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Rescue Dog Problems - advice please

downshifterdownshifter Forumite
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I volunteer at a local dog rescue and one of the dogs there is really beginning to get to me and I'm wondering if I'm about to lose my senses by adopting him!! All the dogs are lovely and it's great when you see them go off to loving families. However this one has twice been rehomed and twice come back. I'm pleased that the rescue are now advertising him as having behaviour issues so will only let him go to a home where they are aware of that. I wish they'd done that before but none of us realised what he was like.

He's about 2, a cross with quite a bit of lab in him I'd say. His early life has been spent tied up in a yard with no socialisation, or exercise as far as we can ascertain. He's not vicious at all, I've never seen him bare his teeth, he just doesn't have a clue how to behave. I took him home for trial weekend and the house is a wreck, he's rushed round at chest level, taking in the top of the fridge, cooker, windowsills, over garden walls and so on in one bound! Cushions, clothes, tins of cat food etc, all demolished. But when he's in his crate he's calm, and the same when on a long chain in the garden, presumably because its what he knows. He seems very bright, badly in need of stimulation, watches everything that goes on but wants to attack cars, the cat (who has packed her bags!) and varies between sniffing other dogs nicely to taking them by the throat (no harm done)! He's very strong and has no idea of how to behave on a lead.

I've been toying with various ideas about what to do about him, from paying the rescue for him to go to a specialist trainer so that he can eventually be adopted, or taking him on myself which I'd love - but I know don't have the skills or knowledge - though I do have the time and would gladly spend money on him. I've read about so many options, residential training where owner and dog go, or just the dog goes. I live in a rural area and all the farmers send their dogs away to be trained, they come back well behaved and great with sheep. And I won't even think about electric collars and other things recommended to me. Everyone has their own theories. Dog training classes have been tried but unsuccessfully, he's too disruptive.

Am I daft for thinking he's worth doing something with - either for me or for someone else? I just don't think it's right he should stay at the rescue all his life because some idiot gave him a bad start.

Sorry for rambling, all help hugely gratefully received.



  • FosterdogFosterdog Forumite
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    Most reputable rescues have a behaviourist that they work closely with for situations like this, not necessarily employed by them full time but certainly someone on hand who usually either donates their time freely if the occasions are few and far between or at least offer hugely discounted rates for rescues that are registered charities.

    As much as it is admirable that you are offering to take him on, it doesn’t sound like you have the training skills and background to actually help him. Can the rescue use a foster home for him? Possibly someone will come forward who has experience with difficult dogs and can help with his house training, socialisation and rehabilitation, the rescues I foster for have a number of foster homes on the books who would take on a dog like that (in fact most of the ones I’ve fostered have been the dogs with issues that have needed a lot of work before they are ready for rehoming).
  • thorsoakthorsoak Forumite
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    In well over 50 years of dog owning, I've never met a really "bad" dog -
    badly trained, yes, bad/lazy owners, yes - and its a case of finding the right sort of training to help this poor boy achieve his potential. Would the rescue help by paying some of the fees of a behavourist/trainer?

    It would seem from what you say that one-to-one training would be the way forward, then finding an activity (flyball? agility) that would help his hyper-activity. Could you give him this time commitment?

    Shock collars are a most definite no-no in my view - but I would consider using an adaptil plug-in in a new home, and explore changing his diet, to see if that too might calm him a bit.
  • downshifterdownshifter Forumite
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    Thank you so much for such great information, as a weekend volunteer I don't really know what other services are available, I'll enquire. I'm happy to pay for him to be trained/fostered - whatever it takes even if I don't eventually adopt him. Just to ensure he has the life he deserves with someone else.

    I've had dogs all my life but they came as puppies so grew up in my way - I've never had to undo someone else's 'way' so to speak. I'm semi retired (work from home part time very flexible) so could give him time/country walks and so on. But you're right, I don't have the knowledge or skills. I just wouldn't want to use conflicting styles of training on him and an unskilled person like me might just make things worse for him. When he's not causing havoc he will lie with his head on your lap looking up at you with a 'please tell me what I need to do to make people love me' look on his face!!!:cry:

    Thanks again, need to think a bit about it. DS
  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    Sending off to training camp for a week or two probably wouldn't help. As soon as he gets in a new environment he's going to get stressed, hyperalert and revert to type. He needs a home or foster with people who understand this and won't give up on him when he's a complete !!!! for the first month or three.
    Gitdog was quite similar in some respects - calm and quiet in his crate, but jumping, barking, nipping and creating havoc when out of it. When they're hyperalert sometimes you need to tone things down because overstimulation is counter-productive. I'd second 1/1 training with a trainer who uses only positive methods. But it's not a quick fix and bouncing out of two homes won't have helped - the rescue were a little remiss not to take that on board after the first time he came back.
    Good on you for wanting to do right by him though.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • Soot2006Soot2006 Forumite
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    Sounds like he's not really had a chance. Start him from scratch with good training classes but also a good home set-up. How on earth could he damage a house in a weekend? My dogs will be in restricted area for months and months until they learn house manners, under supervision ... Only when manners are acquired do they get the freedom to roam or access anything that isn't designed for dogs ... Big rescues are a commitment. My GSD x Rottie was a difficult rescue; unsocialised, even aggressive .. In retrospect we didn't have the skills (even though academically I am the Gold Star home for a difficult dog!). But we have the theory, the endless patience, the time, the resources ... and she became the best dog in the world. Not having another 40kg difficult rescue case though!

    Could you foster him and see how you get on with him in the home? Invest some time and money but with a realistic head on your shoulders so that if things don't go to plan he has a better chance of success?
  • bouicca21bouicca21 Forumite
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    My sadly no longer with us rescue used to be terrified of cars too (and bikes). Bikes are easy, borrow one, cover it in treats ... Keep repeating till the fear is allayed. Can't exactly do that with cars, but you can find a Bench (or take a camping chair) and sit by a road with a pack of treats and a clicker and reward as appropriate.

    No advice for a dog that goes mental in the house though, except again rewarding when calm.
  • krlyrkrlyr Forumite
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    Agree that residential training probably won't help as much as you think. Training is often about training the owner, as well as the dog. It might teach the dog a few basics, but it would be a big expense and probably not save all that much work in the grand scheme of things.

    I would also suggest looking at the dog's diet. I imagine the rescue may feed based on donations or perhaps a discounted or low cost food - it could be that the ingredients are disagreeing with the dog and you're seeing the equivalent of a kid on blue Smarties. I'd go for a grain-free, good quality food (perhaps even a raw diet if feasible) - you can find reasonably priced foods on - to see if it makes a difference. Watch what treats he's fed too, stick to natural chews and not processed treats like Dentastix, Jumbone, Bonio, etc.

    Kikopup has some fantastic training videos on her YouTube channel, it'd probably be worth treating him as a pup and starting from basics. Self-control exercises like leave it, down-stay etc, should help teach him to not always act on instinct too. These can be done at home without the distraction of other dogs in a training class, and at no cost too.
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