By Daniel Stevens and Martin Olliver
One of the most popular features of the Kingdom of Pets dog training team is our thorough email consultations. Here is an example of one of our responses to the owner of a mixed-breed dog with a mixed bag of dog obedience problems:
Thanks for your email regarding your young Blue Heeler/Australian Shepherd. It sounds as though your puppy is indeed starting to reach her terrible twos! The problems you are currently facing are relatively easy to correct though, particularly because she is so young. From your email, the main problems you are facing with her is that she talks back, jumps on people, and chews your roommate's things. The first thing to consider in this particular dog’s case is if she is spayed or not. De-sexing animals in most cases leads to a dramatic decrease in behavioral problems such as those you are currently experiencing.
It also drastically reduces the chances of a female dog developing mammary cancer later in life. If your puppy has not yet been spayed, it is about now that you should be consulting with your Veterinarian so they can go through the pros and cons of the procedure with you. Secondly, I would encourage you, and any other family members, to read our bonus book, "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog." This book will give you a good understanding of the hierarchical nature of dog social behaviour.
If you treat your dog as an equal it may well see it as an opportunity to challenge your position. For example, be aware that allowing your dog onto the couch, bed, etc will give it the leeway that it needs to be able to challenge your position as the alpha dog in the relationship. This behaviour change may occur quite gradually, without you even noticing it, until your dog starts showing aggressive tendencies when you try to move it.
Most dogs go through an adolescent period when they reach six months and this usually lasts until they are 14 months of age. However, the exact age of adolescence does vary between breeds and individual dogs. Be aware that this adolescent period can be characterized by behaviour changes in your dog. De-sexing will help resolve these issues.
You should reprimand your dog for unacceptable behaviour, no matter what that behaviour is. If you do not reprimand your dog’s poor behaviour then it will feel that it has the right to behave that way and it will take much longer to correct the behaviour. What I recommend you do the next time your dog acts poorly and exhibits dominant tendencies (such as growling) is throw a heavy blanket over your dog and be sure to reprimand it. DO NOT yell, as this has no effect on the dominant dog.
Undertake the following techniques to reinforce your status as alpha dog:
If you come across your dog while she is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can re inforce your position as alpha dog by making her move so that you can pass by.
Generally I do not recommend people giving their dogs bones as this can encourage (possessive) aggression (in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones). The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.
Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to re inforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.
At mealtimes make sure that she eats after all of the humans have.
Do not feed your dog tidbits or let her pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.
Do not greet her straightaway when you arrive home. Make her wait until you are ready and then call her to you.
When she wants to go outside for a walk, make her sit and wait until you are ready to go.
Do not inadvertently reinforce poor behaviour from your dog. You must be consistent. For example, if she is allowed to jump on you when you are playing with it but is not allowed to jump up at any other time, she will be unable to understand the difference.
Once you and your roommates have followed the above techniques, you should notice a distinct difference in the behaviour your puppy exhibits to everyone in the household. This will definitely help with the talking back and barking when you tell her off, and most likely the jumping and chewing objects also. However, there are other methods we can use to help get your puppy out of these particular behavioural problems.
With regards to jumping and lunging, there are a few techniques you may wish to try – some of which you may have already tried. I would recommend not really trying these methods until you have undertaken the alpha dog techniques described above for a couple of months. After this time you may wish to begin with this other training.
Your puppy should not be allowed to jump in any situation. This means that she should not be allowed to jump on family members OR strangers. If you allow her to jump up at home, she will not realize that jumping on strangers is inappropriate. Next time she goes to jump on you, move quickly towards her, then as she moves back to prevent being stepped on, tell her to sit, and praise her for obeying.
Or when she begins to jump, totally ignore her, don't even look at her. Cross your arms, and look at the ceiling. When she eventually calms down, ask her to sit then praise her. You could attach her leash, then if she jumps, tell her "Off" firmly, then give a sideways pull on the leash, so that she loses her balance, and falls down to all four paws. Praise her quickly so that she associates being on all fours with your praise. Your roommates should join in so that she knows not to jump on anyone – not just yourself.
As for chewing here are some important points to help you curb the behaviour:
1. You will have to spend quite a lot of time doing corrective training with your puppy
2. You will need to reprimand your puppy effectively when you can catch her chewing (or performing any other destructive behaviour)
3. You will also have to restrict your puppy’s access to chewable things when you are not around to control it
You can train your puppy to recognize that chewing anything but its toys is unacceptable, however, the minute you are not around, the puppy is instantly the alpha dog and can do whatever it wants.
Spend some time every day, quietly following your puppy, so that she believes she is alone and free to do as she pleases. The aim being that you want to catch her in the act.
Startle and reprimand her as soon as she starts to chew on something. The best way to do this is verbally, or by shaking a can (like a soda can) of pebbles to startle her. Give your dog time out in another room or an area where there is nothing for her to chew. When you are away, restrict access to your roommates' rooms, and always give her plenty of her own toys to keep her busy chewing on good stuff.
Because she is so young you shouldn’t have any problem training her out of the behaviours you have been seeing recently. Be sure to reward all good behaviours as well as reprimanding bad ones. It will take time, patience and persistence to overcome these problems, but you will make a breakthrough relatively quickly in this case if you follow all the steps and stick to them.
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