Canine Behavior/Dog having trouble settling in
I have a 5 year old male cavoodle who is generally very gentle-natured. We recently moved home and are having trouble settling him in. When we are at work we take him to doggy day care so he is never alone during the week. A couple of examples of the issues we are having are:
1. On weekends, if we want to go out without him, he (sometimes) barks and barks as soon as we step out. We are in an apartment so dont want him barking and disturbing the neighbours, so we end up going back in.
2. Recently he went to stay with a dog minder who had 2 other dogs. He was apparently well behaved for most of the day, until the afternoon, when he started acting aggressively towards the other dogs (growling and snapping at them). This is so unlike him, i dont think I've ever seen him growl at another dog.
3. When we pick him up from doggy day care and if we happen to go out, even for a few minutes, he humps the blankets or pillows.
What can we do? I have to admit we do tend to spoil him and give lots of attention and affection. Is this doing more harm than good?
My first suggestion:
VISIT THE DOGGY DAY CARE AT AN UNEXPECTED TIME, and INSIST on seeing your dog IMMEDIATELY. Acquired aggression toward other dogs in doggy day care is common; the proprietors LIE and misrepresent how your dog is doing. Your #2 question makes me think he has an acquired fear aggression toward other dogs and I very much doubt it has NOT demonstrated in doggy day care; THEY ARE LYING TO YOU. An unexpected visit will tell you EXACTLY where your dog is being held. DEMAND TO SEE HIM IMMEDIATELY, DO NOT TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER. If they refuse or stall you, remove him and DO NOT BRING HIM THERE AGAIN.
Humping is a sign of anxiety UNLESS THE DOG IS NOT NEUTERED. It's not unusual for a dog (or even a bitch, in certain cases ) to "hump" a stuffed animal or blankets but there is always a reason. IGNORE IT. Let him "hump" away so long as he does not do it to YOU or any other Human.
Your number 1 question: by going back in you are rewarding, and training, the barking. Dogs bark to communicate. In this case, he may be demonstrating anxiety because of where he ends up: a doggy day care where he is being isolated, or forced into the company of dogs whom he fears or who act in a manner that frightens him, or even punished.
Regarding number 1 question: The moment he begins barking stop moving forward and CIRCLE THE DOG: follow a "hoola hoop" (invisible), circle left, circle right, circle left, until the dog LOOKS AT YOU. Then ask for "sit" (ONLY if you have trained it using positive reinforcement), praise and go forward, EVERY TIME he begins barking, do this. It might take quite a while for you to get out the door or further down the street at first, but eventually his cognition will kick in (the barking is a sign of anxiety, there is no "thought" involved) and he will learn that going "out" is not a fearful thing.
Regarding "spoiling", see this:
Dogs need very clear signs of leadership from you: not that you should be "alpha" (this is a serious misconception), but you must give him a platform of emotional security. Lots of attention and affection are fine, but let's put this dog on a Nothing In Life Is Free protocol (NILIF) for the next month: ask for "sit" BEFORE any attention, any affection, feeding, going in/out, and see what happens. It might take more than one month, because of his age and (my best guess) that his anxiety is exacerbated by the difference of treatment in doggy day care and at home.
DO NOT leave him with the "dog minder". I suggest you consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, if possible, to evaluate the dog, see him "barking and barking" when you take him out, etc. One visit can make a big difference. Unfortunately, the only venue for finding same in Australia that is available to me is this:
I think a professionally led "growl class" (dogs who are developing problems with other dogs, led by a heavily credentialed specialist) would be a good option for you. IF you can find one. Meanwhile: hire a pet sitter to come to your apartment and take your dog out while you are at work; do not allow him free run of the home but confine him, comfortably, in a safe area with water, soft bed, toy to keep him occupied (Kong with teaspoon of fat free peanut butter or Buster Cube with a portion of his daily meal), radio on classical music station or TV on, night light. He's not doing well at that doggy day care and I'll bet the bank they aren't telling you the truth; you are seeing the result.
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