Bored, Over-excitable and Looking for Trouble

German Shepherd Kerry is bored.

Bored German Shepherd

Kerry

Although it’s natural for adult dogs to sleep for up to eighteen hours a day, this is only so if the rest of the time is filled with stuff natural to the dog – and its breed. Sleep probably won’t be in long blocks of enforced inaction during the day, but dozing between doing other things.

Young dogs in particular need action and fulfilment (just like young humans) or they get bored.

Kerry is a beautiful eighteen-month-old German Shepherd living with another GSD, Lemmy, aged four. They are both gorgeous dogs with lovely, friendly basic temperaments.

Young Kerry, unfortunately, probably isn’t getting enough action in her life and she’s very easily aroused. I saw this by how the smallest thing results in her leaping at someone, me in this case – grabbing my clothes and even hair with her teeth. 

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Adolescent Dog is Uncontrollable

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

I was met at the door by the lady restraining a manic, stripey dog! As soon as the door was shut behind me I asked her to let go of him and the tiger was unleashed!

I ignored it as he jumped at me grabbing my arm (I wear tough clothes) and turned away quickly as he leapt to punch me in the face with his muzzle.

This would have been a lot more alarming if there was any hint of aggression, which there wasn’t. The lady has bruises all up her arms and admits she’s now getting a bit scared of her adolescent dog. It’s really all to do with lack of self-control. He has no idea how to inhibit the use of his teeth – or anything else for that matter. This is little surprise considering what little the lady knows of his start in life.

Seven-month-old Sammy, probably a Beagle cross, may have come from Ireland but the story probably shouldn’t be believed. He was going to be ‘sent back where he came from’ and put to sleep if the lady didn’t buy him.  She was told he was eleven weeks old but the vet said he was a lot younger.

I would guess he was removed from his siblings far too soon to have learnt the valuable lessons of bite inhibition and manners, all in order for someone to make a quick buck.

He is a stunning dog and he is clever. However, he is on the go nearly all the time when not asleep at night or when the lady is at work. It is non-stop. She has taken all sorts of advice and also taken him to training classes, but still finds him uncontrollable. He has plenty of exercise. The slightest bit of stimulation sends him over the top.

brindled Beagle mix

I managed to catch Sammy standing still

It was hard to know just how to begin. We couldn’t shut him away because the lady lives in a flat and he can’t be allowed to bark too much. In the end the only thing I could do was ask her to put a lead on him and then stand on it so he simply couldn’t hurt me – we later attached the lead to his harness for the sake of his neck.

Then I did some work with him, walking him around whilst being ready to react fast to being ‘attacked’, rewarding him for sitting and reinforcing times when he didn’t try to jump. It’s so natural to ignore the good behaviour, making the best of any short break, but this means he gets all his attention for the wrong things.

I taught him not to mug my hand with both teeth and nails for the food. Already he was displaying just a little bit of impulse control.

It was a start.

I keep a Stagbar in my bag which I gave him to chew. While the lady held onto his lead and he worked on the Stagbar, we managed to get some talking done and devise an initial plan of action. Until he has calmed down and learnt to control himself a bit, very little more can be done.

The lady will need to wear tough clothes so that she doesn’t have to give in to the rough behaviour by giving him the attention he craves. She may also need to have an anchor point in the room to hook him onto when he goes really wild, for her own protection. She will have a special box of things to keep him busy when anchored as this must not be done in the spirit of punishment

But protecting herself  and containing him is only half the story. Sammy needs to learn that it’s a different sort of behaviour that is now going to get the best results. We have made a list of about ten activities she can initiate at regular intervals, things that will focus his mind and calm him down, so that instead of spending most of the time they are together simply fielding and responding to his antics, she herself will initiate frequent constructive things for him to do in very short sessions. She will keep him busy but under her own terms. She will reward every small thing that she likes – looking out for the good in him.

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

This isn’t going to be easy because after seven months his crazy behaviours are a habit and won’t be changed easily. She will need to be very patient and persevere, rejoicing in the smallest of improvements as they occur. All she has been able to do in the past is to shout at him and give him commands – he knows to sit and lie down when in the mood but when aroused it simply makes him worse.

I see this as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Before real work can be done there are a number pieces to be put in place that will calm him down and focus his brain. These include a suitable diet. One would see the connection between diet and behaviour with a hyperactive child with ADHD, but this doesn’t occur to a lot of us where our dogs are concerned.