Quick-Fix Punishment Fallout

Published by Theo Stewart on

I could happily have taken five-month-old Tibetan Terrier Buddy home with me.  five month old Tibetan Terrier

The family had so wanted to get everything right with their new puppy to make sure he grew into a reliable and friendly adult dog that the lady took him to puppy classes. Then, because he seemed so restless and demanding at home, she asked the trainer to her house which was a disaster. Then they had another trainer to try to undo some of the harm done by the first trainer which, if possible, made things even worse.

How are new dog owners to know the rights and wrongs that are out there when the best known example is a man they see on TV who leads people to believe that quick-fix punishment methods are the accepted way to go?

I find what’s happened absolutely appalling in this day and age. I may have the details a little wrong, but this is the gist. The trainer sat on the sofa, ready for the three-month-old Buddy to be released from the kitchen. He flew over to her in his exuberant and friendly fashion and what did she do? She sprayed in him the face with bitter apple. While the puppy was going mental after this, she then pinned him down. She even tried to show the two-year-old little girl how to use the spray on her puppy. Then, Buddy back jumping up at the kitchen gate, she threw her keys on the floor in front of him. Needless to say, the family didn’t do these things themselves.

Tibetan Terrier puppyThe next day when someone came to the house, their friendly and confident little puppy was terrified. Realising things were now going from bad to worse and despite reading everything she could get her hands on, the lady called in a ‘Dog Listener’. Amongst other nonsense like pretending to eat something before the little puppy could have his food, making sure they walked through doors ahead of him, totally ignoring him when they came home and giving him lots of time out, she told them not to take him out at all for three weeks. What about socialisation, meeting people and other dogs at this impressionable age? What about healthy stimulation for his clever little brain? This is a young puppy, for goodness sake.

Early in their meeting the puppy flew onto her also. She pushed him off so roughly that he skidded into a coffee table. He then spent the rest of the consultation shut away and she had no more interaction with him for the three hours or so she was there.

I am incensed! No wonder the lady was so anxious about Buddy jumping on me when I arrived. As we had arranged, the puppy, now five months old, was behind the kitchen gate and I was armed with chicken. For the first time he leapt the gate and so he had the chicken at my feet!

I sat at the dining room table with the lady to discourage any flying about and the two little girls were on the sofa with their dad. It was nearly bed time. In no time at all we were clicking and feeding Buddy chicken every time he was still or sat down. Then I gave the seven-year-old girl the clicker. She looked for everything good, clicked, and I fed him. Her timing was brilliant. Soon he was lying down. He fetched himself a chew. We had a few ‘puppy madness’ bouts when I could see what they have to contend with much of the day and evening. He seldom rests and is exhausted by night-time so could well be over-tired too. He needs structured activity of the kind that releases stress – doesn’t cause it. We dealt with his antics in an appropriate way so that he could learn what was wanted. Then he settled again. This was the first time since the first couple of weeks that Buddy could be in sitting room with them without constantly pacing, panting, carrying things whilst whining, looking for things to nick, flying at people and so on. He never settled until bed time. Now he was lying down, peacefully chewing something.

The crafty little monkey had worked out that if he jumped on the sofa he was called off and then fed chicken, and it could become quite a nice little game! It will be a challenge to keep one step ahead of him! I hope they now see this as fun that won’t last for ever and recognise that all his good points completely outweigh any problems.

This is a puppy who was house-trained from the start, who has never shown any aggression whatsoever despite the treatment and who is so keen and willing to do his ‘tricks’. The family absolutely adore him. Buddy is wonderful with the little girls because they have instinctively responded to being leapt on in the right way so he does it no more. The best thing for the couple to do now is to treat him in the same way as they do their little children so that stop confusing him and show him just what is required of him in terms that he understands – to praise him when he is doing well, to encourage him, to give him sensible stimulation without overdoing it, to give him quality time and sensible boundaries and time out when necessary with plenty of special things to do – relinquishing all ideas of dominance and punishment. I hope I have now given them the tools.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Buddy, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan – particularly where children are also part of the equation. Finding instructions on the internet 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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