View Full Version : First time Cavalier owner behaviour issues

9th January 2012, 12:00 AM
My dog is now 7 months old. I'm a first time dog owner, She is a tri colour (very big, big paws solid body big broad chest) who was originally rescued from a puppy farm by the SSPCA who rehomed her. They then returned her to the SSPCA after 2 weeks citing personal problems so I got her when she was 12 weeks old. She is turning out to be real hard work. I can't seem to get her toilet trained at all. She is ultra lively and is also very big (I was hoping for a nice wee Cavlier with a nice personality). She is obsessed by food and will eat anything and everything. She is very destructive. To date she has chewed and destroyed 2 laptops, a satnav, the wiriing harness underneath the car seat (mega expensive to replace) chewed through the seat in the car, bitten off the skirting in the hall, chewed numerous pairs of spectacles etc etc. I left her in the house today for two hours and when I got back she managed to jump the play pen gate that was keeping her in the kitchan and she ate through a carrier bag containing a 2kg bag of prescription cat food. The list is endless. The SSPCA inspector did say that when she was with them she could give the puppy Rottweilers a run for their money when it came to eating as she was always there first! Little did I know. Now.......good points are, she is very affectionate and funny she sleeps during the night (albeit on the bed) and when she needs the toilet about 60% of the time she will go onto a puppy pad. (I live in a small flat so do not have a garden). I can get her to sit and give a paw but thats about it. I know most of the problems here are probably my fault but I want to persevere with her. Its becoming a real strain for me. Initially I had her in a crate for a few days (during the night) but she became extremely distressed (not just temper tantrams but actually howling and crying and foaming at the mouth). So if anyone can give me some pointers I would be most grateful. I did take her to puppy socialisation classes but she became the bully ). Finally I had her at the park today and boy can she run, almost like a greyhound! Thanks.

9th January 2012, 07:31 PM
Hi!! My first question is what is she being fed on? A LOT of commercial dog food brands contain colourings, flavourings and additives which have been shown to cause hyperactivity and lack nutrition which may cause her to try and satisfy vitamin deficiencies herself. I would also suggest she travels in a crate in the car, for her own safety in case of accident as well as protecting your car!! I wonder if she was taken from her mother early, sounds like she has some serious issues but they are not insurmoutable!

ETA, her food orientation is actually a good thing that can be used to your advantage believe it or not. An excellent method I have recently been taught is to use the days rations as training treats, kept in pockets so that she has to earn her food by behaving well. I have been using this with Barney to help him behave better around other dogs when on the lead and the result has been incredible!!

9th January 2012, 07:56 PM
A few more questions...as for destruction, when she has destroyed something of yours, how did she do it (i.e. does she have free reign of the house, where were you, does she have a crate, etc). I only ask not because if puppies are given too much freedom, even when you are home, it can cause problems in terms of destruction, anxiety, potty issues, etc.
The great Karlin always reccomends to read these free printouts/books which SAVED me through puppy hood. They will explain a lot and help you a ton with some of this. There is one called Before You Get Your Puppy and one called After You Get Your Puppy by a great trainer named Ian Dunbar. Download them and read both by clicking here:

I would also suggest a crate. One for the car, one at home. I crate trained Brooklyn and this solved a lot of problems for us. Got her potty trained and kept her from destruction. Also gave her a place to rest and calm down if she gets too rowdy. We also have leashed tied to things all over the house so that if we are eating or doing something near her, but she needs boundaries, we just hook the leash to her and put her in her bed. That way we can eat and she stays put (always make sure she is near you and you can see her though for safety). They will cry a lot when you first do this because they want to run and play, but they also need to learn boundaries and this helps a lot. Now Brooklyn even off her tie up by our dining table, stays put and knows not to come near it.

Crates for cars will also help you a lot. She will probably cry a lot at first...but just ignore her, reward her when she is quiet (ALWAYS reward the good, not just discipline the bad) and soon she will get used to it and actually love it.

Also, for potty training, don't expect too much too soon. I did with Brooklyn and it made it harder on everyone. Don't expect them to be fully potty trained until about a year (i know, it seems SO long!) but its what it takes. She will get it, just be patient and reward (literally like throw a party!) when she goes outside...she will soon learn, but at this age, there is no way that she will be potty trained. She is just a baby.

I would also try puppy school again but with a good trainer. Any good trainer would not let her be the bully and if she was acting that way, would give you even more help and advice to help you continue. We had bullies in our puppy school and she really helped them and helped us all (and all our pups) deal together. Some had to repeat the course, some had private in home sessions, but she really worked on the shy/bully ones and that is what you need.

Also exercise...lots of it. Training games, brain games, brain toys (i.e. I feed Brooklyn out of a food toy to stimulate her mind as they need that worked out too...I use this: http://www.entirelypets.com/bobalot.html you can get them anywhere and in most countries. Their minds need lots of stimulation too with active ones like this. Try Nina Ottoson games as well and toys like this:

And Kongs and other boredom busters....not that she is board or that you arent doing enough, she just needs extra stimulation to help calm, sooth and drain her.

I hope that helps! Message me if you need more advice for sure! Hang in there...you are doing a great job and let me just assure you that this stage of a puppyhood is SO hard for everyone, it was for me. So a lot of this is natural and you are not alone! We are all here to help you. :)

9th January 2012, 09:43 PM
First, the chewing: does she have access to a variety of chew toys? My dogs love bully sticks (buy the big ones), kongs are very popular, and deer antlers can be used, squeaky toys... Make sure there are plenty available.

Puppy proof your house, anything that can go in a puppies mouth, will go in a puppies mouth. I used x pens to block off my tv and computer areas, that way they won't have access to all those wires.

Next: find a good trainer. Not a class at the local pet shop. I would try to contact an obedience club to ask for trainer recommendations. Avoid any trainer using choke collars, shock collars, or any punishment methods. Obedience classes are well worth the fee, and will really help you and your dog.

Puppies take patience, and time. One day she'll be sleeping, and you'll think back to when she was a little terror, and laugh.

9th January 2012, 10:13 PM
Very true! I was just thinking that the other day with Brooklyn. I looked at my husband while she was sleeping and said "remember when we used to pull our hair out, cry, get frustrated at each other and wonder if our dog was crazy? Ha ha, turns out she was just a puppy" :-P

10th January 2012, 01:42 PM
Bella didn't do well with the exercise pen, she chose her space which was the bathroom. We put her in there with her toys, bone, water etc and don't get a peep out of her. Is there any place she likes to hang out or sleep that you can barricade and make into her safe/special place?

10th January 2012, 01:43 PM
"remember when we used to pull our hair out, cry, get frustrated at each other and wonder if our dog was crazy?

That's us now! Can't help but love her though!

10th January 2012, 03:00 PM
Baby gates were key for us too. Brooky didnt want to stay in the x-pen so we did like Alana and used our guest bathroom and tiny hallway with a baby gate. That worked quite nice too. People also do that in the kitchen (baby/puppy proof all cupboards to keep the dog safe).

16th January 2012, 07:22 AM
Thanks for your replies I haven't logged on recently as my Dad has just been diagnosed as terminally ill so not had much time with all the running about. I'm just off to work so will anser all tonight. P.S. I think shes in heat and havent a clue how to check as she is my first dog. Her touch looks about the size of a small peach and she has been peeing non stop all weekend, (she is booked in to get neutered on Friday so I suppose that will have to be cancelled?).

16th January 2012, 01:08 PM
Welcome to the forum–and I am so sorry to hear about your father. Be sure to look after yourself–people can forget this when they are working hard to care and think about others. :flwr:

On your cavalier: I think if you read through the articles that I have pinned here, you will find answers to just about everything you are dealing with:


There are a couple of things going on–but really, I think the main problem is you have a certain level of expectations that aren't matched by the time and training that have gone into the dog in the past or to date, or the way in which he is being managed, or are really going to be met given that this is only a young puppy needing daily guidance just like small kids :). These are really common issues for dog owners, especially if they grew up with the dog that parents probably trained or if they had a low-key dog who didn't get up to much. Please understand that none of this is meant as a criticism of what you are doing but pointing out what is going on and some ways this could all be addressed because it can be a real challenge especially when it is all new to someone. :flwr:

Part of the problem is actually easily identified in your post– this is a dog with too much freedom and lack of supervision for her age and activity level, that has had little to no training (she is exactly the age where a group training class -- positive methods and no collar jerks or choke chains! -- is perfect and would be very productive for her and you as it helps her learn self control and to respond and bond to you - and is FUN! :D). There are things lying around on the floor that you don't want the dog to eat–but how is a dog to know what it is allowed to and what it is not allowed to eat? For most dogs, especially to ensure that you don't end up with a dead dog that has eaten something poisonous or that causes a blockage that can cost you thousands at the vet–everything that you do not want eaten or accessed by a dog has to be out of reach, exactly as you would approach this issue with a human toddler who also cannot understand the logic of what they are allowed to get into and what they are not allowed to get into. A dog looks for items to play with and chew on because it needs to play and it needs to chew. It has no idea that the chew toy over here is allowed, but the crayon or laptop over there is not (just like a toddler has no idea that scissors are not toys, or that dropping your laptop like they would an uninteresting toy is a no-no!). Likewise, items that the dog can chew its way into and eat absolutely must be safely put away in a locked cupboard or high enough that it cannot be accessed (a single square of dark cooking chocolate would kill a cavalier...so can just a handful of raisins or grapes). A dog also can get bloat and die from overeating, and most dogs given the option will overeat–especially something like cat food, which is especially tasty to dogs because it has a higher protein content and usually is sprayed with something smelly to appeal to cats more finicky appetites.Or to put it another way–what would your children do if there were cookie jars and chocolates easily accessible and you weren't around to monitor them? :) I know an awful lot of adults who would not be able to have much self-control if interesting and attractive items like these were right there for the taking. :D

You also have to keep in mind that a dog is easily as demanding of time and energy and interaction as a child. A dog that doesn't get enough dedicated interaction–meaning walks, training, fetch, and other ways of directly interacting with its owners rather than just being left to wander around in the background or to interact with kids -- who don;t really tend to 'play with the dog' in a way that really engages many dogs and at any rate, should always be supervised --–is going to find ways of entertaining itself, which tends to be destroying things you don't want it to destroy because one) the dog is not being adequately supervised and 2) it just doesn't have enough to do and that happens to be the item that is most available for entertainment. :yikes

A bored dog is also a barking dog. Barking tends to be a problem with dogs that get left on their own, don't get enough real exercise and interaction or are put out into back gardens alone (they never should be left like this) where they bark to interact with their environment and because they are really, really bored and of course, want to be with their owner instead! :) . But it is also the way dogs communicate. Some dogs bark more than others–and it is very hard to force the dog not to bark when this is what it does naturally. It is really an issue of management, of positive and consistent training, and of understanding that a dog is a dog. :) One thing that is really alarming, to be honest, is that she was able to chew things underneath a car seat, which suggests she was able to wander around the interior of the car (while in motion?) , which is not only dangerous for her, but could be lethal for you. All you need is for a dog to slip underneath the gas pedal or the brake and the result could be a fatal accident. I have posted in the past about how even in a mild collision at 25 mph, a loose dog in the car could be hurtled forward with such force that it would break the neck of an adult–much less a human. Plus, an opening airbag will kill a dog the same as it will kill an infant human. A dog in a car needs to be safely inside a plastic crate which is secured with the seatbelt, or the dog needs to be in the back seat in a specifically designed car harness (unless there are air bags in the back, in which case the dog needs to be in a crate).

It is also really common for puppies to take a year to be reliably housetrained. If you got a dog from an animal shelter, the likelihood is the dog was surrendered because the previous owners never took any adequate time to train their dog and you will need to view house training is something that you start from the very basics -- as in assume the dog is not trained at all –have a look at the book I recommend below, and there are also lots and lots of good advice sheets pinned at the top of the training section of the website here. Every single one offers excellent advice on house training, but house training takes a huge amount of time -- don't underestimate it!

I too would strongly recommend downloading this (free!) book (After You Get Your Puppy, by well known trainer Dr Ian Dunbar) because it will really help guide you through training and management issues and answer many questions -- others gave you the link but again its:

www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads (http://www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads)

I think reading the book will help you get a much better sense of what will be involved in owning and training a dog as well as kindly and gradually crate training (just expecting a dog to remain in a crate when it has never been trained to one can be ecxtremely distressing, as you witnessed) –it is really easy to underestimate this. Dogs are extremely rewarding and wonderful as an addition to the family, but they can be overwhelming when people don't have an understanding of what will be required from them to make the dog part of their family–and it is really really easy to underestimate this. I ran Cavalier breed rescue in Ireland for half a decade, and many of the dogs I took in to rescue came from families who just had not realized the time they needed to put in to owning a dog. I wish shelters did a better job of talking people through what will be involved, especially with shelter dogs who almost all have issues of one type or another (you are never getting a well trained calm happy dog!) because it would help prevent a lot of frustration, and to be honest, help people understand whether a dog is really what they want in their family or not. I think especially for any family with young children, which are very time-consuming, understandably, a dog is often not a good decision for the adults because the dog is always going to be entirely the responsibility of the grown-ups for that dog's life, and a lot of parents have enough to deal with without having a dog as well–just something to think about if you are really feeling overwhelmed and feeling this is difficult to manage. There is no point in being unhappy -- either you or the cavalier -- if this isn;t the right match for you right now and breed rescue (I have contacts posted in the rescue section) would immediately step in and help if you ever decided this is not what you really want. But the books and handouts above will really give you a lot of help if you know you have 100% commitment to owning this young friendly cavalier.

It doesn't sound like you've had very productive advice or feedback so far and no doubt this is really contributing to the frustration! Because I cannot emphasise enough that nothing you describe indicates a problem dog or an unusually diffcult dog -- just that you have a dog with normal everyday behaviours and energy levels and that dog now needs positive, kind training and management. :thmbsup: The very best of luck and let us know how things go–plenty of people here will be happy to help with advice and suggestions. :D

17th January 2012, 01:31 AM
Haha yes! same with us! Our dog used to bite us (before he learnt bite inhibition) and go crazy when he wasnt in the crate. we thought omg our baby is nutso but nope he was being a pup! He would bit and we would scream OUCH! and then he understood that the harder he presses the more it hurts. We never thought he would learn to control how he bites down but now omg he is an angel!!! we used to watch cav videos on you tube and saw they all act that way so that provided us with some relief at the time haha .

as for the posters issues. I have the same questions as others do. do you crate train? do you let your dog roam around alone? we still dont and our guy just turned 8 months on 1/9. do you say NO! when the pup bites something she isnt supposed to? Our pup used to chew on strings, pants strings shoe strings you name it. He would steal socks from hamper etc. we would give a sharp yell and take it away after a month of this he realized NO! meant drop it from your mouth or he would run away from us and when he felt defeated he would sit in the corner innocently with the item dropped from his mouth. The pups need discipline even though its hard sometimes; it was for me! as for the crate wow when we started to crate train Gator would cry his lights out and I was so upset about it! But what we did was put the crate in our room and put a blanket over it and leave one side open that way he doesnt see us and that always helped him calm down and when he started crying again Id just say shush in a calm voice just so he knows I am there and he quieted down. I hope this helps you! Just know that if you keep lettng your pup out every time he cries he knows just like a baby does that when I cry ill be out the louder the better lol. It hurts us to see them lie that but I assure you he is fine.
Very true! I was just thinking that the other day with Brooklyn. I looked at my husband while she was sleeping and said "remember when we used to pull our hair out, cry, get frustrated at each other and wonder if our dog was crazy? Ha ha, turns out she was just a puppy" :-P

23rd January 2012, 09:27 PM
Thanks everyone this is me just getting around to reading all your replies. Its become obvious that it is us and not Darcy! Since my OP two weeks ago she has actually improved slightly in regards to toilet training. Only one or two accidents this weekend. I genuinely did not realise that I should've secured her in the car. Car isn't suitable for a crate but we have tied her with her lead to the door handle for now until I get a proper harness. As for crate training I don't feel I could do that now. I'm trying to source a good trainer (seem to be few a far). I feel better in that I realise she is just like a toddler into everthing. Right now she is lying on the sofa with her head hanging off the side snoring like mad. Unfortunately although she is only 7 months she has started neck scratching, face rubbing and back leg thumping all at the same time on the right side. I took her to her vet who says it is classic chiari like signs and to keep and eye on her. I will download the training guide and get back to you in a few days.