unrealistic expectationsSadie is the thirteen-week-old Golden Retriever I visited yesterday looking up at me. I went to see her because she is ‘turning nasty’.

Sometimes it’s hard not to react in a negative fashion myself when I hear something like that.

The lady said that what I suggested was ‘counter-intuitive’ and opposite to everything she had done with her four previous dogs and she never had any trouble with them. She believes in firm discipline and dogs trained to obey, not a dog choosing to cooperate because the techniques are positive and rewarding.[divider type=”white”]

Unrealistic expectations

Whilst having totally fallen in love with her, they have extremely high expectations of Sadie. She is just a baby after all and I think she is very good little dog.

She doesn’t wreak havoc with all the things left out and about (I clear the decks when I get a puppy), she is already reliably taking herself outside to toilet, she is well mannered around food and she’s friendly.

Like many young puppies she was nippy, and it’s gradually got worse. I would blame the lady’s unrealistic expectations on her approach to this. Now what begins as a nudge and a nibble of trousers, probably to get a reaction of some sort, develops into grabbing and nipping. Because the lady gets angry, it escalates into growling, snarling with her hackles rising – and using teeth.

Like many puppies, she is especially challenging when people are walking about in an open environment like the garden or when the lady wears her flowing dressing gown.[divider type=”white”]

Adjusting the environment to the puppy.

Sadie has insufficient physical boundaries. I believe a puppy should start with a very small environment, ideally somewhere like a kitchen or a puppy pen unless closely supervised. As she learns to cope with this they can very gradually expand her terrain. One wouldn’t have a toddler free range in the house and out in the garden unsupervised.

Another problem with a puppy growing up with freedom to go where she likes is that, quite naturally, she resists physical control. In particular, being attached to a lead and being led where the owner chooses. Some puppies are much more clingy and wouldn’t use the space available, but others, like Sadie, increase in independence a bit too soon.

Sadie can’t understand what is required of her. How could she, if she is only ever punished for things that are not required. There is escalating stress and tension around her and because of her, and her own behaviour is mirroring this. Unrealistic expectations are making it impossible for the lady to adapt to the puppy and give her what she really needs.

She never showed any interest in my own trousers which is interesting, even when I walked about.[divider type=”white”]

Teaching puppy what works and what doesn’t

I worked on teaching her a couple of things without using commands, letting her work things out for herself. She can learn to be gentle. If she mugs a hand for a treat, then the hand doesn’t open. People say ‘but they’re only doing that for the food’. So? People don’t usually go to work simply for the love of it (though I might!) – they are motivated by pay.

Sadie is an eager sponge, waiting to learn how to live in a human world if properly shown how.

Working with a puppy can be hard work and constant, just like it is with a baby – but at least puppy-hood doesn’t last very long. There are sacrifices and temporary lifestyle changes to be made.

Sadie is developing behaviour issues. This, I believe, is solely down to the old-fashioned ‘Barbara Woodhouse’ approach which of course they are only doing because they believe it’s right and the best for Sadie.

Her owners will now, i hope, be implementing positive reward-based methods. They have to undo aspects of their previous relationship with her based on unrealistic expectations, so progress may be a bit slow.