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We got a dog a few days ago. He's a 1 year old Chesapeake Bay/Lab mix according to the vet. He was found abandoned in the country, rescued, made it to us eventually. He's not yet neutered, we're going to change that. He starts obedience school in two weeks, but he already knows some commands (come, sit, paw, down). He's crate trained as well. He gets at least one, sometimes two, long walks every day and we have a decent sized yard.

When he's outside in the yard he's calm. He'll happily play, or lay in the sun or shade, or just watch the cars go by. He barks sometimes, but when told not to he listens. Outside he's fantastic.

Inside is a different story. When he's inside he's always pacing and panting excessively, sometimes he whines. He's unable to settle down. Sometimes he comes over and throws his weight against me (which I have a lot of trouble with). He's also taken to chasing the cats, which we're trying to nip in the bud.

There are a few factors I can see contributing to this, but I'm not sure how to help still.

  1. We have a cat and a kitten. The cat frequently will hiss, growl, or otherwise voice his displeasure any time he sees the dog. This seems to rile up the dog. The kitten is more afraid of him and the dog has pinned him down and cornered him a few times. We want to make sure the cats aren't injured. I can see how the cats can be a stress point for him.
  2. My husband is far from being a dog person. He's willing to tell the dog "No" or "Back" and defend the cats but that is the limit of his dog interaction. Having a person around he isn't allowed to interact with also seems to make him stressed.
  3. He can't really see out any of the windows inside. This is a combination of the height of the windows and the furniture arrangement. I've been trying to rearrange furniture to give him window access but so far he does not seem interested. I'm not sure how big of a factor this is.
  4. He doesn't have a ton of time at the moment. A filled bone, a kong, two small stuffed animals, an "unstuffed" squeaky animal, tennis ball, and tug rope. I'm very open to getting him more toys, I'm just not sure what to get him and how many he should have.

I know we haven't had him very long, and things will get better when we start obedience classes; but I'd really like to make his inside-life better in the meantime if I can.

What can I do to make him feel more comfortable inside? Does anyone have advice on training him that I am his human and my husband is not?

TL;DR: Dog is calm outside of house but stressed and anxious inside. How can I help him?

  • Regarding toys, best advice is to take them to the pet store and let them pick out their own toys. Super cheap toys are also good to learn with. Eventually you will come to understand what they like as they learn themselves. You didn't mention if he actually likes his inside toys or not. – rlb.usa Apr 12 '17 at 19:13
  • As I understand, Chesapeakes were bred as work dogs - pulling ropes on ships. Consider a rope toy - possibly a hanging rope toy they can play tug with? Does your dog have a "spot" in the house? Also, do the cats have perches? They need to have their respective territory. Maybe a toy bucket for the dog near a pillow bed (train him to put his toys away when done) and a cat tree in separate areas? He might also just need a job to do inside to get into a indoor routine, but yeah, maybe "man" issues? – Mr. Kennedy Apr 13 '17 at 8:23
  • From my (limited) research Chessies are duck retrieving dogs. I read somewhere a lack of retrieving will lead to cat chasing, more fetch has helped with this. The cats have their own room and some perches in the rest of the house. He does have a rope and he loves it, but he's too strong to try to attach it to anything. – Marissa Wilson Apr 13 '17 at 12:29
  • Are there any good "solo" toys? Toys he can use when I can't play with him? – Marissa Wilson Apr 13 '17 at 12:36
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Separation anxiety is common but what you describe is interesting in that there does not seem to be a specific trigger other than being inside the house. Obviously it's not separation anxiety if it is happening when you're in the same room. There could be a component of territoriality – it does not sound like he is being aggressive in any way, but it may actually be the cats who are the aggressors.

In fact, I wonder whether it is actually anxiety or he is just very high energy and is looking for interactions with you, the cats, etc. You know your dog best and certainly the actions you describe sound like anxious behaviours, but consider that they might be at least in part attention-seeking behaviours.

If you are sure it is anxiety, try to identify the source. Is it the whole house or particular rooms or entryways? Is is at particular times, like when loud cars go by or strangers walk by the window? Or is it when he thinks you are leaving, in which case it could actually be separation anxiety? Is it when you have the television on, or when you are cooking particular things? Dogs can take aversion to certain sounds, smells, sights, etc. If you can identify the source, you may be able to desensitize him to it.

It sounds like you are providing him with good enrichment, but you can do more. For example, you can feed him all his meals in puzzle toys – that will occupy him for quite a while. He might benefit from longer walks at his age too.

Also making him a safe space he can go to when he is anxious – a crate is a great place since he is already crate-trained. If you see he is anxious, train him to go to his crate on a simple command, provide him with a reward in the crate, and leave him alone in peace and quiet (no need to shut him in the crate).

The interactions with the cats are difficult. If possible, you can try to separate the cats and the dog in separate areas of the house for a few days, and see if his anxiety improves. To really test this you would need to ensure no interaction between the cats and the dog for a few days. In any case it is important that he learns not to play rough with the cats, or not to play at all with them. Obedience training is of course a big step towards this.

He is not a dog that I would want to jump to medication with, certainly not while you are still training him. Neutering in itself may mellow him out a bit.

I know this post doesn't contain a whole lot of specific answers to your question, but managing these behaviours is difficult. It's more of an art than a science, and requires quite a bit of trial and error to find something that works.

  • I don't think it's separation anxiety, he's usually seeking attention from me when he's doing it. And I'm happy to give him attention, but as a developer there are times where I need to sit at my computer and work. He's happiest when I'm actively doing something (cooking, cleaning, etc.). I like the puzzle toy idea. I'm pretty sure his anxiety trigger is my husband or anyone that doesn't want to be actively engaging him. He had the same reaction to a guest we had over last night, anxious as soon as she was done petting. – Marissa Wilson Apr 13 '17 at 12:32

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