Frustrated Puppy

Cavalier puppy and his big toy dogWhat do normal puppies do?

They toilet indoors, they have manic sessions tearing around the place, they may fly at you and nip, they chew the carpet, they bite you with their sharp little teeth, they get over-excited and they may even get cross when they are told off.

What usually happens? “No, No, No, No, STOP”.

“How otherwise can I teach my dog NOT to do these things,” people ask?

It’s not that I don’t take it seriously, but I say that the unwanted behaviours are unimportant.

“You teachAfter manic sessions of tearing around the place, Cavalier King Charles puppy sleeps him to do other things instead”. If you just keep telling him off, you create a frustrated puppy that either gets worse and worse or becomes fearful.

Here is adorable eleven-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Hassle. Hassle (self-named like my Cocker Spaniel Pickle!) plays nicely until he gets over-excited and then he flies at them. Too much hand play and touching simply encourages him to go for hands. He may bite, nip feet and grab socks; he tugs at the lady’s hair. When they try to stop him firmly, Hassle gets cross. They feel he’s becoming aggressive.

The problem with all ‘don’t’ and no ‘do’ is that a dog can become bewildered and frustrated.

Puppy does one thing and the humans react in a way which causes puppy to try harder. Human reaction escalates all the problems until they have a battle of wills on their hands.

It can be so hard but they need a new mindset, one of: “Do do do do YES”.

They will keep half of his food back to ‘mark’ quiet moments. When he gets over-excited they can scatter some in his large crate and, shut in there, he can then be busy ‘hunting’ which will calm him down. He can learn how to take food gently from hands. They can show him what he can chew and make sure there are plenty of options. They will remove temptation.

One big problem is that Hassle toilets all over the place, day and night. They live in an upstairs flat with no garden so he is expected to go on puppy pads. At the moment he ignores them.

Hassle has too much space. From the start the puppy’s environment should start small and gradually increase in size as he becomes trained. His environment needs to be controlled so that initially, unless he is closely watched, he has two just choices for toileting – in his bed or on pads.  It’s very unlikely he would go in his bed so he will be choosing to go on pads. Gradually, one sheet at a time, they can be lifted until there is just one left – and that will become his necessary indoor toilet place until he realises that walks are for toileting.

Of course – Hassle loves destroying puppy pads, so what should they do? Scold? No (it only makes him worse). They should ‘mark’ the moment he stops with a piece of food and offer him something he can chew!

So far he has learnt that he’s let of his crate out as soon as he cries, so now he can learn how to be quiet before he is let out of his crate. How? By rewarding just a moment of quietness and then letting him out – and building up from there.

Until he can stay happily in his crate at night-time and when they aren’t watching him, they may have little success with the toilet training.

The quality we need above all others with a puppy, is patience.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hassle, 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 dog 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 puppy parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Chocolate Labrador’s Dominant Behaviour

Don't be fooled by the lovely boy's innocent expression!Rufus was the largest in his litter, and had to be lifted out of the way so the other puppies could get to the food! The beautiful Chocolate Labrador is now a confident and fearless 14-month old now and he has kept his family on their toes since he arrived. Don’t be fooled by the lovely boy’s innocent expression!

Rufus got thrown out of puppy classes. All he wanted to do was to rough-house with the other dogs. He was simply determined to do what he himself wanted and that’s the story of his life so far.  His default reaction to being asked to do something is to refuse! Why should he anyway? He gets everything he wants whenever he wants it already.

He persistently drops toys for them to throw or tug and every time they will comply. He begs for the elderly mother’s biscuits and gets them. He jumps on the sofa and squashes them – he’s a big dog. He will mouth for attention – which he gets. They get up and down obeying his demands for them to open the garden door, and he may just sit down instead.  However, if they themselves choose to call him over to them he ignores them completely.

A very worrying trend is now developing, one that is getting worse and will probably end in his biting the elderly mother if not halted in its tracks, and this is the reason I was called out.

If Rufus is not getting exactly what he wants when he wants it he is getting cross. He started by putting his feet on the old lady – sometimes the younger lady also (not males). When this didn’t get the desired result (attention of some sort or food) he then added growling. Then he began barking, snarling and showing his teeth, The younger lady shouts at him and chases him out of the room when he does it to her – possibly just the sort of game he’s now looking for. The old lady can’t do this and she’s quite rightly scared. Not only does Rufus pick on her with his dominant behaviour, but if she walks out of her room to get away from him, when she returns he blocks her so she can’t get back to her chair.

Things need to be turned on their head. This dog for now should be getting nothing – neither food, attention nor play – unless it’s on the terms of his humans. They will offer to play when they choose and doubtless he will decline (he will get one chance). They will call him for attention – once only – and doubtless he will decline. Slowly, bit by bit, he will learn to value them. They will get him earning his food by doing their bidding. He will be silently rewarded for good behaviour. They will constantly look for the good in him and reinforce it.

For now the old lady will not be alone with the dog. She has her own flatlet and it will have a dog gate on the entrance. She loves him and this way they will still have some contact.  He will only be allowed in there accompanied and on lead, so that they can respond appropriately at the first signs of unwanted behaviour. We also have a couple of strategies the lady will be able to work with herself.

All the time Rufus is polite and calm he can be earning his food.

He has had operations on his elbows so can’t be walked too much, so more needs to be done to stimulate him mentally. Overall he will be getting more attention with activities offered very regularly, but when his people choose. They will need to stand firm and be consistent as no doubt things will get worse before they get better as he becomes frustrated by not getting his own way. They know how to react now.

It is quite unusual to go to a dog whose aggression is not associated with fear in some way or resource guarding. This is simply a very determined adolescent dog who has not been taught manners or respect having tantrums when he doesn’t get his own way – and generating his own entertainment!