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My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Needed

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EmilyGrace
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My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Needed

Postby EmilyGrace » Fri Mar 06, 2015 1:16 am

Several weeks ago we adopted Rocco from an owner on Craigslist. He is a 10 month old Maltese- Poodle mix and he weighs about 13 pounds. When we first met him he displayed every tendency that we said we couldn't afford to have in an apartment dog-he barked aggressively, jumped, nipped, wee'd in the house, and the owners said he liked to chase cats (our room mate has a cat).

I was ready to walk away, but Nick insisted he saw the potential for a really good dog in him. I'd never owned a dog before, but am really interested in animal training. So we decided to make the commitment and go for it.

The weeks since bringing him home have been indescribably frustrating, and have humbled me beyond thinking I have any clue what I am doing. I know we have some spectacular dog owners on here. Please help me. I am at my wits end.

Here are the main issues:
1) Aggressive Towards Other Animals: He lunges and barks crazily at dogs and cats. We keep him and our room mate's cat separated through baby gates, he is showing less and less interest in her, but we don't dare risk them together yet.

The real problem is when we are walking-I try walking him the other way, but he keeps at it. I try rewarding/distracting him before he jumps at them, but he is too excited. I think he has never been socialized and just really wants to play, but at the same time I am honestly afraid he would hurt the other animal.

He rushed towards people too, but is never really interested in affection from them. Just a sniff.

I have left him in the car whenever I am at PetCo. None of our friends own any patient dogs we can socialize him with. We have signed him up for obedience classes starting next week, and I'm hoping the trainer can guide us through acclimating him to his other classmates. But I am also deeply afraid he will go berserk when we walk in.

2) Barking: He likes to sit and the window and bark extremely loudly at everything that passes by. I have tried yelling no when he barks, putting him in time out in the bedroom if he barks incessantly, and giving him treats for sitting quietly.

Some websites have said I should anticipate when he barks, and get his attention onto me instead. But I am baffled as to how to practically do that when hanging out at home watching a movie or doing homework.

I've also heard that barking is the result of not getting enough exercise- he gets two half hour walks a day and has lots of toys and I usually play fetch with him for at least a few minutes a day. That is really as much as I can afford to give between the other demands placed on me by school, work, boyfriend, room mates, and family.

3) Nipping and Jumping: I know this is a tendency his last owners encouraged because they thought it was cute. But when I come home from work and Rocco is bouncing like a bouncy ball, nipping at my fingertips, and the ankles of my pant legs I know this is not something I can tolerate. I've tried turning my back, and then getting him to sit before petting him, but he seems hell bent on jumping up and nipping me. I don't want to yell NO at him for being happy to see me though.

A little face licking and happy body wiggling I wouldn't mind though. How to achieve this happy medium?

4) Messing in the House: I have tried to head this thing off by letting him out first thing in the morning, every couple hours, before work, after getting home from work, after dinner, and before bed. And praising him when he goes outside. But shortly afterwards, usually once a day, he pees or poops in the house. I am relatively convinced its a marking thing. But I've also heard that you aren't supposed to reprimand a dog for going in the house. So what do I do?
And how do you teach a dog to stand by the door when they have to go out, like I've observed most pets to do?

Let me be clear- I am committed to doing whatever it takes to train Rocco, and give him a happy life. I want to do positive reinforcement training with him, but am unsure what he will respond to and when to say NO. I recognize this dog is beyond anything in my experience, he is tirelessly energetic, completely un-socialized, and way too smart for his own good.

He also sleeps at the foot of our bed every night, jumps up on my lap for pets when I am doing my homework, and runs all over the house like a crazy drenched white rat after he gets a bath.

Any advice would be deeply welcomed. Pictures to come!
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby TamanduaGirl » Fri Mar 06, 2015 3:47 pm

You usually do better to train a small dog to use a pee pad. Then if you are still set on having them go outside you can move the pad to the door then after awhile outside then stop using it. Often small dog just can't hold it as long as you think they should though.
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby Ash » Fri Mar 06, 2015 7:04 pm

I'm happy you're so committed, even though he turned out to be a little monster, lol.

I think the obedience training classes are a great start for sure. Do you own a clicker? They do wonders on dogs. Obviously don't follow the "dog whisperer's" advice and be crazy dominant over him--but he does need to know who is in charge and who sets the rules, and at the moment, he thinks he's your equal. Sometimes setting rules that are arbitrary is a good way to do that.

Have you tried the no-pull harnesses on his walks? Or are you just using his collar? A small dog like that would probably benefit from a harness--they seem safer, especially for lungers. That's what we used for our shih-tzu since he went from being on the brink of death to being out of control, but yours sounds like a much more difficult case.

Also, keep in mind, he is still a puppy. So he is naturally going to be doing a lot of undesirable things. Puppies are the worst, lol. He may not be a "cute, cuddly, small" puppy, but the personality sticks with them for a year or two (in my observation, at least).

Is he neutered? If he's marking his territory, he may not be neutered. Puppy pad would be a good start too, as TG mentioned. And then you can slowly transition him over to going outside once lots of the other behavioral issues are sorted out.

Teaching him to "sit" on command could be a great step actually. If he starts getting unruly, stand up, give him the hand signal and verbal command in a strong voice (like you're a coach), and he might do it for a treat. Even though that's a trick, it is also great for obedience training.

Focus on what is most concerning to you. Don't try to tackle EACH issue at once. Otherwise, he may just get confused and won't be sure what you're trying to tell him.

You sound like you're doing everything you can. I hope our seasoned dog owners will chime in with their advice too.
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EmilyGrace
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby EmilyGrace » Sat Mar 07, 2015 1:24 am

Thank you TG and Ash
TG- I've never used puppy pads before, and I doubt my room mates will be thrilled at having one by the door, but I'll certainly give it a try. He's going outside the majority of the time, so when he messes in the house it seems deliberate but I guess that might not be the case.

I've known dogs that stand or scratch at the door when they have to go out. I am wondering how to teach this while incorporating the puppy pads?

Ash- He is indeed neutered. And we always walk him on a harness (he would strangle himself from excitement otherwise).

He knows sit and can fetch but will not perform these behaviors all the time like when he's excited by another dog or just not in the mood (this is what makes me thinks he's too smart for his own good). I think the sit could be definitely be helpful with the jumping though. I will bring the coach voice, even though I feel like a jerk when I do it.

Aggression, Wanting to Play, or Scared?
Three times now, I've cautiously let him approach other dogs when the signs were good (no barking, the other dog seemed friendly) but each time he just touches noses with them and then intermediately snaps at their face. This has only become more mortifying for me each time, even though the other owners were understanding and the dogs weren't hurt. Now when we walk I pick him up whenever we see another dog, and he wriggles but does not bark. Maybe he is afraid of them and picking him up makes him feel secure?

Biggest Problems and Teachability
This and the barking are the biggest problems. Is a loud NO and time out in the bedroom appropriate for a dog when they bark at the window? Getting him to sit while he's running across the back of the couch is a no go I am thinking.

He's learned that he can only get out of time out when he stops whining and scratching the door, so he is capable of learning. :P
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby TamanduaGirl » Sat Mar 07, 2015 2:21 am

That is fear aggression. Hyzzie does this with big dogs, she was picked up and tossed around by a rottie when young. Though if annoyed by an overly eager dog getting in her face she can get a bit snappy too. There are generally subtle warnings signs like lip tightening/pursing first.

Barking is tough and takes a lot of work and vigilance on your part. You need to see the subtle cues he plans to bark and stop him then before he does. Also the reason and motivation for barking matters. Sometimes they are trying to be guards and alert you to what they see as an issue. In that case you investigate and let him know it's not a threat. Then the barking will diminish over time as he learns what isn't an issue. If he's just the sort to bark when excited then you really need to head him off at the pass to get an effect. Also commands help instead of just no. Quiet as a command and reward when he is quiet, even if he just stops for a moment then work on his being quiet longer once he knows the command. Also try teaching him to lay calmly on the couch to look out if he's not calm then he doesn't get to look.
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby EmilyGrace » Sat Mar 07, 2015 2:32 am

Wow. Fear aggression. It hadn't occurred to me before because in all cases the dogs were either the same size or smaller than him. And he rushed them rather than shrinking away. Animals are so weird.

I will work on the barking by reassuring him that the trigger is not harmful and giving him treats for sitting quietly like you suggest. I am just afraid of rewarding him for barking! And I have no idea how to train for a command like Quiet?
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby TamanduaGirl » Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:02 am

Yeah they seem to live by the best defense is a good offense. Has worked well for Hyzzie. She''s scared of all kinds of big dogs. seems a bit unfair though to act like you want to say hi then switch to "I'm gonna rip your face off" mode cuz you got scared. So I just keep her away from any on leash and let her chase off loose ones if I can't.

The best but slowest way is to say the command when he does what you want him to do with the command on his own. So when he goes quiet say the command and give him a treat. You can then build on it by slowly giving the command sooner.

If you can read his cues well you can tell him quiet when he's just thinking about barking and reward him if he stops and doesn't continue on and do it. Beaker's only a mild barker. Something will set him off outside or he'll here something and go running outside to bark. I'll call him in then he'll hear something and want to go back or bark and I see him think about it and tell him "no bark" I also encourage barking sometimes though, kinda as a joke like if it's something on TV or that my dad is doing so I tell him to "bark, bark". If you actually teach them what bark means then "no bark" can work as you can tell them when to bark and when not too but generally quiet is actually better as it's just one word and they tend to tune out the no part if they hear no too much for all kinds of things. If you are using no though catching them as they are thinking and using it to prevent them works best.
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Re: My First Dog: Maltese-Poodle Mix Named Rocco. Advice Nee

Postby Ash » Sat Mar 07, 2015 1:07 pm

Using your "coach" voice should not make you feel like a jerk. Animals--especially dogs--want to please. If you watch some shutzhund videos on youtube, you'll probably think the owners are being too stiff and just shouting at their animals. But the dogs really get a lot out of it, and you can tell. They want to be worked, and they want to be pushed.

Here's a great example of dogs enjoying training sessions with a very stern coach: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_D6JoFcAeE These are movie-star dogs that were in Resident Evil, and this shows the training, and how to use your coach voice. It sounds "mean," but they don't take it that way at all--as you can see, these dogs are very happy and excited to do these tricks.

I use my "coach" voice when teaching the foxes tricks. Since it's a different "tone," they perk up and realize that this is training time. My foxes will do tricks for other people, but not if someone gives the hand signal and verbal command half-heartedly, or quietly. You need to be stern and be like, "SIT." Immediately they see what's going on, and they become more focused because they are excited to be trained and rewarded with treats.
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