Just before Christmas, following the passing of our beloved Hugo, we “rescued” a 4.5 year old dachshund.
She’d had a hard life from what we were told, previous elderly owners had dementia and went into care. Once that happened, she went back to the breeder who decided to have a litter from her and then once the pups were weaned, decided she needed a home. A fairly unstable last few months for sure.
Then we came into the picture… her new forever family. Timing was an issue, the breeder needed her to find a home as they were going on holiday for Christmas – so were we, but we had a live in sitter so we said we’d take her anyway – just a few days before going away. We figured that would be better than leaving her home alone with the breeder’s son just popping in to feed her.
So we settled her in. What a joy! Walks beautifully to heal, sweet nature, instantly likes our other dogs and cats, all the things you could wish for!
So sitter moves in and off we go on holiday to Laos.
Then we get the emails… “Celia has eaten the couch”, “Celia has eaten the bedsheet”, “Celia has eaten the new bedroom curtains”. OMG!
Sitter says, “what do I do”? Solution… get “grandma #2” in to babysit when sitter has to go to work… at least until we get back.
So we get back from our fab holiday in Laos and survey the damage… arrange “grandma #1” to babysit while we go back to work. This simply can’t go on, so last Friday we got “dog man” in to help. Best $285 ever spent.
So I’ve had dogs all my life and knew darn well the training was for us and not the dogs. Of the 2.25 hours he was at our home, he spent 15 mins with the dogs. The rest of the time was with the humans.
Now I must say, that his rules were harsh by my standards – no dogs on laps, couches or beds under any circumstances. Dog must be placed on a mat in the far side of the room at all times. For the most part, ignore dog completely. Reduce contact by 85%.
I asked, if this was a temporary solution – the answer was “no”.
I can’t live with these rules. I didn’t think my dogs should have to either.
So quite simply we took these as rough guidelines rather than rules. We have dogs because we love them, we want to be with them, pet them, not have them as an object on the far side of the room – we’d have got an ornament…
So we adjusted the rules… and came up with a variation on them. Our rules are no dogs on laps, couches, beds unless invited. Petting must be on our terms and/or request. Dogs must go to their bed when instructed and stay there (at least for short periods of time).
In addition, we have blocked their line of sight to the front gate to reduce territorial barking and behaviour. Dogs are only petted when calm and not excited. When leaving the house now, we do so with minimal fuss. Pretty much ignoring them for a short period leading up to leaving. Upon coming home, we ignore them until they have been quiet for a good few minutes – no petting, no talking to them or making eye contact.
So in the space of 5 days, what a difference! Instant calm has decended on the house.
Immediately following dog man’s visit, we setup a pen with some comfortable bedding right by the cat/dog door. Dogs were fed treats and encouraged to rest in the pen. It was important that this wasn’t a punishment, they had to want to be there. At random times, we’d pop them in that area and go about our business in the house. Any whinging or distress was given a stern “no”. Rewards were given for sitting quietly on the bedding.
One thing we noticed fairly early in this new regime, was that when our alarm panel was set, it triggered our other dachshund Alice to get very excited. We needed to desensitise her to this, so we would repeatedly set it, tell her off if she reacted and reward her when she stayed calm. This took approximately 4 settings before no reaction (who is a clever girl then?).
Once we had worked on all these things, we then started leaving the house – literally leaving for a few seconds to a few minutes. We setup Skype on our iPads so we could monitor what was happening and nip it in the bud if escalating.
And what we found was a surprise. Yes, Celia would throw a tantrum and start tearing up the sacrifical items in the pen but it was because of the carry on that our Alice was making! Thank you Skype!
So our main focus for training turned out to be Alice not Celia… we change focus to boost Alice’s confidence and reduce her distress when we go out. Through a combination of rewards when good and ignoring over excited behaviour. Telling off when jumping up on us or demanding being petted or picked up. Basically enforcing our pack leader status.
Already when going for walks, we have noticed she is a lot calmer, she’s not barking at other dogs and people as we go past. She’s happier at home as she’s not having to defend the property since she can’t see out the gate. Her stress level is much lower.
And on the Celia front, not a single item has been munched thus far. We have extended their range in the house over the last two days. Items have been moved, but only gently, no tooth marks or tears.
I do feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t know how much Alice was so stressed by us going out. When home, I’d spend all my time with her, petting her, sitting with her and rarely say “no”, she follows me around. This simply isn’t doing her any favours. She needs to be happy without me being around. She needs the confidence that we will return and she’s fine!
I know a lot of people have similar issues with their dogs and there are ways around it without crating, medications or ultimately euthanasia in a lot of cases. You do need to be patient and everyone in the house needs to be following the same rules.
So welcome Celia to your forever home, I hope we have many happy and anxiety free years together.