Overly Needy Behavior
Hello, I'm writing because I need some advice. I'll start with a bit of a back story. I recently adopted a dog named Roxy. She is a black lab mixed with ?. I've known Roxy for 4 years prior to adopting her. I know that in the beginning of her life she was a stray and then I came to know her when a friend's uncle adopted her. The second part of her life she was left outside 24/7 365 with minimal attention and affection. This went on for about 4-5 years. I've wanted to adopt her for years prior but decided to do the responsible thing and wait until I had a stable home with a yard for her (I couldn't immediately because I was a junior in high school). Now is that time. I've had her for about 5 days now. I knew that adopting a dog that was so unaccustomed to home life would be difficult and I was right. I want to do everything I can do to help her adjust because I know there is no other option for her. I had to fight to get her out of that yard and into my home and if I give up on her she will go right back to it. I don't plan to ever do that.
My concerns are pretty usual I assume. She is very calm and loving but can be considered overly needy. If my fiance or I gets up to go anywhere she follows us from room to room. She needs constant connection with us. Meaning that when we are sitting at the computer or couch she will hit us with her nose until someone shows her attention. The second day we got her the need to be close to me was so strong she crawled under my computer desk and ended up sending my monitor crashing to the floor (I needed an excuse for a new one anyway lol). The only thing is if you show her attention the sweet 50lbs dog will do everything she can do to sit in your lap. She will fight and claw her way up into your lap. If you try and tell her no and slightly nudge her away she just pushes back even stronger. It's like if you give her an inch she will take a mile. I want to show her love and affection but find myself disconnecting myself from the situation because I don't want to deal with the consequences of that affection. If we show our other dog Louie (2 year old Boxer/Lab mix) attention she will position herself between us and him and has even resorted to snapping at him. He can even be two feet away from her showing her no attention and she barks aggressively at him. I can see the situation taking a toll on Louie as well. On the other side of that though Louie is a great well behaved dog and she has been learning a thing or two from him as far as inside behavior. Each day it gets a little better. I guess my only question is if anyone has tips for training a dog that has had little to no human contact the majority of her life. I am committed to helping her live a great life inside a loving home but the stress of living with a overly needy dog is starting to take a toll of our home life. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Hi! Good on you for adopting this dog!
I haven't dealt with a dog that was outside most of its life, but I have dealt with a dog that was crated almost all the time for the first year of his life (and now the same for my new dog for her first year and a half), although both had some time in foster care before coming to me. They both came to me with pretty severe separation anxiety and so were like velcro dogs. I'll share with you what I did/what I'm doing and maybe some will help you.
First off, I am learning the second time around that it is easier, partly because I have done it before, and partly because I already have a healthy, happy, well-adjusted dog in the house. Hopefully your other dog will help Roxy as well! Also, because Louie was the first dog in the house, always try to greet him and feed him first to maintain his place within your pack.
Do you have a crate for Roxy? She is probably feeling pretty overwhelmed, overstimulated and excited by becoming a house dog and actually receiving human attention! A crate would help give her a safe, calm place. If you have trouble with the dogs at feeding time, you can feed Roxy in her crate as well.
With separation anxiety (which is what it sounds like is going on with Roxy, what with the velcro-dog behaviour), it is very important NOT to give attention when she is seeking the attention, and not to give attention when she is all excited, agitated, etc. Only calm dogs get attention, and only when you invite them for it. Does she know sit-stay, or lay? When she is seeking/demanding attention, ignore her. Turn your back, etc. As soon as she calms, praise her then put her in sit-stay and praise her again. Calm dogs get attention!
Does she have her own bed? Another useful command is "mat" or "go to your mat". Start by putting her mat near your feet or where she likes to lay and reward her for going to it and say "go to your mat" but don't let her lay and touch you. Gradually move her mat farther from you.
You could also try crating her when you're in the shower and such. It is time away from you, and time to be calm and relaxed. Again, do not let her out of the crate until she is calm, and do not give her any pets unless she is calm. For everyone's saftey, for the time being, maybe Roxy should be crated when you are giving attention to Louie, at least until she is more settled.
Remember that it can take dogs 2-12 weeks or more to adjust to a new living situation. Try not to expect too much from Roxy, as this is a totally different lifestyle for her and she is probably stressed because she doesn't know what to expect and she doesn't know the rules yet. But if all "good" things are controlled by you (affection, food, going out the door, getting in the car, etc) she will learn that she does not have to be confused or stressed because you will teach her the rules and what her boundaries are.
She will learn that she doesn't need to be attached to you to feel safe, but give her time and patience. You have only had her for 5 days so this is a VERY short period of time. She is also probably worried that maybe she's going to get abandoned outside again. Also, remember to spend one on one time with each of your dogs! :) Good luck! I hope my answer was understandable, I'm suddenly getting super tired, and my brain is drained from writing papers for school.
I forgot to ask if you are sure she is getting enough exercise? This could be contributing to stress for her too, if she's not getting enough, especially after being used to living outside.
Welcome RDial to the board.
First off - what an incredibly sad story..with an incredibly wonderful future for this dog. You are a wonderful person.
The above poster brings up some very good points and valuable information.
As sad as it is to see your new dog yearning so desperately for affection...the best approach is to set up boundries immediately until she learns that she is safe and builds more confidence. As the poster above stated..it can take a few weeks to a few months for your dog to actually settle in so it is important that she understands where she fits in and how.
You are actually at a great advantage as you have a stable dog. He is your key to reaching her.
I suggest that you make life fun for her. Play with both dogs, go for great walks, dog parks if they can handle other dogs, hiking... By taking the dogs together, you are going to build a close bond with both dogs where she will look to him for confidence as well. Also, this should ward off any jealousy issues that I can forsee. She will feed off of his reactions to you, and you to him. She just needs to know how to be a dog and I think your boy will teach her that.
Also, I would do some one on one obedience training courses with her. Something where she has time with you, and you have more control of her. Mental stimulation does wonders for dogs..and your bond will be stronger but in a less needy kind of way.
This will not be easy at all as there is nothing sadder than seeing a once neglected dog trying so hard just to be close to you...yet you cannot give him/her that at this moment. Best advice is to be confident and upbeat with your dog. This will instill some confidence in her.
Best of luck and thank you so much for saving her.
Stick around as there are some wonderfully knowledgeable people here on pets that can give you some ideas, tips and further advice.
Thank you both for the wonderful advice! I will work on incorporating it into our lives. I feel a lot more confident now that this situation will work out in the end.
We have a big back yard that we take both dogs in and play with them. I haven't taken her to the dog park yet because I'm not quite sure she has the shots (rabies, etc) she needs. We have a check up at the vet for her next week. She hasn't quite learned how to walk on a leash yet but we are working with her on it. She does have a breathing problem that she has had since she was young. I'm guessing from being outside in the freezing weather for a prolonged amount of time. I'm just worried about overstimulating her breathing. But she does get the proper amount of exercise she needs.
Some great advice from others who have posted :thumbs up.
I might also suggest taking a large portion of you dog's dinner and use it to make your dog work. If you are doing work like "go to your bed" you could use the food to help build duration. Reward staying on the mat by tossing a few more pieces of kibble every so often. Start at every 10 sec and gradually increase to 30 sec or a minute. Break the dog from the exercise and start again or do other things like a sit stay, down stay or any tricks etc. This will help to build her confidence and also teach her to wait for you to ask for a behavior. It's a great way to get easy training sessions in a day.
Good luck :goodvibes:.
[QUOTE=rdial;991131]Thank you both for the wonderful advice! I will work on incorporating it into our lives. I feel a lot more confident now that this situation will work out in the end.
We have a big back yard that we take both dogs in and play with them. But she does get the proper amount of exercise she needs.[/QUOTE]
It will work out but let me point out to you that though your dogs are getting dog to dog interaction/exercise, the dog is not getting the human/dog mental exercise. Very big difference.
The best way to connect mentally with your dog..and she with you is through obedience training, walking on leash (very important) and even taking a few courses. This is actually exercise physically, but most importantly emotionally and mentally.
For example. I have 5 dogs. I lost touch with one of my dogs..he started getting very needy and destructive along with separation anxiety. I went back to square one where I walk with him alone, started back with obedience training (just 15- 30 minutes a day). After a few days he is back to where he should be mentally. Note that he has another huge dog to play with..but for him it clearly was not enough...he needed me alone to work on his mental wellbeing: human/dog. This dog I speak of was abused very badly...and for this reason, I must ensure that I give him what he needs which is only about 1/2 hour of my time with him alone..and doing some training together. The difference in him is remarkable.
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