Hello, my name isXXXXX and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
I can understand your frustration with your girl Dixie as I am sure that you thought by two years of age she would have settled down a bit and be more relaxed around the house. Some dogs just have more energy and the drive to "work" and really aren't happy unless they have tasks to do. The only good way to settle these pups is to increase their daily exercise and give them something to do to keep them out of trouble.
In Dixie's case it sounds like she is obedient and listens to commands so that is half the battle. It may help though to take her through a refresher or higher level obedience class. It will reinforce that she needs to listen to you, even with the distractions of new people and pets, and it may allow her to form some dog friendships such that the dogs could meet at a park to play and burn some of her energy.
If you have the time and are willing to further her training she may be a wonderful therapy dog that could visit rest homes or people in rehabilitation or hospice settings.
She would enjoy the social interactions and the ability to work with you at a task.
If you have any dog parks near you I highly recommend that you get her there as often as you can to allow her to play and satisfy her need for exercise and dog social interaction.
At home I recommend lots of games of fetch, daily walks and kong balls and toys that you bring out only when you really need her to settle, such as when you are watching television. You can hide pieces of carrot or a little peanut butter in them to give her a task to do and something else to focus on while you are relaxing and watching television. See this link for some examples: http://www.kongcompany.com/products/for-dogs/interactive/
When guests come you can train her to bring you a particular toy and sit rather then bothering them. This toy should be a special one that she truly enjoys and only gets only when guests come.
Dixie is still relatively young, many big dogs don't fully settle until 4 to 5 years of age. But given some more training and tasks to do I suspect you will both be much happier. Best of luck with her, please let me know if you have any further questions.
I'd also appreciate your opinion of a good rap to the snout when she misbehaves. Like when she charges the TV.
My wife has never given her a rap in the snout and the dog ignores her. She is very smart and knows she can keep up the behavior without any adverse action.
When she is outside barking at squirrels, I have to be the one to call or whistle to get her to stop and come in. I have bopped her a couple of times in the past and she always comes when I whistle. She will not come to my wife if she does not want to.
(I'd prefer not to do this, but I think it is a valid training technique. Reason does not work on dogs. And treats are not always effective)
I'm sorry for the length of time it took me to respond. I typed up my answer and got thrown off the site and my answer disappeared.
Thank you for the reply. You are correct in that long term reasoning doesn't work in dog training. We must break things down into steps and give immediate positive or negative consequences. Keep training sessions short, when she isn't tired and make sure to use a treat that she finds irresistible (cat treats or dried liver, small hot dog chunks). We must make sure they know ultimately who is boss and who all good things come from.
Dogs are naturally pack animals. They rarely hurt their young when they are "training" their puppies in social behavior. There is a lot of facial expression, deep growls and vocalizations as well as shunning. Physical aggression is only used when all else fails and there is immediate danger to the pack or the pup themselves.
I personally don't believe in physical "punishment" in dog training. I think it makes them fearful rather than trusting and a dog that learns by fear is one that isn't reliably obedient. If they trust in you as the leader and that what you ask them to do is morerewarding in the long, and short, run then they are more likely to comply. We need to be sure that the reward outweighs whatever negative behavior they areabout to do.
The nose is one of the most sensitive areas on a dog, and I would not hit a dog there. I have tapped a dogs nose with my finger when I had a treat in my hand to get their attention. It's a gentle tap along with saying their name and then I wave the treat under their nose to redirect.
It sounds like your wife is seen as a packmate rather then someone in charge. My old shepherd thought the same of my husband because he was a softie with her. So we need to change Dixie's perception of your wife. I would recommend that your wife be the one to take her to obedience class. All good, or lack thereof, must come from your wife. Walks, meals and treats should come from her and Dixie must follow a command to get whatever she wants, be it as simple as a pat. This program is called "nothing in life is free" and re-establishes who runs the show without a battle.
Here is a link to read about the program: http://k9deb.com/nilif.htm
The come command is the hardest one to train. I never give it unless I can reinforce it. So when I start working on the come command I use a long lead so I can reinforce the command. Make sure to reward profusely when she does come and use the long lead to guide her if need be.
Best of luck with your girl, your wife has some work to do but I think she and Dixie can come to an understanding.
OK, sounds like good advice. The problem is not so much that Dixie is a disobedient dog, it's the fact we are in our mid 60's and can't give her the exercise you say, and we know she needs. We did take her to puppy obedience classes and she responded well to "come" and other commands then.
I agree that more time needs to be spent reinforcing good behavior. You casually mentioned that big dogs may not calm down until 4 or so. That's not too long......
Thanks Dr. Kara
I understand that it may be tough to keep up with an inquisitive, active young dog.
Perhaps a refresher obedience class will remind her of what she already knows and give your wife a chance to remind her who's in charge and develop a closer, more in control relationship with her.
I also think if you can hang in there for another couple of years you will be very happy with Dixie, she sounds like a very smart, sweet girl that in general is a joy to be around.
I know how you feel, I've had lots of big dogs and small children at the same time and sometimes questioned my sanity for my choices, but I've never been unhappy in the long run.
Hi, We looked over the NILIF link you sent and will go by that program.She simply isn't going to get the exercise she needs from us. We don'thave the time (desire, really) to invest trips to the dog park, and walksetc. If she is certain of her place, maybe she'll not be so quick torespond to TV and outside stimulus.If this does not work, we'll live with the antsy, spring-loaded animaluntil she gets older and slows down naturally.
I understand that it is difficult for you physically to get her all of the exercise she needs.
I think the NILIF program will help, but I suspect that without more exercise you will have to wait out some of her behavior as she matures over the next couple of years.
Please keep in touch and let me know how things go for her, she is lucky to have someone that is at least patient and understanding rather then just giving up on her.
Take care, and thank you, XXXXX XXXXX