Resource Guarding Puppy. Puppy Love. Puppy Parenting.

puppy loveI walked in through the door to be met by the most adorable 13-week-old Sprocker puppy in the man’s arms. Instant puppy love!

Oscar!

Oscar does all the typical puppy things which we discussed how to address one at a time.

He was jumping up as soon as I sat down. They would prefer him not to jump up so immediately I got my clicker out.

In no time at all he had caught on. ‘So feet on the floor is what you want, is it? Why didn’t you say!’ Randomly telling the puppy to get down is just more human spam to his ears.

Clicker is quite considerable brain work for a young puppy and soon Oscar had fallen asleep on the floor beside us. He stretched out. He lay on his back with his little bare tummy showing. Puppy love!

Evening mischief

At this time in the evening he would usually be pestering for attention and looking for forbidden things to chew.

Just after I arrived he had a session of puppy zoomies, tearing through the house and down the garden, back and forth! I wonder why puppies usually do this in the evening. Possibly energy rush after their tea. Possibly accumulated arousal from the day. Very likely it coincides with owners wanting a bit of peace and quiet and the puppy has different ideas!

Evening mischief can easily be solved with a bit of effort. The humans should at regular intervals initiate a short activity. It can be standing outside watching the world go by. They could have a game of tuggy. Some food could be sprinkled over the grass. They could have a short clicker training session. Best of all to my mind is a cardboard carton food of recycle rubbish with some kibble dropped and hidden in things. This is so much more exciting than chewing wires and what a glorious mess he can make!

Resource guarding

The concerning thing is Oscar is showing signs of ‘aggression’.

This is when he picks up an item that they don’t want him to have. I gave Oscar a present of a piece of Yak chew (a wonderful thing for puppies). When someone walked past him he acted like he thought they might take it from him.

Removing things from a puppy in the wrong way actually creates resource guarding behaviour.

So, whenever Oscar has anything he values like the Yak chew, if they walk past they should drop something small and tasty as they go – without stopping. They ADD; they don’t take away. Givers, not takers.

Firstly and fairly obviously, they need to keep checking the environment. This isn’t so easy when they take him to someone else’s house and where some of the incidents have happened.

Once he has something there are questions. The first thing is, how valuable is it to you? If a sock or tissue, then it’s your fault for leaving it accessible! Neither will kill him, so ignore it. Make sure there are plenty of chew-able and allowed things left about.

If it’s something that will harm him or something of value, it’s a problem. For puppy love sake this could be an emergency. At present all they can do is scatter lots of very tasty bits all around the place so he’s unable to grab all the food and get back to the resource at the same time. It could well be that nothing will lure him away from a particularly valuable prize.

Chasing and cornering

This is when the trouble starts. He is chased and cornered. He becomes intimidated whilst at the same time determined to hang onto his treasure. The large human will then grab him and force the item out of his mouth.

It’s little wonder that the puppy has now learned to growl when approached while he has one of his ‘finds’ in his mouth.

Before things can get any worse, Oscar needs to be given some intensive fun sessions of give and take. This must always be an exchange session. Each time he gives, he gets something in return that is of higher value (to him) than what he had. He can also get the original item back.

With my puppies and some older dogs, when they have something in their mouths, anything, I say Give. I do an exchange for perhaps a bit of food. I then admire, sniff and talk to the item, increasing its desirability, before returning it to the dog!

Tug of war can also be a very good lesson in give and take.

Once the puppy is inadvertently taught to be on the defensive by us humans, it makes other things difficult. Oscar had a bit of stick painfully trapped in his mouth and really fought against having it removed by the man.

Here is a famous example of a dog being virtually forced into resource guarding aggression.

More puppy love

I am so looking forward to my next dose of puppy love with Oscar. We will see how the give and take is going, work a bit more on walks and do some more clicker training.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Early and comprehensive puppy parenting advice which is much more extensive than puppy classes is invaluable. Click here for help.

Puppy Parenting Goldendoodle Puppy

This is the start of my Puppy Parenting journey…

Puppy parenting

Being such a good boy. Loving the clicker

…with the delightful Richie, a Goldendoodle puppy now age 14 weeks.

I usually like to start as soon as the puppy arrives in his new home but often, as in the case of Richie, people put in fantastic work with the toilet training and other training themselves, but aren’t prepared for puppy’s teeth!

They contact me when their attempts to discipline their wayward puppy are making things worse and they are growing desperate.

This is from the message I received when they first contacted me:

‘We got him at 8 weeks. He is very excitable at home and when meeting new people and dogs. He is very aggressive with his mouth and we can’t seem to stop him using his mouth when we play with him. We have taken him to a puppy class but he just doesn’t concentrate. All he wants to do is jump all over the other puppies. He gets what we call the crazies and he zooms around the house, biting our pants, socks, shoes, shoe laces, clothes – anything he can get his mouth on. He loses interest in toys very quickly and doesn’t play happily by himself for very long.’

He’s a puppy – being a puppy.

The most immediate thing to address is Richie’s way of, when thoroughly stirred up, flying at the lady and ‘attacking’ her.

What we soon realised was that this only happens when Richie is so excited that he can’t control himself. They also soon saw that his high state of arousal was sometimes caused by themselves. It’s like he’s clockwork and they wind a key in his side until …… off he goes!

One trigger time is when the man arrives home from work. The lady will excite the puppy with ‘daddy’s home’ when she hears his car. The man walks in the gate to give the aroused puppy a huge welcome.

Richie will then fly, not at the man but at the lady, biting her arms and grabbing her clothes.

They have already taught their clever puppy to sit, to lie down and a few other things. This makes people feel, quite rightly, that they have really achieved something. At just fourteen weeks Richie is fully toilet trained.

Just as important as training tricks where his humans are directing him, is the puppy working certain things out for himself.

He does this by experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work.

If jumping up and nipping gives fun and feedback – it works. If barking while the lady prepares his food ends in his getting the meal – it works. If jumping up gets the fuss – it works. If calmly waiting, sitting down or standing gets the feedback – that will work too.

That is the beauty of clicker training. It shows the puppy just what does work. He then starts to find ways of ‘being good’. If the clicker isn’t to hand, the word ‘yes’ will do because all the clicker means, really, is ‘yes’. 

Good recall is like having puppy on remote control.

Making a game of it, using food and constant repetition, Richie can soon be taught to come running when called.

He’s chewing the table leg? Instead of a loud NO, they can call him. He will come. They can then reward him and give him something better to chew.

Too much ‘No’ merely causes confusion, frustration – and wildness. ‘No’ is hard to avoid when we are pulling our hair out!

Puppies notoriously have a wild half-hour in the evening, zooming from room to room and flying all over the furniture. Dealing with the wild behaviour involves avoiding deliberately getting him stirred up, shutting doors as space encourages wildness, and redirecting this pent-up energy onto something acceptable that he can wreck or attack!

A Puppy can soon learn that ‘being good’ isn’t rewarding. Fun or gentle attention can sometimes be initiated when he’s awake but calm.

There are brain games, hunting games and there is clicker training – which to puppy should be a game. Here are some great ideas.

Our main catch phrase for now is ‘Change No to Yes’.

We have only just started. Puppy parenting is largely about pre-empting, diverting problems before they start and laying the foundations for happy walks and self-control.

Puppies can hard work!

From an email about seven weeks later: ‘We are doing great and Richie is becoming a totally different dog to the puppy we struggled with. Your help teaching us to be calm with him has been invaluable….. I don’t have much to add to the plan to be honest, as we have moved on a lot.   The only thing I can think of is Richie is alarm barking, especially from our own garden when he hears noises etc. but we will work on this. I am very pleased with how we and Richie are progressing.  All our friends and family are being calm with him and he is such a good boy around them.  He is growing up fast!