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hey guys, i have an 11 year old keeshond. despite his age, he doesn't act like an old dog at all and has a ton of energy, which leads him to bark at the mailman and act up when im gone (separation anxiety). i have been walking him for years but twice a day and up a steep (REALLY steep) incline doesn't wear him out either, so this week i decided to buy him a backpack because i've heard that this is a good way to make their walks more tiring.

so my dog is 32 lbs, yesterday i put 2lbs in his backpack and went up the incline and back and he still had plenty of energy and was barking when the mailman came around. so today i tried to up it to 4 lbs but on the walk he was giving me a lot of resistance and refused to move several times to the point i had to drag him. i took 2lbs out and he was still acting this way. i wasnt sure if it was hurting him (he wasnt making any sounds if it was) or if he was just being defiant at not liking the extra work but just in case it was a health thing i cut the walk short.

this is the backpack:


the way it sits on him it mostly rests on his shoulders, so i dont think its putting any pressure on his hips or anything, and i am led to believe his actions today were defiance and not health related only because he did weigh 37lbs just a few months ago before going on a diet so he has carried around the extra weight on walks before no problem.

but i wanted to ask somewhere just in case, i mean is there any way to tell if he's actually hurting because he's carrying extra weight like this?
 

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11 yrs is pretty old...if he has never had one on before, it probably feels odd to him. And you bought him a backpack to "wear him out"? You may want to think this idea.
 

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Backpacks can be used to try and tire a dog out a little more than usual but you need to go slow. Backpacks are something that are not natural to dogs. They are bizarre. So when you get a backpack in hopes of using it on a dog you need to desensitize the dog to the backpack. This can take weeks or hours depending on the dog. You start by putting the backpack on him (without buckling anything) and then giving him a treat and immediately take it off. Do this a lot. Then buckle one strap, give treat, then take it off. Then after that, put it on him and buckle everything and leave it on for a little while while giving him a couple treats. Then next time leave it on a little longer. Let him take walks with it empty to get used to the feel.

After all that, then add very light weights. Then slowly, over time, add more once the dog is comfortably carrying the weight he is now. But the dog needs to be conditioned to like the backpack and be physically conditioned to accept more weight. If you just slap on a backpack and throw a bunch of weight in there he has the potential to injure himself.

His balking at the backpack could be a lot of different things including everything from simply not liking the backpack to it physically hurting him. Also, keep in mind, for an older dog to carry more weight you need to go slow because you don't know what potential joint problems may be hiding or the dog may be obscuring. If you think about it, you are essentially having him do the equivalent of human backpacking. You can seriously hurt yourself, ruin your knees, ruin your ankles, make your shoulders sore, etc if you are not conditioned to carry a 50lb pack then one day slap on one and go for a long hike. Just like people, dogs can be hurt if they are not properly conditioned. Also, if you are having him wear the backpack on these walks and walking on cement or asphalt, that can exacerbate damage to knees and joints, just like in humans. Dogs can be very good at hiding their pain.

Backpacking is a great way for a dog to lose some excess energy, be a general help, and have a "job" to do. However, it needs to be done right, in my opinion. That means conditioning the dog to accept the pack, conditioning the dog's body (slowly!) to accept the weight, and using the weighted backpack in ways that minimize risk (hiking on dirt/grass, letting him take breaks, giving plenty of time for hydration, etc.)

Just my 2 cents.


Edit: I love that you are giving him more exercise but have you thought about also trying to train a "quiet" command when he is barking? Or perhaps giving the mailman some treats to give to him so he learns that the mailman is a "good guy"?

Also, I backpack with my 7 (soon to be 8) year old Sibe mix. We are planning a week long backpacking trip that she is going to be on and so I am starting to condition her now. Usually when I start I supplement Glucosamine/MSM/Chondroitin (get it at Costco) to help keep her feeling loose and to try and mitigate any possible joint pain she may experience. She doesn't show anything that appears like pain but I like to supplement anyway to keep her feeling good. Just an idea.
 

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First, Nil gave great and detailed advice which I agree with. Only wanted to add some simple tips - make sure that you are padding the backpack well against his sides. Even a young and fit dog will be uncomfortable with something heavy poking him in the ribs. Check all the straps that they aren't rubbing under his armpits. I have that brand of backpack and I had to add a fleece wrap around the understrap because it rubbed the less protected skin raw (that part of the armpit where they don't have much/any fur)- I didn't notice it the first time because it took a little while to rub raw so it may be why your dog resisted on the second day.

For an older dog not conditioned to a backpack, I would limit the weight to 10% of his body weight but I would start with an empty back, then add stuffing that is very light (plastic grocery bags maybe) so he can feel the shape of the pack and then do 5% of body weight and then 10%. Make sure the weight is balanced side-to-side. And for male dogs, at first the weight throws them off when they go to lift a leg and this can be uncomfortable/odd for them. The dogs also have to learn how wide they are, sometimes they'll bump the pack into trees and spook themselves.
 

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I just want to second what Shell said about making sure the backpack isn't hurting him. I use a different but similar style backpack with my dog on walks, but we had to do some adjusting because at first it rubbed his armpits pretty raw, and that must have been painful.
 

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Great advice above, but I would check with a vet and make sure he doesn't have arthritis, hip dysplasia, any back issues, etc. Dogs don't show pain like we do. The extra weight could be enough to make him show it, though.

Also, 11 years in, I don't think barking at the mailman is an issue that can be fixed with exercise. Barking at the mailman is self reinforcing for dogs. From the dog's perspective, he barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves, therefore the barking worked. This gets reinforced 6 times a week. For 11 years. I really don't think 4lbs of weight in a backpack is the solution. Try training a "quiet" command instead.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
thanks for the advice guys. last time i was at the vet i was told he does have a touch of arthritis in his back right leg, and i have been putting him on a hip & joint medicine w/ glucosamine but i might upgrade to a stronger one.

what is the quiet command? i do the "psst!" noise cesar millan does, the thing is my dog will recognize he's not supposed to bark or growl (its mostly growling) and give me that look like "sorry but... im still doing it" which makes me think he's not worn out enough to be in a calm submissive state where he can be successfully corrected.

also, a follow up about the walk. i took him for a normal, non-incline walk today w/ the backpack but no weight (also im pretty sure its not irritating him, everything is very well padded and looks comfortable) and i recognized one of my other frustrations with his walks. he doesnt actually like to "walk" on the walk he just wants to sniff everything so he is very slow. but then again this might be a joint issue or something, but i feel like i have no idea.

i do somewhat think though that he is slow not because of his health or bones, but because he has a strong will or something and just wants to do his own thing regardless of me? lol. for instance, when i pull out the leash and he knows hes going for a walk, he explodes with energy and darts everything in anticipation but as soon as we go outside and there are things to sniff he shows none of this vim and slows down to a halt because he wants to stop walking and sniff. but if he sees another dog on the walk his energy immediately returns and he will dart to it (to meet it\sniff it, he's not aggressive) like a homing missile. so i kind of feel really stuck, like he's being slow on purpose to get what he wants rather than to do what we're out there to do, walk. and when i say slow, its a slow where like he walks on the very edge of the sidewalk with his head always tilted down towards the grass like he is trying to sneak in as much sniffing as possible without being overt about it.

and i feel conflicted because obviously i dont want to push him if it somehow is a health thing, but if its not (and how can I know?) aren't i allowing him to kind of be disobedient by letting him be in control of the walk?
 

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Firstly, Cesar Milan is not a very good trainer. I like some of his stuff (dogs should be exercised, people should take the time to train their dogs) but the way he goes about it is, in my opinion, very damaging to dogs. His methods have been the result of many dogs actually regressing and causing more harm and becoming more anxious because the owners just followed his advice without taking the time to research for themselves how to train and communicate with their pets. On the flip side he is responsible for humans becoming more invovled with their pets (from what it seems) even if they are going about it in a less than ideal way.

So, I'm not trying to be mean, but your dog is not dominant nor is he blatantly disregarding you. He just simply doesn't know what he is supposed to do and he has had 11 years to practice these behaviors so while training will help, it may be a somewhat slow process, just keep that in mind. Keeshond's are a spitz breed and as such are generally more aloof and "stubborn". They are not, for the most part, like a lab or a golden who will do a backflip for a "good boy" and a pet on the head. They are much more "what's in it for me?" which can be both difficult but very rewarding to work with. My Sibe is very much like this. So carry some treats in your pocket when you go on your walks. It's easy, keeps the dog more in tune with you, and it lets you reward those instances when the dog is doing something you like (staying near you, not sniffing the ground, keeping their focus, etc.)

For barking at the mailman he doesn't know he is not supposed to do that. He knows that for some reason you get angry and give him a voice correction and his appeasement signals are there to try and make you happy. He knows you're angry but doesn't know why. When you are in the house get some small cut up pieces of cheese or hot dog or chicken and go into the living room or someplace with some space. Say "speak!" and start barking or doing something that will make him bark. When he barks, give him a treat! Do this over and over until when you say "Speak!" he barks. Then, say "quiet" and if he is quiet immedietly reward him with some treats! Repeat! "Speak!" *he barks* "Quiet" *reward for his quiet*.

Now, wait for the mailman. When the mailman comes up and he starts barking say "quiet" and if he stops, even for a second, give him a bunch of treats and praise him! He'll probably start barking again. Just say "quiet" and then reward if he stops, even if the stop is only to take a breath for another bark. Reward any/all silence!

If you do this over and over he will learn that "if I stop barking when he says I get treats!" But you need to make it so stopping barking (a very self rewarding behavior) is more rewarding then the barking itself. Make sense, kinda?

For the walking try this. Go outside and start your walk and for the first 10-15 minutes do a fast walk without letting him sniff. If he tries stopping simply say in a cheerful voice "On by!" and keep going. Then, after a little while, slow down or stop and say "go sniff". So you make the walk a walk and then you allow him some part of that to go and sniff and look around and be a dog. He gets to sniff and you get to go a little faster.

Obvoiusly, if he is slowing down from heat or appears in pain then stop sooner and go slower. My rule for my dog is that she is allowed to do anything she wants on the leash so long as the leash stays slack. So she can sniff, look around, etc. but the leash must be slack. That means if she pulls ahead I stop and wait for her to come back to make the leash slack or if she is behind me (obviously sniffing/zoning out) I say "yip yip" and go a little faster for her to get back in the groove of walking quickly. (yip-yip for us just means hurry up, faster)

For other dogs use treats. If he sees another dog and starts getting excited just call his name and hand him a treat. Ask him to sit and then treat him. Ask him for behaviors he knows. This will take his attention away from the other dog and will allow you to practice commands under different distractions.

Edit: Just wanted to add that he is not being disobedient or trying to go against your wishes. Dogs don't think like that. They don't understand revenge. They do things that rewards them. Barking at other dogs? It's fun and it gets other dogs to move away! Barking at mailman? It's fun and makes the mailman go away! But, if you start showing him that being quiet around the mailman gets him lots of food and praise then being quiet around the mailman will win out over barking at the mailman. Your dog is just doing what it wants. If you want him to do what you want then show him how to do it, when to do it, and what he will get if he does do it.
 

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Nil, thanks for the tips on barking. I can't get him to bark on command (any tips on this?) but have been working on getting him to respond differently to, for instance, knocks on the door which I think is working.

One thing though and I wonder if anyone has any advice on this. So I live in an apartment complex and all the apartments exit straight outside to a small court, so a lot of people walk back and forth past my apartment all day and sometimes my dog will growl when he hears this and sometimes he won't. But I'm not sure how to change his response to this because it's not as simple as knocking on my own door and treating him, you know?
 

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When I was teaching my dog I just basically got her frustrated. I would get her riled up and wave a treat around and start barking and woofing. Eventually she got frustrated or confused enough to bark at me and I rewarded her by quickly giving her the treat from my hand. I did this enough to where if I lifted a treat in the air she would bark automatically. Then I just started saying "Speak!" when she did it. Now I can say "Speak!" and she will bark, though sometimes I have to get her a little riled up then say "speak" for her to be reliable about it.

You don't have to teach him to speak to teach him quiet though. It just makes barking easier to manage because it allows you to give him the opportunity to bark (when you say so) when it is appropriate versus allowing him to decide when it is appropriate. But to teach quiet you can just say "quiet" or "shush" or whatever your command is and if he hesitates or stops barking even for an instant, reward.


Shasta also does this occasionally. We have a gravel courtyard and when other people drive up in their trucks and get out and start talking she'll go to the door and let out a low growl or a small 'woof' at them. In some sense, she is doing her "job" of notifying me there are people outside of our house. So I say "who is it?" and go to the door or window and look and then say, "Good girl, thank you" and then body block her away from the door and do a short training session or play with a toy to distract her. What I am trying to teach her is that, "Thank you for letting me know there are people but I can handle it".

If you want to get rid of it altogether though then set up some kind of scenario. Sit or stand beside the door during a busy time and have a small bowl of yummy treats. When somebody starts walking by immediately start feeding your dog a treat. If he growls say "Nope!" and body block him away from the door. Then sit back down and try again. Even get some friends to walk by 10 times and reward him if he stays quiet. Once he learns that not growling at people gets him treats, he will eventually stop. Then you can up the ante and be sitting further away and if someone goes by and he is silent say "Wow! Good job!" and run to get him a treat acting very excited. Eventually through enough repetition he will learn that being quiet when people are outside is what you want him to do.
 

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Nil, thanks for the tips on barking. I can't get him to bark on command (any tips on this?) but have been working on getting him to respond differently to, for instance, knocks on the door which I think is working.

One thing though and I wonder if anyone has any advice on this. So I live in an apartment complex and all the apartments exit straight outside to a small court, so a lot of people walk back and forth past my apartment all day and sometimes my dog will growl when he hears this and sometimes he won't. But I'm not sure how to change his response to this because it's not as simple as knocking on my own door and treating him, you know?
When you're hanging out and have the time, have everything ready first - stash some treats in a spot somewhere in the house. When someone walks by, that's your cue to go get him a treat. So pretty soon he'll start to think 'wow, everytime someone walks by the door, I get a treat, cool!'. Then once he's looking at you to see if you're going to get him a treat, start to cut it back to once in a while but only if he's quiet. So then the game is he has to be quiet when someone walks by so he can get a treat....
 

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Firstly, Cesar Milan is not a very good trainer. I like some of his stuff (dogs should be exercised, people should take the time to train their dogs) but the way he goes about it is, in my opinion, very damaging to dogs. His methods have been the result of many dogs actually regressing and causing more harm and becoming more anxious because the owners just followed his advice without taking the time to research for themselves how to train and communicate with their pets. On the flip side he is responsible for humans becoming more invovled with their pets (from what it seems) even if they are going about it in a less than ideal way.

So, I'm not trying to be mean, but your dog is not dominant nor is he blatantly disregarding you. He just simply doesn't know what he is supposed to do and he has had 11 years to practice these behaviors so while training will help, it may be a somewhat slow process, just keep that in mind. Keeshond's are a spitz breed and as such are generally more aloof and "stubborn". They are not, for the most part, like a lab or a golden who will do a backflip for a "good boy" and a pet on the head. They are much more "what's in it for me?" which can be both difficult but very rewarding to work with. My Sibe is very much like this. So carry some treats in your pocket when you go on your walks. It's easy, keeps the dog more in tune with you, and it lets you reward those instances when the dog is doing something you like (staying near you, not sniffing the ground, keeping their focus, etc.)

For barking at the mailman he doesn't know he is not supposed to do that. He knows that for some reason you get angry and give him a voice correction and his appeasement signals are there to try and make you happy. He knows you're angry but doesn't know why. When you are in the house get some small cut up pieces of cheese or hot dog or chicken and go into the living room or someplace with some space. Say "speak!" and start barking or doing something that will make him bark. When he barks, give him a treat! Do this over and over until when you say "Speak!" he barks. Then, say "quiet" and if he is quiet immedietly reward him with some treats! Repeat! "Speak!" *he barks* "Quiet" *reward for his quiet*.

Now, wait for the mailman. When the mailman comes up and he starts barking say "quiet" and if he stops, even for a second, give him a bunch of treats and praise him! He'll probably start barking again. Just say "quiet" and then reward if he stops, even if the stop is only to take a breath for another bark. Reward any/all silence!

If you do this over and over he will learn that "if I stop barking when he says I get treats!" But you need to make it so stopping barking (a very self rewarding behavior) is more rewarding then the barking itself. Make sense, kinda?

For the walking try this. Go outside and start your walk and for the first 10-15 minutes do a fast walk without letting him sniff. If he tries stopping simply say in a cheerful voice "On by!" and keep going. Then, after a little while, slow down or stop and say "go sniff". So you make the walk a walk and then you allow him some part of that to go and sniff and look around and be a dog. He gets to sniff and you get to go a little faster.

Obvoiusly, if he is slowing down from heat or appears in pain then stop sooner and go slower. My rule for my dog is that she is allowed to do anything she wants on the leash so long as the leash stays slack. So she can sniff, look around, etc. but the leash must be slack. That means if she pulls ahead I stop and wait for her to come back to make the leash slack or if she is behind me (obviously sniffing/zoning out) I say "yip yip" and go a little faster for her to get back in the groove of walking quickly. (yip-yip for us just means hurry up, faster)

For other dogs use treats. If he sees another dog and starts getting excited just call his name and hand him a treat. Ask him to sit and then treat him. Ask him for behaviors he knows. This will take his attention away from the other dog and will allow you to practice commands under different distractions.

Edit: Just wanted to add that he is not being disobedient or trying to go against your wishes. Dogs don't think like that. They don't understand revenge. They do things that rewards them. Barking at other dogs? It's fun and it gets other dogs to move away! Barking at mailman? It's fun and makes the mailman go away! But, if you start showing him that being quiet around the mailman gets him lots of food and praise then being quiet around the mailman will win out over barking at the mailman. Your dog is just doing what it wants. If you want him to do what you want then show him how to do it, when to do it, and what he will get if he does do it.
Agreed!!! I also agree that inlet my dogs do whatever they want on leash as long as the leash is slack & I'm not skiing down the street lol
 

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When I was young we used to take long trips on the Appalachian Trail. One of the counselors who guided us would bring his Australian Cattle Herder. He wore a backpack and would run off into the woods and come back whenever the counselor whistled. Really cool and obedient dog. But, the point is... you have to be careful if the dog leaves your sight with those things. They can get snagged and stuck on sticks, branches, etc.
 

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Also, 11 years in, I don't think barking at the mailman is an issue that can be fixed with exercise. Barking at the mailman is self reinforcing for dogs. From the dog's perspective, he barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves, therefore the barking worked. This gets reinforced 6 times a week. For 11 years. I really don't think 4lbs of weight in a backpack is the solution. Try training a "quiet" command instead.
To fix this very fast: you teach the quiet command and once he's quiet for 10 seconds you say YES (or click), open the gate and say "GET THE MAILMAN!!!" in extremely excited voice. Next time he sees a mailman he'll be quiet for next 2 years. Just kidding, don't do this (although it would work).
 
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