After many, many times returning home to find Tinny (aka: the Bad Dog) had chewed up books, chapsticks, phones, video tapes (I could go on), as well as reached up on the counter to eat tomatoes, packages of bagels, 15+ peanut bars (at once), and much more she finally pushed us over the edge last week. Now, all you folks who consider yourself experts at dog training are shaking your heads already with lots of assumptions so let’s start there.
I’ve been training my own dogs with pretty good success for 14 years. If my dogs are the litmus test, evidence would show I’m pretty good at it. I’m no expert, but I’ve read and studied a lot, and practiced on my girls over the years. People used to ask if Chloe, my first dog, had been to obedience school and I’d jokingly tell them yes: Jen’s School of Hard Knocks. I’ve had two of the best behaved and most loyal dogs I’ve seen – and yet there’s room to argue the mixed breeds simply offered a better starting point.
So when I married a man who had a 5 year old Weimaraner I had no idea what I was up against. I’d only been exposed to one other Weimaraner in my life, and that was about 8 years prior. That particular dog had gotten into a scuffle with my dog (back then I was dumb enough to break up dog fights) and the Weimaraner took a bite out of the side of my leg. Since she seemed otherwise to be a pretty good dog, I chalked that up to my poor decision to get in between two fighting dogs.
When I first met Tinny she was being left outside anytime no one was home, something I’ve never done or had to do with my dogs. When my youngest dog, Hayley, was a puppy she once chewed one of my rugs and the railing of my bed. Crate training was immediately initiated. Fortunately Hayley took right to the crate. It was a place of peace and safety and, as far as she could tell, when she was in the crate and Mom came home – there was never any screaming or gnashing of teeth to accompany. In fact, Hayley in crate = happy return by Mom 100% of the time. So I never had to ask Hayley to get in her crate. By the time I had keys in my hand I’d turn around to see her standing in the crate, tail wagging and waiting for me to lock her safely inside.
But Tinny, as it was explained to me, did not take to the crate, and she could not be trusted inside, so she simply stayed in the yard, sometimes for a couple of days (with extra food and water) if Ryan had to go on a trip. The back yard basically became hers, and you couldn’t keep weather stripping on the back door. It looked like she spent the majority of her time there pacing, chewing up whatever she could find and clawing repeatedly at the door (there are even tooth holes in the door handle itself). The screens were clawed out of the back windows and the patio was just a mess.
She had her own house, with a heated floor for shelter from the elements, plus she had some nice big soft beds and a good sized back yard. What I learned early is that Weimaraner’s suffer “separation anxiety” more than a lot of other breeds and, I am pretty sure Tinny takes that reputation to the extreme for her breed. When Ryan was home Tinny was always inside with him and was happy as could be. But Ryan’s departure meant that she had to go outside, where her anxiety-induced damage would take less of a toll on personal property.
Now, in the past I’ve had friends complain their dogs will simply not get into a crate, and yet I’ve had those same dogs walk in willingly within 5 minutes of working with them, so in my arrogance, I was convinced it was just a time and/or training issue. We re-introduced the crate to the house for Tinny, put a nice soft bed and left her with a bone for distraction as we left one day. We came back home to find she had fought so violently after we left that the crate had scratched paint off the wall, and her nose and paws were bloody and raw from trying to get out. It was heartbreaking.
We tried all sorts of things to help her calm down in the crate, even giving her a Benadryl once, hoping she’d be drowsy and calm. It always ended the same and I couldn’t bear to watch her hurt herself. On one attempt we actually came back shortly after leaving, walked into the room where the crate was, and were making plenty of noise and calling her name. She was broncing like a bull inside the crate, so focused on getting out that she couldn’t even hear us come in and start talking to her. Only when I opened the crate and let her out did she seem to re-join us mentally.
Now, I’ve said all that to say that she was quickly exhausting my tiny repertoire of dog training tricks, and far surpassing my knowledge, ability and experience. It was becoming more clear how Ryan got to the point of having to leave her outside, for her own good, as well as his. So instead we dog-proofed the place to the greatest extent possible, closed all doors to limit her access to rooms and just started leaving her inside.
By now Hayley and I had moved in and, since I work from home, Tinny was enjoying company nearly 24/7. She was in heaven. She slept peacefully during the day as I worked, and gradually calmed from her once hyper self into a semi-calm, much more relaxed dog. Her worst offenses when we were gone eased to the occasional tube of Chapstick or a paper towel from the garbage can near my desk.
Until last week… which I’ll tell you about in the next post!