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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, generally the dogs I train are shy, nervous, or fear-reactive, but I do sometimes work with dogs that are just wild and unmanageable. The dog I'm currently with is one of those, and I'm having trouble. He won't stop barking, and won't settle down in the house, always has to be moving or getting into things. This is understandable to a degree, of course, but this is extremely severe.
So, a bit of context. He had a 2 mile walk this morning. and just got back from an hour-long walk about an hour and a half ago. We played for about an hour after we got back (flirt pole, fetch, tug) and had a "working dinner" where I had him navigate some agility obstacles and practice self control. I can tell that he is tired, his movements are slower, and he was panting for a bit. But for the last hour, he has been pacing the house, barking, and occasionally taking a break to play with his toy. He is not accustomed to working with people, so it is hard to get his behavior under control. In fact, he isn't accustomed to people much at all, so sitting quietly and petting him is impossible. (without physically holding him in place)
I didn't want to, but I eventually crated him alone for some down-time because his barking is bothering the neighbors. Any tips for how to get an energetic, restless dog with no motivation to work to behave? Or at least how to get him more interested in me and training? This dog is acting more feral than donesticated, honestly; although he shows no distrust or aggression to humans, he shows no interest or like for humans either.
 

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It sounds like he might not know how to settle and chill out on his own, and - depending on his age - might also be overtired because of it. My youngest is like this, and was from the day he came home at eight weeks. He required regular enforced naptimes where he'd go in his pen with calm activities (safe chew toys or a stuffed Kong), and stay there until he fell asleep and then woke up on his own. As he got older we'd also occasionally tether him to us if we knew he was exhausted but he was just amped up and obnoxious and not settling.

We supplemented this with impulse control and relaxation training, using parts of Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol, the Sit on the Dog method, and Deb Jones' Zen Focus (this one is a for-pay online workshop while the others are free, but I thought I'd include it since I found it quite useful).

However, all the training in the world wasn't going to help him if he was overtired, unfocused, and making poor decisions, so enforcing naptime was really key. He still needs to be tethered occasionally now, at two, because he gets so overstimulated by something that he needs a little extra help. But it's like you put the collar on and a switch goes off, and he lies right down and passes out. Obviously none of this is a replacement for exercise and mental stimulation, and works much better with a dog who's having their physical and mental needs met, but it's not a bad thing at all to enforce a routine of rest and relaxation if you have a dog who can't do it for themselves.

If he's showing signs of anxiety, however, you may want to consider addressing that as its own issue, as that can be another cause of restlessness. But from your description it just sounds like he doesn't have a natural off switch and needs some help learning one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks so much for the advice! I actually had been trying to use Karen Overall's Relaxation protocol, but I haven't heard of the others, so I'll try implementing those as well. I will try my best for naptime, (he's barely 1, which is part of his unruliness, I'm sure) he has a very powerful bark, which the neighbors don't love 😂
Unfortunately, I only have a few days with him, although I can visit occasionally. So hopefully with these methods I can start to see results soon. I will certainly pass on the same advice to his owners when I leave.
Anyway, thanks so much!
 

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Is that the level of exercise he'll be getting even with his owners? A common mistake many people make with high energy dogs is thinking that they need to run until they can't anymore, but in reality you're just conditioning the dog to go for longer and harder, not tiring him out! You'll never, ever physically tire out a healthy young dog. They'll always be able to outperform you, even if you notice they're moving a bit slower! He sounds high energy, but cut his regular exercise down to the hour long walk/hike and perhaps some structured fetch or tug, and then expect the dog to settle and enforce it. If he really is going to be getting that level of exercise every day of his life, then continue, but if his owners are like the rest of us who work 5 days of the week, teach the dog to settle.

Daysleepers provided some great advice which I agree with. The pup is likely overtired and doesn't know how to just go take a nap. My dog was that way as well and wanted to be busy all the time, so a combination of ignoring him when it wasn't play time and coaxing him to take naps by giving him a chew on his bed helped. He wasn't destructive and was generally easily coaxed to take naps, but if he was more determined to stay busy I would have crated or used an ex pen to enforce nap and chill time. Even at 6 years old, a busy weekend day outside can easily lead him to become overtired, which typically manifests in him becoming reactive to sounds he usually does not care about or not responding as well to direction!

Are the owners having the same issue with his lack of motivation? How long have they had him? It may simply be he hasn't formed a bond with them yet so isn't particularly motivated to work for them. Many young dogs are "teenagers" anyway and seem to lose interest in humans for a little while. Also, some dogs don't yet know how rewarding working with humans can be! Try some trick training with yummy treats which helps dogs connect trying behaviors and listening to humans with rewards!
 

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What everyone else said plus this. The dog has no "pack drive" or desire to be with a person. Pack drive is genetic. That said, if the dog has never had an opportunity to partner with a person any pack drive might not show or might only show with other dogs.

The secret to engagement is making that engagement "worth it" to the dog. If the pack drive is there, then it will show up quickly and the dog will seek to be a partner and seek to do things with people. If not, then it will be a lifetime of effort to develop it as it is a drive that is not genetically well developed in the dog.

To develop pack drive everything the dog wants has to come through the dog's handler. Games, food, etc. all comes from the handler.

The dog lacking pack drive will show it by taking a toy and leaving the handler. Retrieves are almost impossible to develop as the dog gets the toy and then goes away with it (sometimes even if the handler has something betterto offer for bringing the toy back). These dogs will self reward every chance they get. Self rewarding behavior needs to be curtailed, even on walks. The dog cannot be off leash or alone in a back yard or kennel with a toy or other dogs as that allows the dog to self reward. The object is to (eventually) get the dog to push the handler for attention, play and food.

Good luck!
 

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I'll also say that with my 'no natural off switch' boy, he's inclined towards worse behavior after a highly stimulating event, like a long hike or a training class. I've had to learn the difference between him acting antsy and rude because he needs exercise/stimulation and him acting antsy and rude because he needs enforced downtime. As I said, he's much better now, but at a year he was deep into adolescence and definitely needed enforced calm periods after exciting events so he didn't keep working himself up and getting more and more unfocused, impulsive, and generally rude and obnoxious.

Stuffed food toys were a HUGE help for us, too. During the worst of his adolescence, we'd split his daily meals and pack them into 3-4 Kong Classics, then freeze them down. Licking and chewing are naturally calming behaviors for dogs, so being able to put him in a pen or on a leash and give him a calming activity really helped make those enforced rest periods/naptimes successful, and it's something that should be pretty easy for most families to implement if they're willing and able to devote a bit of freezer space to dog food toys, haha.

I can't speak as much towards motivating him to work with you/his owners, because both my dogs are naturally inclined to want to engage and train with people, but you've gotten some good advice. My approach would probably be to focus on a lot of fun training that's easy for him to 'win' at, like silly tricks as Lillith said, to build up his confidence and enjoyment of the process. Some dogs really get stressed or bored with drilled behaviors or lots of pressure with training, so video taping sessions could be a good tool to see if you're observing any body language that suggests he's struggling with anything in particular. Subtle signs can be difficult to pick up on in the moment, even for really experienced trainers and handlers, and especially when it's not your dog and you're still figuring each other out.

Sounds like you've got a good start, and I'm wishing you luck! Let us know how things are improving.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you everyone. I did read your replies, but life was hectic with that dog, so I never got to reply. He is still improving, and while he's not there yet, I think as training continues and as he gets older, he will improve even more.
@Lillith, I really appreciate what you said about not giving him so much exercise that I'm just conditioning him for more. I had never thought of it that way, so I am glad you pointed that out. He will probably not get too much exercise with his owners. They hike most weekends, and he gets a 45-minute walk daily with some playtime, but, honestly, he doesn't seem to get much.
His bond isn't too strong with the family, unfortunately, though it's definitely improving now. After what was perceived as an aggressive incident in the home, he was essentially removed from the house. He didn't spend much time with the family, so he had learned too much independence. However, after I left, he had improved at home manners the slightest bit, and I gave some pointers. They are starting to reintroduce him to the home, and involve the kids with the training. Overall, it seems the situation is looking up for the humans and the dog.
@3GSD4IPO, thank you as well. I will share that with them and try to act accordingly when I am with him. It is hard to tell with this dog whether it is, in fact, genetic, or if he just learned it while he was left to his own devices for so long. I was thinking along a similar line, "handler is the giver of all good things" and such, but was probably not as good as I could have been about preventing self-rewards.
@DaySleepers, and thank you, too :). As an update, he is getting better at listening to the kids, and seems to particularly enjoy spending time with one of the adults in particular, which makes sense, as this adult does most of the training. I implemented 360 circles to address his sleddog-like pulling habits, and he showed marked improvement within those first few days. I passed on the technique to the owners, who are now implementing it as well, and his behavior is much improved in that area. Their previous method was to give him a "pop" with their prong collar. Regardless of anyone's stance on prongs, I can say with certainty that it is not the right too for this dog. I am not in a position to tell them to stop, but by offering alternatives like this, I hope I can show them a better way. They are making a concerted effort to bring the dog indoors for brief periods when they can truly focus on training him to be inside, and they say he has improved a good deal at that, too. The kids no longer seem scared of him. Overall, I'm pleased with his improvement and anticipate even more.
Thanks to everyone for your help!
 
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