Archie has been struggling to adjust to his new Edinburgh routine. He’s had a lot of change to cope with, and there are lots of unfamiliar noises in his new home, including a noisy corridor with neighbours constantly banging doors and going up and down the stairs. The streets are much busier than in our sleepy corner of Brussels too and the big lorries and buses scare him.
Despite his big new garden and days at doggy day care he’s had quite a few accidents in the house – several pees on the sofa in the kitchen, and poops on the floor. Just when I thought I couldn’t clean up any more mess he was sick all over the flat yesterday afternoon (I’d overfed him treats to try to resolve barking on his walks). He’s been crying when I leave the house too, even just to pop to the bins. My poor little pup.
It’s not surprising he’s a bit stressed out. Since he came to live with me Archie has been in four separate homes, in three countries. I feel so bad about stressing him out. I never expected or intended to move so much, or I would have waited until my life was more stable to get a dog. At last we’re in my dream city and I have no intentions of leaving. We do, unfortunately, have to move one more time when I find our dream home, but at last we can start to really settle in and make a new life together.
Today I’m so happy that we seem to have started to turn a corner, so I’m going to work really hard on his training in the next few months, to make sure he’s as happy and relaxed as he can be.
It’s all linked back to his old problem of anxiety. I’ve been doing lots of research into the causes and how to overcome them, and am looking for an Edinburgh-based dog trainer. In the meantime I’m trying out some techniques below.
Our first wonderful discovery was the Freedom No Pull Harness from Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers, that I bought online last week from Good For Dogs in the UK. I’m not being sponsored, I just really love it. I’d been really struggling since I got Archie with how much he pulls on the lead. I have callouses on my hand, and have had aching arms. It was making walks a nightmare, and a normal harness makes him worse. I pretty much dreaded the walk to the park, and then was relieved to let him off as soon as we got there, but as he now barks at every stranger he sees he needs to be on a the lead a bit more for now.
The harness came really quickly in the post and is a very stylish red and black. It comes with a lead which you can clip at his chest as well as his shoulders, and corrects him gently by pulling him back in towards you whenever he pulls. It’s very gentle, but so far super effective. I tried it for the first time yesterday and it has already made a HUGE difference. I’ve also been researching techniques to improving his lead technique so have started using those (stopping whenever he pulls, giving him treats for walking nicely on a loose lead) in combination with the harness and already he’s getting better. We’re going to practice in the garden each morning, free from distractions, and I think it’ll make a big difference. I’ve also noticed that it makes him calmer on busy roads, maybe because he’s not darting around and is more under control, and looking to me for direction. He sat nicely at a very busy bus stop this afternoon, and was so relaxed he fell asleep on the bus!
I’m going to keep him on the lead now unless he’s in a really wide open area with few people or dogs until he relaxes a bit around new people, since he’s started his barking habit (but rarely when he’s on a lead), and hopefully he’ll learn new people aren’t so bad.
I’ve also ordered a crate, which I’m not going to shut him in but which I think he’ll like as a safe little den. He’s always looking for hidey places around the house. He used to sleep under the sink in the bathroom in Brussels when I was out, or under the bed, and in Edinburgh has taken to sleeping behind the long curtains in the living room. So I think if I put a big blanket over a crate, and make it all soft and cosy it’ll give him somewhere safe and secure to retreat to.
And a new sofa! The old one in the kitchen smelt of the previous canine resident and seems to be stressing him out. He’s never peed on any piece of furniture before, so I’m pretty sure that it’s an anxiety / marking issue. Since the old one is impossible to clean a new (cheap) replacement is hopefully the solution.
Lots of reassurance, stability, training and exercise will hopefully all help him settle in and start enjoying his new Edinburgh home.
Do you have any top tips that have helped your dog overcome anxieties or cope with a new home?