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Cooper's Mom
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Prefacing by saying, 5 years ago we adopted our golden, Cooper, as an 8 week old pup. He's the best dog we could ever imagine. He's like "one of our kids."

4 years ago, we adopted a black lab from the humane society. Before adopting, we did everything you're supposed to do before getting a second dog: read every book there is, prepped the house, had a dog personality assessment done on BOTH our dogs by an animal behaviorist who deemed both of them good fits for one another, had him meet our dog (they loved one another), and brought him home. He was quiet and meek, and took a lot of time to feel comfortable because he seems to have been a stray for a while.

Flash forward to now: this black lab is a train wreck. He barks at everything, whines at everything, he doesn't listen to commands if he's excited at all, he breaks furniture by running into/over it, broke our plantation blinds multiple times now trying to kill the mailman, broke our screen door multiple times because he won't "wait," brings LIVE animals into my house (aka, oppossums, rabbits, etc) and has FLIPPED my sons car seat, with my son in it. He also tramples my toddler or pushes him out of his way. He pushed my son into a window well once because he wanted to get into the garage first. He doesn't seem to understand what children are, or care, really. He also couldn't care less about my other dog, and has hurt him before as well. He runs over my golden and tramples him too. He even smashed him into a wall once and bruised his ribs to get into the car first.

I know labs are high energy, I know they're hyper. But aren't they supposed to be love bugs too? My golden is such a phenomenal dog, he loves people and watches out for them, he listens and responds. And our black lab is the exact opposite.

One of my best friends is a dog trainer/behaviorist, and she has worked with him many times. And now, it's come to the point where she's suggested we find him another home- because he doesn't respond. He has gone from a rescue to a demanding, very selfish dog.

Has anyone been through this? It makes me despise him, because he hurts my kids and my other dog, out of carelessness. He just doesn't "see" them, if you know what I mean. All he cares about is food. He doesn't show interest in anyone unless he wants food, and then he demands it by barking, whining, pushing.

We've tried to rehome him, but anyone who has been interested, we've told his flaws and they say "no" because they don't want that either. And the rescue organizations in our area have all said once we surrender him, we don't get any more updates, of if he's ok, if he's been adopted, nothing. And I want to know he found a good home, a home where he fits. A home that can love him the way he needs it.

Thoughts and kind advice appreciated.


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Someone once quoted, "your dog's not giving you a hard time, he's having a hard time"....I believe that. When you put things in the context of trying to understand what's happening from the dog's perception, you can start to address the behaviors.

Your trainer might not have the right skill set for handling his special needs and she might also be right about him needing a different home. BUT, before I took that step I would at least want to understand if there are some triggers that happen before a specific behavior occurs. Have you noticed any patterns? How do you correct his behavior? Does he need medicine? I can't tell from your post if you're bonded with your lab or not. If you are, I would suggest working with a veterinary behaviorist to better understand how to work with him.

If you do a search on this forum in the behavior section you might find some suggestions/resources that others have found helpful.
 

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Kristy
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It sounds like he probably needs a lot more strict management than he's been getting. He's had a rough start in life and doesn't have the same temperament/personality as your Golden. Unfortunately, dogs are like kids, they are all individuals and no matter how hard you try to do everything "right" it doesn't always work. The big key is that what is "right" for one individuals isn't "right" for another. (this applies to child rearing which I'm thinking is a translation you can relate to - I have 3 and darn if they aren't all completely different - I thought I had it all figured out with my first child (due to my superior parenting skills of course ;) ) imagine my surprise when the next two kids showed up to show me how unique they were and that they had different needs and I was going to have to run a tighter ship since I had more than one child to use up my time, attention and energy). Same thing with the dogs. You mistakenly thought that your second dog would be an "easy child." He is not. He is going to need to be managed differently.

1) Get out the baby gates and purchase an exercise pen if you don't already have one. Start limiting your problem dog to the kitchen or just a couple certain rooms. My husband built a permanent gate on our stairs to keep my parents' dog from roaming upstairs when she visits and it's been a huge help in my house. Pinterest has plenty of great photos for this. Ask your husband to help you drill some eye bolts into certain places in your walls where there is a support beam and use these to tether your dog so he can be with you but not run roughshod over everyone in his path. He doesn't get to have the same privileges as your Golden because he simply has not earned them. Keep a cheap walmart leash attached to his collar and use it to tether him or control him as needed.

2) Get enrolled in obedience classes TODAY. How many obedience classes have you attended with your Lab? This is important - have you taken him to class and do you put him on leash and work with him several days a week? He came to you has an uneducated baby and should be given the same opportunity to learn and he clearly needs the structure. If you can't get to classes, invest in having a private trainer come to your home and work with you for a few sessions over the course of a few weeks. It's an investment in your sanity and in this dog's life.

3) What have you and your husband been doing to make sure your Lab is getting aerobic exercise on a daily basis? Not leash walking - I mean 5 or 6 days a week, hard work that leaves him panting and tired? Has he been taught a formal retrieve? If he's bringing dead animals inside I assume he has access to a fenced in backyard? He will not go outside and exercise himself sufficiently, it will not happen. He needs someone to make sure it happens with fetch or a similar game. I understand that it is very tough to fit this into the schedule of a busy family but the problem is that you and your husband brought home a hunting dog (hence the dead animals) and he was bred to run and swim all day long as a working dog. Chances are he would be in a better frame of mind with proper exercise. Just like people with anxiety problems or depression issues have been proven to find relief with aerobic exercise, dogs also benefit. There is a big link between him not getting enough exercise and not being able to focus on following directions.

4) Have you discussed any of this with the vet? I would think that checking into anti anxiety meds might be in order if you're at the end of your rope. (For the dog, not for you ;) ) No one wants to use drugs without cause, but if it will save his life by allowing you to keep him rather than surrendering him, I'd say it's worth a try.

Here is a natural supplement that works well, I know multiple people who have used with 'hyper' dogs that have found it helps quite a bit - it's called "composure" https://www.chewy.com/vetriscience-composure-behavioral/dp/42645

I know that you're not in a great place with small children to do a lot of work but it sounds like it's going to take effort to make a change.
 

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Kristy
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My only advice would be to revert to negative reinforcement training. A shock collar. They do work.

Listen, if she puts a shock collar on this dog and starts zapping him everytime he runs into her child or everytime he jumps on her other dog, this dog is going to associate the negative experience with the child or the dog, not the behavior. This means the dog is either going to be be afraid of the child/dog and hide or he's going to lash out at the child or the dog. I really think this is not the way to go in this particular case. I understand your feeling that the dog needs to be made to behave but I have a feeling he's not getting enough exercise to burn off his energy and he has not been given enough structure. Starting out with more training so he has a better understanding of what his boundaries are before jumping in with an e collar seems to be a better way to go. I don't think having someone inexperienced with using an e collar is a good idea in this case.
 

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You could well be talking about my black lab, Joseph!! (without the reactivity). I understand the upset, and the 'helplessness' you feel, BUT he can be helped, he can get better. We lived with Joseph's 'bull in a China shop', food obsessed, behavior for a long time, until we figured out that he needed to 'think', to use his mind, he loves to learn. I referred to him one day as a brilliant child who was bored beyond words, didn't know what to do with himself, so he chose inappropriately, had no self control.

Understand that an anxious, over excited or stressed dog cannot learn, they are not in 'thinking' mode, they are just 'doing', there are a few things you can try to help calm him, Rescue Remedy can work, DAP (dog appeasing pheromones) can also help, 'aromatherapy' - lavender can help, to calm, enable the dog to focus.

The 'turning point' for Joseph was introduction to 'brain games', which also made his food obsession an advantage, mental stimulation was key, ie: 101 Things to Do with a Box | Karen Pryor Clicker Training and a focus for his energy, agility, fetch, find it, working on impulse control - even 'resting' on a mat is hard work for a dog, 'leave it' take it. Teaching tricks, rehearsing and rewarding know behaviors, teaching new skills, all added up to a much calmer, 'sensible' dog but I think (in hind sight) it was the one-on-one attention, focus, and working with him that made the difference for him.

Something to consider is the more they misbehave, the more we withhold our attention, when we ignore their need for attention and guidance, the harder they will work to get it, they 'need' us to pay attention to them. They learn quickly that being 'naughty' gets our attention, being 'good' is not rewarding for them, gets no attention at all. Take the time to look for, notice, acknowledge, and reward the 'good' behaviors that he offers. Will he sit for a split second, reward it, will he lay on his bed, or a mat? reward it.

I totally understand where you are coming from, the others were so 'good', he seemed to be so constantly 'bad',/frustrating, but the more time and effort we invested in him, teaching him 'how to behave' the more often he was 'good', and from 'good' he has moved on to being an absolutely wonderful, easy to live with, best friend.
 

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I would highly recommend checking out Reisner Veterinary Behavior Services on Facebook. They have many links to the latest thinking on how to address behavior issues with your pets. If handled wrongly, to nolefan's point, you might create a dog who bites without warning; especially if you think you are addressing one problem behavior and create another.

I also believe that labs are very high energy and you need to direct that energy where you want it or they will bounce off the walls. When I rescued my golden, I had to put gates up and leash him to me for a few days so that he started to understand the rules of the house and that it's not a free for all. It can be a lot of work, but IMHO we owe it to our dogs to give them the best chance for success.
 

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Have to admit, it is pretty hard to read the - all you need is a 'big stick' advice.
Absolutely punishment 'works' in the short term, to stop the behavior, but it does resolve the reason for the behavior, nor does it teach the dog what TO DO, how to behave, instead, to enable it to avoid the punishment in the first place, and the risk of 'fall out' defensive or reactive behavior increases every time you use it.
There is no doubt in my mind that if I had used 'punishment' to correct Joseph's inappropriate and fear based behaviors, he would have become defensive, aggressive, he would be dead. Instead, taking the time to figure out where he was 'coming from', and focusing on providing him with an education, teaching him the skills he needed to learn, through reward based training, 'capitalizing' on his food 'obsession' and his eagerness to learn, has proven very successful in resolving the underlying issues, and eliminating the 'inappropriate' behaviors by replacing them with 'appropriate' ones.
 

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and - stop comparing him to your Golden
There are four of us in my "circle of friends" who have dogs. Max is the only Golden. The other three are Labs. Zeke is a rescue, with some issues, but he's a lovebug Lab, food motivated, highly protective - to the point where he growled at my husband, in my house, yesterday because he saw Mark as a danger to me. (This was expected and was easily fixed by me hugging Mark and Mark handing out treats.) Then there's Penny, a chocolate Lab, who is skittish around men, runs and plays with Max all day, and is a love bug as well. And then there's Layla. Also known as Batpoop crazy dog. She's a black lab, who doesn't get enough exercise or training, and exhibits some of the same behaviors as yours. Every one of them is different. You can't compare dogs any more than you can compare kids.
 

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I'm interested in understanding whether the behavior you are describing has been the norm since you got him, or recent behavior. There is a big gap between "4 years ago" and "fast forward to now".

You point out his shenanigans, and they seem really disruptive. Does he get enough aerobic exercise? Mental stimulation? Seems like he has abundant energy so I wonder whether that is being sufficiently burned. Not that I subscribe to the Cesar Milan way of thinking in general, but one of the first things he does when he has a problem dog on his hands is exercise them. So tell us a little more about your lab's exercise regimen. Perhaps he needs that aspect to be upped.

Also how much training, formal and otherwise, does he/did he get. I have no experience with rescues thus far, but I can appreciate that there is history that sometimes leads to undesirable traits, so I would expect extra training to be a necessity.

I hope you find a solution, kudos for continuing to try.
 

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Do you have a treadmill? I have a friend who has an exceptionally high energy dog. She taught him to trot ( not run) on a treadmill there are good videos on the safe and proper way to teach this and you cannot leave them alone on it. It has made huge improvement in her dog. She started with 10-15 minutes three times a day and went up from there. Also the games anything that makes the brain engage are an absolute must. Brain games tire dogs out its like kids being in school for hours. If I don't tire my Aussie out every day both mentally and physically he becomes difficult to be around he needs a job needs to be busy and engaged with the games and exercise and training he is wonderful without its like a the energizer bunny on a sugar high not fun :)

You can have the older kids teach him scent games, hide and seek for them for toys use treats to reward but only the good behavior make him work for it.
 

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Flash forward to now: this black lab is a train wreck. He barks at everything, whines at everything, he doesn't listen to commands if he's excited at all, he breaks furniture by running into/over it, broke our plantation blinds multiple times now trying to kill the mailman, broke our screen door multiple times because he won't "wait," brings LIVE animals into my house (aka, oppossums, rabbits, etc) and has FLIPPED my sons car seat, with my son in it. He also tramples my toddler or pushes him out of his way. He pushed my son into a window well once because he wanted to get into the garage first. He doesn't seem to understand what children are, or care, really. He also couldn't care less about my other dog, and has hurt him before as well. He runs over my golden and tramples him too. He even smashed him into a wall once and bruised his ribs to get into the car first.
Re-reading this section, it seems it boils down to a lack of impulse control. You will need to teach/reinforce commands like stay, wait, etc. It will take time and several repetitions and a lot of your patience, but there will be a solution.

Enroll him in an obedience class asap. He may be the most unruly student in the class, but dont let that deter you from seeing it through. The classes will enable you to train him as long as you do it consistently.
 

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First thing you do is get some baby gates. He needs to be restricted so he doesn't have a chance to hurt the kids. They work wonders. Second is you need to check into s better trainer. Third work on exercise. Maybe he could benefit from a agility class or something. Labs are exactly like Goldens. But he needs some extra work.
 

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I am not an expert but I have had a dog with similarities to your dog. My dog, Jack, is not a lab but a black and tan coonhound that we rescued 2 years ago. Jack had been badly abused and had been up for adoption for several years by the time we got him. His only other adoption attempt ended when he killed the adoptive family's cat. Jack was a resource guarding dog, he was hyper active, afraid of strangers (and would shake violently while growling and baring his teeth). His manners were non existent and he was, in short, "unadoptable". To this day I cannot tell you what made me bring him home with us. I had previously had a black and tan coonhound and knew, from experience, that coonhounds, like labs, are highly food motivated. Hence I had a starting point. From the start every single bit of food that went into Jack's mouth came from my hand. Food was never placed in a bowl as Jack needed to learn that the thing he loved most would come from me. He also needed to know that I was "in charge" but that this did not mean I would harm him. Because we had 2 other dogs that I did not trust Jack with I also needed to constantly have Jack within sight. This meant that I purchased an easy walk harness and a 10 foot piece of rope. One end was clipped to the easy walk and the other tied to my waist. I admit that this was not easy, in part because Jack, at that time, was grossly overweight and, at 90 lbs, weighed nearly as much as I weighed. There were times when he would try to go his way and I would clutch a door so that he did not pull me to my knees. I also hired a private trainer who specialised in abused dogs. Yes, it was expensive, but I felt that unless I tried everything I could I was not going to help Jack be part of this family. Coonhounds are smart but very stubborn dogs. They are scent hounds who like nothing better than to track things. So I developed games to challenge Jack. I called them hide and seek. As he became more engaged and was mentally challenged his behavior changed. He learned early on that all good things came from me and that in this house hands did not hit or harm and usually held something good. It has been 2 years. Jack is no longer tied to my waist by a rope, although you will nearly always find him at my side. He has lost 30 lbs. He no longer growls at strangers. He has learned manners. Is Jack "perfect"? No, not by a long shot, but then, I am not perfect either. I have worked with Jack to reinforce behaviors I need from him (ie not hurting other animals or people) and I have learned that there are triggers to behaviors in Jack which are not desirable. I work very hard to eliminate those triggers. Jack will never be at be a "normal dog". His victories, which are huge for him, are nothing for a dog who has not got Jack's background. He is today a very valued member of this family. Find a trainer who specialises in overactive dogs. One which uses positive training. Do not resort to a shock collar. As others have said it will not help and may make the situation worse. Mentally and physically challenge your dog. Since he is food motivated hand feed him. He needs to realize all good things come from your hands. If necessary tie him to you so you can see him at all times. In Jack's case being tied to me where I was home led to more exercise for him as I rarely sit down. It sounds as if you want things to work out with this dog. I hope you can find a way to make it happen. Good luck! PS the "wild" coonhound that I adopted is the beautiful black and tan coonhound sitting proudly in my signiture photo
 

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First, I agree that you have to really wear the dog out and see if he is more behaved then. If he is then you know he really needs more exercise. Second, if the dog is behaving like a puppy then maybe you need to start at the beginning in training again and maybe limiting its access again. You definitely need to be training the dog daily.
 
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