Multiple moves stress a pet
March 27, 2012
I have a 5-year-old female Australian Shepherd named Callie. Iand#8217;ve had her since she was a puppy and sheand#8217;s always been very well behaved. In the last month, she has started chewing things up when I leave her alone and aggressively barking at other dogs who walk by our house. We have moved several times in the past year because I lost my house, but have been in the same place for about two months. She was really good during all the moves and now that we are settled sheand#8217;s losing it!
It sounds like itand#8217;s been a tough year for both of you! Environment changes can be very hard on dogs and it can take several weeks in one place for a dog to calm down and acclimate. The behaviors you are seeing may be a cumulative effect of the multiple moves. To help her get through this difficult time, create a very structured environment and strive to be calm and confident around her. Ask her to do something for every reward (meals, treats, attention, play, walks). For example, have her sit and wait before going outside or for her meal. Ask her to go to bed and relax when you are watching TV. She needs as much exercise as possible, preferably off-leash, so she can really run. If you are worried about her around other dogs, go to less popular trails for now. Carry some high value treats and call her back periodically during your walk. When you have to leave her alone, give her an extra special chew toy like a stuffed Kong. Because of the chewing consider using a baby gate to keep her in a laundry room or hallway. Smaller, more confined spaces can help dogs relax.
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To address the barking and charging at dogs who walk by your house, do not let her outside alone for now. She is being rewarded every time she barks and the other dog leaves. Leash her and walk her to the car when you leave and again when you come home. The goal is to keep her as calm as possible. I would recommend working with a positive reinforcement based trainer who can teach you both how to address this problem. Training is also a great way for you and Callie to reconnect and relax.
and#8212; If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email Carla Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org