Rescued Australian shepherd/confidence/housebreaking ideas?

Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2004 08:15 pm
Hello to all. I am happily owned by a wonderful 14 month old golden retriever who calls himself Napoleon. He's a happy, well adjusted young man who's housebroken and obedience trained. A bit exuberant at times but a real love, although I do wish he'd use his teeth less when he's playing with me.

Given my work schedule, he was lonely, and the end of June, I adopted a 3 year old female Australian Shepherd who I named Sydney. I don't know a whole lot of her previous history but I know she had been in the shelter since February, had been badly neglected, and had been previously adopted out once but was returned after being attacked by the other family's dog. She was heartworm and Lyme positive and at least 20 pounds underweight, and completely matted when I got her June 24th. I don't believe she was physically abused but I think she was badly negelected.

She seems to be settling in well, and personality-wise, is clearly much happier...she's got a great big smile, Lyme/Heartworm/mats treated, has gained some weight, is starting to know "sit", and is Napoleon's best bud. She was terrified of being in a crate alone, so we bought one big one, which they happily share every night and when we're not home. We have a fenced back yard that they generally have free run of.

I have taken her to our local Petsmart, and dog parks fairly often, but she still gets nervous almost anywhere except home. She paces, and tends to stick close by my side, or at the <fenced in> dog park, she runs around in a panic and seems to have forgotten her name. When she's home, she is often up next to me on the couch, and clearly, I'm her person. She's very good with my husband and his kids, and is quite timid around our cats, although there's very little interaction between them.....they are intentionally kept separated most of the time.

Besides consistent routine, much love and a carefree, happy buddy, what kinds of things can we do to help her confidence?

She has a weird urinating behavior, too. When Napoleon goes outside, he will go all at once and then merrily continue on with his walk. Sydney, however, goes in little bits and starts, and will give quick little squirts maybe 4, 5, 6 times during a 20-30 minute walk. She doesn't give much warning.....doesn't seem to pick a spot or anything.....I have been really watching for any kind of clues and haven't figured it out yet.....mostly she will just stop suddenly and squat and scoot along. It occurs to me that she acts like she's afraid to go pee. Having been in the shelter for a number of months, she obviously doesn't quite mind peeing where she lives, so to speak. Not knowing when she's done peeing has made housebreaking a challenge....she's had a number of accidents inside, although just pee...never poop. She's been checked for a UTI, found negative but was being treated for Lyme at the same time, so that's not it.

We're going to try to localize one area of the yard for their bathroom and using "go potty" and praising outdoor output. She's never had a cross word spoken to her here for accidents. We just don't quite know how to get her to tell us when she needs to go, and also, how to get her to go all at once.

Is there something we can clean the carpets with even though we don't smell anything? Will obedience school help her confidence or just scare her yet? Any other bathroom ideas?

Thanks for reading thus far.....I know this has been long!
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Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2004 08:21 pm
Gotta think a bit on this, Kristen.

My female dog, Cleo, was adopted at about the same age and with what sounds like a sort of similar background - emotional neglect vs physical abuse.

It sounds like you've already made a lot of progress with her. The odd peeing routine, is, well, odd. Cleo is a bit like that when it's cold - she sort of pees as she's running out and back in. I'm never really figured out how she manages that.

I'm hoping our two dog wizards, patiodog and timberlandko, get here with some advice while I rummage through my materials.
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Reply Wed 15 Sep, 2004 08:50 pm
Re: Rescued Australian shepherd/confidence/housebreaking ide
KristenRN wrote:
She paces, and tends to stick close by my side, or at the <fenced in> dog park, she runs around in a panic and seems to have forgotten her name.

Really watch her when she's out at the park. Is she really in a panic or is she trying to do some herding? I only know of one person that had one of these and they could never break it of herding things (the kids, other dogs, wild geese, stuffed toys). The dog had never been taught to herd but any time there was a group of anything he'd try to round them all up.
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Reply Mon 11 Oct, 2004 10:45 pm
I like your handling techniques and the way you observe to learn... you and your dogs will build wonderful relationships, I think. You have told me a great deal about you and your animals in a fairly short space.

The peeing behaviour sounds like a stress response - it sounds to me like this Shep may have experienced long term containment and has been limited to a confined socialisation. It strikes me that she may not be afraid to pee and actually fearing human reproach - it may instead be other dog related fear. (Not Napolean so much - more the threat of other dogs) This may have developed within the kennels where you mention she spent a long time... If she has remained from Feb til June at that kennel and has still presented in the condition you have described, the shelter (and I use that word loosely) needs reporting.

Dogs are pack animals, and to function together they naturally need access to each other. Kennel set-ups that separate the dogs can have quite an impact on some of them, because they are unable to initiate their usual social behaviours. Especially if they have previously come from isolated home environments. When they are then released into what some handlers like to call the "socialising pens" they can develop some very odd and sometimes even dangerous behaviours - what the humans are actually doing is creating a high conflict situation, which under normal circumstances would never happen. 15 independantly isolated dogs would not normally be confined within a perimeter... and if these dogs have not had any previous contact, problems are naturally likely to occur as they negotiate their immediate pack. That situation is exactly what those lunatics out there do to identify and train fighting behaviors in dogs.

Peeing for dogs (and humans lol) presents a very vulnerable situation. In those group situations, dogs will communicate their vulnerability rather than suggest dominance - does that make sense? I hope so. The 'belly up' sign is one of the more pronounced signs of vulnerability, but there are others. When dogs move about peeing intermittently (male or female) they are communicating with the other dogs. A visiting dog will often exhibit those stop/start behaviours.... It doesn't establish residency or any permanance. It communicates "You are top dog. This is your place - and I'm not here to argue".

Your dog will begin peeing for longer periods, alongside other "establishing" signs. Sometimes, if animals have been kept in confinement for long periods they have trouble establishing themselves beyond the small square they have previously existed in. Kennel confinement suggests she has been used to independant visits (one person approaches) for the purpose of feeding, kennel cleaning or other routine tasks. They have also had to pee in their sleeping quarters which becomes their established marked perimeter.

I imagine you feed the dog? She seems to have established her human association with you easily and well. The goal here would be to slowly desensitise her, by broadening her square, so to speak, in several areas. This will mean you have an increased role to play in "leading" behaviours. You are not "Top Dog" - Napolean clearly is, you are the Lead Dog - and this is an important role within the pack. It is your job to scout for potential problems, or conflicts. Releasing her back into the "conflict situation" (dog park) is likely to confuse her a great deal. You are asking her to do your job, and it is not a job she has any experience with.

To expand her (area of) confidence, pay attention to the square she has already established... I am guessing it will revolve around her mate, her bowl, her bed and the door... begin to expand each of these established situations. Move dog bowls progressively further apart at feeding time... use a rug for sleeping and progressively move it beyond the crate for short periods during the day. If the crate is not a 'neccesity' look toward getting rid of it. Slowly extend her "safe zone" by expanding her access range, open a door at a time, until eventually all doors are open to the yard. Once she has extended her safe area, you can then close main doors and she will begin to communicate her need to go out there. Get others to contribute to feeding and most importantly, stay ahead of her (physically ahead - don't stand at door and watch) when she is peeing. If she begins peeing 2 metres from the door, you move ahead a couple of metres. If she moves on another couple of metres, you do too. If both dogs are released at the same time, Napolean may move into this role...and she will begin to reciprocate.

What you are aiming toward here, is developing lead behaviours. When two dogs work together, the lead dog acts as a signaller. They signal that all is well, and they signal when it isn't. The top dog will protect, respond and advance, but the lead dog signals any potential problems. This is communicated by short yips or quick high barks for attention, short low growls - I am sure you will notice it, as she begins to develop this. You will also notice Napolean responding very much like he does when you call him. Right now, you are the lead dog, so keep that communication in mind when taking her out. Any quick words or sounds can be interpreted as a signal to retreat.

Also her name may be worth mentioning... SYDney. As much as I love the Aussie aspect.. You have chosen a name that is very close to a command (SIT) and may confuse her retreat and advance responses... this may contribute to problems when out in the park and she doesn't seem to respond. Asking a dog to sit in such a situation, takes a lot of trust from within the partnership.

I have no doubt you will end up with a great dog, and I hope some of these observations prove helpful. My current Shep came from a lovely couple who just showered her with constant attention, but she spent two years in a city apartment block living in a small yard that measured about 12x8m with 6 foot high wooden fences. They were moving to the states (from Aus) and wanted somewhere for her with a 'bit more space'. She seemed happy enough when there, but when she came out to the farm, she was totally lost and it has taken a long time for her to learn to socialise with other dogs, people and numerous other animals and slowly find her place.

Obedience training techniques would definately help, but I would probably suggest you do this at home - before heading off to join a school situation. Eventually, it would be a very good way of leading her into social situations, I would think.

I hope some of this is helpful,
All the best,
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Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2011 11:27 pm
I understand you posted this a while back. I have recently adopted a min shephard as well. I have noticed her herding behavior. My trainer said that is nothing I will be able to stop. If anything, she jokes, it could be a good thing to keep my kids in line when I am cleaning, LOL. Any how, she seems to do real good about using the bathroom outside. The only problem is she goes to the bathroom on my kids bed for some reason. She never used the bathroom on my bed until tonight. I don't understand why she did this, unless it is out of retaliation against me. Sometimes I get so busy I forget she is there. If you have any advise, it would be greatly appreciated.
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Reply Fri 29 Apr, 2011 12:24 am
I was going to answer the first part of this, then realized it was seven years old so won't. If the dog is a shelter dog, she was probably spayed while she was there. Spayed females often don't produce sufficient estrogen, and when the estrogen level falls too low they can become incontinent--they are physiologically unable to stop leaking, It's not their fault and they're not trying to make a point. I had a malamute this happened to (and my mother, who had the same problem in her eighties). She slept on the bed until then, and it was awful until the vet thought to mention the possibility of the condition, which took her months. If this is the problem you can give them pills which will cut it WAY down (this was 30 years ago--I'm pretty sure it was estrogen deficiency, but it was long ago--ask your vet about it).
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