with your pup? It can be a stimulating outlet for smart dogs with lots of energy, and can help you hone your training skills too.
posted by summit at 1:13 PM on January 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

For your recall problem: I love this lady's videos. And her dog is adorable. Recall training, part 1 The videos are not all perfect; but they do get across excellent information.

Most important thing: Calling your dog to you should never EVER mean the (dog's) fun is over or you are going to do something unpleasant to the dog. If either of those things will take place, you need to go get the dog, not call it to you.

If you have not attended any kind of class with the dog with other dogs present, I would encourage you to do so if this is possible. There are all kinds of benefits but the biggest is to stand there and hear horror stories from other people. You leave class thinking "wow, my dog is AWESOME compared to those other dogs..." Also, when the instructor sees the trouble you are having or hears about it, they are an objective third party and can suggest things to try or ways to consider that will be helpful.

You might also find it helpful to post your post here to the SPT (Start Puppy Training) list at Yahoo. A wonderful group of folks and endless wonderful positive training information in the files. (Reading the posts there is another way to find yourself thinking "wow, my dog is great...")
posted by AllieTessKipp at 1:17 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like it's time for puppy boot camp. This involves you wearing a leash around
your waist and the pup on the other end. He goes everywhere all the time. . .This must go on for two weeks.

Please don't do this. This sounds like a great way to become even more frustrated with your energetic pup, and also teaching him some potentially very unhealthy codependent habits. He already barks when you're not actively playing with him, guess what will happen after 2 weeks of 100% uninterrupted together time?
posted by arnicae at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

A lot of that is teenage dog. This is the worst he will ever be until dementia sets in.

With my nightmare dogmonster (now in his early senior years) was that age, my husband would get up and walk him for 45 minutes, then hand him off to me to walk for another 45 minutes, just to keep him from eating too much of the house while we were gone. The two things that made a difference were a Buster Cube (to keep him busy and exercise his brain), and getting him his own puppy. The latter is probably not an option for you, but having a "job" and someone to help run him to death made a huge difference.

I agree you should find a trainer to work on the possessiveness and recall issues. You may also have to come up with hacks to actually tire him out (for another of our dogs, we made a weight vest from a dog backpack and bottles of water), because a tired dog is a better-behaved dog, and the problem is that 10-month-old dogs are very nearly perpetual motion machines.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:39 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

A little over a year ago we rescued a brother and a sister. Their mom had been hit by a car a few days after their birth. They were in a litter of 10, in a family who could barely feed them, much less provide adequate care and time apart. The boy dog went through his puppy time pretty normal- exhausting at times but very trainable. The girl dog was a nightmare. She never shut up. She tore everything up. She ran for the road every chance she could. It got so bad that her brother learned how to stand between her and the road to help me keep her from danger. We were all miserable, all the time, from this one dog. She was an expensive, noisy mess. The decision came to no longer be dog owners. That day, the girl dog got out and her protective, well trained brother tried to get between her and the road. She got around him and led him off. He had never left the yard before, even off leash, and he got lost. She came back that afternoon and then went to a shelter. He returned on his own 2 months later. We came home from vacation to find him hanging out in our yard, as calm as can be. We love him so much and being a dog owner with one good dog is an absolute blessing. We heard that his sister found a home with a huge, fenced-in lot, away from neighbors and people who would hate her constant barking. Her brother is much happier and calmer without her around to ruin things for him. I'm telling you this because, sometimes it is okay to let go. There may be a home for your problem dog that would be a better fit. If not, Xanax works for short bursts.
posted by myselfasme at 2:06 PM on January 4, 2015

I don't know if this will help you. I've not had problems such as this with a dog, but I wanted to give you some resources that helped me understand my puppy (a mastiff) when I was raising and training her about ten years ago.

My research at the time lead me to three books that I think are critical to the good understanding of training techniques and dog psychology:

1. How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend: Revised Edition by the Monks of New Skete. This book is a classic guide on dog training, and would work particularly well for you since you said you work from home. Their training method focuses on building a relationship with your dog that is based on the dog's understanding of pack mentality. The book is a pleasure to read and is also something of a spiritual meditation on living with dogs. Note: this book has received some flack due to their recommendation of using the "alpha dog rollover" training technique in the original book. This is why I suggest the revised version: they admit some mistakes in their first edition and update it to a more modern audience.

2. The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete. This is a more practical approach to the techniques discussed in How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, with a focus on the particular needs of puppies. I strongly suggest reading both. The first one seems more philosophical, the second more practical, but both may help you.

3. The Other End of the Leash by Patricia B. McConnell. What makes this book incredible is that it gets you to better understand the psychology of your dog. Dogs, of course, are a distinct species from us, and much as we may interpret our dog's actions through a human framework, our dogs are interpreting our actions through a dog framework. This book helps you better understand the psychological framework of our dogs, so you can use that to better understand and train your animal.

I hope these helps you with your dog. Best of luck!
posted by merikus at 2:19 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I feel you, I've been there. I can tell you that my dog calmed down a TON during her 2nd year and from what I've heard, that's true for most dogs.

- he is trying to dig to China via my backyard
He might just decide that digging isn't for him anymore some day over the next year. Otherwise I just stopped letting our dog be outside for more than 10 minutes at a time. I also stopped letting her go out whenever she wanted (which was basically all the time) and now she goes for a walk at 8am and 5pm and a quick potty break before bed.

- he barks, constantly, until someone plays with him
Might just need more stimulation. Exercise, training, or both. I constructed my own flirt pole and that is FANTASTIC for quick runs in the back yard (and some good training on "drop it", "sit", "stay". You can also do nose games where you drag a toy around and hide it while the dog stays (we used it to train her to go into her crate and stay there even with the door open). A lot of the variations don't take a ton of effort from you but will keep them busy for a good long time.

- he has zero recall if he sees another dog at the off leash parks. Zero.
Mine does the same, we just stopped going to the dog park.

- I don't trust him unattended, anything over 10 minutes = crate
I'm not sure when but sometime during her 2nd year, our dog just decided that she wasn't going to get into trouble anymore in the house.

- he has extreme separation anxiety, letting him out of the crate after a trip to the store = 20 minutes of barking and jumping
First, feed them both in their crates if you aren't already. It's a surefire way to get them to learn/follow the "kennel" command or what you use to get them to go into their crates. Then, start by leaving the house for just a minute and then come back. Ignore him until he calms down and sits for you (use the command once you're sure he is calm enough to follow it). If he jumps, turn around, if he keeps jumping, go back out the door and start over. Once he starts catching on that he needs to be calm and sitting down to get his greeting, you can start extending the time.

It also helps to always tell them the same thing when you leave. We say, "Be good!" just before we just the door. My understanding is that they hear, "I'm going hunting, hold down the fort until I get back!"

- he's kind of an asshole in general
I really think that he is going to just mostly snap out of this over the next 14 months.

I've been in your shoes. It's going to get better and it will start soon. Keep working at it and some day soon you're going to wake up and realize that your dog is suddenly awesome. You're still going to be working issues (we're still working on her recall because it's crap) and trying to improve but other people will be telling you, I'm so impressed by how well your dog is trained!
posted by VTX at 2:33 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your dog is 10 months old, it's in prime teenage years/crazy years, think of the terrible twos with a toddler, this too shall pass. He will grow out of a lot of the behaviors depending on how you handle them now.

A tired dog is a happy & good dog. Tiring him out like you are is great, but mental stimulation is good too. His need for exercise will never be higher in his life than it is right now. Dog training classes stat. They will not just teach your dog how to sit, stay etc, they will teach you how to teach him in a way that will make you confident in what you are doing. They are also fun & something that will make you "like" your dog again, because you are doing something other than fixing up his messes and I suspect this might be more important than anything he might learn. They will also help socialise him & teach that recall counts in places other than the house and around other animals. I would also suggest agility classes, again it will give you confidence in your dog handling, help you bond/enjoy your dog & help your dog learn to listen and the most important thing it will give your dog a great bit heaping pile of confidence. Add to that the mental exercise will tire him out even more than you can imagine.

For the anxiety, a pheromone dispenser near his crate or a collar will help some dogs sometimes. With a naturally anxious or submissive dog too much putting in the place & making sure it knows who is alpha can actually be counterproductive as they become too scared of upsetting the boss, but some gives them a sense of security it can be a fine line, & dog classes or agility will help your dog learn to be more confident in himself & you in a nice non confrontational way. We found routine, routine, routine the absolute best way to combat separation anxiety.

When you leave follow exactly the same routine every time. My dog, which would fear poop around the house & destroy things when left alone, can tell if I am going out just by me picking up my makeup brush, because I only wear make up when going out. Originally he's start freaking out at that point, but because I follow the same routine he has learned OK she'll be going out but she comes back within x hours no matter what (I have slowly expanded it to 6 hours). When I get home he is not allowed to freak out. He is distracted straight away with commands to sit, do a few tricks etc to get him to concentrate & calm down (this is where training classes come in handy) he only gets greeted when calm. it's a pain, it sucks, but keeping your comings & goings routine will help. If it gets too bad, getting some meds from your vet to break the fear cycle can also help as anxiety can be a self perpetuating thing, I'm scared so something must be wrong, so I'm scared etc etc.

Do not play with your dog when he barks. Turn your back, cross your arms & walk away. Play time is over when the barking starts. Let him find another signal, be it a play bow, bringing you a toy whatever to signal what he wants to do, but the barking has to stop. It will get worse before it gets better, but if you stop responding it will stop the barking. He currently has you trained so has no reason not to bark, if he does it enough he gets what he wants.

Seriously, it gets better, I'd be willing to bet 75% of this is age based and will get grown out of. The books recommended up above by merikus are all awesome recommendations too, if you are looking for more info.
posted by wwax at 2:42 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have 3 points to make before I give you some specific ideas.
1) You are raising 2 very young dogs in your household. 1 is crazy-making, 2 is, well, more than doubly so. Be forgiving of yourself. If you are doing it right you have already attained sainthood.
2) Not only do dogs have different personalities, but breeds do as well, so things you've had to deal with for one dog might not be an issue for the other. Plus, a Malinois/Whippet puppy? Oh dear god, see my first point again.
3) Different dog breeds mature at different ages. Your first dog may have been an adolescent (pre-teen/teen) after a year, it does sound like your second is already in the middle of it. My crazy cattle dog puppy started it around 5 months. So that means that whatever you are trying to teach them at that time gets put on hold by their pre-teen brain, and boy does that make life difficult if you haven't gotten to all the basics yet. The good news is that they should grow up earlier too, so if you can get through that period safely, you will have a great young dog when other people still have 2 year old "puppies". (At least this is what people are telling me to make me feel better - mine is still just 7 months old and I am greatly looking forward to her being grown up.)

So, with the solidarity of another just-doing-my-best puppy raiser, I have these ideas.
1) It sounds like Oliver needs a lot of dog socialization besides with his brother. If he gets more confident and un-excited by new dogs he will be better on the leash and better at the dog park. So I would look for opportunities to get him around other dogs where you won't be stressed for time or control. I take my dog to a big daycare for this reason - it's $20 well spent for the # of dogs she can play with and get normalized with and has helped a lot. I also do a lot of off leash hiking/hanging out in dog friendly places when I know I'm not going to be pressed for time if she is a pain when it's time to go. I reward her every time she comes back to me to just check in (bacon bits). Right now I have to bribe her to get her back in the car, but some day (soon I hope) she will be more trusting that the fun will still be there tomorrow. Also, group dog training classes. You want her around dogs she doesn't know well so she can learn to deal with it.
2) Yeah, the Malinois thing - welcome to having a dog with the shepherding instincts. I think that's what is driving my puppy's separation anxiety and general barkiness too. It's like they are figuring out their jobs - when they are on and off duty, what is important to notice and what is not - and they seem to default to all-in when they are young (my senior dog is more balanced). I am managing it by a combination of indulgence when she seems to be insecure and needing confidence and by reducing stimulus or correcting when she is getting over-excited or bratty. A blanket over her crate has helped a lot, and a water squirt bottle has worked wonders. I use the crate for time-outs when my two dogs get pissy over toys/bones and even though it's a correction it hasn't seemed to be a problem with crate as happy place - I think by adolescence the dogs, smart dogs anyway, are old enough to know the difference. I don't leave the dog alone much or for very long (see the indulgence thing) because I do believe they have to learn to calm themselves down and 7 or 10 months on this planet isn't necessarily enough, so I'm trying to build her skills slowly. I'm following her lead mostly, but it has impacted my schedule so I am pushing her limits (10 minutes here or there, new situations) when I can, and it is getting better.
3) Yeah, my puppy digs too, and my senior dog doesn't. I've given up on that (for the time being). Yeah, mine is an attention hog too - total youngest sibling - to the point of unfairness to other family members. I have an excess of toys around, an excess of bones, a few "brain" toys (feeder balls, kongs) and a schedule that revolves around the puppy, and all this helps. It is amazing that the older animals seem to understand the deal and give her some leeway. I try to make it up to them by lots of cuddling/attention when she is sleeping or crated, and I do occasionally give them home alone time by taking the puppy out separately for walks or to daycare. Different dogs/different needs. My lesson is that the dogs don't have to be treated as inseparable, and that it might help if they get some individual attention.
4) Lastly, hmmm, yeah no uncrated, unattended dogs in my house either until I think they are "adults", whether that happens for mine at 9 months (unlikely), 12, 18 or whatever. I don't want to be surprised by a stage that I didn't think she was going to go through (like, chewing or bed-peeing) just because she went through it late. Mine is also not getting truly unattended backyard time until she has a grip on the separation/guarding thing. I've had herding dogs with insecurity issues, and I don't want another one. It's a lot harder to get an adult dog back to balance than it is to get a puppy into balance in the first place. (At least that's what they tell me. Check back with me after a few more months of this.)

So, tl;dr: you're doing great, just keep going. Think about group classes and/or daycare for the younger one.

Good luck!
posted by dness2 at 3:20 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

My husband and I are going through the same thing with our new-ish adopted weenie dog friend. Both of our dogs are rescue dogs; our heeler is wonderful, great with people (abeit a tab submissive) and goes with the flow. Our new weenie man however, is a psychopath. The thing with shelter dogs is you never know what baggage they come with, so working with that can be pretty challenging as we are finding out. Also, certain breeds have different quirks which adds to the mix. Some are simply stubborn (it took 3 months to teach the weenie to sit consistently , whereas it took about 45 minutes to teach the heeler), and some have certain behaviours bred into them which you can embrace to help them fit into the family dynamic. When we took our heeler to puppy class we were told her insticts were that of a working dog, so giving her 'jobs' would tire her and build her confidence. Dachunds are hunting dogs so giving him toys he can completely destroy, as well as things like fetch and tug of war help with his energy levels.

There are a myriad of training techniques as you know, but the quickest and easiest path to victory will most likely be one on one training or a visit to a behaviourist. We couldn't take our tiny psychopath to classes for fear of him attacking someone so a professional who came to our house, could witness his interactions within the family home and see his routine made the most sense. As the humans, our behaviour contributes to the actions and feelings of the dogs so it was important to have a trainer explain those links and show us how we needed to change. Most of it boils down to building confidence and not rewarding anxious behaviours, instead rewarding positive behaviours because negative reinforcement is nowhere near as effective. Consistency is the key

I would get thee to a vet first and foremost to have him checked out, and then once he has a clean bill of health ask for a recommendation of a local, well regarded behaviourist.

On preview, basically what everyone else said.
posted by BeeJiddy at 3:29 PM on January 4, 2015

Other folks have some fine ideas for you to try - although, largely, I think you are doing everything right and just have a very smart and high energy dog. This is a dangerous combination - but, he should (largely) outgrow the worst of it.

I do know a great trick to cure this "- he pulls on the leash" though. No special harness or anything. It's called a Half Hitch. It's a great technique.

A suggestion for training better recall - I like to play hide and seek. I grab some treats, put the dog on a Sit/stay and then go hide in a closet, or a shower or something.

I use the call ("Hier!") and let him find me. Do this 2-3 times every couple of hours in the house. Then move outdoors and so on. Eventually, the call gets to be pretty reliable, because it's a fun game and a pretty much guaranteed treat.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:47 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

All of these suggestions are great suggestions but I'll be totally honest with you:

You are applying what you already think are good training methods for the dog, but you have no education in good training methods for yourselves. And no offence, but you're probably doing it wrong. I have spent 3/4ths of my life with a parade of well-mannered, well-trained dogs and finally called in a trainer for our recent, super-bouncy rescue adoptee.

The trainer -- who was fantastic -- spent 1/4th of his time correcting the dog and 3/4ths of his time correcting me because I was... you guessed it... doing it wrong. This is very typical and the time you invest learning to train will be well, well worth it.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:26 PM on January 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

We have a Belgian too and are meeting with a behaviorist next week to up our skills. I don't have much advice except:

1) her recall sucked until three weeks ago, when we solidified and ritualized the set up, which is 'LlamaDog! Come!' and when she comes 'Llamadog! Sit!' and then she gets a bit of - this is the real kicker for her - a chunk of *steak*. Previous treats were unimpressive, apparently. Now she'll come off leash in the woods while chasing a flock of birds. I'm not fooling myself that she'll come off leash at 3AM when she's slipped her collar and is chasing a deer, but the difference is otherwise night and day. We had previously found ourselves unable to leave the house for an hour in the morning, growing later and later for work, as she dorked out in the woods barking at the edge of our property. Go to the west, bark bark bark. Go to the east, bark bark bark. North. South. Like she worked for the county tax office. And we couldn't get her -- she'd just run away, infuriatingly, laughing at us.

2) She was hardest six to twelve and is now at fourteen months vastly improved. She is actually able to learn things over the din of 'toycatfoodpetpetpetchasetoyfoodcatlookashoe!'

3.) There are games for smart dogs - you can Google them. Like puzzle games for food and puzzle games for digging fake squirrels out of a tree stump, etc. Buy four of different types and see what your dog likes -- they are *crazy* for mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation. She gets an hour off leash of crazy running minimum every day, most days more than that, and once or twice a week gets a killer hike that leaves her gentle as a lamb.

We're looking for ways to do other types of 'brainwork' with her. There's certain things you can do with them that are a bit of a turn off because they seem sort of militaristic and humorless, but there are basic tricks as well as scent work that would likely be genuine fun.

But the big thing is that I can tell you that fourteen months is way easier than ten or even twelve. MeMail me later if I forget but I will try to update with what we learn from the trainer/behavioralist.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:52 AM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also fwiw we're the only people left on earth who don't crate train. I have no idea what that means or doesn't mean in terms of behavior, whether it's got an impact one way or another. I can't tell. I guess I'd probably have a few more pairs of underwear if we'd crate trained. I guess the extra time together helped her relationship with the cats, in that the three of them have the house to the themselves during the day and they seem pretty close.

'Digging to china' by the way sounds like a fun and interesting physical game for the dog. You might define a particular place in the yard for the dig and redirect, redirect, redirect to the defined area rather than disallowing it entirely. This is what we've done with 'chewies' -- there are good chewies and bad chewies, so if it's a shoe it's a bad chewie but if it's a piece of raw hide 'GOOD CHEWIE! GOOD GIRL!'

Repeat rituals until you have no brain left.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:59 AM on January 5, 2015

Came to suggest the Half Hitch. I first saw it on a puppy at the farmers market and was amazed. Our dog is still not perfect on a leash, but it only took two days of the half hitch to break her of her worst pulling issues.
posted by raisingsand at 10:19 AM on January 5, 2015

First of all, you are breaking a cardinal MeFi rule by not including a photo of your dog.

My dog was an obnoxious asshole for the first year or so. He was about a year old when we rescued him, and he had about zero training other than fortunately being housetrained. Terrible on a leash, and chewed on everything.

I thought I was doing a good job training him (not my first dog) but after 9 months I finally took him to formal classes. You could see the difference after just a few weeks and other people noticed it too. Seriously it was so helpful. And it wasn't expensive - $100 for 6 weeks at Petco. I wish I had done it eariler.
posted by radioamy at 11:30 AM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've got an asshole dog. The bad news is that she's 4 years old and still kind of an asshole, and lord knows it's not because we haven't try to train (and even drug) the asshole out of her. Something that the TV trainers rarely admit is that while improvement is usually possible with any dog, with a subset of difficult dogs there will always be a certain level of residual behavior that needs to be "managed". Sometimes with rescue dogs you just get a bad roll of the dice in terms of breed, temperament, and early life experiences. My asshole dog is a mix of breeds with guardian and strong prey drive traits, she lived on the streets until she was 8 months old, and has an alpha-bitch temperament.

After 3 years of working with her consistently, she knows theoretically how not to be an asshole, and with the right setup we can avoid most assholish behaviors. She can go to the dog park, or doggie daycare, or on off-leash romps through the woods, but we can't take her off-leash at the neighborhood park where toddlers are bumbling around and bikes/skateboards might whiz by, we don't take her to busy street fairs or dog friendly outdoor cafes, and we don't walk her past the corner lot house with 2 barky yard dogs and 200 ft of fenceline.

But asshole and all, she is still my favorite dog out of the 4 dogs I've owned: she is so smart, gorgeous, athletic, talented, and devoted. When she gets after deer in the woods she is a [n unstoppable] thing of beauty, doing the thing that is in her deepest nature to do. And when the deer eventually outrun her and she loses sight of them, she races back, almost as fast as she went out, because the second most important thing on her list of things to do, after chasing game, is to be beside her people. The other day during our evening walk my husband and I stopped to drop off a movie at the Redbox kiosk; husband went to do the dropoff and I kept the dogs at the back of the parking lot out of sight, because it just wasn't a good setup for asshole dog--dark, lots of strangers and cars and rattling carts. Husband was out of sight for 1 minute, and when he came back it I swear it was as if he had been buried for 3 days and risen from the dead she was so excited to see him, jumping up and down 3 ft into the air as he came back. Never got that out of our more sedate beagles.

I do have a few specific thoughts/suggestions that might help, though:
1. Leash pulling. If you've tried all the usual equipment, you might give an under-the-armpit no-pull harness a try. I had really good luck with this type with my first dog, a rescue beagle who was not well leash trained when we got her. There are a few different models, such as the Sporn no pull or the Love2pets version.
2. Be cautious about thinking that you can solve leash aggression by increasing exposure. Practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect. If you expose your dog to too many challenges in the form of bad leashed encounters with other dogs, or blowing through your recall at the dog park, it's going to reward the wrong behaviors. Set your dog up for success in walking and training sessions by limiting the number of dogs you cross paths with and keeping at a distance where there's a definite but controllable level of mental tension in your dog. You can't 100% plan for or avoid every bad leash encounter, but the more you work to prep your dog and avoid inevitable bad situations, the more opportunities you'll have to reward your dog for making good choices. Because of this, I'm not sure that a general group obedience class is a good idea for your dog at this time.
3. A long line is a useful tool for sharpening your dog's recall in higher distraction and unfamiliar environments. I wouldn't use it at a dog park, but it might be good to practice outside the yard at an empty ball field or on a hike in the woods.
posted by drlith at 5:12 AM on January 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Quick update on the above before the thread closes - training with steak was really the turning point for us. I just started buying cheap chuck or whatever was on sale, freezing it, cooking it, and we'd use it for training and no other purpose. It made a huge impression and it's allowed us to come a long, long way. We haven't had problems with recall for months. It's spring and things are thawing and she's not allowed off leash in the yard yet -- that's our next project -- but she is awesome in the woods and getting on leash prior to the walk across the lawn/to the car/etc. Also Mr. Llama bought a dog whistle for his part of the training in conjunction with the steak and has had awesome results over distances (not too close--the sound is probably unpleasant on their ears) and she comes *bounding* for her treat.

One of the things the trainer stressed was that over time the mind meets the body - there's that visceral instinct of OMG treat and it's eventually replaced with a visceral instinct of 'and now I go to this person'.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:06 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

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