Adolescent dog gets attention for being 'naughty'

Adolescent Dog Fun Causing Trouble

Irish Wheaten TerrierEleven month old Irish Wheaten Terrier, Barney, is a mischievous adolescent dog who, when his humans are sitting down or busy, is looking for entertainment.

He finds one of the most entertaining things is to have them chase after him to retrieve a tissue, a sock or something else he shouldn’t have. He likes to grab cushions to chew and to drag his bedding about – anything really that gets a reaction!

What is really entertaining is to bark at the man until, as he always has to do eventually, he gives in and reacts in some way. It may be crossly or it may be to throw a toy. Either way it’s a result!

Barney is absolutely delightful. He is so affectionate and friendly and his coat feels like silk. He is a fantastic family dog.

His super-friendliness is the cause of a lot of jumping up, particularly at people he doesn’t know well. He really wants to get to face level. Again, it gets a result. The consequence is a lot of attention in terms of ‘Get Down’ and being held, and the person petting him.

I showed them how to teach him that the attention comes only when his feet are on the floor. If everyone does this, it shouldn’t take long for Barney to get the message, but it will need to be every time. Just one weakening will prove to him that it’s worth persisting – for the same reason we play slot machines. If you go on for long enough and you always get a result. If we knew there was no money in the machine, would we play it? No.

When he quietly settled for a moment, we quietly ‘marked’ that moment with a tiny bit of food. What is wrong with a dog earning some of their kibble for good behaviour?  As well as rewarding him when he is being good, they will also initiate plenty of activities under their own terms, play, training games, hunting and cuddles, which will more than compensate for any attention lost due to his self-entertaining adolescent dog strategies being ignored.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Barney, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

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