Welcome to “Ask Crystal,” where you can ask your pet behavior questions! You can submit your question for Crystal at the bottom of the page!

Dear Crystal, 

I have had my dog 6 years. She is a very high energy Plott Hound and Black and Tan mix. She’s on the cusp of being the best dog ever. She’s the most loving dog and is a big baby. She’s so high energy but is finally calming down a bit.  
We used to live in a private, wooded area. She was pretty content and could go out and walk and sniff all day.  
We bought our first house and it’s in a subdivision full of kids and people. They are always outside and constantly knocking on the door. It’s causing her to be a neurotic mess. We have to put her behind a baby gate to answer the door. She barks and barks. I don’t worry about her biting but she gets too excited and I’m scared of her jumping or knocking people over or getting loose. People are intimidated by her when we walk her here. 

She hates the crate.  I have tried calming pills, sprays, using food, putting old clothes and blankets, toys, Kongs feeding her in it and walking her beforehand. Putting on my shoes at different times, going to the door etc. We have another dog and he does fine with the crate he lays in it because he wants to. If we don’t crate her, she will literally eat walls and destroy everything she can find. 
We are at a loss. We are planning on getting a fence. We have a HOA and the fence they want us to get is crappy aluminum that costs an arm and a leg. I’m a stay at home mom with a baby and my son is on the spectrum. She’s his dog and she’s wonderful with him. She’s the best dog as long as we are home. I don’t want to have to find her a new home but I have to be able to leave the house. We find a dog sitter more then we find a babysitter.  
I am at a loss of what to do. 

Sincerely, 

Unhappy Hound 

 

Dear Unhappy,

Wow! That is a tough situation for everyone involved. I don’t know how long ago you moved but I imagine it will take some time for your dog to adjust to such a different life. I often see dogs here at the Adoption Center that experience a great deal of anxiety in their new homes. We usually don’t know what their background was but many times it was quite different environment than the new home.  It sounds like your dog was in an ideal situation for her previously and it will take a lot more work on your part to help her adjust.

If you haven’t spoken to your veterinarian yet, I would suggest that you do so. There are some anti-anxiety medicines which may help get your dog over this rough patch as you develop a new routine. They may work better than some of the herbal remedies. They usually will start the dog at a dosage that will not actually work to help get the dog adjusted to the medicine so there will be a period of time where the dosage is being tweaked and not effective. These medicines don’t work for everyone and in general, the idea is to use them temporarily until you get the dog on a routine and/or training program. They don’t usually have a sedative effect or alter the dog’s personality. The idea is to take the edge off of the anxiety while you work on the issue.

It sounds like she needs a lot more mental stimulation now that she is not able to get the outdoor time she needs. The destructive behavior could be caused by boredom and excess energy. It could also be a way for her to release stress. Chewing helps dogs relieve stress, so she needs a lot of appropriate opportunities to chew.  Feeding exclusively from frozen kongs and similar toys can really help satisfy that need to chew and lick. Licking actually can help soothe a dog so a frozen kong really is a great tool. You could also mix that up with other food enrichment toys, so she doesn’t get bored.  You can make your own disposable feeders out of boxes, paper egg cartons, paper bags and toilet paper tubes. Hounds love to have their nose in the grass so she would probably love to search for her kibble in the grass. Scent work is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety for any dog but especially for the especially olfactory oriented hound. I would highly suggest doing scent work with her daily inside the house and then outside when you have a fence. Nose work burns a lot of mental and physical energy. I have seen dogs pass out after a good nose work session. It doesn’t need to cost much money. You just need some cardboard

boxes and some smelly treats. There are a lot of different ways to play but the idea is to hide treats in some of the boxes that she has to  discover. You can use a lot of different techniques. I had a dog who had a beloved squeaky toy that we would hide, and she would run from room to room searching for it until she found it and then madly ran around the house squeaking it. Walks around the neighborhood don’t generally do much to burn energy for most dogs. Allowing them to sniff all the scents along a trail will be much more enriching way to walk. Maybe you can find a pet sitter that could take her for a hike somewhere if you don’t have the time to get out. If she is dog friendly dog day care or playdates may help burn some energy as well. A good play session with a tug toy or flirt pole may be another way to burn some energy.

A group class could be really helpful to teach her some new behaviors which may help her to behavior more calmly when people come over and when on walks. I would work on sit for greetings for the jumping on people, wait at the door to prevent escapes and the steady cue for loose leash walking. All of those behaviors are taught in most training classes. A daily 15-minute training session would also be helpful to burn some more of that energy and keep her mentally stimulated.

You may consider a private consultation with a professional dog trainer in your home to evaluate the environment and see what changes could be made. You may need to incorporate some management techniques to help with the high level of stimuli in the neighborhood. I would suggest a wireless doorbell that pings your phone and a sign on the door that says, “Please don’t knock. Sleeping baby.” If you have blinds pull all of those down or close the curtains. You may want to use the baby gate to keep her out of the front room during noisy times of day.

With all of that said, I know that is a lot to ask of a mother of two children. I don’t think there is an easy answer. It can be really hard on a dog to drastically change the environment and life that they are accustomed to. It may be in her best interest to rehome her if you try these techniques and there is no change after several months. She would likely do best in a situation that was similar to your previous home. The best possible way to rehome her would be for you to keep her in your home while you are looking for a good fit. We have a rehoming listing through our website and many rescues have that resource as well. https://www.blueridgehumane.org/community-services/pet-re-homing-listing/ I would encourage you not to wait until the last minute to rehome her as it can be a lengthy process. You are in a much better position to find the right home for her than an adoption center would be. You know her personality better than anyone. It sounds like you may be worried she has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a very complicated issue and difficult to diagnose. You would need to have a behavior consultant evaluate her to determine if that is the cause of the behavior. I would caution you to be very careful not to label her as such without a professional opinion. Separation anxiety is quite difficult to work with and will make rehoming her much harder if that is the course you take.

It is a difficult decision, but you need to consider your quality of life as well as hers. I think there is a possibility that with time she could acclimate to her new environment, but behavior changes really can take some time. It is going to take a lot of effort and patience on your part. I like to take a balanced approach of short daily training sessions, play sessions, weekly hikes and food enrichment. I don’t think any one thing on its own will be enough, but the combination of enrichment can really start to get the dog to a more relaxed dog. I really hope you can work it out for both of your sakes. It sounds like you really love her a lot and she is worth the effort.

Until next time,

Crystal

 

Behavior Question Submission

Please share your pet behavior question for Crystal, our Behavior & Training Manager. Please share any relevant information. Personal information will not be shared and questions may be edited for length and clarity before posting. Thank you!
  • We will not post your email to the website.
  • Please share your pet behavior question for Crystal! Please provide any details you feel are relevant. Questions may be edited for length/clarity before posting. Personal information will not be shared. Thank you!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.