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Old 11-09-2012, 09:35 PM
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Foster with Behavior Problems

Hi everyone,

I need some guidance, and I don't know where else to turn for help. I've been browsing the forums here for about a week, but things have gotten bad enough to prompt me to post.

My wife and I are fostering a dog, George, for a local Golden Retriever rescue. He's about four years old and I estimate he weighs around 70 pounds. We fostered another dog before this one, and he was a real sweetheart. George, however, has a number of behavioral problems. Also, he'll be in foster care longer term because he's heartworm positive. His vet is waiting until late December to begin his treatments, so he won't be put up for adoption until then.

Here are the problems I'm facing, in order of increasing severity:
  1. George is completely untrained. I'm working diligently to teach him basic commands. We're slowly making progress. After one week together, he now knows "sit" and has almost mastered "down." I'm hoping to teach him "stay" and finally "leave it."
  2. George is not neutered, so he's... "sexually frustrated." I read that this can be a dominance thing too. He likes to satisfy his "frustrations" on furniture, and sometimes people. We immediately pull him off people and give him a stern "no," but he isn't deterred. The rescue says he won't be neutered until his heartworm treatments are done.
  3. George is desperate for attention. Always. He seems to do well when we leave him home alone, but he is constantly at our sides begging for either attention or food. I'm not really sure how to break him of this habit. When he begs for attention, I found that ignoring him is the only way to get him to settle down -- but it takes him a while to get the hint. When he begs for food, I don't know what to do other than lock him in another room.
  4. George's prey drive is really strong and we have an indoor cat. We've had to keep the two separate since George first came here. I've been giving them limited, supervised time together, but George is just too aggressive. He doesn't just roughhouse, he tries to bite the cat every chance he gets. Consequently, I've had to hold him by the collar or keep him on his leash whenever I give them "limited interaction time."

    I never would have considered doing such a thing before we got George, but my wife and I bought him a muzzle earlier today. I thought he would learn to stay away from the cat as long as he couldn't bite. Unfortunately that didn't happen. He immediately backed the cat in the corner and tried slamming him against the wall, all before getting scratched on the nose. I felt awful after this exercise... all it did was terrify our cat and give George a bloody nose.

    The muzzle was the last idea I had. Of course he doesn't respond to voice commands, distractions (by any of his favorite squeaky toys), or even physical reminders (a swift tug on the collar, etc.). Our last Golden foster was so gentle with the cat, and our pet dog before that was too. I don't want to give up on George, but I don't know what else to do.

I don't think his behavior is his fault. Given how he acts and his heartworms, it's evident that he was neglected. Nonetheless, his behavior isn't acceptable. Besides making our lives more difficult, I'm worried it will be more difficult for him to find a permanent home. Do you have any advice for us? Thank you!
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
George is not neutered, so he's... "sexually frustrated." I read that this can be a dominance thing too. He likes to satisfy his "frustrations" on furniture, and sometimes people. We immediately pull him off people and give him a stern "no," but he isn't deterred. The rescue says he won't be neutered until his heartworm treatments are done.
Okay - mounting is also a way that stressed and anxious dogs blow off steam. Or it's what they do when over-excited and hyped up. Especially if they were not trained early on not to mount things. It's tougher dealing with the behavior when the dog is an adult and never was trained.

Keep in mind it's not just a sexual type thing. And be patient.

If he's mounting people, dogs, furniture, laundry piles, blankets, his bed, toys whatever else looks mountable... distract him and train him to calm down.




Quote:
George is desperate for attention. Always. He seems to do well when we leave him home alone, but he is constantly at our sides begging for either attention or food. I'm not really sure how to break him of this habit. When he begs for attention, I found that ignoring him is the only way to get him to settle down -- but it takes him a while to get the hint. When he begs for food, I don't know what to do other than lock him in another room.

Again - this is an anxiety and insecurity thing. And remember these dogs don't really do well having long periods of being isolated and alone. It builds up their anxiety and excitement levels when you are home, and there is probably a little seperation anxiety going on. This poor dog's life has been messed up and he's gone through a lot of changes.



Quote:
George's prey drive is really strong and we have an indoor cat. We've had to keep the two separate since George first came here. I've been giving them limited, supervised time together, but George is just too aggressive. He doesn't just roughhouse, he tries to bite the cat every chance he gets. Consequently, I've had to hold him by the collar or keep him on his leash whenever I give them "limited interaction time."
Keep him on leash and put up baby gates or give the cat perches to stay out of the dog's reach.

We have a cat who ENJOYS roughhousing with our dogs. The benefit when I brought Jacks home was it stopped our cat from harassing my older dog.


Quote:
I never would have considered doing such a thing before we got George, but my wife and I bought him a muzzle earlier today. I thought he would learn to stay away from the cat as long as he couldn't bite. Unfortunately that didn't happen. He immediately backed the cat in the corner and tried slamming him against the wall, all before getting scratched on the nose. I felt awful after this exercise... all it did was terrify our cat and give George a bloody nose.
You know, reading this tells me that you may not be the right foster for this dog. It's clearly giving you anxiety, and you were not prepared possibly for a "busy" and anxious dog.

Do not feel like you are a failure if you turn him back to the rescue and give him a chance to go to other fosters who have dealt with an anxious dog like him.

And this is also a way you can provide information to the rescue regarding this dog and the homes he would do best in.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul_S View Post
Hi everyone,

I need some guidance, and I don't know where else to turn for help. I've been browsing the forums here for about a week, but things have gotten bad enough to prompt me to post.

My wife and I are fostering a dog, George, for a local Golden Retriever rescue. He's about four years old and I estimate he weighs around 70 pounds. We fostered another dog before this one, and he was a real sweetheart. George, however, has a number of behavioral problems. Also, he'll be in foster care longer term because he's heartworm positive. His vet is waiting until late December to begin his treatments, so he won't be put up for adoption until then.

Here are the problems I'm facing, in order of increasing severity:
  1. George is completely untrained. I'm working diligently to teach him basic commands. We're slowly making progress. After one week together, he now knows "sit" and has almost mastered "down." I'm hoping to teach him "stay" and finally "leave it."
  2. George is not neutered, so he's... "sexually frustrated." I read that this can be a dominance thing too. He likes to satisfy his "frustrations" on furniture, and sometimes people. We immediately pull him off people and give him a stern "no," but he isn't deterred. The rescue says he won't be neutered until his heartworm treatments are done.
  3. George is desperate for attention. Always. He seems to do well when we leave him home alone, but he is constantly at our sides begging for either attention or food. I'm not really sure how to break him of this habit. When he begs for attention, I found that ignoring him is the only way to get him to settle down -- but it takes him a while to get the hint. When he begs for food, I don't know what to do other than lock him in another room.
  4. George's prey drive is really strong and we have an indoor cat. We've had to keep the two separate since George first came here. I've been giving them limited, supervised time together, but George is just too aggressive. He doesn't just roughhouse, he tries to bite the cat every chance he gets. Consequently, I've had to hold him by the collar or keep him on his leash whenever I give them "limited interaction time."

    I never would have considered doing such a thing before we got George, but my wife and I bought him a muzzle earlier today. I thought he would learn to stay away from the cat as long as he couldn't bite. Unfortunately that didn't happen. He immediately backed the cat in the corner and tried slamming him against the wall, all before getting scratched on the nose. I felt awful after this exercise... all it did was terrify our cat and give George a bloody nose.

    The muzzle was the last idea I had. Of course he doesn't respond to voice commands, distractions (by any of his favorite squeaky toys), or even physical reminders (a swift tug on the collar, etc.). Our last Golden foster was so gentle with the cat, and our pet dog before that was too. I don't want to give up on George, but I don't know what else to do.

I don't think his behavior is his fault. Given how he acts and his heartworms, it's evident that he was neglected. Nonetheless, his behavior isn't acceptable. Besides making our lives more difficult, I'm worried it will be more difficult for him to find a permanent home. Do you have any advice for us? Thank you!
1. Keep working on the training, you are doing a good job. I would add settle on a mat to the things you are working on. You can use this command once he knows it to send him to his mat when he is being too clingy or begging for food.


2. Please have a serious discussion with your rescue about going ahead and having him neutered now. He will be fully recovered before he starts heartworm treatment in December. The vet my rescue uses always does surgery before heartworm treatment. There is a higher risk of clots forming for several months after heartworm treatment and is not a risk you want to run with surgery. I'm sure other vets have the opposite opinion, but neutering him now may also help reduce the humping, there is no guarantee it will.

Using a command like down or sit when he starts doing that will give him another action to do that is in opposition to the humping. Distracting him with a toy or treat to call away, shaking a rattle can (soda can with pennies or rocks in it), or removing him and telling him no are the other options. The best way to teach him not to do it is to catch him when the thought enters his head and stop him before he starts, you have to be watching his body language and see him move that way and redirect him.

3. Please do not ever put your cat and George together again, it is just too dangerous for your cat. George has proven he is not a dog that can live with a cat peacefully, you should also make sure he is not adopted to home with cats.

You are doing a great job with training already, please don't give up on him. He will learn with some tough love and consistent approach, which I believe you are more than capable of providing.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:09 PM
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When I adopted my lab as an adult, I wasn't sure how he would be with my cats. Luckily he did turn out to be fine, but before I knew that I kept him on a leash at all times. For the first few days, I kept him tethered to me with the leash attached to my belt or foot at all times. Luckily he didn't show any aggression towards the cats, so next I kept him on a leash but not attached to me (so I could grab him quickly). I kept that up for a few weeks. Also, I NEVER left them alone together for several months. ANYTIME I wasn't home, the cats were safely locked up in my bedroom.
I'd suggest doing something similar. Also, make sure that the rescue knows he should go to a home without cats.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:09 PM
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Using a command like down or sit when he starts doing that will give him another action to do that is in opposition to the humping. Distracting him with a toy or treat to call away, shaking a rattle can (soda can with pennies or rocks in it), or removing him and telling him no are the other options. The best way to teach him not to do it is to catch him when the thought enters his head and stop him before he starts, you have to be watching his body language and see him move that way and redirect him.
Um... if the dog is stressed out of his mind and the mounting and frenetic and clingy behavior is how he is dealing with his uncertainty and anxiety... shaking cans is probably going to freak him out even more.

Best to be calm and train him to be calm.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:13 PM
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"tells me that you may not be the right foster for this dog"

I couldn't disagree with this statement more. I think you're doing great so far and you will continue to do great. Mylissyk has given you some great advice. I've had many adult dogs and I believe you can teach them.
Good luck to you, don't give up ♥
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Megora View Post
Keep in mind it's not just a sexual type thing. And be patient.

If he's mounting people, dogs, furniture, laundry piles, blankets, his bed, toys whatever else looks mountable... distract him and train him to calm down.
Like I suspected, it's not always sexual. We'll stay the course and try our best to dissuade and distract him when he does this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Megora View Post
Again - this is an anxiety and insecurity thing. And remember these dogs don't really do well having long periods of being isolated and alone. It builds up their anxiety and excitement levels when you are home, and there is probably a little seperation anxiety going on. This poor dog's life has been messed up and he's gone through a lot of changes.
I agree, it looks like he's had a tough life, but he's almost never alone now. I work from home, so we're always together. Nonetheless, he still craves attention. Our last foster also hated being alone, but he was content laying at my feet and just being in the same room. George needs more active, as opposed to passive, attention.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Megora View Post
Keep him on leash and put up baby gates or give the cat perches to stay out of the dog's reach.

We have a cat who ENJOYS roughhousing with our dogs. The benefit when I brought Jacks home was it stopped our cat from harassing my older dog.
That's exactly what we've been doing. We use a baby gate to keep them separate, but like I said, George wants to bite the cat -- it's not just roughhousing. I thought maybe he was frustrated because we weren't letting him get close enough to investigate the cat on his own terms, but no matter what I try, he still tries to bite the cat.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Megora View Post
You know, reading this tells me that you may not be the right foster for this dog. It's clearly giving you anxiety, and you were not prepared possibly for a "busy" and anxious dog.

Do not feel like you are a failure if you turn him back to the rescue and give him a chance to go to other fosters who have dealt with an anxious dog like him.
I've suggested this to the rescue, but I was told they don't have any other foster families available. It's very possible that I'm misinterpreting him, but he doesn't seem anxious. He seems like a very happy dog, he's just got too much energy and a strong prey drive! Furthermore, I feel like perhaps I'm perhaps George's best bet -- I'm patient with him and he doesn't have to stay home alone while I'm at work.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mylissyk View Post
1. Keep working on the training, you are doing a good job. I would add settle on a mat to the things you are working on. You can use this command once he knows it to send him to his mat when he is being too clingy or begging for food.

...

Using a command like down or sit when he starts doing that will give him another action to do that is in opposition to the humping. Distracting him with a toy or treat to call away, shaking a rattle can (soda can with pennies or rocks in it), or removing him and telling him no are the other options. The best way to teach him not to do it is to catch him when the thought enters his head and stop him before he starts, you have to be watching his body language and see him move that way and redirect him.

3. Please do not ever put your cat and George together again, it is just too dangerous for your cat. George has proven he is not a dog that can live with a cat peacefully, you should also make sure he is not adopted to home with cats.

You are doing a great job with training already, please don't give up on him. He will learn with some tough love and consistent approach, which I believe you are more than capable of providing.
Thank you so much for the advice and kind words of encouragement. You've given me some good things to try out. I will definitely recommend that whoever adopts George not have a cat, or even small dogs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mylissyk View Post
2. Please have a serious discussion with your rescue about going ahead and having him neutered now. He will be fully recovered before he starts heartworm treatment in December. The vet my rescue uses always does surgery before heartworm treatment. There is a higher risk of clots forming for several months after heartworm treatment and is not a risk you want to run with surgery. I'm sure other vets have the opposite opinion, but neutering him now may also help reduce the humping, there is no guarantee it will.
I read something similar, and I think I will suggest that the rescue ask George's vet. I had some questions for his vet before, and the rescue was happy to accommodate me before.

Last edited by Paul_S; 11-09-2012 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:22 PM
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When I adopted my lab as an adult, I wasn't sure how he would be with my cats. Luckily he did turn out to be fine, but before I knew that I kept him on a leash at all times. For the first few days, I kept him tethered to me with the leash attached to my belt or foot at all times. Luckily he didn't show any aggression towards the cats, so next I kept him on a leash but not attached to me (so I could grab him quickly). I kept that up for a few weeks. Also, I NEVER left them alone together for several months. ANYTIME I wasn't home, the cats were safely locked up in my bedroom.
I'd suggest doing something similar. Also, make sure that the rescue knows he should go to a home without cats.
Thank you for the advice. That's currently what we're doing, but George isn't showing any signs of improvement. We first got our cat thirteen years ago, and we had a four year old dog at the time. Introducing them was a slow process, but they were relatively at ease with one another after two weeks. They certainly made progress after one week.

When I try to give George "supervised interaction time" with the cat now, almost nothing breaks George's focus on the cat. He freezes like a statue and stares, and if you let your guard down, he'll lunge and bite.

We have relatively large rooms, and the cat doesn't mind being alone, so we usually lock him in one of the bedrooms with his litterbox, food and water during the day. George gets to stay with me. At night, we switch; George sleeps on the floor in our room, and the cat gets the run of the house then.

The few times no one is home, the cat definitely stays behind a closed door.
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Old 11-09-2012, 10:22 PM
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THANK YOU for fostering. We need more people as committed as you that's for sure!

The advice you were given above is great.

I don't really see anything in your post that I would necessarily see as very unsual for a dog who is confused, untrained and a naturally anxious dog. I once had an excellent article that I give out to new fosters that explains the natural curve of behaviour that rescues go through but when we stopped allowing non-SPCA materials to be handed out I lost track of where I got it from. Anyways, it shows the types of behaviours you might see at different points of fostering, especially with more intense dogs (I have one of those myself!).

Wearing a muzzle can be helpful in certain situations but remember that if a muzzle is not intended for use for extended periods. In fact, in some areas it is considered cruelty if done for more than a couple of hours at a time.

Dogs with high prey drive really should not be housed with cats. However, sometimes dogs kept outside have just never learned to live with cats and can come around. Sometimes they're just not sure about the cat and conditioning can help. It must be really stressful for your cat either way. If this doesn't start improving soon I would move him to another foster home.

Have you tried massage or a thundershirt? I would definitely do both with a dog like this.
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