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My dog is making my life a misery

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by ChasingAmy, Oct 16, 2020.

  1. ChasingAmy

    ChasingAmy PetForums Newbie

    Oct 16, 2020
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    I feel so defeated. I have a 7 year old mongrel (german shepherd cross) who I rescued from Spain. When she arrived as a 4 month old we could tell she wasn’t “right”. With help from the vet we discovered that she has severe hip dysplasia in both hips and she’s autistic. She is virtually impossible to train as she has absolutely no desire to please or do as she is told. We went to multiple puppy classes (which she didn’t graduate one) then over the year’s spent triple figures on top behaviourists and trainers one to one, all of them tried and failed to help.

    Her main problems -

    * She is *extremely* reactive when she meets dogs. If she is off lead and she sees a dog in the distance, she will charge at them growling. She doesn’t hurt them when she gets to them (just runs round them growling) but by that point the owner and dog are terrified as she is a big dog and she looks like she is charging at them to attack.

    * On lead she is reactive too and tries to attack passing dogs/cyclists. I have to go off the path into bushes or a field if possible and get as far away as I can. If it’s a small path with nowhere to go then I stand at the side between her and the dog and try my best to control her. She wears a Halti to try and control her but she’ll still stand on her back legs snarling and barking to try and get to them. Often her claws rip my legs open, I often come home from a walk injured from her.

    * She growls at children and strangers. She doesn’t like strangers touching her which is difficult as she is cute and often people like to try to pet her. I just tell them not to now. Even people coming into the house, she sniffs them but if they try to touch her to say hi she will growl. Even if a young child is just walking past her ignoring her - she will growl.

    * She only has recall if she see’s me holding a treat and there are no other stimuli. When I call her name the first thing she does is look around to see why I am calling her and check if there is another dog somewhere, if so - she charges at the dog growling.

    * If we pass a dog in the car, she goes crazy barking and attacking the window until it’s out of sight.

    * In the garden she spends her time charging at the fence and barking at people passing. We’ve lived here for over 6 years and she still does this to our neighbours if they are in their garden.

    She gets 3 walks a day and up until Covid, she went to dodgy daycare twice a week so she has stimulus and lots of exercise and has been extremely well socialised. As a pup I spent hours socialising her in different environments and she was never amazing but never as bad as she is now. Daycare say there isn’t an issue but they are not a very honest company. She has 2 dog walkers who have the same issues with her that I do, thankfully they overlook it but I am expecting them to get to a point where they refuse to walk her.

    I frequently get abuse shouted at me on walks from people who’s she’s scared which always leaves me in tears. I’m now 19 weeks pregnant and have to keep her on the lead which is a shame as she can’t get the same run or sniff around but I can’t cope with the anxiety of having her off lead now. I’m also worried about how to control her as I get bigger and I do worry how she’ll be with a baby in the house given that she hates children.

    She is generally a bit better in the house, sleeps a lot (when not barking at passerby’s outside). However she hates being touched by even us, she would never sit beside us or voluntarily come near us. She chooses to stay in another room if we are in one room unless we are eating. Once we finish eating she leaves the room. It’s difficult to have a bond with a dog so aloof but we just accept this is the way she is.

    We’ve tried various techniques from the trainers we saw and nothing works as she has no desire to appease us. I love dogs but I will never have another one after her as the past 7 years with her have been a curse. A massive chunk of my pay check each month goes on her - paying her dog walks/daycare, supplements, food etc. We’ve kept her healthy and adapted to her strange ways to keep her happy and content but to the expense of my life/sanity and she’s getting worse. It used to be that it was sporadic her wanting to attack a dog/growling at someone but now it’s every single person we meet - there is inevitably a drama.

    We recently tried a herbal supplement to calm reactive dogs down and it made absolutely no difference.
  2. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel PetForums VIP

    Oct 18, 2013
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    Im not one of the experienced people on here on dog behaviour so i will leave that side of your question to the many members on here who are.

    However, for yourself, my instinct tells me that you are stressed out to the max and maybe have a busy and intense day every day?

    I think it might do you and your dog some good just to take that pressure right off. Just forget about training and walking your dog for a few days.

    Just sit, relax. Keep your home quiet and calm. Leave your dog alone to be where he wants to be. Turn your devices off. Sit and chill, read a book. Just take that time out to enjoy being pregnant for a week.

    You might well find you dog enjoys the calm atmosphere and eventually seeks you out.

    Have you some outdoor space for her to toilet? Try just walking at really quiet times - dawn and dusk for toilets.

    *this is just for a few days - it sounds like you could do with a break- it is not meant as the answer - others will come along and help you with more practical and constructive solutions**
    LinznMilly and LittleMow like this.
  3. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

    May 23, 2018
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    Can you explain what techniques you have tried?

    I also think daycare may be a big part of your problem.
    LinznMilly, StormyThai and Lurcherlad like this.
  4. LittleMow

    LittleMow PetForums Member

    May 2, 2019
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    I'm not an experienced dog owner but I wouldn't be letting my dog off lead to run up to strangers (dogs or people). My anxious/reactive dog would be very unhappy about an off lead dog running up to him growling, it would certainly leave him a bit distressed.

    I would walk your dog on lead and at times when it's quiet, so walks are less stressful for you both. I walk Bodmin at 5:30am and it makes things so much easier, I can work with him and keep his triggers at a distance. I agree with tabelmabel though, it sounds like you all need a bit of break.

    Really hope you can get the help you both need.

    Eta: posted early by mistake
    LinznMilly and Lurcherlad like this.
  5. Lurcherlad

    Lurcherlad PetForums VIP

    Jan 5, 2013
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    Have you tried distance training? Where you find the distance where she doesn’t react and praise/reward.

    You say she’s been well socialised but that can sometimes be overdone and create reactivity.

    Day Care is a classic case where dogs can be over socialised, over stimulated and overwhelmed.

    If she has pain from her hips she won’t want other dogs jumping on her (or even people handling her) so maybe that’s what’s triggering her reactivity?

    I’d consider stopping that tbh.

    I would keep her on a harness and flexi tape leash so she has some freedom where space allows but you have full control when needed. You can attach a short lead to the harness or halti for closer control.

    Walk at quiet times and avoid areas where loose dogs are encountered. Hire a field for run time if required. Engage your partner in her walks to take some pressure off you, especially now and when baby arrives.

    I wouldn’t allow interactions with in anybody she’s not happy around and put her safely in another room with a chew if visitors come over.

    If you can get her to relax at distance and learn that you have her back and will keep dogs/people out of her “red zone” she might improve.

    Whether you can turn her around before your baby arrives is another matter.

    With regard to her hips, are they getting worse or need surgery? If so, is that an option for you? Perhaps they need to be factored in to whatever you do going forward.
    Ian246, LinznMilly, Rottsmum and 3 others like this.
  6. Rottsmum

    Rottsmum PetForums Member

    Aug 26, 2011
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    Hi from one (sort of) newbie to another. I'm afraid I know nothing about autism in dogs but if it manifests anything like autism in humans then social interactions can be stressful and sometimes overwhelming.

    From your post your dog sounds like she's living on her nerves and is stressed by strange people and dogs because she doesn't know how to interact with them, not because she wasn't socialised but because she can't cope well with social interactions. The stress is just building up and she then becomes so stressed that she's unresponsive and/or frantic and then you can do nothing with her.

    I agree with previous posters, I think it would be a good idea not to put her in the situation in the first place. Walk her twice a day early in the morning and late in the evening when there are less distractions and less to stress her. Being off lead may be stressful for her, she can still sniff and things when on lead.

    You say that she will recall to a treat, so if she is food motivated, praise and treat her for not reacting when on a walk. If she's visually stimulated, would it be possible to screen off your fence so that she can't see passing dogs or people or your neighbours? Finally, can your vet help in any way re the autism and is she in any pain because of the dysplasia?
    Beth78, LinznMilly, LittleMow and 3 others like this.
  7. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

    May 23, 2018
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    Just to add though, although autism in dogs is an area that has been being studied for a while, there is not yet a way to diagnose it in dogs. Certainly a vet would not be able to diagnose it.
    It's definitely not a condition of the dog lacking a desire to please or 'do as she is told'. If that were the case, every sighthound, most terriers, LGDs and lots of hounds would find themselves diagnosed as autistic!

    There are many factors that can cause dogs to not be neurotypical that don't include autism also.

    I think what strikes me most about the OP is a lot of focus on how the dog is making life hard for the owner, but not a lot of understanding, maybe empathy that this is a dog who is clearly experiencing a lot of stress, potential pain, and is herself having a very hard time of it. Reminds me of the adage "Your dog is not giving you a hard time, your dog is having a hard time."

    At first glance this pup sounds over socialized, and has become sensitized to other dogs and people rather than desensitized.
    There's probably some pain factors too, I don't know how there couldn't be with severe hip dysplasia at 4 months and the dog is now 7. The reluctance to be touched could very well be a pain response. I imagine a day of daycare on dysplastic hips would result in a very painful dog come evening. A dog who definitely wouldn't want to be touched or even have someone near her.

    Pain can also make dogs seem unresponsive as they withdraw in to themselves.

    But it still would be helpful to know what type of training has been tried and how she responded to it.
  8. simplysardonic

    simplysardonic Moderator
    Staff Member

    Sep 1, 2009
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    This was one of the things I first picked up on in the OP, especially as there was no mention of what was being done to manage the condition, so we can get a clearer picture of how much pain could be a factor in her behavioural issues.

    I'm also concerned about dog daycare being described by the OP as 'not a very honest company', why would anyone leave their loved family member with someone they didn't trust?
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