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Hi Everyone! I am hoping for some help with my 1.5 yr old, female, miniature Goldendoodle.
Bristol is a ball of nerves and anxiety. She is our 2nd doodle, we have her ½ sister who is 4 yrs old, calm, obedient and loving. Bristol is very much a bully to her older sister, who tries to fight back, but Bristol is approx. 7 lbs heavier, so size wins every time. Bristol is a bully, she takes every toy from her older sister, then drops it and walks away. She hogs toys as well, she will intimidate her sister to stay away from her once she has collected every toy she can.


Our major issue with Bristol is her anxiety, and well her shear need to dominate her older sister. She is always on edge, any sound sets her screeching off in a barking fit, than can last from 1 to 15 minutes if she is spooked. She is spooked by everything. Every car door that shuts, bang on the wall, knock at the door, person in her peripheral vision. Although strangely enough she is not bothered by thunder. I can’t say she loves fireworks, but they don’t send her into a tailspin.
Most of her issues are in everyday life. She doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety per say, she will pace and cry for 2-10 mins if we leave her with my parents or if one of us leaves the house and the other is home, then she settles. We have a nest cam on them all day, and I can see there is little to no anxiety, no pacing, and no barking. They sleep all day and only get up around the time they expect us home from work.


She is 'jumpy' for lack of a better word. There is not an evening that passes, not even an hour that passes, or a night that goes undisturbed. If she hears a car door, my husband walking up the stairs (he goes to bed later than I do) someone talking outside or spies a squirrel out the window she’s off and barking, waking & scaring us from a dead sleep. She seems genuinely terrified & I feel bad for her; being on edge 24/7 is not a comfortable feeling. I just want to help her be comfortable in her life and her relationships with humans and other dogs. 


She has an issue with our kitchen range fan. It sends her cowering, shaking and hiding when I turn it on. I, once, months ago, burnt microwave popcorn (no smoke alarm went off), but I turned the fan on. Ever since that day she is terrified of the fan.


She may be a bully, but she is not a confident dog by any means. She will lay on her back and submit to any person and usually any other animal, however, once an animal goes in for a sniff, which is natural, she gets very snippy and incites a fight. She has no issues with humans who reach in for a belly rub. We have worked/are working – continually on her recall as she is very headstrong and pretty much doesn’t listen to anyone. She is a peripheral dog, always just out of your reach, never within an arm’s length.


We have not tried the thunder shirt, I don’t want her to have to wear it all day every day. I have tried the Adaptil DAP with no effect. I have recently ordered some Bach’s Flower Essences that I have not started to use just yet (not the rescue remedy).


I just want this girl to be comfortable in her own skin and not be so jumpy. I do have to say – she is home all day, with her older doodle sister, and they sleep. There is no crazy antics, no fighting, no pacing, and no barking like a fool. She hears the same noises during the day that she does in the evening and during the night – so why she’s so on edge when we are home is a mystery to me.
Any thoughts or suggestions you have to offer are appreciated. Thanks, Sue

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I can share some of my thoughts, but I certainly am not an expert.  You may want to talk to your Vet about a referral to a Behaviorist.  To me the most telling aspect of the behavior is that she is a calm with none of this dominance or reactiveness when you are not home.  I know that sometimes when dogs feel that they are responsible for protecting the house and the "pack" there can be lots of stress for them.  The fact that she bullies the older dog and takes all the toys...just because she can.. tells me that she feels she is in a higher place than her "sister" in terms of pack order.  I really would not allow that to happen.  I went through that too with my younger (but very pushy) Doodle thinking all the toys belonged to him.  The younger (and smaller one) did not fight back.  I had to show them that they toys were not theirs they belonged to me.  I gave them out and I took them away....and I never allowed Murph (the pushy) guy to take anything away from his brother....if I was there to see it I would immediately go and take it away and wait for awhile.  Later I would give it to one of them...and I'd try to alternate.  During that time the toys were controlled.  I can now leave the toys out without this happening. 

You really need to take a strong leadership position IMO.  She needs to feel that she's not the one responsible for guarding the house.  You'll need to anticipate and prevent the reactiveness whenever possible.  Because Murph can sometimes fall into this "guarding behavior" I constantly watch where he places himself.  I also usually go to bed before my husband, so Murphy is in the room with me and the door is closed...he can't hear any sounds (except sometimes my TV).  When you go to bed you might want to crate Bristol for the night.  That should help to calm her, although it may take awhile for her to get used to this.  I would try to crate her in a room where she's not likely to hear outside noises.  I never let my Murph lie down by any of the doors...because that's a guarding position for him.  When I know there are going to be distractions outside (days the gardeners are her) I gate him in a room with the TV on where he can't hear anything.  Murph is very calm when we're not home....again he's in a room with the TV on and the blinds closed so he doesn't get distracted.  Dogs Murphy and Bristol mostly need to know they we've "got their backs"....we are in charge and they are safe.  I never baby him when I feel like he's nervous about something because that would make things worse for him....I try to eliminate or reduce whatever it is that is causing him to be fearful.  If there is a distraction outside that I wasn't expecting and couldn't prepare for Murph knows now that he can bark once or twice but then he needs to run to me.  That has worked really well...and he does it every time now.  The funny thing is that my other Doodle does the same thing.  Treats are also helpful, and I would try working on recall only in the house using lots of treats.  I would be reluctant to try off leash recalls outside at this point...if they get "spooked" by something fearful dogs will often not be able to respond to your recall. For now while you're working through these extreme fear issues I'd try not to use the fan unless she's in a room where she can't hear it.  Again, these are just some thoughts based on my experiences.  Maybe we can keep this discussion open and share as you try new strategies.  I know from experience that it is possible to help them through this.  I did put Murph on anti-anxiety meds for awhile while we were starting it the behavior modification strategies, and I do think it helped.

Jane, I am not trying to hijack this discussion, but how did you train Murphy to bark once or twice and then run to you?

I always keep a few really tiny but great treats in my pocket. I use small treats made of pure rabbit which he can eat because it's a novel protein...and he absolutely loves them.  When I hear the first bark I call him in a real happy voice and say "cookie"....he comes running. Now that he's used to the "process" I usually don't even have to call....just a quick bark and then he runs to me.  Then we have a "party"....I tell him that he's a good boy and "thanks for letting me know"and by then he's forgotten about the distraction.  Sometimes it's actually somebody coming in...like Dave or Tim coming home....and he doesn't even care.  I think now he's figured out that these distractions are not something to be fearful of because we kind of "celebrate".  I suspect that this is something I will have to continually reinforce with him, but I don't mind because it's kind of fun.  Guinness doesn't want to miss out on the party so he comes running too. 

Thank you. I am going to try this with Vern!

It will take a few times for him to "get it" if he's as much of a "slow learner" as Murph...LOL.  Let us know how it goes.

Hi Jane, just wondering where you get the rabbit treats and brand? Thanks

They're Vital Essentials freeze dried rabbit bites and I get them at a local pet store.

Tks Jane.

One thing I forgot to ask is how much exercise is Bristol getting?  If she's home and sleeping all day she needs a real good long walk and preferable some time to run (in an enclosed area) when you get home.  I'm sure she has lots of energy and needs a healthy way to release it.

Hi Jane, thanks so much for your reply! They get a 45 min walk after work, before dinner and then they have play time in our fenced yard after dinner, for another minimum 45 mins or so, if it is nice, then longer. Sometimes they will have a 2nd walk in the evening in place of the yard play time.  Weekends are different - there is more yard time for sure, especially with the warmer weather.  Bristol being younger is fairly high energy, and I know she's not getting enough exercise.  I've recently considered doggy daycare for her, but I am very nervous about leaving either one of them with people I do not know, fear of them getting lost. 

My guys do Doggy Daycare once a week to drain energy which is really important for Murphy.  I did lots research before deciding on a Daycare, but it has worked out well for us.

Hi Jane, we had a lady (not a behaviorist, but someone very experienced with dogs for many years with regards to training & behaviour) come in January to meet with us about our two girls & their fighting. Her recommendations included all toys being put away, all balls being put away, no doodles on the sofa (this was a major fighting ground when I was on the sofa) no doodles in our bed.  We were to give them toys, and then take & put them away when play time was over.

We tried this for 2 months and things improved, in relation to the fighting over me on the sofa. They will still fight however, if someone drops a piece of food on the floor, a stray piece of kibble slips out of their dish, a napkin falls from someone's lap, a huge fight ensues. They are ferocious, locked each other and we have been bit a few times trying to separate them. 

I am going to start working with her in regards to her guarding behavior and the toys will go away again, to be controlled by us.  My husband and I both try to show her that her older sister, Charlotte is 'more senior' than her in ways of putting Charlotte's dish down first, giving Charlotte treats first, putting Charlotte's harness & leash on first.  I don't know if I am humanizing it too much, but it almost seems like Bristol is bothered by the fact that her older sister gets everything first.  The lady we met with in January gave us this direction, to teach Bristol 'pecking order'.  We are still following that protocol although I do not know if it has had much effect. 

Bristol's favorite perch is at the head of our bed, our headboard is right in front of the window.  She loves to look out the window - but this also incites the barking and anxiety about 40% of the time.  Sometimes she will sit there for an hour with not a peep, other times she's barking and growling at whatever has piqued her interest. We remove her from the window perch upon her first growl/bark.  

I sounds like we have much work to do with this little lady.  I want to help her be comfortable in her own skin and release her need to protect or fight over me (funnily enough, I am not her favorite human, my husband is) 

I understand Charlotte, our older doodle plays a roll too. She is more docile, but I see that she's had enough and she is fighting back, not winning tho, Bristol is a brute. Many of the times a fight erupts it is because Charlotte has snipped at Bristol and then it is on! 

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