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Living with Hazel

October 21, 2009

It is no joke that Hazel is a difficult dog.  I never, ever thought I’d be the kind of person who might consider giving their dog up, secretly ditching her at the dog park or the animal shelter, or just “mistakenly” opening up the gate and setting her free.  But oh boy do I ever consider it.*

A cute face on the couch she destroyed

A cute face on the couch she destroyed

Sure, she looks all cute and innocent in pictures.  And she has her occasional moments where she is decent to be around (she is never, ever, ever well behaved at our house).  But really, I have never known a dog to be so disobedient, so energetic, so destructive, so LOUD.  ALL. THE. TIME.  I know most of it is our fault.  She should have had better training as a puppy and we should have been more consistent about it.

Lesson learned: when you are coupled with someone, you can’t continually pawn off the responsibility for something like this on the other partner.  Eventually someone just has to do it.

It’s just really difficult to live with to the point where it’s depressing.  We can’t have people over to our house because she barks, bites, and jumps, but she’s quick enough that she runs away before we can catch her to stick her in her crate or do something to stop her.  She’s destroyed both of our couches (she pees on them for god knows what reason–she’s otherwise potty trained).  She barks all day long if she’s outside, but she won’t come inside unless she feels like it.  She barks and bites if you are on the phone or talking to someone (like a neighbor), I assume because she wants attention.  I think part of the problem is that she needs exercise, but Paul is too busy to take her most days and I can’t take her anywhere because she’s too strong for me and she tries to bolt if she sees other animals/people/cars/bikes/etc.  The list could go on, but you get the picture.

I’ve never seen anything like this before in a dog (and Hazel’s had more training than all of the dogs I’ve lived with), so I have no idea what to do about it.  If we had the money I’d send her away to dog obedience camp, but that’s not an option.  I really have no idea what to do and I can see that she’s getting worse as the weather is limiting her ability to play around outside and the shorter days are making it harder for Paul to take her running.  It’s going to be a loooong winter.

*For those of you out there who think I might actually do this: don’t worry.  It’s just a secret fantasy that is now not so secret.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Elise permalink
    October 22, 2009 4:16 am

    Wow. I’ve been where you’re at. Nicely written post with no easy answers to make it better.

    Love you.
    M

  2. October 22, 2009 4:18 am

    I do think you can train a dog at any age, so hope is not lost. We got Jake when he was 1 and full of bad habits from previous owners. What worked for us is as follows:

    1) Pinch collar. Yes, call me a bad pet owner and terrible person if you like, but my dog weighs 120 lbs and I cannot afford for him to take off lest he hurt me or others. We use it for walks only. And he’s the most well-behaved dog we now know and we can take him off leash in the front yard (and on late-night walks around the hood). Everyone raves about how great he is. It took a lot of work + that nasty pinch collar.

    2) He’s part of our pack. Me + hubster, then brown cat, then orange cat, then him. The pecking order helps especially since he’s on the bottom.

    3) He doesn’t sleep with us or on the furniture. Our dog trainer told us that dogs see you as their equal when you let them do that, and in order for you to be in calm-submissive control, this probably isn’t the best idea.

    These worked for us, your results may vary. And I am in no way telling you what to do! Our dog is sort of mellow by nature also.

    Best wishes,

    Katie

  3. Melissa permalink
    October 22, 2009 4:32 am

    Katie/Gardenpunk – I like to think of myself as a massive dog lover…but I think your pinch collar is a good idea, no matter how much you love your dog. My dog trainer who I adore on all levels even recommends it. A halti is another way to go- dogs don’t pull when they have something around their face. I do it with my 70lb dog…I have no other choice when walking.
    Katie- doesn’t your dad love Hazel? Perhaps he can take her on for a little bit?
    Also…my dog trainer’s email: spotrocky@aol.com
    Her name is Dolores. She will do housecalls (for more money of course) or you can come to drop in class in Davis…you pay like $70 for a punch card…and when ever you come to class you get a punch. But if you miss a class you don’t loose money…so it is nice. I try to take Jaime here and there. And Dolores is the dog whisperer. She is magic.

  4. Allison permalink
    October 22, 2009 5:30 am

    We have a lot of problems like that with Mimi, what saves us is that she’s on 11lb, so it makes it easier.

    I know some friends who have big dogs who swear by gentle leaders for walking them,
    http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2751021

  5. October 22, 2009 2:16 pm

    this sounds like my life! except i have 2 of them. a 70 lb shelter dog who tries to attack dogs/people on the street and at home he goes into guard dog mode and tries to bite people who come over and also barks really loud every time someone goes in our out of the apartment building. then we have a puppy who has peed on our couch, chewed up our furniture, etc and will someday be a 100 lb dog jumping all over our faces in bed. i think a lot of it could have been helped if we trained them better (ie with a crate, not letting them on furniture, etc) but my boyfriend just doesn’t have the stuff for that and it’s hard to deal with dogs when you’re in an apartment and can’t keep them in separated areas away from the front door/couch/etc.

    we have the gentle leader for our biter dog and it makes it easier to control him but we still keep him on a short leash when we walk him and know to cross the street if we see another dog or a person he might bite. we also find that having guests give the dog a treat as they walk in the door makes him happy to see them instead of ferocious.

  6. Rebecca permalink
    October 22, 2009 6:45 pm

    I 100% agree with the “halti” otherwise known as the “Gentle Leader” – we used ours only for the first little while with our border collie/australian shepherd mix dog, and she became 100% wonderful on the leash.
    It is sitting on a shelf collecting dust – in mint condition, and they can be kind of pricey, I would be so happy to get rid of it and mail it to you, instructional disc and all. my email addy is rebecca dot page at openreign dot com.

    Biting – I will say two things before I give you my “opinion”
    1. I love my dog, and all others.
    2. It truly worked!!
    Whenever my beloved Sophie would try to bite me, or someone else – I would start with making her sit, that seemed to distract her momentarily, then she would take to trying to bite me. I would then place the bottom of my thumb on the roof of her mouth and close my hand around the top part of her muzzle until she whined a bit and tell her “No Bite” or “Gentle”. That started to work, all I would have to say is “Gentle” and she would immediately revert to licking.
    However, sometimes she would be just too rambunctious, too rebellious – this breed is a piece of work, sweet as pie, but stubborn as hell. I would just bite her back. I know it sounds crazy, but after a few of those (litterally took maybe a week) – she has completely stopped biting.

    The Crazies –
    Sophie is VERY active, and if she cannot get a walk or a trip to the dog park she’s nuts! So what we started doing is boiling chicken, keeping string cheese around and we train for about twenty minutes (the length of a walk) whichever nights we cannot get her out to run and play. Not only is she more obedient, it helps to stimulate her brain and then she’s not as bored.
    On that note – I won’t even pet her unless she is sitting down because of the jumping/scratching. She wants attention so badly that she’s learned what she has to do in order to get it. I don’t feed her without going through a few of her commands (sit, down, stay, leave it, come, and finally take it)

    The peeing-
    I have not solved this one. I’ve started rubbing her nose in it. I always said I wouldn’t do it, but that is what it’s come to. She is completely potty trained except for the most random times when she doesn’t tell us, and it’s not even by the door.

    I hope some of that helped – not to be a “know it all” – I can just SO relate with all of the emotion that can come with an unruly pet. It was difficult for my husband and I for a little while until we found a routine that seemed to work with Sophie.

  7. October 22, 2009 9:08 pm

    Ugh. My sympathies.

    This is going to sound ridiculous, but one of my bosses trained her dog not to bark by throwing shoes at her. I don’t think she ever actually threw a shoe, but she would hold it over her head like she was going to throw it and say some sort of command in a commanding voice (“quiet,” “no barking,” whatever), and the dog would stop barking. And even if you do have to throw the shoe a few times, you’re not going to hurt Hazel any more than throwing a toy towards her would hurt her. (You might want to start with shoes you wouldn’t mind getting chewed on, if she’s that rambunctious).

    Sometimes, dogs needs more clearcut boundaries and you have to be, in human terms, a little mean, but in dog terms, you have to assert your authority, and the only way to communicate that is physically. She’s a dog, not your child, and she wants to know her place in your “pack.” She’s not going to ask for therapy in a decade.

    Also, the clicker method is pretty foolproof, but like anything else, it does take consistency.

    And there’s nothing wrong with finding a home where the owner will have the time, space, and energy to give Hazel the home she needs. It’s difficult, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work out.

  8. October 22, 2009 10:40 pm

    oh man, do I relate.
    We have a giant black lab, and while he is really rather “obedient” in the sense of little barking and no biting he is impossible for me to walk because he pulls soooo much! We got the gentle leader, but there is really only so much a leash can do with a 70+ pound dog who is easily exciteable by other animals. He also sheds like crazy, and I live in a tornado of dog hair. It’s disgusting.

    What kind of dog is Hazel?
    We had a fox hound for 6 months, and while she was the sweetest animal in the world she suffered from extreme separation anxiety which eventually led us to completely changing our lifestyle to accomodate her. She loved the crate, but would break out of it once left alone! Once we got back from our honeymoon and realized she destroyed even more stuff (with a caretaker present) we had to take her back. It was sad, but necessary.

    Good luck!

  9. April permalink
    October 25, 2009 5:11 pm

    I also recommend the Halti. I used to have a dog about, I think, Hazel’s size. She was nice and well-behaved inside, but when we took her on walks she became a snarling, lunging, hell-beast. After terrifying my neighbors and being to scared to walk her by myself, I looked online and discovered the Halti. It really does help you control your dog. The only problem was if my dog really wanted to she could shake her head out of it. I developed the technique of stopping her, then immediately grabbing the leash near her face so she couldn’t shake her head, then sort of straddling her. I’m very petite, and not a naturally dominant person, but this helped us both know that I’m the boss.

    Good luck!

  10. January 15, 2010 4:32 am

    Hi mate, I really like your site. With the abundance of misinformation about this subject on the internet, it’s great to see some refreshing content. Keep up the great work!

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