Hi again. Another noobie question. You have no idea how much it helps me to read these responses, so thanks for being patient with my constant noobie questions.
So. My 3-year-old GSD I adopted about 2 months ago has developed some new discouraging behaviors and I wonder if it's because she realizes I'm soft and is manipulating me.
I am trying to be consistent and strict with the rules I am enforcing around the house and during walks: no pulling on leash, no jumping on furniture, etc. etc. I make her sit before we go on walks, before I let her out the door, before I let her back in (I guess that's called Nothing In Life Is Free?), she has to go into her crate before I feed her (which she actually started doing on her own--must have been trained that way). We do little training sessions several times a day and during walks where I have her sit, down, stay, etc. Her obedience seems generally really good.
When something scares her, she gets SO cowardly and pathetic and I feel the need to rush to comfort her; for instance, yesterday I was doing some kickboxing in the sunroom (watching a DVD on an old laptop), and she came in to check on me and tripped over the computer cord, I jumped forward to catch the computer before it fell, and after that she was PETRIFIED of the computer cord--would not come back into the sunroom until I put it away.
So anyway. The stuff that's worrying me now....she's stopped eating her breakfast because she wants me to put wet food on it. That doesn't worry me too much, because I'm not going to give in. She got spayed last Tuesday and I wanted her to eat after that so I was putting tiny little bits of wet food to entice her (like...TINY little bits, maybe 3-4 little wet food meat chunks). I've been trying to wean her off of that. So now she won't eat when I initially give her kibble, but then she'll stare at me for a bit, give up, and go eat maybe 1/2 of it. If she doesn't finish after 10-15 minutes, I take it away. I figure when she gets hungry enough she'll eat it.
But what REALLY bothers me now is what she does when I leave for work. She used to be totally fine when I'd leave her in her crate, no whining, no barking. I freeze a Kong with wet dog food and some treats, and she'd be all over that. But the last couple days, she goes willingly into her crate (I assume because she knows a yummy treat is coming), I leave the Kong, she starts eating, I close the door and putter around for a couple more minutes, but then when I actually head toward the door she barks. Like...LOUD, demanding, barks that actually scare the crap out of me with how loud and sudden they are. So I ignore it, leave anyway, and sometimes stand outside the door and listen to her bark for a few minutes.
I assume she stops eventually because when I get home after such escapades, the Kong is empty and she seems fine, like she's been sleeping. But...do you think she does this because she's trying to manipulate me into...something? Or because she's developing separation anxiety? The latter scares me to death because SA, if she develops it, is a deal-breaker for me--I won't be able to keep her if she has SA because I have a full-time job and she MUST be able to be alone for up to 8 hours per day.
What should I do? Keep doing this routine and hope she eventually gets used to it? Just so you know, yes, she is always walked just before this (and poops and pees) so I know she doesn't have to go to the bathroom. She is fed, she has had water (I don't leave water in the crate). She is still wearing the inflatable doggy donut to keep her from licking her spay stitches (which come out tomorrow), so maybe that's throwing her off? But she sleeps in her crate just fine at night, never whines at all...and it's in a different room from me.
Any insight would be appreciated. I know that I overthink everything and worry a lot about doing right by this dog, and maybe she's picking up on that. All of my friends are telling me I'm worrying unnecessarily but I can't help it. I just dread that I'm going to come home one day and she'll have broken her teeth trying to get out of the crate, or killed herself somehow in panic.
Am I a Type A, somewhat control-freaky, anxious person? YES....I already know that. :-)
In two months, just eight short weeks, this dog has had a ton of crap tossed at her. People adopt adult dogs because they don't want to deal with puppies, and that's all good. However they still need time to adjust and learn. Keep in mind that dogs act largely by reading body language and expressions and based on past experience they anticipate and offer behaviors that have worked.
Her behaviors are shaped by previous experience, she does not have a past with you. She is scrambling to understand what you expect and act accordingly and you are moving full steam ahead which puts her in the position of constant anxiety because she isn't being given time to learn.
To add to that she was spayed recently and was trying to keep up while being sore and tired and generally feeling like garbage. Imagine starting a new job that you have no experience at and having major surgery a week later and being expected to be in the office the next day.
My house rules are always in play, from minute one of a new dogs life with me. EVERYTHING else can wait. I learn about them, they learn about me. For at least a month. At least, because some dogs need more time. We don't meet people, go places, train or do anything hard. They learn that my house is not a toilet, that food on plates is mine no matter where the plate is, that when I say move I don't mean wiggle your butt or roll over. They learn that fences mean stop whether you can jump them or not, that gates mean stop even when open, that garbage belongs to the garbage man and you cannot pee on anything that's mine including each other. They learn that I don't pet jumping dogs and I don't respond to barking dogs.
More importantly they learn that I will always provide food and comfort, that even when I leave I will come back and that I will never hurt them even if I am furious at the cable company or yelling and jumping around when the Bruins score. I don't alter my behavior and I don't expect them to get a PhD in a day.
SA is not something dogs are born with it's something they learn, and we teach them. Put her in her crate with a kong and a see ya and leave. Don't rush to let her out when you return. I walk in, put my crap away, change my clothes and then let the dog out. And we don't fuss and carry on, I open the crate and say hi then we head outside.
All those things we learn in the first few weeks or months? Those are the basis of everything that I need them to learn and everything that I teach them will stem from those early lessons.
Relax. Let her relax.