Trouble in paradise

Jack and I have been through a lot in the last month. There were digestive issues and behavioral issues. Some of the digestive issues were caused by the behavioral issues. And maybe vice versa, too. Suffice it to say that Jack was most definitely in the figurative dog house. I was at my wits end, and was seriously thinking I’d have to return him to the rescue agency, knowing that this would be a very bad outcome for both of us.

Finally my thinking went to, “What would Bob say to do?” (Bob is the professional dog trainer who leads our classes.) Once I asked myself that question, I knew the answer. He’d say, “Don’t give Jack the opportunity to repeat the behavior.” I know he advocates tethering puppies (and misbehaving dogs) to the owner so that good behavior can be immediately rewarded and unwanted behavior can be immediately corrected. That’s where we started. Plus I picked up an old crate from my daughter; Jack would be crated at night and any time I was out of the house. I wasn’t happy about these restrictions, but had to try.

I was quite surprised that Jack took to the crate immediately. The crate was in my as-yet-unfilled corner of the kitchen, and if I was in the room cooking, Jack chose to sit in the crate. I can only assume that he’d been crated at some prior point in his life.

Jack in the crate

It didn’t take long for me to get rid of the leash in the house. It was too much of a pain in the butt, and I figured I’d end up tripping and falling or strangling Jack. My house has a door on every room but the living room, and I could use a baby gate to keep him in there. Shutting a door is much easier than indoor leashes. Since he mostly wants to be where I am anyway, he follows me around when I move from room to room, so that was easy.

I also started even more intensive training. “Drop it” and “leave it” were essential commands for Jack to learn, even though they weren’t taught in our puppy class. In response to a question I asked, Bob mentioned that he learned how to train “leave it” from a dog trainer named Sarah Wilson. I looked her up and read everything I could find online. I didn’t buy her books; I needed immediate help.

While I appreciated everything she had to say, there were a few things that really resonated with me (my paraphrasing).

  • You don’t get to choose what your dog needs. Jack needed me to change my behavior and help him change his. I had to try everything I could think of, all the while exuding calmness and patience. I would never know what happened in his prior life, so couldn’t begin to figure out why he was behaving in ways that were so unacceptable. I could only make some assumptions. One of them was that it was only after he’d been with me for 5 months that he relaxed enough to show some of these terrible behaviors. Another was there it was entirely possible, perhaps probable, that he had some underlying physical health issues that hadn’t yet been diagnosed or treated that exacerbated the problem.
  • Think of a crate like a child’s car seat.  It’s not restrictive, it’s a safety measure.  If the parent’s attitude is calm and no-nonsense, the child’s will be, too.  The same is true of the dog crate.  Just like the car seat keeps the child safe, the crate keeps the dog safe when you can’t watch him.  Although Jack’s certainly not a puppy, I needed to protect him from himself or something very bad would happen.
  • People tend to get the dog that they need to teach them (the people) something. I am learning more patience, more tolerance, and more things about dog training and dog behavior than ever. Open heart & loving kindness – not just the words but the reality, at least to a greater extent than previous.

Jack’s still crated at night. I think we’ll do that for a long time. Maybe forever. After 3 weeks I no longer close the doors to keep in the same room as me. He usually chooses to be with me, but now can go get a drink of water or one of his toys if he wants it. When I forgot that I had committed to donating blood today and realized at the time of my appointment, I ran out of the house and left Jack out of the crate. I was gone about 90 minutes and it was fine. I won’t do this all the time, but will try it occasionally when I won’t be gone for long.

One of the changes I made was to give him a bit more food and lots more treats as positive reinforcements. When we’re going for a walk I don’t leave the house without some in my pocket, and Jack knows it. He wears an invisible sign around his neck, “Will work for food. Will work harder for better food.” I think he was pretty much always hungry, and as a person who’s struggled with my weight all of my adult life, I know what that feels like. Since I’m betting he had years of food insufficiency and knew what real hunger was (unlike my years of self-imposed dieting), Jack would do what he needed to not to go back to hungry, even when it didn’t serve him well.

Because there were digestive issues I researched and learned that I could buy Fortiflora, a doggie probiotic, on Amazon. This is exactly the same priobiotic I got from my vet after Jack’s first visit to her, but 40% less. 40%! I also ordered the fish oil supplement – same as the vet’s – for about 20% less. Jack needs to take the fish oil supplement all the time due to his propensity for joint issues, and I think I’ll keep him on the probiotic for a while, too. In my opinion he’s still not 100% well. I’m also seriously considering taking Reiki training so I can use that on Jack, too.

For the past 2 weeks Jack’s behavior is 100% acceptable, both in the house and on the leash. We’ve rebuilt trust in each other, and this good period is something we can build on. Neither of us will forget this time when we encounter a future bump in the road.

In the midst of all the troubles, Jack had the opportunity to meet my new grandson. He can’t get enough of this little baby!

Jack and new baby

Despite how shy he is around people, he is so interested in the tiny human that he can’t leave him alone. In fact, when I put the baby on my bed for his nap, Jack, who has never tried to jump on any of my furniture with his stubby legs, goes all around the bed trying to jump up and see the boy. It’s rather funny ‘cuz he can’t get himself more than a few inches off the ground, but he tries repeatedly.

In typical Jack fashion, he is very gentle. He sniffs and sniffs, and occasionally licks, but mostly just wants to be near the little guy. I make it a point to change his diaper on the floor to give Jack more up close time. It’s all good. 🙂

9 comments to Trouble in paradise

  • Yep, it is all good. Jack has a very kind heart even through his horrible past struggles.
    As to the crate, we think of it as a confinement, the dogs often think of it as a safe haven. Smoochie my last Cairn, loves his crate and always has. He is the one dog that sleeps downstairs. He likes being in the crate in the laundry room. One of my horses was half staved in his early life and to this day, he scarfs his food up like there is no tomorrow.
    We have “slow” feeders for both the horses but mostly because of Cooper.
    Oh and the new grandson is adorable!

  • Judy T

    Tough story Peg – good outcome! It sounds like your persistence and determination to make things be right for you both has really paid off! I hope things continue to be good for you both and that they even continue to get better as time passes. I love the part about Jack and your new little one and am happy to hear that you’re getting some good baby-time in! Yay for your move and all the good things it brought you.

    See you soon.

  • Jill

    I agree with what Theresa said about the crate. I always felt bad, like I was sticking the dog in time out. We found that one of our dogs was more comfortable in her crate, it was her safe place.
    As for the joint issues, our dog tore her ACL 5 years ago. After surgery, the vet gave us 2 types of pills to give her. One for pain (don’t remember the name)and a chondroitin/glucosomine for joints. She never really got back to running around and you could tell some days she felt stiff. Someone mentioned giving their dog Golden Paste. After researching it, I made some and gave it to the dog. It’s basically turmeric with pepper and coconut oil. We were shocked at seeing her actually run after being on it for less than 2 weeks! In the meantime, we ran out of the pills and haven’t purchased more. She has more spring in her step and is more like her old self, even at 11 years old. My husband and I use it too. I made the little dots and froze them, and take them like a pill. If he has a lot of joint issues, it might be worth a try.

  • Alma

    I was just wondering how Mr. Jack is, and now you’ve provided the answer. I’m sorry your relationship has been so challenging, but am glad you’re doing well now. The crate may be the only room of his own that Jack has ever had. Does he notice people/trucks/cars going by? Does this trigger a retreat to the crate, or an advance to protect himself, or just an episode of acting out?

    I love the picture of Mr. R, and really like the fact that he and Jack are more or less the same size. R looks so interested in Jack!

    Keep up the good work – it sounds as if you’ve got a handle on things now.

  • Peg Cherre

    Theresa – It’s not a matter of how quickly Jack eats, but rather what he eats. His food? No problem. Other things? Likely to make him quite ill. I’m currently experimenting….any people food may be upsetting to him. That, plus the ‘leave it’ and ‘drop it’ seem to be working.

    Judy – Thanks for your well wishes. I haven’t yet decided if Jack will join us later this week….he hasn’t visited anyone else’s house in the last month+.

    Jill – I do know that it’s me who needs to get over the crate, not Jack. I’ve never had to crate a dog past puppy training before. I’ll research the Golden Paste. I have all those things at home already! At this point it’s mostly preventing future problems due to his poor breeding and unusual shape….not only very long and low, but also very ‘beefy’ bones. Jack has the biggest feet and legs I’ve ever seen outside of a huge dog; definitely out of proportion to his size. Just and indication of the fact that he’s put together oddly.

    Alma – Jack isn’t bothered by traffic of any type. He doesn’t seem to notice them unless they’re those huge loud ones that sort of vibrate the house. If there is something that scares him (like a person coming over) he doesn’t run to the crate, he still runs under my big weaving loom. That started as his safe spot here and remains it. The baby seems to like Jack as well as Jack liking him.

  • I hear on the food. Stella is having allergy problems and we are trying her on a new type of food, one in which the proteins are broken down into such small molecules they don’t trigger a histamine response. I still feel her problems may be environmental instead of food, but we got to start somewhere. The bad new is no treats the other dogs get, the good news they have treats made specially for her!
    The leave it command is a gift, especially if you have youngsters around. I love the idea of the crate being a room of his own. Perfect!

    • Peg Cherre

      Actually, Theresa, although I think people food didn’t help, the main problem was his poop eating. And maybe getting people food encouraged that nasty behavior. Without getting into ugly details, for over a week I had every rug in my house covered with towels. 🙁

  • I hear YOU on the food…..

  • […] calling the vet for a refill of his pain meds. 3rd was going to the recommendation from Jill to a recent post, and doing research on golden paste. I decided to make it, and to make it into blobs and freeze […]

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