Tips for helping a neurotic GSD settle into a new house
I've had the dog in question since February. He was dumped, unsocialized, untrained, etc. He's about 1 year old and has actually settled down a lot and turned into a really nice dog.
We recently bought a farm and are finally staying there, and I'm having trouble getting him to settle in. He spends most of the night just walking through the house. I tried to introduce him gradually as we have the luxury of only moving about a mile away, and he did really well at first. But once we started spending the night he got all anxious again. He paces, makes his worried noise (kind of a low "urmph" noise), and will only lay down if he can be right in my lap. Otherwise he is up and down all night.
Does anyone have any tips for helping him relax in the new place, or do I just have to give it time?
He gets at least 1 hour of exercise a day, usually more like 2 (we take them for brisk walks morning and night for a minimum of 30 min each time but usually 45-60, and often they're off leash and running like crazy). This is down a bit since he's used to going out for at least another hour with my trail horses, but it has only been 3 days of no riding and he's gone longer than that before, and we plan to get back to it tomorrow. In addition he gets 3-4 10-15 minute mental training sessions (working on commands like down, stay, heel, etc.) spaced throughout the day. We adopted this schedule after some experimentation because it cut down on a lot of his difficult behaviors.
My vet who raises GSDs thinks that he's likely a puppy mill dog, and that might contribute to his nervousness. He appears to be purebred but doesn't meet the physical breed standards. I don't know if that has any bearing, though.
I'm also pretty sure he was abused in his previous home. I don't throw that around lightly, but the first time I tried to throw a toy for him and so raised my hand above my head (wasn't looking at him or anything) he flipped over and peed himself. Quite a few other instances especially in the first month or two I had him have me pretty convinced. He also was definitely dumped, we saw it happen but didn't get out there quickly enough to get any info on the driver except a vague vehicle make/model/color.
Is he crate trained? Can you do a long walk before bed? The Thundershirt has helped my neurotic dog...DAP plug-ins, kongs with frozen peanut butter at bedtime? He may even need some medication at night for a while.
Hey guys, thanks for the suggestions! He isn't crate trained. I haven't done that in the past, but with the amount of crazy dogs that have been showing up at my place recently I'm thinking I should start.
We did try tasty toys like the frozen Kong and it distracted him for about 5 whole minutes before he decided to go on the prowl again.
Last night we did a late-night walk (I tend to go to bed around midnight and go on the last walk while it's still light so I can let them off leash and still watch them) and then I put up a baby gate. I also picked up a knock-off Thundershirt that actually did seem to help a lot. He was still a little antsy but there was improvement.
He seems a little calmer during the day now, but I think he feels like he's on guard duty or something at night. It was windy and he woke me up barking at random noises several times, but he does seem to be relaxing a bit. We don't have a vet available on weekends but I think I might call them and discuss the medication option if he doesn't settle down soon.
Actually, a question about crate training: is it okay to do it with some dogs but not others, or is an all-or-nothing kind of thing? I have four dogs and two of them are just totally relaxed and fantastic no matter what, and the third does well alone in the house and tends to freak out when confined (I know crates are supposed to be a safe space, but he had some bad crate training in the past and I think it might be less stressful for him to be loose). Hector the GSD would probably do well with it, though.
I also like having loose dogs around for security reasons. I live alone and am pretty isolated so even though my pups are all very sweet I like having the deterrence of them loose while I'm gone or sleeping.
I have a 2 year old Blue Heeler and an 11 month old Bloodhound. Until very recently, the Bloodhound slept in a crate and the Heeler didn't. It was never a problem. Now, the Bloodhound sleeps on the couch, and the Heeler next to my bed.
I don't have any advice for the night prowling. My Heeler does the same thing after the kids go to bed, and I am still up. As soon as I go to bed though, she settles right down and sleeps next to the bed all night. I am convinced that her prowling is due to having to check her "flock" constantly.
I would enthusiastically recommend learning and using calming signals. We have been training and training and training for years with our terrier mix that has / had the issue of going into manic barking episodes. Everything we tried, all positive methods, did work, sort of. But I felt like I was just controlling the symptom, not the core issue.
Then in my neverending search for ideas I was reminded about calming signals. Hand to forehead !!!!
The change, within hours literally, was like magic. But in actuality it is just about learning to communicate with dogs in their own language. This dog is so much more relaxed and non-reactive, it is just wonderful.
Go to "www.dogforum.com"
Go to dog behavior
OCalming Signals is the top sticky
Read the thread, watch the linked videos, read everything you can on TuridRegas' site which is also linked within that thread.
Watch your dog to see what calming signals he is giving to you. This is a fascinating part of dog communication that makes SO much difference to the dog.
Some calming signals you can give your dog are licking your lips, (bring your tongue up over your upper lip), slowly blinking your eyes, turning your head, big yawns, and lying down on the floor on your belly with your dogs.
These all help the dog to know everything is alright. I hope you try it and I can't imagine that it wouldn't help your guy.
Last edited by li'l bit; Nov. 13, 2011 at 10:29 PM.
Reason: errant letter