Attention hog and nonresponsive to commands
I have three girls. All rescues:
-Freja: Lab/Pitt mix (3 1/2-4 y/o, fixed)
-Cassie: GSD (3 1/2-4 y/o, intact)
-Phoebe: GSD/mix (2 1/2 y/o, intact)
My husband already had our Lab/Pitt mix Freja when we met. She's about 3 1/2-4 now and is spaid. He also had our male cat Loki who is 4-5 and is also fixed.
Freja was a chronic chewer and (as we lived in an apartment and as my family used to breed labs) I knew most of that behavior was due to boredom and lack of exercise. Shortly before we moved out of the apartment, we decided to foster Cassie and Phoebe. The rescue we got them from would not allow them to be separated as Phoebe is Cassie's only surviving puppy and the two had MASSIVE separation anxiety when they were found to the point that Cassie quit eating entirely when they tried to separate them and Phoebe barked herself completely hoarse.
We knew Freja needed interaction with something her size even though she and the cat got along famously. We fostered the other two to see how she would react to having friends. Freja and Loki's reactions to them are the reason we decided to keep them. The cat took to Phoebe to the point where they would curl up and sleep together and Freja quit chewing almost over night.
We have now been in an actual house with a yard the girls can run in for 2 years and the problem we're having is with Cassie. She and Phoebe are crated together at night. There are still some anxiety issues but only a fraction of what they used to be. We're working with all of the girls on training and I'm having trouble connecting with Cassie. She seems so desperate for attention at absolutely all times. She has broken things in her attention seeking and she simply will not listen when we say "down". The other two dogs cuddle with us while we're sitting watching tv. I understand that that just isn't Cassie's thing. It doesn't seem to be how she shows affection and that's completely fine. But then she'll turn right around and shove her face into mine or my husband's face and paw at our chests and will not respond to "down". When she finally does, her ears are back and her head is bowed like we've just kicked her. She slinks away to her crate with her tail between her legs.
She will also respond when we call any of the dogs names and will persistently ignore the "back" command if I'm trying to examine Freja's paw or get Phoebe to bring something to me. We feel fairly certain that she was abused before we found her and she used to have problems with peeing any time my husband even spoke to her or when we told her "no". She's since gotten much better but I just don't know how to get her to listen. I don't want the only thing she hears from us to be 'no' and 'go away' but she's very persistent and can make quite the pest of herself.
I want her to get what she needs from us but to also learn to listen to us. I feel like we're just not speaking in terms she understands yet. How do I address this? How do I give her the attention she needs while still setting boundaries so that she doesn't think she requires everyone's attention all the time? How do I get her to come when SHE is called and not when ANYONE is called? She's so smart and picks up on training the quickest of the three except in the area of attention seeking. Rehoming is not an option for us as not only are we afraid of the effect it would have on her and Phoebe being separated but we also refuse to give up on her as we made a promise to take care of her by adopting her in the first place. We love her so much and are committed to providing her with a happy, healthy environment we just need some help.
I am impressed by your dedication and how you have improved your dogs' lives. For Cassie, I would try clicker training.
Agree with Marybeth. Have you looked into bringing in a behaviorist? Or a trainer? Having someone with experience work with her hands on would be your best bet. Does she like playing tug? You might try it and let her win and parade around if she'll do so, it can help build confidence and it's also good for building a bond. I would try playing games, walking/running or take a class with just her, keep sessions short if you have to, just make it fun. Hopefully someone with more experience with these circumstance will chime in.
Maybe spend "Cassie time"? Just her, no other animals, 20-30 minutes a day. Hate to compare with kids, but that's what helped with one of my human kidlets who had the same issue.
This has been going on for two years at least? I agree with the others, work on having daily one-on-one time with Cassie. Do fun stuff, and use the time for training. Positive, reward based, to develop a bond. Also, catch her being good, and give her positive attention for that. When she is doing on her own what you want, like lying down quietly, go up to her, tell her good girl, give her a treat and a pet.
When she steps back for a sec so you can interact with the other girls, make a big deal out of it. Set up training sessions where you have the time to go over simple stuff, like her keeping her down while you interact with another dog. Don't wait until there is something you have to attend to, and you can't really pay attention to Cassie being good - set up a session, where the focus is Cassie, even if you are just working on her ignoring you while you do other stuff.
My rescue was an only dog when I got her, and she was very sweet and affectionate - one of the reasons I adopted her, but trying to get her to listen was a struggle - it was like she had no idea that there were certain behavioural expectations from my part. What changed is taking her to classes, and using food rewards to train - it was like the light went on, and she turned into a different dog - happy, confident, more eager to please. Suddenly interacting with me was always a fun game, instead of a conflict of wills.
Mary Beth: Thank you for the suggestion. We got a clicker yesterday that we're going to start using in conjunction with training treats she likes.
Nigel: I would love to bring in a professional but we really can't afford it. Also, we've tried "tug" but she doesn't really seem to understand the concept. She just looks at us like "why are you trying to take my toy away?". I'll let go of it to let her "win" and she just walks away with it. She does seem to like fetch......except for the giving the ball back part. It's a one time thing with her.
Juliem24: We'll give that a try. We've been trying to give them each their own training time throughout the week but we'll bump it up to be more often with Cassie.
Castlemaid: It has been going on for a while but we had more pressing behavioral issues to work on with her. This attention seeking behavior took a back seat to housebreaking, working on the separation anxiety, staying out of the cat box and submissive peeing (which was an enormous problem when she first came home). Now we're finally getting to focus on the smaller issues which we feel less prepared for. Feels kind of backward that we could take care of the larger one's but not the more nuanced behaviors. I'll work on giving her more treats for calm and good behaviors. That seems to be one thing we haven't been doing enough of. We will definitely be taking her to classes once we can afford it.
Thank you all so much for your advice!
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