8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

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cariadandkitty
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8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by cariadandkitty » Sat Feb 04, 2017 7:29 pm

Hi there! I'm new to this forum and a new adult dog owner, hoping for some encouragement and advice about our new rescue pup Kitty. Very long post from a very desperate dog lover!

We rescued a 30 lb beagle mix just over a week ago after extensive breed research and advice from my good friend who's a positive trainer. I wrote to the rescue I found on adoptapet letting them know that we were first time adult dog owners (although my boyfriend and I both grew up with dogs) and that we were looking for an adult dog, ideally 3-4 years of age who was well socialised and wouldn't require extensive traning. I run a lot and wanted a buddy to take with me and we are social people, we go camping and hiking and were looking forward to having an active companion to join our family!

The rescue told us that kitty was about 2 years old which was a little young for us but she was so cute we wanted to give her a chance! We went to visit her and of course we fell in love. Her foster family told us she was great with other dogs, great on a leash, great in a car, great with kids and that her only problem was that she barked quite a bit but they felt sure she'd settle down in time. We spoke to our trainer friend and decided that given how wonderful all her reports were, a little barking was a small price to pay (she is a dog after all!).

We brought her home and she was obviously nervous and timid and all of the things that we would expect from a new rescue pup. She bonded with me very quickly and has been a little wary of my boyfriend, she has given him some warning lunges if he comes in late at night (no contact made) and again, after talking with our trainer this doesn't bother us too much. It all seems in keeping with bringing a new rescue home.

However what I'm finding quite overwhelming is that the minute we taken her outside she has proven to be extremely reactive to anyone coming within about 10 - 15 feet of us. She just loses it completely, barks and lunges and does not calm down until the person, dog or bike is well out of sight. This happens in our fenced in yard as well as when we walk her on a leash. At first I thought she was just settling in (it is SUCH early days after all) and as long as there's no one around she seems pretty comfortable on the leash, doesn't pull and is very open to direction. Tail up, lots of wags and sniffing the ground like crazy.

We brought our trainer friend over for an assessment and after spending about an hour and a half both talking with us and spending time with Kitty she did tell us that our pup has a problem that goes beyond what she would expect from general settling in anxiety. We are working with her with a clicker and lots of treats. Any time she shows nerves in the house we ply her with cheese which is her favorite and I do think she's beginning to gain some confidence in the house. We tried to do some threshold training with her and our trainer outside but because our neighborhood has a fair amount of traffic there was just way too much going on for it to be of any use. We retreated inside and practiced clicking and treating and turning and walking in new directions so that once outside we'll be able to treat and walk away. We're working with her this week mostly inside to help her gain some confidence and we have an appointment with our trainer next week. I'm reluctant to take her for walks in our neighborhood until she's had a chance to settle in, but at the same time I'm also aware that a lack of exercise could be making the situation worse. We do have a fenced in yard and we try to play with her there as much as possible but again, it's right by the street and any time anyone walks by it's absolute mayhem. Once she gets going she's all nerves and it takes some time for her to seem truly relaxed again.

I reached out to the rescue who were very surprised although not particularly sympathetic and finally forwarded her vet records. (I had been asking for them for a week). It turns out that she's only 8 months old which was a surprise! I had a long talk with the rescue organizer who told me that age didn't matter and that she was just settling in and would most likely be fine after a 30 day period of getting to know us. Our trainer disagrees with the rescue and thinks that they've been irresponsible in their re-homing of Kitty. Not only is she much younger than we were told but we were very clear about not feeling experienced enough to handle a dog requiring extensive training. Now I wonder if I was perhaps just being very naive about adoption and all that it requires.

Anyway, of course none of this is Kitty's fault and I desperately want to help her.

I am completely overwhelmed at the amount of work we have to do, but of course every day we fall more in love with her and she's the sweetest little thing ever when she's inside and feeling safe but I have to say I have thought long and hard about what the right thing to do is and it's really tearing me apart. Each day I wake up feeling positive and then she'll have an episode and I feel completely overwhelmed and out of my depth.

ANY advice, happy stories and anecdotes, dog's who've turned it around, owners who've turned it around would be so welcome! Are these just jittery settling in nerves like the rescue group has told us? Is this more serious? Is it a good sign that she's so young and may have more potential to turn it around or is it a bad sign that she's showing so much reactivity at such a young age? I've listened to every dog podcast I can find, watched endless youtube videos and read blog after blog. I would just love some encouragement. Is it totally unrealistic to expect her to become a social dog with some patience and the right training?

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Shalista
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by Shalista » Sat Feb 04, 2017 8:45 pm

NOT at all as bad as your story but, a little hope?

I wanted a puppy and ended up with a miserable scared 8 month old. he was a WRECK. he was terrified of absolutely everything and everyone. he never exhibited barking and lunging at people but he would run and hide and shiver. it took me three years but he now cheerfully runs up to most people for pets and cuddles.

It's gonna take a LOT of work though.
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

cariadandkitty
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by cariadandkitty » Sat Feb 04, 2017 11:12 pm

Thank you so much for responding! It's just nice to hear we are not alone. We've been feeling pretty isolated because we just weren't at all prepared for a project of this magnitude and the rescue have been so unresponsive. We are really thankful that she's not fearful in other ways, she doesn't hide or cower except after a big loud noise so we have that going for us, we are able to communicate with her when she's calm. Thanks so much for sharing your story and I'm so glad that your little guy has come out of his shell! May I ask what you did to help him?

We are taking it day by day at this point because it's just too much to take in to think about it in terms of years. I'm hoping that at the very least we can help her get to a point where she may be a good fit for a different family who don't live in an urban area. If she's able to come beyond that to a point where she can handle a little hussle and bussle and be the right fit for us then I think we have to look at that as a bonus round.

The last thing I want to do is just let her go back to the rescue and have this happen for her all over again with a different family. She's awesome and doesn't deserve any of this, it's the people we've dealt with unfortunately that have made this such a hard situation.

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Shalista
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by Shalista » Sat Feb 04, 2017 11:51 pm

once again, we had dif issues so what worked for me might not work for her.

What we worked on was staying within the boundaries of what he WAS comfortable with. for example, i took him to the local pet store to socialize but he cowed and shook and wouldnt go inside. okay, i stayed OUTSIDE and just chain fed him hot dog pieces and told him what a wonderful puppy he was. then as he grew more comfortable outside i took him inside still chain feeding him and backing up if he ever showed discomfort to a previous step (IE going back outside or back to the parking lot)

For you ideally youd find that "safe" distance. you say at 10-15 feet she barks and lunges? then try to keep 20 feet away and just chain feed her there piece after piece. let her look and see the Big Scary Things without them actually getting close enough to scare her. eventually you can whittle down the distance.

Alternatively you could practice turning her around as soon as she sees the big scary and walking briskly away.

All this is to prove to her that the Big Scary = cheese/hot dog/liverwurst and that it cant get her and it wont hurt her.

I'm DEF not the expert here, I'm sure much wiser heads will pop up to help. What I want you to know is that A) fixing this will be a lot of work and B) it will help you bond with your pup and C) you're not alone, other people have dealt with it and D) everyone on this board supports you and will be with you every step of the way! :wink:
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

mansbestfriend
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by mansbestfriend » Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:18 am

cariadandkitty Hi. You are not alone. There's light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it's a long tunnel. :)

It's a shame you've had a bad experience with the shelter. Dogs can sometimes behave quite differently in shelter and foster environments. It sounds like your trainer friend has the good oil.

If you and your dog are walking and a potential trigger (dog, person, bike, skateboard, whatever) is approaching you, change course earlier rather than later, to avoid your dog feeling a need to bark and lunge at the trigger. Change direction, U-turn, detour, cross the street, try walks at a less busy time of day and/or day of the week, drive the dog to a less busy park or whatever for walks, whatever it takes (safely) to help the dog feel less stressed and less need to bark and lunge. More overall calmness of dog and owner then allows Positive Reinforcement and other training to work better.

Excited barking through the fence also stacks up the dog's stress levels.

My Kelly dog (adopted as an adolescent) was at first over-reactive to everything. With more understanding of behaviour, and ongoing management and training she's now 90% 'better' but still reacts to some specific triggers, and sometimes other stuff if I'm not paying enough attention. My Kelly dog will never be a social butterfly but that's OK.
Cheers. :)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

cariadandkitty
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by cariadandkitty » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:13 pm

Hi mansbestfriend,

Thanks so much for your response. This all sounds in line with what our trainer told us and what we've been doing. Until today I felt that we were making a tiny bit of progress, although it's hard for us to find places where we can really control the environment around us I have found that she's somewhat distractable and I do feel her trust in me growing.

At the advice of our trainer I just took her to the vet to make sure that there's nothing else going on that would be causing her discomfort and adding to her reactive behavior and we just got the all clear. Unfortunately though she did bite the vet in the process. She didn't break the skin but they were very wary of her after that and gave me a muzzle to put on her which was of course terribly frightening for her and heartbreaking for me.

The vet was definitely not enamored with our kitty girl and advised me that her behavioral issues were going to be very hard to work with. She also asked me if I wanted to keep her or give her back to the rescue. Does biting fall within the perimiters of the same reactive behavior in your experience? To be fair to kitty we were in a strange place, there were other dogs in the waiting room and she was absolutely terrified. I didn't like the vet that much either by the end of it!

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JudyN
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by JudyN » Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:17 am

I just wrote a reply but the forum fell over! :roll: So in brief:

Accustom your dog to a muzzle, gradually (start of my smearing something like pate inside and letting her lick it off). Use a muzzle she can open her mouth in and you can feed treats through, not one that will hold her mouth closed. Hold her securely at the vets and try to feed her treats while she's examined - not so much to make her think vets are fun, but to distract her.

My dog used to try to attack the vet, then he went through a stage of shaking with fear, now he's still scared but doesn't shake or try to attack. My vet is understanding, and will only touch him if he needs to. If your vet isn't sympathetic, you might want to find a new one who is.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

mansbestfriend
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by mansbestfriend » Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:31 am

Hi. My/our vet is also understanding, and makes allowances for Kelly's fear inside the vet clinic. If I saw the same level of fear in another dog, I'd expect a bite. Outside the clinic she calms right down (at least under threashold) again and sniffs and wanders about, and sleeps well on the drive home.

The initial first step to help Kelly dog be calmer overall, and accept calming meathods and training better, was zero episodes of bark and lunge for many days in a row. Stress builds quickly and dissipates slowly, just like us. (Maybe google spoon theory for dogs)

Cheers
:)
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Sit.

cariadandkitty
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by cariadandkitty » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:48 pm

Thank you both so much. This forum and my trainer may be the only thing keeping me sane. I so appreciate your advice and support, I do think I'll find a different vet who has more experience (read patience) for a girl like ours.

I really didn't want to take her in at all, but our trainer convinced us that her health was paramount and we had to get her on heartworm preventatives and make sure that the scratching she's been doing which we suspect is stress related isn't fleas. The good news is that she has the all clear but I worry that all the progress we made we'll have to re-build. We're gonna keep plugging away and I'll keep coming back to this forum. What a stroke of good luck to find you all. Thank you so sincerely.

Louis
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Re: 8 m/o reactive Beagle mix - long post, advice and encouragement welcome!

Post by Louis » Mon Feb 13, 2017 9:29 am

Hi cariadandkitty
I am quite new to this forum and came across your posts to see if there was anyone else out there who was going through a similar situation.
We have adopted a 3 year old cocker spaniel to join my other very old dogs. Louis was from a spaniel
Rescue centre and was advertised as being deaf, submissive and great in the car. He wasn't any of these. Louis is a gorgeous boy but is suffering from anxiety aggression especially towards men. Like you I have googled the issue thousands of times, been back onto the revue home and even contacted the kennel club. Not one person out there could help me. Louis attacks when people are leaving the house ! But I must say after 5 months we are getting somewhere. Louis is beginning to settle and there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel. I was so desperate after sleepless night and major anxiety myself, I tried rescue remady for dogs; this is brilliant and has helped Louis to chill. I stated with it 3 times a day, now things are calming he only has it when I know things might kick off. I have also used a chest fastening harness and a double lead by halti (amazon). I was also told the more I stressed over the situation the more the dog would (easier said than done when your dog is chasing your husband out of the house !)
I am a teacher and have realised that dogs are made of the same stuff, the more positive training you can do the better the outcome and this can happen quickly.
One thing I will say is that the rescue centres should be assessing these poor dogs properly. To be told Louis was deaf was ridiculous.
But please keep going, things will get better.
Best of luck.

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