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Feeling stressed about my dog's behavior (LONG)

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
We rescued Bob, a 3-4yo lhasa apso/shih tzu mix (we think), 4 months ago. We adopted him from the rescue group I used to foster for. His foster mom had him for 3 months before we adopted him. She told us that he's housetrained, crate-trained, and didn't have any behavior issues that she knows about. He's really cute, likes everyone, is affectionate and playful, and hardly ever barks.

He was very well-behaved for about the first month. He did have a few accidents in the house, but we expected that. It seems that over the past few months, his behavior is getting worse and worse. He has almost every behavior problem a dog can have!

He never tells us he needs to go outside. I think he must've had a dog door in the past. He doesn't usually pee inside (he does mark occasionally), but he poops in the house a few times a week--then he turns around and eats his poop! :Puke Not all of it, mind you. He leaves enough that you know it's been there. And he smears it on the floor. At least we have hard floors. So, he is totally NOT housetrained. He wants to go out every hour basically, though a lot of the time he just checks out the yard. He is totally distractible too. Any noise makes him forget what he's out there to do.

He has several issues, but this is the one that is bothering us the most right now. We're building a new house and will have carpet in the new one. I don't know how to train him to go outside other than giving him plenty of opportunities. Sometimes we'll let him in the backyard to go, he starts chewing on the door to come in (another issue) within a couple minutes, and then he poops as soon as he gets inside!

Some of his other issues are:

1. chewing on doors if they are shut and he wants in
2. growling when he has a toy and we get close to him
3. growling and sometimes snapping if we try to make him do something he doesn't want to do (get off the couch, pick him up, let us touch his feet or tail)
4. grooming phobia (totally freaks out! growls and snaps and drools all over the place)
5. has crate anxiety--whines and chews on his crate door to try to get out, and drools all over the place (all over himself, soaks the towel inside, and makes a puddle of drool on the floor in front of the crate as big as a dinner plate)
6. jumps on our beds and then faces to wake us up early in the morning

*Bob Conundrum: the chewing on doors, pooping inside, and jumping on us necessitate the crate, but the crate freaks him out***

7. the usual rescue dog issues--pulls on the leash, chews on toys and shoes, food begger, will run off if given the chance, digs in the yard

I really need help with this dog. We love him, but he just has so many issues.
post #2 of 29
Have you consulted a trainer? With his growling/snapping behavior I think its really important to get a trainer involved early on. His rescue group may have suggestions of trainers they have used in the past.

For the soiling issue, I'd totally restart housebreaking- treat him like he's a new puppy who's never been housebroken before. Do you notice any patterns? For instance, my dog is afraid of thunderstorms, but not majorly (she will hide, but does not exhibit any over the top anxiety) If I send her out in the rain, she is likely to ask to come right back in, and then go someplace in the house when she cant hold it anymore rather than going out into the rain. Since I know this, I try to send her out BEFORE a storm comes. If its a long storm, I'll go outside with her on potty breaks to make sure that she actually goes. Also, she has a preferred spot for pottying in the house- a room that we rarely use and thus is quiet, out of the way, and rarely checked. We recently put a barrier across the entrance to that area- problem solved. Since that went up, we have had no more accidents in the house and its been a few months.

For chewing on door frames, buy some bitter apple spray or Fooey. Spray it on your door frames, reapply frequently (I believe the directions specify twice a day) These sprays taste bad and that will discourage many dogs from chewing. Sometimes you have to try a few "flavors" to find one your dog dislikes. This will also work for chewing on shoes/toys etc. Although, it sounds like the bigger issue is separation anxiety, so even a bad taste may not deter him from trying to get to you.

For the crate thing, some dogs respond better to having a larger area- they're ok with being closed up in a room for instance, but not a crate. Some do better with a dog gate than a closed door etc. Would he climb a gate? He might try gating him into the kitchen or mud room. Then he can still see you, but he's confined to an easy to clean, safe area.

For his poop eating, there are products you can buy that you add to his food that make his poop taste bad, which will stop the habit in some dogs. I've also heard that pineapple fed to your dog has the same effect.

Really, I think its going to be very important to find a trainer to help. He has serious separation anxiety, and some worrying aggressive behaviors. I wouldn't take advice over the internet on those. Aggression can have multiple causes and its impossible for most people to tell even if they see it first hand which it is. Treating a fear aggressive dog with methods that should be used for a dominance aggressive dog can make the behavior far worse, and vice verse. Does your rescue group have a trainer? Some organizations have a trainer on staff who will work with rehomed dogs in order to keep them in their homes and stop them from coming back into rescue.
post #3 of 29
1. chewing on doors if they are shut and he wants in

Don't leave him out there alone, go out with him on a leash, stay with him until he potties, and then praise, praise, praise. Every single time. It might take awhile, but eventually he will learn that he goes outside to potty, and then gets praises/treats/attention.

2. growling when he has a toy and we get close to him

He is a tiny dog. Take the toy the minute he growls, say NO, and do not engage. Do not let a tiny dog dominate you. Ignore the behavior after taking the toy away. If he tries to bite you, firmly (not aggressively) grab him by the scruff of the neck and remove him from the situation. Do not engage beyond picking him up and moving him.

3. growling and sometimes snapping if we try to make him do something he doesn't want to do (get off the couch, pick him up, let us touch his feet or tail)

Immediate NO, followed by being picked up and put down on the floor, followed by being ignored. Do NOT allow this dog to boss you around. When he does allow you to touch his feet or tail, praise, praise, praise. Make sure he learns to associate it with good things, instead of a fight. A good trainer can help you get through this part, in fact, examining the dog has been a part of every training class we've dealt with. Allowing you to check their teeth, ears, feet, eyes, etc is something that some dogs just have to learn how to do.

4. grooming phobia (totally freaks out! growls and snaps and drools all over the place)

I would consult with a trainer about this.

5. has crate anxiety--whines and chews on his crate door to try to get out, and drools all over the place (all over himself, soaks the towel inside, and makes a puddle of drool on the floor in front of the crate as big as a dinner plate)

Don't put him in the crate. Gate off an area if you need him to be in a safe space. I am decidedly anti-crate, but I do understand that sometimes (if used correctly) it's okay. But if it's not working for the dog, don't use it.

6. jumps on our beds and then faces to wake us up early in the morning

Can't help you there, we get the same treatment from our 200 lbs of dog when they wake up, because they are ready to go out and pee NOW MOMMY NOW I GOTTA PEE, so we just accept it as part of having dogs. DH and I try to take turns with this so that one of us gets a little extra sleep.

Overall, I'd agree with the PP that you need to consult a trainer now. Your house is being run by a tiny dog and that's just not okay.

As for the pooping in the house, a lot of people really overestimate just how long a smaller dog can go before needing to go to the bathroom. Heck, our big dogs can't go more than about 3 hours during the day before they need to go out, and we're lucky if we get 6 hours at night before we get a cold wet nose in the face. Take the dog out hourly, on a leash, wait with him until he does SOMETHING, and then praise the heck out of him. Do it again and again.

You need to keep a closer eye on him too, to keep him from eating his poop and smearing it around.

How much exercise is he getting a day? He sounds like he's got some pent up energy that he could burn, and he might be a little more calm once he does.
post #4 of 29
I have to disagree with the advice to just take the toy and say no as he is little. First off, a bite from a small dog can still be serious, especially if children are present. Second, the dog is not trying to dominate. Most likely he is fearful and anxious, especially when you take in his other behaviors.

Personally I would suggest getting a behaviorist involved. There are pretty many issues here some of which can escalate and become very serious.

In the meantime I would practic nilif. The does not have to be done in a mean way and is not about being alpha or dominating. It is about giving structure and rules and building trust and respect.

For housetraining, treat him like a brand new puppy. Either he is tethered to you or put someplace safe. Gi outside with him everytime and have a party when he goes out there.

For resource guarding, there are some really good books on this, in particular Mine! By Jean donaldson. Basically you need to teach him a drop it command. Start by giving him a low value item and offer a yummy treat. Trade the treat for the other item and then give the item back. After he gets to dropping it when he sees the treat start saying drop it. Eventually you start upping the criteria. Don't show the treat first, then upthe value if the item you are trading for, etc. Go slow and take steps back if needed.

For growling when moved, kind of the same idea. You need to teach off or move. If he is on the couch, you can toss a treat to the floor where he will hop off to get it. Add the cue off or move.

Obviously these are pretty simple explanations I have given here but they are a starting point.

How much exercise is he getting? What kind of training are you doing with him? What kind of classes has he been in?

And finally, has he had a complete vet check to rule out medical issues?
post #5 of 29
I whole heartedly agree that you need to have someone meet with you and your new addition in person - aggression is not something that should be handled over the internet and given the wide range of issues you are seeing, having someone in that can observe the behaviors first hand would be incredibly helpful.

A few resources for finding a trainer:

Association of Pet Dog Trainers Trainer Search - I'd look specifically for "Professional Members" (those with CPDT-KA, CDBC after their names) as they have extra credentials and thus often have more skills for use with tough behaviors.

International Association of Animal Behavior Counselors - look specifically for a Certified Dog Behavior Counselor (CDBC) to find those with the advanced training you need.

You might also want to consider a veterinary behaviorist - they can prescribe medications and those can often be quite helpful in treating severe problems. A god resource for vet behaviorists is AVSAB and ACVB.

For now I would focus on managing the aggression problems to minimize everyone's stress, vs trying to fix them on your own. Management might include picking up all toys and only giving them to him when he is confined, using treats to lure him away from areas you don't want him in/on and items he has in his possession, not grooming him for now (if this is not possible, you might want to consider having the vet anesthetize him, shave him down closely, trim his nails as far back as is safe, and then wake him up to avoid any panic/aggression issues and give you more time to work with him - avoid using acepromazine though as this is just a sedative and will not address the fear, just keep him from acting on it), confine him to an exercise pen or small room when you can't watch him for pottying needs and overnight to avoid the greeting in the morning, etc.

I do have to strongly disagree with SK about meeting aggression with physical punishment - if this dog is acting out of fear or insecurity, which is usually the case in these sorts of situations, punishing him with only escalate his reaction. It is generally best not to fight fire with fire.

I wish I could give you more help, but this is too complex of a situation for me to feel comfortable giving training advice over the internet. I will say that at this stage I would focus on minimizing conflict and maximizing supervision and structure for this dog while you locate a behavior specialist to help you - taking these steps should reduce the likelihood of escalating the issues you described and that is very valuable in and of itself.

eta: greenmagick and I posted at the same time - her suggestions are also very good!
post #6 of 29
Thread Starter 
Thanks for taking the time to read and post. I really appreciate it. I located a certified behaviorist and left a message this morning. I totally understand that this isn't a simple situation and that we need professional help.

I'm starting to regret the decision to adopt Bob. I don't know how his foster mom could have him for 3 months and not know about all these issues. There are other stressors going on right now that make me less than enthusiastic about launching Operation Bob. My grandma was just diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and she is moving from out of state to a facility near me in a couple weeks--I will be her caregiver. I am having knee surgery in two weeks. And we will be moving into our new house in December. It seems overwhelming right now.

Our other dog is a laid-back lab mix who was easy to train because she is eager to please. Bob doesn't seem bothered by our NO! or strong tone of voice--he just looks at us blankly. Maybe that's the Lhasa Apso in him?

Regarding the crate issue: In our new house, we can put a baby gate in the kitchen to keep him off the carpet when we leave the house. But what if he chews on the back door or the wall by the gate in an effort to get out? We have a sunroom in our current house. We could put him out there instead of in his crate, but he will chew on the metal part of the glass doors. He's already chewed the paint off the outside of the metal door (when he wants in from the backyard). And if he's not crated, he'll poop inside.

I would love to give him free run of the house when we go somewhere. When we leave him free, he doesn't chew anything or drool excessively. He doesn't chew on the front door in an effort to find us. But he poops in the kitchen and eats it. So it seems that if we can get the pooping in the house/poop eating issue solved, he won't have to be crated or behind a baby gate. I don't know why he chews on doors when we're home, but doesn't chew on the door when we leave the house.

We'll start the pottying on the leash program immediately. So far he'll pee on leash, but not poop. If I take him out and he doesn't go, should I put him in his crate between outings? Then take him out again in an hour and if he goes, praise him and he gets out-of-crate time? Or should the crate not even be an option?
post #7 of 29
Thread Starter 
The aggression is the bigger issue, of course. He doesn't obey verbal commands and when we try to pick him up to remove him from the situation, he growls and sometimes snaps. We're not even rough with him. We're just gently picking him up or trying to nudge him off the couch. He nipped my son's foot last night and bit his hand today.
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
He hasn't had any training classes that I know of. He gets one walk a day and runs around the backyard (as long as we're out there with him). He has had vet care. The vet said he has separation anxiety and that we might want to consider medicating him.
post #9 of 29
I don't say this lightly, but given all that's on your plate, might Bob be able to go back to the rescue? Dogs with the behavior issues you describe need a lot of one-on-one attention and structure and with everything you're dealing with, he might end up more stressed and thus act out more. Sometimes it's better to recognize a bad situation before it escalates and get out sooner rather than later for the wellbeing of all involved.
post #10 of 29
I NEVER said to use physical punishment, I said to pick the dog up by the scruff of the neck if he was getting aggressive. That is not physical punishment.

He is a small dog and if you are an adult, you CAN remove him from a situation. Your kids should NOT be alone with this dog if he bites and snaps, EVER. They should also not be doing any of the disciplining.

I also fully support the idea of a trainer/behaviorist.
post #11 of 29
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by stardogs View Post
I don't say this lightly, but given all that's on your plate, might Bob be able to go back to the rescue? Dogs with the behavior issues you describe need a lot of one-on-one attention and structure and with everything you're dealing with, he might end up more stressed and thus act out more. Sometimes it's better to recognize a bad situation before it escalates and get out sooner rather than later for the wellbeing of all involved.
The rescue does accept pets back, but I don't know that we're there yet. We'd really miss him. We'd be 60% sad and 40% relieved. (Or something like that. ) I will schedule a consultation with the behaviorist and see what she says after meeting him in person. If she agrees with you, we will really consider it.
post #12 of 29
Thread Starter 

We met with the behaviorist. She was great.  She said that given all of his issues and my history of fostering, he's probably better off with us than most other people who are looking for a dog.  She said most new adopters would return a dog just for the pooping inside and eating it problem.  She suggested giving it a month with some changes and then reassessing.  We're working on getting him to go to his bed on command, so he isn't in our faces and defiantly remaining on the couch when we tell him to get down.  I'm the only one who works on this, though we are supposed to rotate days of training practice.


We're supposed to either go out with Bob or watch him the whole time from the window whenever he goes into the back yard to see if he poops, and give him freedom in the house when he does.  We're supposed to either crate him or keep him shut in the room we're in if he hasn't pooped yet.  I have to admit that none of us are really following through with this.  My son forgets, my husband resents having to do any extra work for this dog, and I just haven't made it a habit yet.  He's pooped inside twice this week and peed inside 3 times.  So obviously what we're doing isn't working.  We're not to let him out so often either, as the trainer feels that isn't helping his housebreaking.  He doesn't tell us when he needs to go outside.  Ever.  I really think he had a dog door in his past life.  Not sure how to train him to tell us when he needs to go outside.  My husband doesn't want a dog door because Bob also digs and gets muddy outside and would track it in. 


He's not allowed to sleep on my son's bed anymore, and we can't play tug of war or any rough housing games with him.  We are following through on this one at least.  And he's not growling and snapping anymore!

post #13 of 29

Usually once they "get" that they need to go outside they will start signaling.  You can also teach him to use bells or something to ring.


Honestly though, if you dont stick to a strict schedule with him now regarding housetraining, he will probably never get it and the longer it goes on the harder it is to stop. 

post #14 of 29

House training- Someone absolutely needs to go with the dog every time he goes out to make sure he goes.  Some dogs just don't like being outside alone.  My dog is one of them.  Take him out first thing in the morning and then every 3 hours (even more if he still goes in the house) and then before you crate or gate him in for the night. 

Does your dog like to play with a tennis ball or a frisbee?  After he takes care of business outside play a few games of fetch with him or just run around with him.  It will help drain some energy while you build a bond with him.  How long are you walking him?  If he is a higher energy dog a longer walk would really help.  I have a high energy German Shepherd and she needs at least an hourvwalk on top of a couple long play times to use up that energy.  Bored dogs with too much energy exhibit all sorts of awful behavior problems.

post #15 of 29
Thread Starter 

We've been consistently watching him when he goes out for 4 days now.  We've only seen him poop three times total.  I think yesterday's poop happened on my son's (distracted) watch.  After he poops he gets free run of the house, but if he doesn't, he either has to be crated or shut in a bedroom where we are so we can watch him.  Sometimes he whines at the door.  He whines and barks in his crate (and wakes me up in the morning although my husband lets him out an hour before then before he leaves for work), and if he's in the room with me, he puts his paws on my bed and whines persistently until I get up on the off chance he needs to go outside and poop.  He never does at that time though.  Grrrrrrrrrr.  So far we aren't finding a pattern or schedule for his pooping.  And he spends about 15 minutes running laps around the yard before he finally poops on those rare occasions.  


My husband is aggravated at having to supervise for such long blocks of time--particularly because Bob usually doesn't poop.  My son feels the same way.  I don't mind that, but I'm annoyed that he wakes me up every morning too early for no reason. 


I can't believe a dog is 3 or 4 years old and STILL not house trained.  The rescue had him for 3 months before we adopted him!  We were told he was house broken. 


This week Bob ate his poop on our couch late at night and my husband had to wash the couch cushion covers before bed.  He was not happy.... 

post #16 of 29
Is he on a feeding schedule? If he's free fed (food available all the time) its much harder to know when he has to go. Also, what quality food is he eating?A high quality food will result in less poop, making it easier to time. For instance, my dog eats on a schedule, a super premium kibble, she poops once a day, in the afternoons. A dog on lower quality kibble tends to poop more (because the food has more fillers) making it harder to work out a schedule.

Also, does anyone have time to take him for a short walk when he goes out? With my dog, a walk acts a bit like a laxative. She might wander around the yard for forever, but if we go for a walk, she has to poop very quickly- generally she goes once, and then again about 5 minutes later, and then she's done. If you're spending 15 minutes watching him run around the yard, perhaps those 15 minutes might be more productive going for a walk around the block? Not to mention your loved ones will probably be inclined to watch a bit more closely, and they'll each get in some bonding time, rather than "I cant believe i have to watch this dog run around the freezing cold" time.
post #17 of 29

Not sure if this will help, but our dog is very distracted even when she needs to go- so, we have to be super sugary, give her lots of "look at the good girl pooping". Makes me want to puke talking like that, but it almost always works.


We also walk her near where she went last and encourage her to walk in circles in the area.


Hope these might help.

post #18 of 29
Thread Starter 

Bob gets fed at about 6am before my husband leaves for work and then again at about 6pm.  He eats Canidae Chicken and Rice.  When it was warmer, my son took Bob for walks around the block once a day, but he didn't poop on the walks.  Our lab mix does every time though! 


The poops we know about this week went like this:


Day 1: 9am

Day 2: 1pm

Day 3: ? (my son forgot to watch Bob during the late morning/early afternoon)

Day 4: 8am

Today: 9:40am and 4:45pm


When my mom watched him over the Thanksgiving holiday, she said he usually pooped by 9:30am and again in the evening.  We've haven't seen any evening poops.


He bit my hand tonight.  He jumped on top of me on the couch where I was laying.  I said, "Come here, Bob" and tried to pick him up.  He reached around and bit my thumb.  I reacted and swatted his butt, said, "No!" and put him in his crate.  He's never drawn blood.  The trainer we saw said she thinks if he had a normal bite (he has a severe underbite), he probably would draw blood.  It's definitely a handling issue.

post #19 of 29

The first two things I'd do on the pooping thing is put him on lead so he can't run around like a nut, and give him a set amount of time to potty outside, none of this walking perpetually stuff. 


I'd also suggest completely ignoring his attention seeking barking/whining if you know he doesn't need to go out.  If you aren't sure, take him out at the first sign of whining, on lead and for a set period of time as usual.  If no production, back into the crate/room he goes.  By letting him whine/bark for a long period and then giving in, you are only teaching him that whining/barking persistently is rewarded.  If you take him out immediately, and then ignore him if he doesn't produce, he should unlearn this behavior pattern.


The biting is concerning as well, but since I'm not there, I can't speak to what to do there other than avoiding situations that might trigger it.

post #20 of 29

I mean this in the best way possible but Bob doesn't sound like much fun for you or your family. While owning a dog isn't ever 100% awesomeness, it should be a lot closer then 60-40 ya know?


I also would never have a resource guarder around children regardless of the size or regardless of the "reason" for the behavior.


There are many many many dogs looking for a home. It sounds like you are good people who need an easier dog-and they are out there!!


In your case I would seriously consider returning Bob and finding a dog that suits your family better. And honestly the rescue had to have some idea about Bob's issues-I have a hard time believing he wasn't practicing some of these behaviors in the foster home. In your shoes I would consider another rescue that temp tests their dogs. When we adopt again we will use a shelter/resuce that temp tests-it is my responsibility as a parent to ensure the best possible match for our lifestyle.


Again please remember that you are not being irresponsible in returning Bob. The safety of your family comes first.

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