Last evening I had the pleasure of visiting a beautiful Golden Cocker Spaniel pup called Monty (sorry I moved when I took the photo). He is nearly six months old. His owners have been trying to do all the right things with training him, but as a little personality he is more of a challenge than some more easy going dogs!
He was the bossiest and according to the breeder most dominant of the puppies in his litter. She was going to keep him but opted for an easier life!
Monty is ‘turning nasty’ when he is told to do something, or not to do something, and doesn’t wish to obey. There is a bamboo plant in the garden that is like a magnet to him and he loves to tear bits off and chew them up. The people are confrontational in their approach, may try to pull him away, tell him ‘leave’ or shout at him or even go to pick him up. He has taken to growling, snarling and biting them. The same happens if they try to get him off the sofa.
He will show aggression if he has anything in his mouth that they don’t want him to have, or even if he thinks they might want it. It can be impossible to get it off him without a battle. He has now also started to guard his bed.
In every other respect he is a brilliant dog and the way to change this behaviour is for the owners to change theirs.
At present there are too many commands and words. There are five adults in the household and someone is on his case most of the time, either fussing and cuddling him or teling him what not to do. The word NO is overused. NO is even used before he does something, when he may do it and isn’t even doing it yet. This must be very confusing.
They are going to tone down the ‘controlling’ of Monty and keep commands to the minimum – try to cut out the word NO as far as they can and find other ways, positive ways, to get Monty to cooperate and to work things out for himself. I find a lot of people try to exert unecessary control over their young dogs. You can achieve calm better by simply waiting in silence as you can be repeating Sit and Wait over and over.
When Monty has something in his mouth, they are going to ask themselves ‘does it matter?’. If the item isn’t particularly important and if it will do him no harm, they should leave it. Walk away. He is probably taking it because he enjoys the challenge and the reinforcement he receives. If it is important that he relinquishes the item, they need to go about it another way. In essence, Monty needs to see his owners as Givers and not Takers. This needs to be reinforced on every possible occasion, even through how they choose to play with him.
In the case of things like the bamboo, there is only one way to retain peace in the household and that is to remove the opportunity. Block access to it for a while until he loses interest. Removing the opportunity for behaviours can save a lot of conflict and stress.
If you don’t tell your dog to do something he can’t refuse and defy you can he! You can usually find a way of outwitting him so does what you want whilst thinking it was his own idea! Keep your sense of humour and it can be fun.