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Old 05-29-2014, 07:59 AM   #1 (permalink)
Bob_McBob
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Default At my wit's end

I work at home and spend almost every waking hour with my dog. He is crated at night, but otherwise goes everywhere with me in the car in a caged off section. We go walking for hours, we go to fields and play fetch and intense tug games on a long line, and we do obedience training in sessions and throughout the day, every single day. He gets tonnes of exercise and mental stimulation. I mark behaviours and keep my training as positive as possible and give him lots of dried treats I make for him myself. He is fed raw at a fixed time and does NILIF for everything. I take him for weekly herding lessons after spending a couple of months on basic obedience with the same trainer.

After all this, I feel like a complete failure.

He is 18 months old. I didn't own him until he was almost a year old, but I was heavily involved in his life on a daily basis since he was a puppy. His previous owner pretty much cultivated every bad behaviour you could imagine. He was allowed to run wild. He lived in the country, had a dog door and no fence and would visit the neighbours whenever he pleased. He was free fed more food than he could ever hope to eat and would hide it in the house and garden. He was put in a crate with no crate training and would just cry until he exhausted himself. He spent hours every day freely interacting with numerous other dogs off leash. He had no training whatsoever and would leap out of the car when the door was opened or wander around to the point of frequently knocking it out of gear during operation. He had no leash training and was impossible to walk on a leash when I got him.

He lives with an older female. You may remember me from intact male behaviour issue with older spayed female. I'm happy to report that after an in-home session with my trainer and many, many intense desensitization sessions, he is mostly manageable and no longer attacking her at the door. Aside from that, his living situation is a completely disaster. I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle with training and behaviour modification because he spends his entire life with the one thing he finds more distracting than anything else. When I let him out of the crate in the morning, he wants to get to her. When she barks, he wants to get to her. When she goes outside, he goes wild to get to her. If I'm sitting in the basement with him he will move heaven and earth to get to her if he thinks she might be going outside. His home life revolves around her and the back door.

Even the big back garden here, the one really great place I should be able to spend time with him off leash without distraction, is completely poisoned for him. My neighbours have two huskies who live outside and think he is their number one source of entertainment. He will get into intense fence fights with them any time he's outside without a leash. This has only happened a couple times in the last few months because he's under constant control, but it's frightening to see, and he is so far gone mentally he has to be physically grabbed and restrained to get him away. My trainer said she was surprised he hadn't tried jumping the fence to get to them already. It means I can't do proper training in the garden because they sit there watching him from the fence the entire time.

I've tried crate rotating the dogs, and it's not feasible long term. She has somewhat advanced DM and I have to be careful about his behaviour with her. He is constantly on a collar and leash at home so I make sure he's under control. If it's not a correction collar, he doesn't care and will pull to get what he wants. The slightest reaction from her is an instant distraction for him. We can be playing an intense tug game and he will simply drop the tug and leave, or we can be in the middle of a training session where he's completely focused on me and he's instantly gone, mentally. She's an incredibly vocal and agitated barker and will spend the entire day at the window barking at everything that moves if allowed. She's also quite old and doesn't belong to me, and her owner has very little interest in working on this properly. I can't work both of them at the same time, which usually means the best I can hope is simply keeping him away from her rather than training proper behaviours for him.

I feel like a prisoner at home because everything I do has to be planned around his behaviour with her. He has to be on a leash. I can't sit in certain areas of the house where I can't control him properly. To go outside he has to be on a prong collar so I can control him at the door and under the distraction from the huskies. I have to be constantly aware of people coming to the door because of her barking. Every little scrap of training he does is under intense distraction. He is always on edge and alert. Training is an uphill battle. It's an absolutely dreadful thing to say, but it's like he's in limbo waiting for her to die so he can finally get on with his life. A few months ago I was not far from rehoming him because of the issues in my previous thread.

When I watch Michael Ellis videos about building engagement with young puppies to set them up successfully for good handler interaction, I just feel incredible despair. Sometimes I find a deserted location and we have a really great session free from dog distractions where he is completely focused on me, and it just makes me think about the amazing dog he would have been with a proper upbringing. He was set up for failure from day one and I really don't know how to fix it. I love him and I know he loves me, but he simply has no real engagement with me most of the time. His behaviour is manageable, but I don't know what to do with him anymore. I can probably post reams and reams on the subject because I've barely scratched the surface of how it affects obedience training with him when you have no distraction-free environment.
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