Pets.ca - Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 

-->

Puppy developing serious behavior problem?

geoffh4
September 13th, 2007, 05:21 PM
Is my puppy developing a serious behavioral problem, or is it displaying normal puppy behavior? I need help deciding which, and what to do!

OK so heres the back story:

Puppy is a female, fixed, 6-7 month old "lab mix" (which means nothing - could be litereally anything)
She weighs about 30 pounds

Heres the problem:

My wife and I both work full time. Unfortunately, this means our pets must stay home alone during the day. She isn't in a crate, but in a large downstairs room to herself. She has her bed, her toys, and the radio on during the day.

Before we leave for work, my wife takes her for 1 "quick" walk lasting 10-20 minutes. About 1 to 1.5 hours later, I do the same. I then leave for work, and about 6-8 hours later, my wife comes home and takes her for 1 "long" walk lasting 30 minutes to 1 hour. I come home about 1.5 hours later and do the same. By the time she is finished with her daily walks, she has usually gone out 4 times for a total of at least 4 miles, sometimes up to 6. We try to use "good walking behavior" (meaning no pulling)

Everything was going well until just recently. On the weekends, she is perfect. She is great. She plays a little, sleeps a little, and overall seems happy. No whining, no barking, just a good dog.

On the weekdays, not so much. Shes always excited to see us when we come home, but even after all that excercise, she still seems completely antsy. After coming home, she'll just sit on the floor and whine and bark and growl at us like she wants to tell us something but doesnt know what. Its not like a "mean" growl, but more like a "Im Bored!!" growl, almost under her breath. This doesnt usually stop unless we are totally devoting 100% attention to her. But its weird, because even if we try to play with her, she seems to want something more. We start playing, then she ignores us, then she gets upset that we aren't playing. Its very difficult and strange. And, its impossible to do anything (watch tv, eat dinner, talk on the phone) because she gets so "bored"

We feel bad leaving her at home, but can't we simply cannot afford to have someone come over every day or to send her to doggy day care.

Also, while playing and walking, she's developing some more bad behaviors.

ON walks, she has started to:
bite her leash
bite at my pants or shorts while we're walking
slink way down on the ground and then burst away (even though her leash is only 6')

While playing, she has started to:
growl during tug of war
growl at me if I try to chase her around the backyard/have her chase me around
dig incessently during play time (she'll be running then all of a sudden just start digging like crazy)
bark at me for no reason

At first I thought it was just typical puppy play, but Im not really sure? The growling while running around the backyard was particularly suspect. We were just running (its another way I give her excercise) and all of a sudden she started growling at me and jumping towards me. It didn't seem "aggressive" but could it be a lead in?
Especially since there is the chance that she could have any dog, aggressive or not, in her mix and we really don't know.

Please help with advice! Thanks!

kigndano
September 13th, 2007, 05:39 PM
well im a first time dog owner myself, but ive had some experience with some puppy behavior up til this point so ill see what i can offer.


as far as her being ansty during weekdays, just ignore her until she is calmed down and then go play with her, this way she'll realize that in order to really get what she wants, she has to be in the right state of mind. i did this with my dog and it seems to be working.

if she has toys that squeak and bounce she has plenty of tools to entertain herself with while you are eating; if you were "pack leader" and eating she wouldnt dream of bothering you.

leash biting is a form of frustration from pent up energy; and a suggestion i got on this board was to try and do a longer walk at a higher speed instead of smaller walks spaced out. seems kind of counterintuative, but it seems to work a lot better.

dont play tug of war -- it just brings up dominance and pack order issues. this could be really bad since you dont know what breeds are in her, some are more pack oriented than others.

my dog growls and jumps at me when i go to bring him inside from his tie out, hes just protesting; correct the dog with a nice quick tug on the leash, a good "NO" and just go about your business. it takes a few times if you arent firm enough the first time, but they get the point eventually.

hopefully this helps you, and doesnt make your dog worse; but im sure others will have more informed advice to offer.

pitgrrl
September 13th, 2007, 06:26 PM
leash biting is a form of frustration from pent up energy; and a suggestion i got on this board was to try and do a longer walk at a higher speed instead of smaller walks spaced out. seems kind of counterintuative, but it seems to work a lot better.

I was going to suggest the same thing, and add that perhaps, if it's at all possible, making time to tire her out in the morning before she's left all day. Maybe switch one of the long walks to the am and then one in the evening?


dont play tug of war -- it just brings up dominance and pack order issues. this could be really bad since you dont know what breeds are in her, some are more pack oriented than others.


I have to disagree with this 100%, playing tug can be a great way to tire a dog out, use muscles that don't see much action when the dog's main activity is just walking and, in my experience, gives you a great opportunity to practice and proof commands when your dog is in drive (if your dog is highly toy driven that is). If one had an exceptionally dominant dog who was actively challenging their owner, then no, I probably wouldn't engage in a game of tug, but quite frankly, tug isn't going to undo anything in your average situation.

After coming home, she'll just sit on the floor and whine and bark and growl at us like she wants to tell us something but doesnt know what. Its not like a "mean" growl, but more like a "Im Bored!!" growl, almost under her breath. This doesnt usually stop unless we are totally devoting 100% attention to her. But its weird, because even if we try to play with her, she seems to want something more.

So she's learning that if she puts up a fuss, you'll play with her. It's not really her fault, she's being rewarded with attention and play time if she keeps up the whining/barking/growling routine, we'd all do the same I suspect. :laughing:

Ignore her if she's acting like a dork and praise her if she's quiet. She might resort to extreme whining and barking at first, but just buy some earplugs and ignore away, she'll get the idea eventually, if you remain totally consistent.


While playing, she has started to:
growl during tug of war
growl at me if I try to chase her around the backyard/have her chase me around


Not all growling is alike. One of my dogs is extremely vocal and will growl like a mad man when excited and playing. It is distinctly different, both in sound and in the larger context of the behaviour that accompanies it and situations it occurs in, than his "real" growl. Obviously its hard to know what exactly is going on just based on a written description, but remember you need to look at the whole picture.

mummummum
September 13th, 2007, 09:15 PM
Sounds like you have a high-energy puppy on your hands who is training you very well ;). I would try to squeeze in something a little more active than just walks in the morning and evening.

As well, now would be a perfect time to start obedience classes with a local group. This will not only burn off some physical energy it will also actively engage her brain which is just as important someimes as tiring her physically. The added bonus is that YOU will learn how to become her trainer and leader.

want4rain
September 13th, 2007, 09:52 PM
along with obedience classes, try doing different things with her and having toys that challenge her. we have a labX thats a good bit the same way. i fetch with him twice a day and also make good use of kongs and Mister also has a little tire (although we are thinking of upgrading to a larger one) with a rope on it that he just *loves* to drag around.

also understand that she is going to get big so while you shoudl play WELL dont play HARD. give those bones a chance to grow before you really start pounding on them. :)

-ashley

t.pettet
September 13th, 2007, 10:26 PM
Would it be possible to have play dates with another dog close to her size and age, perhaps going to a safe area and letting them run and play for a couple of hours every few days? She does sound as though she needs more exercise and stimulation.

luckypenny
September 13th, 2007, 11:06 PM
Until you can consult with a reputable trainer/behaviorist, I wouldn't be playing tug of war nor chasing her/having her chase you. I would certainly start practicing NILIF and have everyone in your home be consistent with her. You may find this article helpful: http://www.pets.ca/articles/article-alphadog.htm

I, too, would take her for longer, brisk walks in the morning and before her dinner as well. Does she know how to fetch? Rather than chasing her/having her chase you, fetch can provide lots of exercise for her as well. Try using two identical toys. Throw one, when she gets it, show her the other. When she comes back for it, have her drop the one she has, then throw the other...and so on.

As already mentionned, please consider an obedience class. It will definitely benefit both you and her.

geoffh4
September 17th, 2007, 01:48 PM
We are currently in week 7 of an 8 week obedience class. She is the best in the class, but energy is still the concern

The trainer at the class usually tells me that since she's only 6 months old, her growling is probably just playful and that if I want to discourage it, to simply walk away after she starts growling

Unfortunately, she doesnt play fetch. Nor does she play with her own toys very well.

Ive tried to teach her to play fetch, but it doesnt seem to be working. I get a tennis ball, I throw it far out into the backyard. She gets it, brings it back, I give her a treat. I throw the ball again, she just looks at the spot where she knows the treats are. Its impossible to get her to go for the ball again at this point.

If I dont use treats, just rewards, she brings back the ball maybe once, maybe twice, then gets bored and starts chewing on a stick or digging a hole, etc

She meets and greets puppies and dogs on walks, as well as plays with dogs at obedience school. Shes usually pretty good those days, but I think it has more to do with her not being left alone during the daylight hours.

I know she should have more opportunities to get her playfullness out, but I really must reiterate that
1) We TRY to play with her, but its very difficult because, frankly, she just gets so darned distracted!
2) We take her for more than 4 miles of walks per day. I think thats well above average from what I've seen/heard

want4rain
September 17th, 2007, 02:06 PM
distracted is normal. we started off with the Nothing in Life Is Free philosophy with Mister as a pup, its really helped in situations like distractedness. he pays attention to things we give him attention to. when playing ball with her, rub cheese all over it. make it stinky with cheese and throw it... give her a treat thats less cool than cheese when she brings it back. maybe some of her kibble? a good time to play ball is when she is full of energy. right after a walk, Mister doesnt want to either. he has already run out a bulk of his energy.

also, for training purposes, i wouldnt every chase your dog with the intent of her running away from you. just not a good idea. :) when you play tug of war with your dog, you are teaching them to take things from your hand by force. there are far too many times you should be able to remove something from your pets mouth to ahve them resist you. thats just my opinion though. :)

lastly, Mister took a bit to learn how to play on his own. he wasnt maybe 10 months old when he finally realized his toys were just as fun all by his self!! first, he would want me outside while he played but having a baby in the house makes that kind of idle time impossible. given enough time alone a dog will learn to play alone. :) maybe she is just tired of playing alone aftr doing it all day long???

-ash