Napoleon, 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)
Respect and understanding where his ‘rank’ is within the pack.
Makes me happy
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:
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)
Covering the crate with a blanket
Doing desensitizing exercises
Making sure he is calm before he comes out
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.
A 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.