I was in Snellville last week visiting a Home Dog Training client, Larry, and his Vizsla, Walter. Walter was responding very well with the dog training exercises. He wasn’t running to the door when people came, he could come, sit, and stay with one command and no coaching, and he stopped stealing food from the kitchen counter.
So far, things were going great. The last item that we needed to tackle was Walter’s jumping up and wanting all sorts of attention from my client when he sat down on the sofa to watch some TV. Things had gotten so bad that Larry had to “retreat” to the bedroom, shut the door, and watch his TV shows in there. This inappropriate behavior didn’t happen any other time, just after he got home from work. He was at wit’s end and needed help.
I explained to Larry that Vizslas are high energy dogs. Many hunting dogs have a lot of unspent energy. With that said, Walter needed more “play and go nuts time” than many other breeds. We always recommend a minimum of forty-five to sixty minutes of very active play time every day for high energy breeds such as Vizslas. The reason for this “just be nuts time” is to direct his pent-up adrenaline in a direction that Larry can manage. As I explained to Larry, Walter’s adrenaline is always there, so if he doesn’t drain it in an outside play activity, Walter will find “other ways” to drain his adrenaline and “be crazy”.
What is happening in Larry’s home is a classic “I am waiting for Daddy to come home” scenario. He is at work all day and Walter is quietly and calmly lying in the corner or sitting by the front door. Normally, Walter is sleeping. But, every time a car drives by or someone walks past the house, Walter jumps up in anticipation of Larry’s arrival. Walter is slowly “building and storing” adrenaline and is becoming more and more focused on the event of Larry coming through the front door.
So, when Larry actually arrives home, Walter becomes excited and his adrenaline begins to peak. Larry correctly understands that he should not pay attention to Walter as he enters.
Larry’s calm demeanor and lack of responding to Walter allows the initial, crazy moment to pass. This will allow things are calm for a moment. The problem is that this “small win” only lasts a short time.
Thinking that “all is well”, Larry normally decides that it is time to watch the evening news. He sits down on the sofa and switches on the TV. As he sits down, he has physically lowered himself and sends a signal to Walter that “play time is back”. Still full of adrenaline, Walter starts to “play on Larry”. This is not good. Larry needs to drain a portion of Walter’s adrenaline so that he won’t be the target of “Walter’s energetic play time”.
I told him that after he got home, he must take Walter into the back yard for about twenty to thirty minutes. They should play fetch or any other activity that gets Walter running and active. Walter should be wearing a collar and leash as they go outside. (I will explain later.) He should also have turned the TV on before they walk into the back yard.
As they are playing, he should try to stay as stationary as he can. This means that Walter will be the active one and the one “doing all the work”.
A great “fetch trick” is to get about five or six tennis balls. Throw the first ball to the far corner of the yard and have Walter go chasing after it. As soon as he gets to that ball, I told Larry to call him to get his attention. As soon as Walter looks back, he should throw the next tennis ball to the other side of the yard. Walter will now go racing off in a new direction to the next ball.
Larry should repeat this process with the rest of the tennis balls as he calmly walks around and picks up the ones discarded by Walter. After about twenty to thirty minutes of this high adrenalized activity, I told Larry to slow the process down and throw the balls closer and closer to him.
One more thing that Larry should have brought out with him would be one of Walter’s “favorite things”. This could be a toy or goodie. The important thing is that it is a thing that “Walter really, really loves”. He should keep it hidden from Walter during this entire process.
As he is slowly tossing the ball closer and closer to him, I told him to move to the back porch and sit in a patio chair. Once he is throwing the tennis ball “really close by” and Walter barely needs to move to get the ball, he should stop throwing tennis balls and offer Walter the “really good thing” that Walter loves.
At this point, he should calmly take hold of the leash so that Walter stays at his side. (That’s why I asked him to put the leash on Walter.) If Walter starts to walk away or get excited, Larry should stand up and correct him until he calms down. Larry should then calmly sit back down in the chair.
Once Walter is happy with the goodie and calm, Larry can slowly walk back inside with him at his side. Once inside, he can drop the leash and sit down to peacefully watch TV. If Walter begins to demonstrate any inappropriate behavior, I told Larry to calmly stand up, step on the end of Walter’s leash, and slowly walk him around the room for about thirty seconds until he has mellowed out. At that point, Larry should give Walter the sit command and then praise him with a “Good Puppy” as soon as he obeys (sits down). He can then go back to the TV.
I told Larry to give these suggestions a try and Walter may even let him have a sweet tea or a beer as he is watching the evening news.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.