Willow is having trouble adjusting

I received a note from the family who adopted Willow and is having some trouble adjusting. Here is her note and my response:

I need some guidance on some issues with Willow. We have some major potty training issues. I have been walking her on a leash outside to go to the bathroom. I try to take her out 6-8 times per day and usually she goes, but she is still peeing in the house. I have limited her to the main floor, but she continually pees in the living room. Even outside it is hard to get her to go sometimes.

She hates the rain and doesn’t want to go. She’s also still scared of the wind and strange noises. She’s generally very skittish about everything. She’s still scared to death of my husband. He’s trying very hard to ignore her and just puts his hand out for her to sniff him. Today we tried putting peanut butter on his finger and she actually licked him for quite a while. We’re going to try that for a while.

She’s also chewing up a storm. We have toys for her but she loves to chew anything in sight. I try to exercise her outside, but she doesn’t want to play fetch and I have some foot problems and can’t run after her. She is jumping on the kids and tends to “clothesline” them with her outside leash so they are somewhat scared of her. Any suggestions on these issues would be greatly appreciated. We just love Willow to death and she is very attached to me and the kids, but we need to make some progress on these issues. I am looking into a training class. Thanks so much!

I’m gong to try to answer all your questions, there are a lot here! But first of all I’m glad you are in love with her. She is a sweetie and I think once you get through this all you will all be fine. But this will take time – remember to think in terms of months rather than weeks. Most of the rescue dogs I have had take a full year until they feel really “part of the family”

First of all, have you made sure Willow doesn’t have a bladder infection? Also, did her stool check come back clean? I would definitely rule out any physical cause for the accidents. A few of the puppies still tested positive for coccidia and whipworm at their 9 week check ups so it is likely she may still be infected, as she was the one who came with those parasites.

At our house she only pottied on leash – rarely did we let her off leash and then it was only during the last two weeks at our house. She did like to walk a bit first and my husband sometimes had to walk her a half mile before she’d pee. I found her difficult to get to understand the whole “go potty NOW” concept for the first few weeks at our house but near the end she seemed to understand. Make sure you take her to the same spot each time and try walking her for at least 5 or 10 minutes first….(yes I know this sounds awful every single time but it will get easier) Also, are you cleaning up the accidents with an enzyme cleaner? Natures Miracle makes a good product. If you don’t clean it up she will continue going there. Treat her like a puppy and keep her tethered to you at all times in the house, don’t let her sneak away. Then she will learn she’s supposed to hold it. Remember, I believe she was tied up outside the majority of her life thus far so she is learning what living in a house means. Just cuz she figured out that she isn’t supposed to pee in my house doesn’t mean she now understands the whole concept of house training. .. But she will learn. Patience, consistency and time will help.

Her fearfulness is very common for mama dogs and it will fade. She has had a lot of mama hormones coursing through her veins for quite awhile and now she is getting off of them…this will take some time and as this is happening she has to acclimate to a new home. Give her time and SPACE to make the transition. Remember, in my house she spent a lot of time alone, in the puppy room or outside with the puppies…she wasn’t in my house all that much and definitely not unsupervised.

I like the peanut butter idea a lot! Do that as many times a day as your husband can stand! Also, let him be the one to feed her and if he can walk her on a LONG walk once a day that would be great! Just have him leash her up and start walking matter of fact and she will follow. Try for a good hour if possible. That will really help. And as they walk he should keep her at his side, not in front, and not talk to her. Just walk and be together. Then when he comes in, just let her off the leash and go about his business. She will come around, remember how she was with him at my house? Not afraid at all. It is just a lot of change all at once for her.

You are right to identify chewing as a way to release energy. She was used to getting about 3 walks a day – one 1/2 mile walk in the morning and night by my husband, and one 2 mile walk with me in the afternoon. Try to match that and she’ll be a little more tired out. Play with the children MUST be supervised with any new dog (as you know) but especially so with a rescue dog. Getting involved in a training class will really help give some structure to their “play” time. If the kids have some games they can play with her it will help them all avoid the fall back game of “chase the children”. Also, teach them to stand still and turn away from her if she starts getting too wild, rather than running and yelling. Again, supervision is key here.

I know these seem like a lot of issues but really they can all be summed up as adjustment issues and having excess energy. Both of which can be worked with. Good luck! Keep me posted!


August 22, 2009 • Tags: , , , , , , , • Posted in: advice, behavior, training, Willow

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