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Timeouts not working, and a defiant pup

2864 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Jinhee14
So my dog has been having a lot of behavioral issues since I got her, the most recent being tearing at the carpet. (At this point my poet deposit wont even cover it she's cost me a fortune already)/ Despite getting plenty of exercise, having dozens of fun toys, she still digs at and tears up the carpet. Other issues like digging at my bed sheets, or barking have been a problem as well. And I always put her on timeout when I catch her doing anything wrong. It's an empty room for her to be alone for a minute or two before coming back. At first, timeouts were becoming very effective at stopping behaviors such as unwanted barking late at night, or chewing up things she wasnt supposed to. And now all of a sudden they have completely stopped working. Is there any other training strategy that i can use to show her what works and what doesnt? After 2 months of having her it has proven rather difficult to find out the best training tactics for her. Despite all the methods I have tried and all the work I've put into correcting her previous owners shortcomings. She's a smart dog, she's just obnoxiously defiant and it's almost like she gets a kick out of intentionally ignoring redirection and correction of her behaviors. I have switched training treats several times to get her motivation for training up, and to give her a better reason to do what I want but it still doesnt work. I have tried getting anti chew sprays for my carpet, they dont work. I have tried getting her more toys, I have tried wearing her out more. And I just resorted to blocking off the spots she chews and digs at, but that is a temporary solution. What are some other effective ways to show my dog what works and what doesnt, since timeouts are proving so ineffective. I should add that she is about 7 months old give or take a few weeks, could all this defiance be just a thing relative to her age and her "teenage phase" and is it something that will go away, or is it something about her individually?
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The teenage months/years of a dog's development are some of the most demanding and challenging you'll have, especially if you have an intelligent, high-energy dog who needs to have something to do, as it sounds like your girl is. I have one too (15 months now), and what I've found is that his 'obnoxious' behavior is generally one of three things:

  • His physical needs haven't been met
  • His mental needs haven't been met
  • He's overtired and needs some enforced calm time until he cools down enough to take a nap

Sometimes you can make up for a day of less physical exercise with more mental stimulation or vice versa, but over time you really need to fulfill both. In our case, an hour+ on trails in the local woods or field, preferably off-leash or at least on a long line, does a really good job of meeting both. Working with nosework, scent games, or tracking is also extremely effective, even though it's more mental than physical. Wading or swimming is one that's mostly physically demanding, but still goes a long way towards calming him down. If we have a day where we can't do any of those three due to weather, work, illness, etc. we have to make a conscious effort to sprinkle in a lot of short training and play sessions, and get him a good, satisfying chew.

Otherwise, he's stealing pens and napkins off tables, barking at anything and everything outside, ripping up his bed, harassing his 'older brother' to play, or finding other ways to satisfy his need for engagement with us and mental stimulation. When he's really bored or overtired, add digging in the couch cushions and chewing wooden furniture to the list.

Punishing him for having physical and mental needs isn't really effective. At best he'll just ignore it and keep doing what he's doing, or even do it more, because at least the punishment is attention and interaction from us, and he really wants attention. A more emotionally sensitive dog may shut down and stop displaying the 'problematic' behaviors - which are all very natural dog behaviors - but a shut down dog is fearful and miserable, and still hasn't had their needs met or been taught what's appropriate to do instead of the behavior we humans have decided is inappropriate.

Take a serious look at the kind of exercise and mental stimulation she's getting on a daily basis. Mental stimulation doesn't have to be training - take a look at canine enrichment ideas, as there are many cheap or free DIY options out there - but I do suggest working on teaching your girl how to earn reinforcement. Once her needs are met, you're going to have much more success teaching her the one or two behaviors you DO want in any given situation instead of punishing the several hundred you don't want. Treat her like a puppy that has no idea what training is - you can use her meals for this, too, and use a simple marker like 'yes' or 'good' followed quickly by a treat or kibble every time she does something 'appropriate', like look at you, sit, lie down on her bed, etc. Start with very simple, natural behaviors. One popular game to teach dogs that their behavior can earn them reinforcement is 101 Things to Do With a Box. The link is talking specifically about clicker training, but you can replace a 'click' with any kind of marker word. The idea is that you can tell the dog with that marker when they're doing a GOOD thing and you're about to reward them, instead of focusing on only the bad things you don't want them doing.

I know you're not interested in going to a trainer, but do consider it. Look around for someone who uses proven, science-based methods and learning theory. Many dog trainers are offering remote classes or consults right now due to the current situation. And even if you're not training in the house, a good trainer will help because they'll be teaching you how to communicate better with your dog, so everyone can be really clear on what the household rules for behavior are.

And yes, when a dog is overtired or you need quiet time to do work or relax, putting them in a secure pen, crate, or room where they can't practice destructive behaviors is your best option. You can pair it with a safe, edible chew or a stuffed food toy to encourage calm, self-soothing habits, but settling in is a skill many dogs need to learn and practice to be good at - a few dogs do know how to settle naturally, but definitely not all.
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