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Canine Behavior/Lazy husky?!!


QUESTION: I have a siberian husky X malamute dog, he is nearly 3 years old. I have had him since a puppy. He has always been lazy in the house, sleeping alot etc but enjoys his walks, I take him out every day. I also go running with him once a week for 40mins or so. Recently I started bike joring with him and first he loved it, but now has started being really lazy. He will walk pathetically slowly and then stop and sit, looking at me, if I try to pull him along he rolls over on his back. He has started doing this when I run on foot as well as with the bike and even when just walking on his lead! I think he is just being naughty because when I turn back to the house, he runs/pulls 100mph all the way! He is otherwise fit and healthy and is always running and playing in the garden with out other dog. I don't know what to do and am disappointed as I got him because I wanted an energetic outdoor dog, not a lazy coach potatoe that wont go anywhere! Is this just a phase of him trying to get out of work? Or something I have done wrong?
thanks :)

ANSWER: This dog is not lazy.  You are pushing him beyond what he is physically able to do.  What you "want" and what you "get" are two different things.  At three, if (and I can almost guaranty this "if" is an actual problem) there are any orthopedic issues (hips, elbows, etc.), this dog IS IN PAIN.  He "pulls" to get home because this experience is very punishing to him!  It has nothing to do with "being naughty".  I'm sorry you are "disappointed" but, if able to answer, the dog might report the same thing.  What he wants, and needs, is a lifetime commitment from a loving owner who will give him structure, patience, affection, positive reinforcement training, and just plain old SAFETY.  I suggest you find a veterinarian and have this dog evaluated for orthopedic issues or any other physiological problem; this will include comprehensive blood work.  We must accept others for what they ARE, not what we WANT them to be, and that includes members of species other than our own.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the reply, I took my dog to the vet a while ago because I thought he seemed not himself, but they said there was nothing wrong with him and made me feel a bit of a hypochondriac! But I can't understand why he would suddenly stop enjoying himself going out, so there must be a reason. I just would have thought that if he was in pain, he would be reluctant to run around all the time, not just when I am trying to get him to do something? He is very clever and tends to get bored of the same things very quickly, so I just assumed he was having me on. Will get him checked out for the orthopedic stuff. I just wanted to be certain it was necessary, because he REALLY hates the vets. Just want him to be happy.

ANSWER: Dogs don't "show" pain as we anticipate.  It is part of their nature to "hide" it.  There are dogs with orthopedic problems so severe that it's a miracle they can walk and some of those dogs show no symptoms.  When a dog balks, as your dog is doing, and when that dog is eager to get back home, the first thing you do is investigate possible physiological cause.  No one can tell you on brief examination if a dog has orthopedic problems.  Sometimes observing the dog can give a specialist a clue but often x-ray is required.  I suggest you find a veterinary orthopedist or a veterinary internist rather than use a general vet.

Once you have real answers, report back and we will work on making the dog more enthusiastic about his outings.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: OK so the vet confirmed he is fine, no skeletal problems etc. They think something has upset him on his walks. I have no idea what that might be it just seems so random to me, one day he was fine the next not! I've noticed he will go out no problem if he's with another dog or if I take him to a new place he hasn't been before. I've stopped doing anything with him in his harness for the timebeing until I get him going out enthusiastically on his lead again. He only does this stop/start thing for a bit at the beginning of the walk then is OK once I get round a bit, or off of the road. Not sure how to tackle it though, don't want to pull him along or upset him even more? He is difficult to motivate because he is not remotely interested in food either!

Glad to hear he has been cleared of orthopedic issues.  I'm impressed you were able to find a specialist and have an appointment in so little time.  It is absolutely IMPERATIVE that this dog has been, actually, found free of orthopedic issues.

The dog has acquired some (unknown) conditioned fear response to something we do not understand.  You must learn TO READ DOG BODY LANGUAGE so you can IMMEDIATELY respond when his body language clearly indicates he is experiencing a fight/flight reaction:

In one pocket, carry Tic Tacs (FOR YOU); in the other in a zip top baggy, carry hot dog bits.

AS SOON AS the dog begins to react and you KNOW his next behavior will be fearful or just plain balking (it may take a few times for you to intervene BEFORE the fight/flight response kicks in), YOU STOP MOVING and pop two Tic Tacs into your mouth to mask the adrenaline on your breath (normal biological response to stress and the dog can smell it).  TURN YOUR BACK TO THE DOG.  Do NOTHING.  WAIT until he comes around to look AT YOU.  At that point, have a two second "party" and begin to circle the dog (left, then right, as if following a hoola hoop: this changes brain waves in both of you and disconnects fight/flight response).  Sing a little song while you do this (dogs love this).  Stop.  Ask for "sit" trained ONLY with positive reinforcement.  If dog refuses, circle more.  Repeat.  When dog "sits" in cooperation, heavily reward with high value food treat (hot dog bits).

Dogs that are heavily stressed will not "bait" (accept food treats) unless they have been starved as neonates or on the "street" in young adulthood.  This is normal.  What you are doing is disconnecting the dog from his fight/flight response AND disconnecting any contribution YOU are making (by stopping and turning your back), then changing association (circling) and then asking for cooperation ("Sit") for high value food reward, then going forward.  Going forward follows the high value food reward.  DO THIS EVERY TIME and for as long as it takes for the dog to re-evaluate whatever circumstance is causing his fight/flight reaction.  DO NOT "PUSH" him and do NOT demand he "run" or do anything at all when in his fight/flight response.  Report back using followup feature.  I do not answer private questions.  Your question/answer is public.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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