I have an eleven month German Shorthaired Pointer: because the horse wasn’t enough work.
For her entire life i have always been pushed in the way of “positive reinforcement” and it is something i carried on with horses. I would like to know other people’s opinions on this one.
I have found, and i believe others have found it as well. That it has created a needed and difficult dog with severe separation anxiety. We had always had labradors up till now, and i am aware that much of it is a result of the breed. But our labradors were all trained gun dogs and we focused very much on discipline and setting boundaries. Our labs turned out to be balanced, independent dogs who did as they were told. Lovely. Why did i ever think to change this?
With my pointer I was told to reinforce good behaviour and ignore the bad, 11 months on and we are changing our techniques. I appreciate that she has hit adolescence with a big old bang, but nothing seems to be sinking in. She does the standard; sit, come, lie down, drop and paw. But there are many behavioural traits that have never gone away. She still jumps up, she nudges, nips and whines to get attention; and i mean all the time. We tried crate training her, and she still sleeps in there; but only if it is in our bedroom. This was my bad i know; i should never have let her in there in the first place. Now however if the crate is even an inch out that door she howls the place down; all night. And yes, we have tried it for weeks at a time. I mean all night. I even tried keeping her up all day after a night of howling and she still didn’t sleep! There is only so much a person can take.
She is a very happy dog, and i love to see her running, jumping and just generally loving life; but i think the time has come to get a lot firmer with her. I am not intending on beating her or shouting at her constantly but i think there are some inherent flaws in the positive reinforcement attitude. I hope to combine the negative and positive and perhaps fall somewhere around the “respect” mark. I have done a lot of research and one theory was that separation anxiety does from the dog not respecting you as leader of the pack. Essentially she does not think i can look after myself. I think this is a valid point, as she begins to get worked up the minute i go out of sight. I do not mean pining or howling, it is a full one: I am going to trash stuff until i can get to you. Could it also be spite?
We have now gone through two seat belts in the car. The first one was my own fault; I left her unattended in the car and yes she had never done it before but i should have seen it coming. I had at this point been clinging to the hope that should would get used to being on her own; or even with another dog, just away from me. She didn’t. One seatbelt down; time to put some dog bars up.
She now goes in the boot. Problem solved i thought, there are bars in the way so she cannot get to anything chewable…
This morning i discovered she had managed to squeeze her boney little head through the bars in order to chew the rear seatbelt. Time for an attitude change and a cage for the car.
So from now i intended to say “NO” when she squeaks or nips, i will ignore her barking at me and i will endeavour to ensure that she gets increasing amounts of alone time to get her used to it. Jumping up will be met with a forceful; but not aggressive push down and walk away. So we’ll how this works, i would say she already knows there has been a shift in attitude as she has already stopped squeaking at me this morning. She is still following me as far as she can to see where i go…but no destruction. Yet.