‘Good! That’s the behaviour we want!’.
Milo is a beautiful 14 month old Cocker-Springer mix. His family adopted him from Wood Green three months ago at eleven months of age. It became obvious very soon just why his previous owners had given up on him, but fortunately the members of his new family are giving it all they can and have already made progress.
Milo didn’t have a good start in life because his mother died when he was born and consequently he was hand-reared. It is almost impossible for a human to replace the lessons taught by his mother. From his behaviour it also seems likely that he didn’t have the rough and tumble, give and take and bite inhibition lessons learnt from being reared with siblings.
He’s a very good natured and friendly dog – but he is a handful! His ‘crimes’ include jumping up, mouthing and nipping; stealing things for the attention and the chase; nip-biting when examined or groomed, and grabbing a hand that takes his collar; jumping up at work tops to steal food; he jumps all over visitors and they are afraid to have their young nephews and neices visit them. At the start of walks he is flying about, leaping up and grabbing the lead, nipping arms and maybe humping the person holding it. Basically he lacks self control or any form of impulse control.
His is a perfect example of reinforcement driving behaviour. Attention of any sort will do! When looked at like that the solutions become clearer. We unintentionally reinforce unwanted behaviour so need to reinforce with attention desired behaviour only. This may be easier said than done – which is where I come in with strategies.
Milo has some very good traits. He is affectionate. He never barks for attention and is peaceful in his crate – very necessary when they aren’t about to watch him! Neither is he a big barker generally. The things that most stimulate him need reducing so that he can calm down. It’s not a good idea to play tug games or chase games with a dog that mouths, nips and grabs, or who steals things and runs off with them – winding you up for a chase.
He needs rules and boundaries in terms that he understands – provided more by the actions of his humans than by words and commands. Good self-controlled behaviour needs to become more rewarding than bad behaviour.