Well, I said this blog was coming, and I meant it. The story of the Pointer I was watching for a few days.
My friend adopted a German Short-Haired Pointer a few weeks ago from a very high kill shelter. They had him for 3 days before they asked me to babysit. They wanted me to doggie-sit (while I had the cute little border collie puppy as well) from Sunday to Wednesday night. I thought this was a great opportunity to get experience with another breed, and work with a shelter dog. I knew this was going to be a pretty significant challenge, especially because this boy was in the shelter for whopping 2 weeks!!
If you work with rescue or shelter dogs, you know how much work they can be, even after being in the shelter for a few days! I was completely unprepared! This boy was a full time job!
First thing I noticed: very high energy. This makes it very difficult because I have a high energy dog as well, so managing 2 high strung dogs was the most exhausting thing I have done so far! Boy, what did I get myself into? Well, to make matters even more challenging, he had some aggression towards Napoleon. Nothing I couldn’t handle, it wasn’t severe, and it wasn’t like ‘I’m going to kill you’ aggression. It was because he is un-socialized, and I don’t think he had been around many other dogs before.
Now, I can pick out rude behaviors now [some of them, I’m learning], and immediately saw that Checkers was challenging Napoleon for rank, challenging him to a fight. Napoleon, just ignored him, being the submissive dog he was. Well, Checkers didn’t back down, making Napoleon’s hackles rise up. I also noticed his ears went back, head up, and the lip raising started. That’s when I separated them.
Checkers, again, not being socialized, didn’t care that we were done with the introduction. He was jumping like a maniac, and started snarling at Napoleon. So, I fitted him with a basket muzzle I had on hand. I’m glad I had one! I don’t handle aggression in my training, and this dog has absolutely nothing to do with my business or my training. He was a friend’s dog, and I was asked to watch him for a few days. Just want that to be clearly written here.
Anyway, now that the boys had a chance to be nice, and failed, we left Napoleon outside, and I decided it was time for Checkers to come inside. Just from the first few minutes of being inside, I realized again – un-socialized and has never been inside a house. Out of control jumping on furniture, bolting around the house, and jumping all over the walls. So, on a tether the entire time he was with us.
Even on the tether, we had to watch him 24/7. He dug at the carpets, chewed on the drywall, baseboards, couches, wired crate, and dug inside the plastic crate while chewing through the holes on the sides. I couldn’t go upstairs for 5 minutes without him. Also, not potty trained. So, again- reason to tether and keep him watched all the time.
Oh, crate training. Yeah – NOT crate trained, and suffers from severe separation anxiety to the point of self-mutilation. He chewed his feet, and chewed the bars until his teeth hurt. So, I switched him to a heavy duty plastic crate instead of a wired crate. This curbed the high pitched whining and constant barking. We had use soft music, a blanket over the crate (which he destroyed), and essential oils just to get him to calm down. We fed meals in the crate, and eventually, I would close the door to my office, and let him roam. He would go in the kennel willingly to rest. Total time of active training to get this achievement: 30 hours. The family says he is accepting the crate very well now, which is awesome. I’m glad I was able to work on this with him.
Is he neutered, you ask? Of course not-the shelter doesn’t do that before they adopt them out. Well, high kill shelters, at least! We also believe he was around 2 years old, meaning he was in his ‘prime’ and was mounting everything. Couches, beds, Napoleon, me, the wall, the air, etc.
Corrections: He did not respond well to any corrections using the Halti. Absolutely no regard for personal space, and would knock you over to get where he wanted to go. He would jump over Napoleon or a couch to get to where he wanted to go. Also, another reason to keep him on a lead. He didn’t ever slow down. Took 4 full days of training, but I curbed the jumping on furniture as well as jumping on people. I used the Pet Convincer, as well as verbal corrections, and he caught on fairly quickly. The Pet Convincer was incredibly effective for correcting him, and eventually I didn’t need to use it anymore, and just used verbal corrections. I think the total amount of active training hours spent was around 8.
He was incredibly noise sensitive, and would hide underneath our end table. Not extra loud noises even, like a motorcycle, but things like the TV, washing machine, dish washer, doorbell, garage door, toilet flushing, etc. He got plenty of exposure to this, as I had to stay home with him for a few days because he was so self-destructive while I was gone.
How did he do with my cats? No go. Nada. Neit. Not even close to being ok. Incredibly high prey drive. With his energy level, and the level of aggression he had towards a dog twice his size, I just didn’t even bother with doing introductions for my cats. I was also worried because he chased a bird in the back yard and scaled my fence! Yes, he scaled my 7 foot fence, and went into my neighbor’s yard where he scared and scared the shit out of my neighbor’s small little dogs. Ok, so now he has to be tethered when he is outside in the backyard. Can’t let him off the leash ever. What a handful!
So, of the 4 days we had him, I think it was frustrating but successful. I didn’t plan on doing any training, but it turns out I had to, since he was just completely out of control in my house.
My personal accomplishments with this boy:
-Learned that sometimes, all it takes is switching something in the environment (wire crate to plastic crate)
-Reinforced the age-old comment of ‘Not all dogs are the same’
-Learned more about shelter dogs and un-socialized behavior
-Gained practice in really paying attention to canine behavior while in the presence of another dog
-Learned what ‘Board and Train’ means when I finally decide to do that (years away right now)
-Curbed jumping on furniture and people within 4 days.
-Started crate training
-By the time he left my house, I believe he was fully potty trained. Only one accident, and then he went to the door on his own afterwards…if I gave him the chance. Normally he was tethered.
-Started working on chewing on inappropriate objects with some success
-Successfully introduced Napoleon and Checkers after quite a lot of patience and small introductions. Video below is them playing in an acceptable manner.
-Met a dog who doesn’t respond to the Halti. A prong collar might have been better for this boy. But, I didn’t have one, so I couldn’t try.
Due to my level of experience, and how much time I have available currently to work with a dog like this, I have recommend another trainer take this case. I already have my hands full with another boy, who is making tremendous progress after 6 months of training. Updates on my boy, soon to come!
Here is a video of them finally achieving calm[er] play.