8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

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8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by harvey_rescue on Thu Oct 11 2018, 12:43

Hello everyone,

Apologies in advance for a lengthy post, just seeking some advice as we’re determined to successfully settle our rescue who’s having some issues at the minute.

Two weeks ago we’ve adopted a staffy. He’s 8 and he’s gorgeous but there are some issues that need addressing. He was brought into battersea by a dog warden and was found in the streets. We don’t know much about his past apart from the fact that he had badly infected mouth and had to have 24 teeth out. He was rehomed with another family for two weeks and they brought him back as he couldn’t settle with them, did not get on with the crate and wouldn’t engage with them. Apparently he also refused to walk and wouldn’t leave his dog bed.

Since we got him he’s been the most affectionate, loving dog and is a great company. He loves walks and is very good on and off the lead, not bothered about other dogs in the slightest, there are zero issues with recall. My partner works regular Monday to Friday hours and I have shift work which allows me to be home 2-3 days during the week so the dog is rarely left alone for more than 2-4 hrs at a time.

It has been abundantly clear from the start that Harvey has separation anxiety and that for some reason he’s very attached to me. For the first few days, as soon as I left the room he’d either start whimpering or just follow me. He’s only allowed in the lounge, downstairs loo and the porch at all times. We’ve put a baby gate between the lounge and kitchen/diner and another baby gate at the bottom of the stairs (that’s more for the two cats that we have than for him really as they live mostly upstairs where dog isn’t allowed). So he has a free access to all of the downstairs apart from the kitchen/diner at all times. Kitchen/diner is free to him when we’re at home, when we’re out, we shut the living room door. Same for the night. We shut the living room door and go to sleep upstairs (this is a major issue at the minute, more on that shortly).

For the first few nights Harvey slept through the night, either on the sofa or in his dog bed without any issues. He was still very anxious throughout the day though unless allowed to be within touching/petting distance. He would whimper and pant and yelp unless fussed. Our vet suggested Zylkene and he’s been on it for over a week now and it has helped a bit. He’s more relaxed in the day however the nights seem to have become an issue now.

For the past three nights Harvey woke up at 5am, 4.20am and 2.20am and wouldn’t settle. Whining, whimpering, yelling and even barking to the point that neither my partner or me are getting any sleep. Last night it got so bad that my partner slept on the sofa in the living room with the dog asleep in his dog bed nearby. As soon as my partner left for work the dog started his usual whining and barking which woke me up and I’ve also spent some time on the sofa in the morning trying to catch up on some sleep. There seems to be a significant difference in how the dog is around my partner and me. When my partner comes down during the night, Harvey will settle and go to sleep. If I go down, he will not settle, instead he will be getting in my face begging for fuss and attention, whimpering quietly and just being a bit vocal (moaning, panting etc).

We’ve had three nights of broken up sleep and we’re walking dead really.

He’s not interested in any toys or treats, we’ve tried everything apart from bones, pigs ears and the kong toy which we’re getting today. His activities include eating walking and sleeping as he doesn’t know how to play (and we’ve been focused on surviving the last few days so haven’t even started training him in any way).

He eats 2 x a day, Wainwright’s half and half dry and wet. He gets 2 x 30-1hr walks a day (morning and evening) and another two short walks in the middle. When we’re at home he’ll only settle and sleep when someone is sat next to him, as soon as we get up, he wakes up even from a deep sleep and follows us everywhere. He has to have someone in his line of sight at all times otherwise he’s getting upset.

We’re thinking about starting to crate train him to provide him with a safe place for the night as a friend suggested that the area he has free to himself might be too big and overwhelming for him. I’ve read the staffy crate training guide from this forum.

We’re getting some toys he can lick instead of chew/bite as he hasn’t got many teeth left bless him.

I thought about getting the thundershirt as that’s meant to be helpful with SA but I’m unsure how effective it would be in his case, he’s already on Zylkene and I’m my thinking is that it’s effects would be superior to thundershirt.

If anyone has any suggestions on how to deal with the SA and night time dramas that would be most appreciated. When we got him my plan was to let him settle, which he appeared to be doing just fine for the first week or so, and then start training him commands etc once he’s settled. That plan is out the window now as we’re in pure survival mode now, trying to get through each day and night. We’re determined to make it work as all our animals have always been rescues, some of them very challenging, but this one is completely new to us. Thanks a lot in advance if you made it this far!

K


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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by gillybrent on Thu Oct 11 2018, 17:10

Hello & welcome to the forum.

Firstly, congratulations on rescuing an older boy! So many people pass them by.

I'm no expert on SA, but I didn't want you to think you were being ignored. Liz us the one to help here, and I'm sure she'll be along soon.

In the meantime, you'll need to take it slowly, baby steps for now. Does he have a crate now? If so, is he happy to be in there with the door open?

A crate won't solve SA but may give him a sense of safety. Thundershirts are great, but I'm not convinced one would help at this point.

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by harvey_rescue on Fri Oct 12 2018, 09:56

Hello,

Thanks for getting back to me.

He’s got a crate and he’s pretty happy in it. The side door has been taken off so he knows he can come and go as he pleases.

Last night he started whining at 3am and that coincided with me getting up to use the toilet which I thought woke him up. I went down and sat on the sofa without engaging with him or looking at him, he stayed in his crate. I sat there until he settled and went back to sleep and he slept until 5.30am which is the longest period we’ve had following him being upset and then kind of self-soothing. My partner did wake up to find a puddle of wee though which is something he doesn’t do very often.

I’ve just come back from an 1.5 h walk with the dog and he went straight for the crate and is now asleep.

I’ve been listening to some podcasts and it seems that the underlying issue with his SA is that he feels like the leader of our ‘pack’. Admittedly, we fell head over heels for this boy when we brought him home and he had no structure or rules to follow, got his fuss whenever he asked for it (which was pretty much all the time). So I suppose we’ve got to work on undoing the bad habits we already allowed to form, which is the plan for this weekend!

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by gillybrent on Fri Oct 12 2018, 12:42

Don't get sucked in by the 'Leader of the Pack' stuff - it's been disproved!

Whilst you obviously have to be in charge, your dog knows you're not a dog, and so you can't be his 'pack'. All this business about having to eat before your dog, or go through doors first is nonsense. If you want to go through a door first for safety reasons, great, but not because it'll mean anything to your dog! Same with food. I'd rather feed my dog first so that he isn't starving when I eat & so is less likely to beg.

Rescue dogs very often take a few months to fully settle, and they may have set backs every so often. The thing to do is reassure him that you're not going anywhere, and you're not going to hurt him.

Have you tried the Adaptil spray? You can spray it on his bedding, collar, sofa etc (but not directly on him) - it really does work!
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adaptil-Spray-EXCLUSIVE-PETWELL%C2%AE-ADAPTIL%C2%AE/dp/B0743DDKQZ/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1539344552&sr=8-2-spons&keywords=adaptil+spray&psc=1

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by harvey_rescue on Fri Oct 12 2018, 15:15

I asked our vet about Adaptil and he said that Zylkene works much better as he ingests it. We’ll see how he gets on with it.

He seems much calmer today and doesn’t pace around as much so maybe he is settling in after all. It’s only been two weeks since we got him so I don’t think it’s too bad.

He’s been told not to go on the sofas since yesterday and has picked it up quickly and just goes to his bed. Hasn’t even tried to sneak on the sofa when I was out as the doggy camera was keeping an eye on him 🙈

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by gillybrent on Fri Oct 12 2018, 17:43

Why are you stopping his access to the sofa?

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by harvey_rescue on Fri Oct 12 2018, 17:49

Two reasons. One is that when we’re both on the sofa, he naturally wants to sit with us but is always climbing all over and behaves like a lap dog which he is a bit too big for (heavy and pointy elbows-ouch!). And when we’re having a sofa dinner he’s very hard to discipline and not stick his snout into our food, he’s quite a determined chappy! Two is that we want him to use his crate as he is much calmer when he sleeps in it.

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by LizP on Sun Oct 14 2018, 19:50

Sorry for the delayed reply, I've been away.

First of all, well done on giving this lad a home. It sounds like he's had a fairly rough time of it and you have to wonder what his past life has been, especially with his mouth in that condition and untreated.

I completely agree with Gilly, don't get sucked into that leader of the pack stuff. I'd say it's likely to be completely the contrary, that he's insecure and worried. That's what SA is all about, the fear of being alone and not being able to cope.

We have a few info sheets, including one on SA. It sounds like you are already making progress so may well not need it, but it's there if you do

http://staffy-bull-terrier.niceboard.com/t66619-training-and-behaviour-information-sheets

The thing to remember is that he just trying to make sense of where he is and just needs to feel safe. He's been lost, he's been in kennels, he's be rehomed and returned, I can't imagine how confusing that must be. So whenever you have a moment, see it through those eyes and make appropriate allowances, all within the framework of your boundaries.

Although I do let my dogs go where they want, if that's not your life then as long as you are clear, fair and kind, you lad should be happy enough. Just be consistent and he'll learn without too much problem.

I wish you all the very best with him, it sounds like he's fallen happily on his paws and it sounds like you've got a fab dog. Please let us know how you get on!



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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by kittehface on Mon Oct 22 2018, 15:53

Wow, it sounds like you and your hub are such loving dog owners, and I totally remember that sleep deprivation! Be aware that your desire to get it right combined with sleep deprivation can make this all feel very urgent. The good news is you and Harvey are finding a routine and that happens by trial and error. So as hard as this is; it will pass.

It took us a while to get a night time routine with our dog Phantom. He needs a short walk around sunset (he finds evenings anxiety provoking, the Sun set seems to be the time he paces and starts to whine.) We take a gentle walk on a quiet, familiar route, where we can both relax. He isn't allowrd on the sofa while we eat dinner, he is boisterous and will try to sneak food. We do keep a deer antler chew to give to him while we have our dinner, or a Kong, and once we are done, he is allowed some sofa time. This is conditional on him not jumping about, often when he is over tired, he will wrestle and try to play. If he is a little edgy and he has kibble dry food still in his bowl, I will sit and practice commands/catch the kibble with him, he likes this and we can then fuss him and calm him down. Getting him a plastic dog bed by the window gave him a spot to go settle in when we are in the living room that isn't the couch, which reduces the battle for sofa supremacy!

We used crate training in the kitchen he cried the first few nights but got used to it - the trick was to tough out the crying. If he had been distressed and trying to get out, I'd have stopped crate training but now he will happily toddler into his crate and get a treat at bedtime. He has a blanket that smells like me and the radio on, windows closed and blinds drawn. We treat bedtime like it is the most boring thing in the world, no reluctant good night fussed, just night night in a happy voice and shut the door to the kitchen. He knows we go to bed and get up at a regular time and went from getting us up 5 times a night to sleeping ten hours a night quietly. It was worth the first few nights of crying noises.

For soothing, I try to make sure Phantoms walks are moderate, we got into a habit of over exercising him and when he got over anxious about noises/dogs during walks, that upped his level of agitation for hours after. He can get over tired and that makes him behave badly, just like a toddler! We do have indoor games, we play fetch in the hallway or in the garden, we play find the hidden treats or rug a tug with a rope toy. Once a game is over, he gets a fuss, a treat and that is his cue that I am going to do something so he needs to go settle. I might give him a Kong or a deer antler chew. He used to whine constantly, which wound us up and that in turn made him more anxious and whiney. I will put him in the kitchen where his crate us for a time out, or leave the room if I ask him to stop whining and he keeps on. A lot of training him out of It was ignoring it and trusting that Phantom would soothe himself if I gave him a chance. It sounds like Harvey is doing that, which is a really good sign.
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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by harvey_rescue on Mon Oct 22 2018, 17:19

Thank you kittehface and LizP,

I think we have somehow tackled the night time terrors, last week my partner stayed away for three nights and I went completely cold turkey with Harvey. He woke me up almost hourly the first night, whining and barking. I managed to somehow sleep through it with earplugs and white noise on the loudest setting. Second night he only barked once and settled very quickly. Third night he slept through! My partner then came back home and I was working nights and what do you know, Harvey started barking at 5am and my partner felt he needed to let him out in the garden to have a wee... firm words of advice were delivered, rest assured! He tends to sleep through now and will only start barking once he hears us stirring and getting up upstairs. He won’t shut up until we’ve gone down to let him out the crate, something to work on next I guess.

We have noticed a massive change in his behaviour which is a sign of him settling in I think. We’re finally getting the famous staffy smiles out of him! He’s much more relaxed and it takes just a few moments of fuss to make him offer his belly and start trying to peck/play bite which I find so cute. He’s much more confident on the walks and will even go for an independent run around when off lead.

Today for the first time he has shown some interest in playing, he was basically running away from me, stopping at some distance away and when I called for him he ran towards me all happy and bouncy to get lots of fuss when he has arrived in my arms. Very sweet! Next step teaching him to fetch as I think that would tire him out quite well.

We’ve been taking him with us everywhere we go to make him get used to our lifestyle. He had his first day of nanny daycare on the weekend when I was sleeping off a night shift and my partner was at football. He was very well behaved at my in-laws and the cuddles and excitement I got when I went to pick him up were priceless!

He’s just the best dog and has brought so much pure joy to our life, as cheesy as it sounds! I don’t know what’s taken us so long to decide to get him but a part of me thinks we were just waiting for him. Despite the barking at silly hours and his smelly farts, we’ve fallen hard for this boy already!

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by gillybrent on Mon Oct 22 2018, 18:06

Sometimes you just 'know' when a certain dog is right for you. He obviously is, but just as obviously, YOU are right for him!

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Re: 8 year old Staffy rescue - advice on training

Post by Mistys Mum on Mon Oct 22 2018, 20:16

Oh how lovely! What a wonderful update. Gilly is right sometimes you just know. It's so nice he has Nanny daycare too. My parents adore Misty and she stays there when we go on holiday and they all have a whale of a time. Can't wait to read more updates! Well done on the rescue and enjoy him x


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