We just got back from a Home Dog Training session with a new client in Cumming this morning.  She had just become the proud parent of a new Aussiedoodle puppy. Jack, the puppy, was just eleven weeks old and the entire family doted over him. But, then again, he was so cute and new and, of course, he was a puppy. The training session went quite well and the family picked up on the things they needed to accomplish to make sure that Jack would become a well behaved member of their family.  Robin and I spent a lot of time reviewing “bad behavior”, the ways to mitigate bad behavior, and the results of allowing Jack to “remain spoiled” into his adult life.

When Robin and I get a phone call or an email from a new client asking for our help, it normally isn’t because “I want my dog to sit”.  We are normally contacted because the dog is out of control.  This means that the dog is exhibiting bad behavior and the client is not able to stop the dog.  If this was the client’s “human child”, we would normally refer to the child as “a spoiled brat”.  They are the ones that throw the tantrum in the restaurant, are always demanding a new toy when they walk by the toy store, and won’t go to bed at bed time.

As parents ourselves, we normally first think “I am so happy that isn’t me.”  Next, we often think “What a bad child”.

Well, we might be watching a “bad child”, but he didn’t start out that way.  He had to be directed, or allowed, to do the things that he does.  It had to be a long term process of always getting his way or ignoring the wishes and demands of the people around him (his parents).  In fact, he had to “be taught” that these bad behaviors were actually the appropriate thing to do.

Guess who “taught him” that being bad was OK?  His parents.  That is where our story begins today.  When our clients got Jack, they needed to understand that everything they were doing was teaching Jack what he could and could not do.  They were telling him what the group expected.  That is why it is so important to establish clear rules of behavior the moment Jack entered their home.

Well, puppies are so cute and most new puppy owners let their “bundles of joy” get away with a whole lot of bad things.  The good news is that Jack was a Christmas puppy and only had been with my clients for about two weeks.  It would be pretty easy to back out the mistakes and get everything on track once again.

They had created a list of “Jack’s bad behaviors” and we began to review them:

CHEWING:
This bad behavior starts out small and can grow into a whole lot of destroyed stuff (mostly expensive).  All puppies and dogs have a tendency to chew stuff.  This is a natural behavior for dogs and can be beneficial during their teething stage and for general dental health.  Our goal with chewing is to direct the action in a positive, non destructive way.  First of all, we don’t want Jack to be chewing our socks, shoes, toys, etc.  The best way to mitigate this is to simply “be neat”.  Pick these things off the floor and put them away.

Next, we need to direct Jack to what is acceptable to chew.  We can first focus on healthy things like frozen vegetables.  All dogs love frozen stuff and supplementing their diet with fresh veggies makes things even better.  Get a Kong toy, put some peanut butter in the “food hole” and freeze the entire thing.  They will play with this for hours.  Deer antlers are also great chew diversions for your puppy.  They are all natural, safe to chew, and will last a really long time.

If you catch your puppy in the act of chewing something inappropriate, correct him immediately. Do not try to pull it out of his mouth because that will probably turn into a “tug of war”.  You can also passively discourage him from chewing inappropriate things by making the inappropriate thing “icky”.  Get some Bitter Apple and spray it on the thing you don’t want your puppy to chew.  Always have a Kong or other appropriate chew toy near by.  As your puppy starts to chew the inappropriate item, he will discover that it is “Icky”.  He will look for something else and find the appropriate chew toy near by.

PLAYFUL BITING:
We all love to play with our puppies and it is even more fun to see them get hyper and animated.  We get excited and they respond.  One of their “natural play” responses under these circumstances is to “playfully nip” at the other puppy.  In this event, “the other puppy” is us and when our puppy is nipping at is normally at our hands.  The first take-away for us in this instance is not to play “hand games” with our dog.

This will break the “it is OK” teaching moment and will keep him less adrenalized. If you see your puppy moving towards your hands, stop all movement so that you are not providing encouragement.  If he starts to nip, correct him and do not move your hands. Praise him the moment he stops.  You can also make your hands “icky” using the same method we mentioned for chewing. Put some Bitter Apple on your hands.  If he starts to nip or lick your hands, they should taste bad and he will want to find something else to do.  Give him a Kong or other play toy to redirect his attention to an appropriate action.

BARKING:
Puppies normally don’t start barking until they are a little older.  We normally call this “finding their bark”.  If they bark early, this is not a good thing.  Do not encourage barking through adrenalized play or the “What’s that?” game.  Do not allow your puppy to bark at you because that shows a lack of respect and demand for something they want you to do.

Remember that barking is a form of their natural communication.  Some barking in order to alert of an unusual event or to go outside for potty is natural and expected.  Barking to the point of “I can’t stand all that noise!” is inappropriate.  Correct them as needed.

DIGGING:
This is a problem if you spend time outside.  It is normally caused when your puppy becomes bored, is stressed, or hears underground noises like sloshing water in sprinkler lines (remember that their hearing is far more acute than ours).  Your first course of action is to redirect his digging to an appropriate environment.

Create a “digging pit” where you have determined that it is OK to dig”.  Find a place in your yard, create a boarder around it, and fill it with play-box sand (let’s not bring Georgia clay back inside). Slightly bury some of his favorite toys and goodies in the sand.  Direct him to the digging pit and engage him with some of the toys. This should associate the digging pit as a fun and safe place.

SEPARATION ANXIETY:
There will be times when you will have to leave your puppy alone.  You must be sure that you leave your puppy in a safe place.  There can’t “be anything” that he can get into such as toxic chemicals (even hand soap) or things that may cause him to choke.  Put your puppy in a crate in a room right next to you so he can hear you and know that “you are still there”.  As he gets used to this, start to be “more and more quiet”.  Once you are “as quiet as a church mouse”, start to go to farther and farther parts of the house.

As you are doing all of this, make sure that you have him with you during different parts of the day.  You may even bring the crate back into the room with you so that he will not associate the crate with not being with you.

Most important; do not rush back to him as soon as he starts to whine because you are gone. This is like the sick child ringing the bell next to the bed (now it would be texting) because he wants a glass of water or his pillow puffed.  If your puppy begins to whine, correct him from the other side of the door.  Do not go back to him or you have taught him the wrong lesson.  You are trying to teach him “You are still safe even though you may not always see me.”

Correcting these and other bad behaviors when your dog still is a puppy is far easier than waiting until later in life.  It is hard for us to do this because we just got a new puppy and it is far more fun to play with them than to correct and teach them.  If you are falling into this trap, think back to the look on the parent’s face as their child is having a melt down in the middle of the restaurant because they aren’t getting their way.  If you are a parent, you know what I mean.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over fourteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.2020