Napoleon’s Homework

NapoleonNapoleon, like any dog, has his issues. Overall, he is a very well-rounded dog. However, he missed out on some things before we adopted him into our lives. Not his fault, but I realized recently we have a lot of work to do…

Good things about Napoleon:

Obedience  (when there aren’t any distractions)
Leash work
Respect and understanding where his ‘rank’ is within the pack.
Friendly demeanor
Makes me happy
Learns quickly
Knows how to tell us what he wants (or maybe we are just in-tune with him)
Knows many commands, and can pick up on words
Wants to love on you when you are sick/unhappy

Things we need to work on:

Pushes boundaries (I think all dogs do, but still)
Food motivated
Stress Mounting (when he is stressed more than normal, he mounts other dogs)

One of his constant problems is being over-adrenalized. I have known this since he lost his excess weight (He already lost 40 lbs, and could lose another 6lbs if I really tried) and is hyper all the time. He is MUCH better than when we got him, and has improved at obedience, leash work, and has always had a 90% reliable recall (the other %10 is around my neighbors when they are calling him the same time I am calling him, or when there is food).

Other problem that we have recently discovered is that he is not okay in the crate when we are home. When we leave, I have set up a nanny cam and watched him in his kennel before. He just chews on his marrow bone or sleeps. However, if he is in the kennel while we are home, he whines, lip licks, slams himself against the crate and knocks it over, howls, pants, hyperventilates, and does this high-pitched bark/whine that is incredibly annoying.

About 6 months ago, we met a highly successful trainer in my area, and she recommended we kennel him, instead of leave him outside. This is how we have found out about his anxiety. He knows the ‘kennel’ command, and will go in willingly and lie down.

Since I’m an aspiring trainer, and I am learning about all kinds of things, I had a list of things I have tried with other dogs. Every dog is different, so it’s a bit of a trial and error.
We have tried:

Feeding meals in the crate
Leaving him outside (which was actually better, because he just goes to sleep in his dog house)
Calming music
Covering the crate with a blanket
Doing desensitizing exercises
Making sure he is calm before he comes out
Verbal corrections
Using the Pet Corrector/Pet Convincer II
Ignoring him until he calms down
Practicing when we are home (If he knows you are home and aren’t in the room, he starts his barking routine until you come back in the room)
Making sure the crate is a fun place (toys, bones, praise, etc)
Keeping him in a bedroom with a closed door instead of using the crate (he is an ANGEL if we do this.)

I’m starting to think he’s claustrophobic… is that possible? He’s ok outside and/or in a bedroom, but not in a crate. I’ve never heard of a dog being claustrophobic… maybe it’s not possible.

He will go in by himself with the door open if I am working on my computer, and sleep quietly. If I close the door while he is calm, praise, and then continue working, he’s fine. If I leave the room, however, he starts whining.

IMG_3431A trainer friend I have has recommended using a bark collar while he is in the kennel. The goal of the collar is to teach him it is undesirable behavior when he barks, and eventually stop using it altogether. I am also taking him to her obedience school to work on distraction training while working on obedience. I’m hoping the combination of the two actions will also help with the excited behavior, and help him learn to calm down around distractions.

I do understand he is a lab, and they are a high-energy breed, and love to please. This was the first dog my husband and I raised together, and we adopted him almost 2 years ago. We have learned so much in this time with him, and I want to make sure he gets the most out of life with us. We still have work to do, and Napoleon has a lot to learn as well.

Yesterday, we went out to train for about an hour, and started with a walk. We worked on heel, Sit when I stop walking, turning around and backing up while in a ‘Heel’, paying attention while around distractions (kids, cars, and barking dogs), and then we got into some more tricky things. In the house, he listens to ‘Stay’ with no hesitation for a long time (we aren’t quite up to ‘forever’ yet, but he’s getting there). Outside, it’s hard enough just to get him into a sit without standing if I walk away. I realized, since we have only ever practiced this in the house… we have a lot of work to do. Bring it on.

I work so much with others’ dogs, I didn’t realize how much work my own dog needed. Lesson learned. Challenge accepted. Napoleon, you and I have a lot of homework.

19 thoughts on “Napoleon’s Homework

  1. I don’t think he’s claustrophobic…if he were, the crate would be an issue whether or not you were there. It sounds like the issue is he wants to be with you, and (like everything, it seems) it probably comes back to boundaries. It sounds like to you doing everything you can…I only had a couple of other ideas. You might put something that smells like you in the crate with him. Part of the reason he may be doing better in the bedroom is your scent is present in there, which is the next best thing to you. The other thing, which may already be covered in the desensitizing exercises, is having him go in for very short periods of time, and then letting him out, and clicker training. With our dogs who have had (much less intense) issues with crating, we’ve done exercises where they are crated for short amounts of time while we are there, and then we let them out–so they know going in the crate doesn’t equate with being in the crate for an extended period of time. The other thing we’ve done, with our newest foster, is clicker training. She will often bark and whine if she is in the crate and we are doing something with the other dogs, cooking, etc. So we have started using a click so that when she stops the behavior, we can mark it immediately with a click, and then she gets a treat. If she does this well a few times over, she can come out. We are not into clicker training–it was actually suggested to us by the trainer we work with–but it has made a huge difference in her behavior and her anxiety in the crate.

    Napoleon sounds like a very lucky dog! You are doing amazing work with him. 🙂

    • Thanks!! We have started a few more exercises, and while we are babysitting, it’s a great time, as this boy is very calm. Complete turn around. I can’t wait to see how he is after his pittie leaves to see if the new behavior sticks.

      • Yes he is. Minor issue today-some resource guarding, and causes a fight. I was able to break it up on about 10 seconds, and no lasting damage. A few small cuts on my lab, but nothing serious.

      • Oh dear–I am sorry that happened. Resources can definitely be an issue when a new dog comes in…we have experienced that ourselves! One or the other goes, “Hey! I’m used to being in charge of *fill in the blank*” I am glad nothing serious resulted, but sorry you had to go through it. Never fun. :/

      • Yeah, we’ve had him for 5 days so far, and I got to the point where I trusted him. They both had their own bone, and the new guy wanted my dog’s bone instead. My dog tried to get away, and the new boy didn’t like that. As we both know- the worst part about a dog fight is the noise.

      • Ugh. 😦 Yeah, the noise is always the worst–whether it’s a dominance dispute or an out-and-out fight. How are they doing now? If there’s still some tension, you might take them on a parallel walk with hubby.

      • They are fine now. I immediately separated them, kenneled Napoleon, and isolated the new boy. They spent an hour alone, and then I introduced them again. Both were anxious for a minute, and then Napoleon bowed to the pittie. He is naturally submissive, so this was a good sign. Now, they are cuddled up together. I will be walking them this evening again-more for my sake than theirs. On Sunday, I walked them both at the same time, and it was great. I thought I would struggle a bit to walk them together. It was easier than just walking my own boy! Napoleon’s head was about an inch behind the pittie’s. I stopped, pittie stopped, Napoleon stopped. It was awesome!

      • YOU are awesome!!! I’m so impressed by you and everything you are doing–with your blog, with your own dog, with the visiting pit bull–and as a trainer. Keep on trucking…you are really good at what you do.

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    • It’s a training/leadership thing. He needs to be used to being in a crate at any time. Putting him in the crate while I am there actually decreases anxiety and helps teach him the crate is a safe place. That’s usually something that is done when the dog is a puppy. He missed quite a few of these things, so we are playing catch up.

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