Can we love our dog too much?
We humans are demonstrative with our love in a very different way to dogs, aren’t we. We want to cuddle, touch, stroke, roughhouse, pet – even kiss them.
Feeling guilty at having left them home alone, we may get them really stirred up with wild greetings when we come home.
Affection showered on our dog human-fashion makes us feel good, but does the dog always love it as much as we do?
There can be a downside to ‘too much’ as was demonstrated when I met gorgeous Goldendoodle puppy Bea yesterday.
Bea is 6 months old. She is a great one for jumping up, jumping at the table and leaping onto people which they encourage until they have had enough. However, at times they don’t want her to do it. She may jump at visitors or scare a child when out.
When over-excited or frustrated she may leap on someone and mouth them.
Lack of consistency is confusing. Confusion is stressful. Stress has to vent – somehow.
We reap what we sow.
Sometimes when the lady approaches Bea when she’s resting, the pup may curl her lip and growl. She knows what’s coming – she’s going be showered with human love.
One wouldn’t mix a Poodle with a Golden Retriever if one wanted a quiet life!
Bea is clever, affectionate and biddable. She’s excitable by nature anyway without more help!
The family consists of a couple with their two young adult offspring. They all understandably adore beautiful Bea. Greeting her excitedly, they encourage her to jump up. They play hand games and they get her thoroughly stirred up.
So, Bea is highly aroused, something which takes hours or days to calm. This results in behaviours that they can’t cope with.
The lovely lady just can’t resist her and it’s easy to see why. She wants to fuss and kiss her. Lying still like a ‘good dog’, Bea is irresistible.
From quite a young puppy Bea, from her bed, would tell her in dog language ‘no thanks, not now’.
She would look away or go still. Ignored, she took to showing her teeth. She was very young and they thought it was funny. Now she growls. With her growling scolded or ignored, this can only go one way as she gets older.
Understandably, the lady is quite hurt by what feels like rejection. I hope she now sees that if she plays ‘harder to get’ and invites Bea over to her instead – when she’s not too settled, she will get more affection. We ourselves can feel smothered by too much love and attention. All Bea needs is some choice in the matter.
In the two-and-a-half hours I was there, much of the time was spent showing Bea how to make the right decisions, including learning that having her feet on the floor was much more rewarding than jumping at the table.
Turning ‘no’ into ‘yes’.
Bea doesn’t give up easily. She is used to getting attention for her antics, even if in the form of scolding. Like so many young dogs, in the absence of being shown what she should do she becomes frustrated. Here again is one of my favourite videos. It demonstrates perfectly and in quite an amusing way just how quickly a ‘yes’ approach works, and how ‘no, no, no’ leads to frustration and failure.
They don’t want Bea digging the flower beds, so – where can she dig? A child’s plastic sandpit with toys and rubbish buried in it? Here is one of my client’s young Pointer digging! A happy dog! These people have now designated part of their garden to hole-digging as Jojo loves it so much! See the story.
They don’t want Bea jumping all over people, so what should she do? She can get fuss and food only when her feet are on the floor.
We did other little training and impulse control exercises. Bea loved it.
Out now should go all contact sports. Stop winding her up into a frenzy of excitement which they all have to pay for later. Instead, there are brain games, training games, foraging, chewing, hunting and so on.
The family will find being calm with her a big challenge. Love for Bea means exercising some restraint even though it will be very hard!
Again, we reap what we sow.
6-week summary: Bea has improved greatly. Everyone loves her