Stressed Rescue LabradorXCollie

Posted by JeanH
Oct 2, 2009
I have had Carra, a neutered female rescue labrador/collie cross for 18th mths now. Whilst I am active I am now 80 and had hoped that my much loved Carra would have calmed down by now. The biggest problem from the start is that fact I live on a non-working farm with no means of secure fencing a garden area for Carra to run free so she is always on a long line when outside because she had never been taught to come to recall. I acknowledge that this is not right but I cannot risk her getting into a field with sheep because the local farmer shoots first and asks questions later! I thought we were getting on fine, she walks well with me when she is out with me walking around our fields, she has bonded well with me and is quite happy to be left in the house on her own. However, should I go out into the garden and move from her sight when she on her long line she barks with a high pitched bark incessently. I have also been unable to teach not to jump up and bark at visitors because when they come to the door she would rush out and disappear for an hour or more - she does come back eventually but I am worried for her safety.
Whilst I have a granny annexe in the family house, my daughter, husband and 11 year old son are away every weekday. They have two small dogs that are used to be in their part of house when they are away so Carra does not see many other people or dogs and gets very excited when she does.
I thought we were getting on OK but recently she seems to be more stressed and follows me around the house from room to room until I settle down at night to watch TV when she takes herself off and sleeps in my upstairs office.
I realise that I have obviously not established myself as 'top dog' and she is wearing herself out protecting me. My granny annexe is 'open plan' and I cannot separate her from my front door without tethering her which makes training her in the correct way to greet visitors almost impossible. She has never been crate trained and there is hardly room for one in my home.
Please can anyone give me some tips as to how I can establish my position.
Posted by LetsPlay
Oct 8, 2009
Hi there,
could you give us some more information about how you train her and what your daily routine is with her?
Where does she sleep at night, when does she eat, how do you treat her during the day, does she get a lot of attention, has she got toys?

Posted by KOPsarah
Oct 9, 2009
Hi JeanH and thanks for your post,
I would also like to know a little bit more about your dogs daily routine in order to help you better. However from the information you have provided so far I think you have four problems to work on:
1) as you say carra does not see you as alpha dog so she is difficult to manage
2) carra does not seem to have any general obedience
3) carra has not had the opportunity to be well socialised
4) your dog is highly intelligent and active and is not being stimulated enough

Looking at solutions

[B]Alpha Training[/B]
Following the alpha dog training will definitely help show the dog its position. It is important to remember the key points of dominance.

In a wild dog pack the dominant pack member controls :
-access to food
-access to favoured sleeping areas
-any interactions with lower pack members
-access to favoured items such as toys

In order to show your dog his position as bottom of the pack you and your whole family can take advantage of these keys points. For example

1) Carra must be the last to eat at every meal and should never get treats from the table.

2) She should never walk through doors before you.

3) If she is lying in the hallway or anywhere you have to get past make her move. If you think she will snap leave a lead on so you can move her whilst maintaining a bit of distance.

4) When you arrive home completely her for 15 minutes. Don't look at her, talk to her or pat her. After this go to her and give her some quiet attention only as long as she is relaxed and calm.

Only interact with the dog on your terms. If your or someone else is petting the dog or playing with it and it becomes aggressive or badly behaved immediately remove your attention from the dog by either removing yourself from the area or moving the dog to another area. You should do this without displaying any emotion such as anger just be a calm but decisive pack leader and the dog will appreciate knowing where it stands. Similarly you can assert your dominance by not allowing access to beds and couches or by only bringing out favourite toys when you want to play and removing them when you are finished.

Finally, read our bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". This book will give you a good understanding of the hierarchical nature and behavior of your dog, and will demonstrate to you how important it is for you to teach your dog that YOU are in charge, and not her. She will be much happier for it.

[B]General Obedience[/B]
General obedience is important for two reasons, first it helps enforce your status as alpha dog, and secondly it is a great mental challenge for your intelligent dog. The basic commands in a logical order are:
1. Sit 2. Come 3. Okay and No 4. Hold and Leave.

The training of these important commands is covered in detail in the e-book, Secrets to Dog Training but here they are in brief. 

Sit: This is the simplest command to teach and very important in the early education stages. It introduces your dog to training and teaches them to focus on voice and hand commands. You need your dog close to you, still and attentive. It can be taught easily as it build on a natural behavior. Down is basically an extension of the “sit” movement and can be taught as soon as “sit” is mastered.

Come: The recall command “Come” is one of the most important commands you can teach your dog. It’s also one of the hardest for your dog to master. Whenever you ask her to “Come”, you’re asking her to leave something she finds enjoyable and interesting to return to you. That’s a pretty big ask and it calls for a lot of training.

Okay and No: “Okay” is the command that releases your dog from training. After that she’s on her own time. “No” or a throaty “AHH” is the only command which expresses your displeasure. Pick one and use it consistently. Once the wrong behavior stops – praise her to show you’re pleased she stopped.

Hold and Drop it: Teaching your dog to take and keep an object in her mouth – and release it on command – is a very useful core skill.

Start with the basics and resist moving on too quickly. Revisit earlier exercises to refresh your dog’s memory. Dogs learn by repetition so it will take several training sessions before an action can become automatic. Also refresher sessions will be needed so that the response is not lost Having just one trainer is best. Keep training sessions short and enjoyable, a few minutes several times a day, so that your dog maintains concentration throughout. Quality not quantity is the golden rule. Because your dog has the mental capacity of a toddler, be sure to praise quickly so your reaction links to the dog’s actions – no more than 2-3 seconds.
Always finish a training session on a positive note. If your dog is struggling with a new command finish the session by asking her to do commands she is familiar with and praising warmly when she responds correctly.

Once you’re satisfied with your dog’s obedience, try socializing her with other dogs – ideally dogs with calm, confident temperaments. If you think he may react by biting or fighting then consider using a muzzle as well. This will have to be a gradual process where the new dog is introduced at a neutral venue and from a distance.
Have your dog ‘Sit’ with the other dog in sight but a long way away. Treat her and praise her for following your command. Keep running through commands with her, you want to keep her focus and attention on you, while a friend gradually brings the other dog closer. If your dog looses focus and begins to react to the other dog have your friend move back to reduce the distraction. The idea of this training is to show your dog that other dogs are not a problem and focusing on you is more rewarding. You could even start this training using the other dogs in the household. You can use the same method to socialize Carra with new people as well.

When out walking, use a head collar such as a Gentle Leader or Halti because it gives you more control over your dog’s movements. As you approach another dog or person praise your dog for being calm. If she becomes upset and barks or lunges immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction without saying anything or reprimanding. This will show your dog that behaving calmly is what you expect and what it also in her best interests.

If you react to a strange dog by tightening your dog’s leash, or speaking sharply to her, you tell her you’re very wary. Her tension and aggression levels will increase. So hold a slack leash at all times. Speak to your dog in a happy, confident voice.

[B]Keeping her stimulated[/B]
There are a number of things you can try:
-Kongs or treat balls stuffed with food so she has to work out how to get the food out.
-Lots of toys on a rotational basis so she doesn’t get bored with them
-Hide her meal throughout your house so she has to hunt for it
-teach her how to play hide and seek once her general obedience is good. Have her sit and stay in the front door way then hide in the house out of her sight, even round a corner will do to start with then tell her “ok” “come” and have her look for you. Praise or give her a treat when she finds you.
-give her things to do while she is outside on the long lead such as toys, scattered food to find or other things
-once you have worked on socialization letting her play with the other dogs regularly should provide a much needed outlet

I hope this gives you somewhere to start, let me know if you have any further information or questions and let us know how you get on.
Posted by JeanH
Oct 10, 2009
Thank you so much for your detailed replies. To answer John's queries first. We go for walk each morning before she has her food but after I have had mine.For this she is on a six foot lead and Halti harness with a ring centre back and a clip which attaches to her collar.Her lead is then connected to the secondary ring at the fron of her harness thus I have contol of her head. She walks quietly at my side around the fields and does not pull even if she sees a rabbit unless one pops up unexpectedly right in front of us. Even then I can ask her sit and she does. On several occasions during this walk which lasts about three quarters of an hour I allow to have a sniff around then call her back to heel and proceed with the walk. In the afternoon I take her out into a field with the same harness and tether her on to a long 100ft rope by the ring centre back of the harness so that she have a good run if she wants to. We then play ball, I teach her to sit and stay using treats and come. However her attention span is very short and she wanders off to do her own thing The rest of the day she is indoors, or if the weather is fine she is on a long lead tethered to the bottom of my stairs with the doors open so that she can follow me around or go out into the garden.
Her bed is in my kitchen but she likes to come up stairs with me and sleep outside my bedroom door for the first part of the night. She is not allowed in my bedroom, I always go through doors first or down stairs first and she waits at the top for permission to come down
She only has Burns Kibbles for food apart from training treats.
She has soft toys, which she shakes to bits in the end, tennis balls, a treat ball for her two meals a day plus a Kong which I stuff and give her if I have to go out for any length of time. She is very food orientated but she gets bored with a game quite quickly.
I cannot socialise her because we are in such a rural area and I have no friends with dogs other than my daughters two terriers, one is old and one very young an boisterous. Carra is on good terms with both of them and they often join her in the field in the afternoon. She is alone with me most of the time and so when my daughter, her husband or 11 year son come home she gets very excited and jumps and barks and is very hard to ignore or remove her because of the open plan nature of my part of the house.
I have a cleaner who come in three times a week and after the first five minutes of excited greeting she settles down and ignores her. The same thing applies to other visitors, its just the first greetings of jumping, mouthing and high pitched yelps that are so hard to deal with. Being elderly and rather slow in my reactions does not help her to keep calm. particularly when tradesmen call.
Carra does understand Come, Sit, Stay, OK, and No but does not always respond to the commands I need to be able to reinforce them.
Any further suggestions would be most welcome. Is it possible to get a hard copy of your books rather than have thm on disc?
Posted by KOPsarah
Oct 17, 2009
Hi again and thanks for the extra detail,
It sounds as though you just need to work on her responses to visitors. I really think the time out technique will work for your dog if you can find a place to give her time out in. Can you use a bathroom or laundry room? You can then practice with your families help by simply having one of them knock on the door as if they are a visitor and then treating her for being calm and giving her time out as soon as she is not calm. You can practice this several times a day until people coming home or visiting are no longer a cue for her misbehavior. As for a hard copy of the books as far as I am aware this is not available but I will enquire and let you know if it is in fact possible, otherwise you could consider getting it printed off and bound at a print shop.
Posted by JeanH
Oct 17, 2009
Thank you Sarah for your reply. At the risk of sounding difficult the only room that I could shut her in is my upstairs bath room and because as soon as there is a knock at the door she is so hyper I could not get her up there. Is there any way in which I can control this instant barking frenzy should she spot a visitor approaching through a window, hear a car come into our drive or a knock at the door. I feel there has to be something before the time out system because she is impossible to catch to place her in a quiet area.
Posted by KOPsarah
Oct 24, 2009
Hi again
Hopefully this alternative will help. Getting a head collar such as a halti would really help as it will give you full control of her without any physical effort and without having to pull and fight against her. Have her on the lead and halti and have someone from your family knock on the door pretending to be a visitor. As soon as she reacts shake a can with some coins or nails in it to make a loud noise and surprise her then ask her to sit and when she does give her a treat and lots of praise. This is the alarm/no-redirect method and is a useful alternative if time out is not a possibility. Once you have worked on the signal of knocking on the door ask them to help you practice desensitizing her to the sounds of cars driving into the driveway. This will take many regular sessions but you should soon see improvements. As she gets better you can practice without the head collar and lead. The general idea is to make listening to you much more interesting and rewarding than worrying about noises.

Use the same method when actual visitors are coming, if you do not know they are coming beforehand you will obviously not be able to have her on the lead and head collar but you can still use the can surprise and redirect her with a command and treats and praise.

Hopefully this method will be more suited to your situation, let me know what you think.
Posted by JeanH
Oct 25, 2009
I will get together with my family and see what I can achieve and let you know how I get on.