It’s a kind of vicious circle. A constantly challenging, easily aroused puppy can get us down. Our resulting loss of patience makes puppy worse.
Days start badly
Their days with sixteen-week-old Luna start badly as the easily aroused puppy fights against having her harness put on. The exasperated lady admits being driven to shouting and tears by the wriggling, biting animal.
Luna’s life with the first-time dog owners started badly. As soon as she arrived they found she had Giardia. Then, she broke her paw after falling awkwardly and was hospitalised for a week at twelve weeks old.
The couple are extremely conscientious with her training, aware that she is a working dog. They are doing all they can to fill Luna’s life.
I have a more relaxed take on what a young puppy needs.
Discovery of what works and what doesn’t
At this age life should be discovering what works and what doesn’t, with perhaps less human direction. They do all they can to try to keep her occupied but she quickly loses interest. She now needs to start keeping herself occupied for a little longer.
In a way I feel they are trying too hard. It’s not often I would say that!
They listed for me the problems they are having with their easily aroused sixteen-week-old gun dog Labrador puppy.
The list of difficulties are all extreme for the same reason – over-arousal/excitement/stress with lack of self-control:
Jumping up at the work tops and table. Leaping at guests or people that want to say hello to her outdoors – she drew blood from someone. Jumping up, nipping arms and ripping at their clothes when excited. Biting when they try to put on or take off her lead or harness. Grabbing her lead and pulling when walking. Chewing on things they would rather she didn’t despite having plenty of toys – she doesn’t play with toys – just chews and tears them.
They are all normal puppy things but, with Luna, excessive.
She was very quickly and easily aroused all the time I was there. She became temporarily responsive to clicking for calm and feet back on the floor. It’s important to reinforce those times when she is simply being calm and still.
I gave her a yak chew which gave short-term respite before she started again.
Easily aroused and the need to chew
Easily aroused dogs have a big need to chew which is one of the most effective ways they can relieve their stress.
We will start by prioritising things most directly associated with Luna getting easily aroused, concentrating on lowering that ‘stress bucket‘.
The couple feel unable to leave her alone which is not helping. They interrupt their night to take her out in the early hours of the morning and are tired.
During the day the lady is constantly in Luna’s company, dealing with the behaviour.
Getting their lives back
I suggested they start to get their lives back. Firstly to try leaving her all night and see what happens.
They should get into a routine of shutting her in her pen after her morning walk with a stuffed Kong for half an hour. They then can go into the other room and relax! From what they tell me, she may bark briefly to come out so they should ignore that. Over time they can extend the time they leave her to two hours.
The lady can then have some freedom.
I suggested changing to better food. Diet can also affect the behaviour of an easily aroused dog.
We have a plan for putting the harness on without drama. Why not simply leave it on for now, eliminating that from the morning’s bad start?
Happier owners will make for a happier puppy, and visa versa.
I saw Luna yesterday and received an email this morning: Luna and I have not had any cross words this morning despite lots of attempts at mischief. I think it’s the first time I’ve not shouted and cried before 9am in 9 weeks! She had lots of sniffs on her walk…(we’ve kept the harness on throughout to make things easier just for the first few days), and we started transitioning her onto better food this morning too…..Just now as I was writing this email she was jumping and nipping at my clothes and feet to get attention so I left the room for 5 minutes. After a few whimpers she’s now taken herself off to her crate and is asleep. Peace!
Five weeks later: I did just want to write an email to say thank you. Being able to keep our heads above water at the same time as having a new puppy has been incredibly hard. Reaching out to you for help has been one of the best decisions we could have made, and the difference it has made to our relationship with Luna has been amazing. I’m not blind to the fact that things will continue to be hard work which is what we signed up to when we got a puppy. Crucially though, it feels like we have a foundation of strength to build on, which wasn’t there previously. I at least feel the confidence now to give everything a fighting chance of working and that feeling is worth so much to us so thank you.