Puppies can turn into teenagers almost overnight. Between the age of 14 weeks and 18 months, all puppies go through a period where it may feel that everything you have taught them has been forgotten.
Sometimes that period doesn’t last long – especially if you have a Thinking-Dog puppy and have Shaped her right from the beginning. How long it lasts can depend on so many things, from the temperament of the dog, to her breed, even down to her mother and the way that she was raised from being a tiny puppy.
How successfully she comes through it depends on how you react to it.
Try not to despair, and try not to be too surprised when your puppy who had stopped chewing and weeing all over the place suddenly starts doing some of these things again. There are many things that you might suddenly find she starts doing. The following list may not include something your particular dog does, but these are the things you may get:
- Weeing and pooing in the house
- Yapping and whining with excitement
- ‘Bossy barking’ – throwing-out behaviours and demanding treats for doing them. This tends to happen during training sessions, but some dogs will seek you out during quiet times and start sitting in front of you and barking for treats. Basically, it’s just attention-seeking
- Scratching at doors, windows and carpets
- Ignoring you when out on walks
- Running off towards other dogs and people
- Failing to come back when called
- Nipping and biting – possibly harder than when a puppy
- Scratching hands and legs
- Obsessive playing with balls
- Tail chasing
- Obsessive chewing on bones and chews (this is a good one – don’t worry about it, and there is no need to remove the chew. She is relieving her stress and working her jaw and brain by chewing, so it’s actually a good sign. Although the reasons for being stressed would need addressing)
- Jumping up
- Ignoring you in the house and garden when called
- Biting the lead and/or harness
- Becoming scared of triggers – things that hadn’t previously been frightening (anything, from people and dogs to wheelie bins)
- Fooling around (throwing herself on the ground and rolling about on walks)
- Snatching at grass and bushes when running past
- Sniffing for a really, really, really long time and pulling backwards when you walk on (especially with beagles and spaniel breeds)
- Zooming, crazily, out of control for several minutes and ‘buzzing’ people and dogs as she goes by
- Playing too boisterously with children and other dogs in the family
- Not ‘listening’ when family dogs tell them to calm down or leave them alone
- Spending time on their own being quiet (something most of us want! But sometimes a teenager can become withdrawn and reserved)
- Growling or nipping when being handled (this will probably have been present as a young puppy, but becomes more overt when she’s a teenager. It tends to be something that a quick trawl on Google will tell confuse you over. Many advise neutering to ‘cure’ it, but this is actually the worst thing that you can do. There is an underlying issue, and your pup needs help with it. If it happens, please contact me for a 1-1 consultation.
- Barking and lunging at other dogs, people, cats, skateboards, cars, bikes, motorbikes, scooters etc
- Humping. This is almost always about excitement. Sometimes it’s boredom or even anxiety, but it is very rarely sexual in young dogs. The seat of sexual energy is in the same place in the brain as excitement and fear, and a young dog has no control over humping. Both boys and girls do it, and the way to deal with it is by totally ignoring it. Walk away from your dog if she does it. If she does it to another dog, the other dog will probably tell her to stop. Bitches and dogs do it, which shows how it is more about excitement than sexual urges.
- Uncertainty about getting in the car
- Travel sickness
- Uncertainty about going into certain rooms or new places
- Wanting to be picked up (tends to happen with small dogs)
- Destroying furniture or cushions
Many of the above behaviours can show deeper signs of either Separation Anxiety or Reactivity, and if you find that they’re not improving with the usual Thinking-Dog methods, then you may need to think about doing some Behaviour Modification work with us in a 1-1 consultation.
If your dog showed any of them when she was little, then improved with training as a puppy, but has since then reverted back to them during her teenage months, they’re probably just the usual teenage stuff and nothing to worry about. That doesn’t mean that it’s not hard work, or difficult to go through! Most of the work we do is with dogs between 6 months and 3 years, who are teenagers that haven’t learned any impulse control, and it can be a really challenging time. How you react to all this behaviour is what will make the difference between her coming through it relatively quickly, or having to put- up with it until she matures at 3 or 4 years.
UNDERSTANDING THE HORMONES
Your teenage dog is chock-full of hormones at the moment, and is finding it incredibly hard to control her impulses. She doesn’t know how she fits into the world, and is trying things out to see what works. Like a teenage person, she doesn’t ‘fit in her own skin’. She still looks quite puppyish to people, and will still get the ‘ah’ factor from most humans. That is, until she jumps up at them with muddy paws …
She may look like a puppy, but she smells like a yob to other dogs! Hormonal pups smell of sexual hormones, and are a cocktail of testosterone and oestrogen. Many older dogs find them difficult to handle at this time because they are often boisterous to the point of rude, and you may find that they start to get shown teeth by other dogs that they approach.
They are also controlled by the stress/excitement hormones of Cortisol and Adrenaline in their bodies, which they will be finding very difficult to manage. Every time they get excited or frightened, they find it hard to ‘come down’.
Rarely (but it can happen) you may find that your pup starts to show signs of ‘anger’ and ‘bossiness’. I don’t really like these terms, because they suggest human emotions, but in certain situations they can happen. They’re the sign of a dog that didn’t learn to deal with frustration as a puppy. Or they can happen with a dog that had her mother taken away too early. Puppies that aren’t monitored by their mother learn to play too roughly, and start to associate most touch with the very sharp teeth of their siblings. They don’t tend to be very good at bite inhibition, and can be fearful or resistant to being handled. If you work hard on this during their early socialisation period (from 8 to 16 weeks), this behaviour should stop. But as soon as she hits her teen period, she may well revert.
If your pup starts to show any signs of barking at you for treats or attention, growls at you when being handled, or growls at strangers or dogs, it’s vital that you continue to use Thinking-Dog methods and don’t tell her off or punish her. Using any form of Feel Bad during this period will make the problems more pronounced.
Most pups of 14 weeks and older can be over-excitable because they’ve become very used to getting attention on-demand. This level of attention almost makes them addicted to it. They can start to believe that they need 100% attention whenever they ask for it and if they don’t get it, they get over-excited or stressed. Even when they do get it, puppies that get too much attention tend to be far more excitable than those that don’t.
These are the puppies who haven’t learned to ask for cuddles or games politely, and are inclined to go-in to their owners with noses, paws and tongues (or even barks, growls and teeth). Other dogs won’t tolerate this kind of behaviour from a young dog, even though they may have accepted it when she was younger.
We need to teach our puppies how to ask for attention politely, but we also need them to understand that they don’t get attention whenever they want it. A calm, polite puppy is the puppy who was used to being ignored when she demanded-attention when younger, and only given attention when she was calmer. You can start doing this with your teenage pup, and she will soon start to understand that being calm and polite around people and other animals will get her the attention she wants.
You can give your puppy attention when she is calm and you decide to give it to her. If she responds by moving her head or body towards you calmly, then you can continue to stroke her (stroke her neck, shoulders and back at first) If she moves excitedly, tries to mouth you, wriggles about, tries to paw you with her front paws, or turns her head away, she is either too excited to be fussed or she doesn’t want you to fuss her. Puppies often use play as a way of stopping people from stroking them. By stopping and walking away from her if she does any of these things, you’re letting her know that the Feel Good of stroking only comes if she’s calm. You’re also letting her know that you understand she doesn’t want fussing if she’s using play as a way to stop you stroking her.
Many puppies make little sleepy, grumbly, murmuring sounds when they’re either frustrated, or if they’re falling asleep. They sound incredibly cute, but these sounds can turn into attention-seeking and whining if you respond to them at all. Try not to talk to your puppy if she does it, or to encourage any dog to ‘talk’ to you. Unfortunately, many people think this cuteness is lovely, but are less impressed when their puppy consequently barks, whines and growls at them for attention as they get older. Responding to these ‘cute’ sounds can very quickly result in a demanding dog, so it’s fine to have a quiet inner chuckle to yourself but avoid reacting to them outloud.
This is the pup who can’t seem to control herself, gets giddy at the slightest attention from anyone and spends a lot of time jumping up at people, trying to lick faces, whooshing around the house and garden trying to get people to play with her, bringing balls and toys in and dropping them at your feet and pinging up and down while you’re eating. The Fizzy Dog is often a tail chaser, and will turn herself inside out to get you to play with her. She will rush out of the back door and instantly wait next to a ball waiting for you to throw it.
She tends to be a very busy dog who seems to have a lot of energy. It can be tempting to use-up this energy by going for the burn and playing high-energy ball games with her, but this is actually the last thing she needs. She is, on the whole, addicted to adrenaline. If you try to use up her energy by these ‘burn it all up’ games, she will simply need more and more of them as her fitness levels increase.
GAMES ARE YOUR IDEA, NOT HERS
With a Fizzy Dog, it’s important to play games when you decide. You also need to decide what kind of games she plays, and all these games need to be based on ‘brain work’. If she’s a dog who gets obsessed with balls, she will be more than capable of playing with one on her own to burn-up some of that energy, and when she does this, you don’t need to get involved. It’s good for her to learn to play on her own because it makes her more resourceful and independent.
When she plays with you, she needs to understand that playing is all about using her nose and learning Impulse Control. Hiding treats wrapped in cabbage or spinach leaves around the house and garden and playing with her to find them helps you bond with her and will use her brain. Using a Treat Tray and playing Ping Pong Puppy in the house and garden are also very good ways of teaching her to focus on you.
Training sessions on Loose Lead Walking in the garden are much more important to your pup than playing with you – since most Fizzies are inclined to pull on the lead and don’t have very strong recall. Spending two short sessions of no more than 5 minutes working on these skills in the garden will go a long way to creating a calm, focused teenager.
If you want more ideas about how to use her brain, see the leaflet on Boredom Busters for Natural Fed Dogs. There are also some great books on the market for playing games with your dog, but be aware that many of them aren’t very Thinking-Dog because they use cues. You can easily adapt them without cues, though.
WHY BALL GAMES AREN’T A GOOD IDEA
Playing repetitive ball games aren’t particularly good for dogs. They tend to get them over-excited, ball-obsessed and unable to calm down. The dog isn’t getting anything from her environment or relating to her surroundings, or her owner. She’s just getting raised cortisol and adrenalin levels in her nervous system. This gets her completely wired, and dogs like this often find it hard to relax when they get home. When they do sleep, they sleep very heavily (which is one reason why owners do this kind of exercise: to wipe their dogs out) But when they awakes again, they are generally still wired and on-edge and very likely to bark at anything that goes past the window.
THE FIZZY WHINER
The Fizzy Pup may also whine a lot with excitement and go through several of the behaviours in the Teenage Terror list. The basic rule with this dog is to completely ignore any behaviour that you don’t want. If necessary, walk out of the room so that she knows you’re not going to engage with her.
It’s important that you don’t touch her – especially if she is jumping up at you, putting a ball in your lap, or trying to get her tongue in your ear while you’re watching the TV. And, really: don’t laugh at her! It’s incredibly hard too stop laughing when dogs are being funny, but learning to have that ‘inner chuckle’ will stop a lot of the behaviours that you don’t want.
Fizzy dogs tend to be very intelligent and it doesn’t take them long to understand that attention-seeking behaviour doesn’t work, so they stop quite quickly. If she is doing things that you really can’t ignore, then try using a house harness and house line with her. A house line is a light, nylon lead of about 2m long with no loop at the end, so that it doesn’t get caught on anything.
Only ever use a house line with a harness and attach it to the rear D ring on the harness. Using a house line on a collar is dangerous and could result in the dog choking.
Only have a house-line on her when you’re at home – never leave a dog unsupervised wearing a house line, in case it gets tangled. A house line gives you the freedom to move her away from something you don’t want her to have (including visitors) and to put her in another room without having to touch her. Don’t say anything or look at her – both of these are giving her attention. When she is doing something that you can’t ignore, quietly take hold of her house-line, turn your head away from her and lead her into another room. Either shut the door or baby-gate and leave her for as long as it takes for her to stop fussing. Then wait at least another 10 minutes.
This is where it can get testing! If she cries, barks or howls, ignore her completely. By waiting for at least 10 minutes, if not longer, you will find that she settles-down and will often go to sleep. If she starts with more attention-seeking behaviour when you finally let her out, remove her again.
You may find the first couple of days doing this makes you start to feel like a jack-in-a-box. Every time you sit down, you may have to get up again and move her away. It can drive you crazy! But it’s well worth being consistent. It rarely takes long for a Fizzy Dog to realise that her behaviour gets her removed away from all the action, so she’ll soon stop.
CUDDLE ME DOG
The Cuddle Me dog is a lot like the Fizzy Dog. This pup thrives on attention, and tends to be very physical. She will lean, jump up in your face, crawl all over you when you’re on the sofa, push her paws and tongue in your face, snuggle on your lap and keep shuffling about, lift her front paw to shove your hand to get you to stroke her, and keep pawing at you. It can be quite cute when she’s a puppy, but soon becomes a nuisance. She is also likely to be a ‘mouther’ – she likes having your hand or arm in her leg (staffies are very prone to this)
The Cuddle Me dog can also be prone to humping, and using a house line with a harness is a good way of dealing with this.When she starts to hump, pick up her long-line, turn your head away from her, don’t say anything and lead her away. You can try to Shape a dog out of humping – Mark and Treat as soon as she gets off whatever or whoever she’s attached to! This works with some dogs, but to be honest, the impulse to hump is often so strong that it takes a very long time to Shape them out of it. I find that moving humping dogs away tends to be more effective.
IGNORE, IGNORE, IGNORE
The Cuddle Me dog needs ignoring, or removing by using a house harness and house line. Cuddle Me dogs are very good at being cute and behaving as if they’re defensive wee creatures who can’t cope with the world. They often back into your legs to be picked up. I live with one! Maggie, our youngest whippet, is a real baby. She is now three, and still stands next to her bed with her head on it, looking pitiful. Sometimes she sighs. Very sadly. She wants someone to lift her onto the bed (it’s about 2 inches high …) and cover her with a blanket. And, usually, someone (I live with teenagers!) does. Consequently, she has turned into an irritating wee beasty who knows how to twist heart strings.
I’m much more mean, and won’t do it, so she doesn’t bother trying when I’m home alone ;) She’s very cute, and loves snuggling under your chin, nuzzling and doing a groany, purry little sound, which is endearing. But she will also shove her tongue in your ear while you’re eating if she can, and it’s taken me a long time to train her not to (by ignoring her or getting up and walking away) because she got mixed messages in our household during her formative months.
And this is the important thing with teenage dogs – everyone in the family needs to use the same methods of ignoring and walking away until the dog has learned to stop doing any of the unwanted behaviour. A clingy dog, Fizzy dogs or attention-junkies aren’t healthy or calm. They feel that they need reassurance all the time from their owners, either by physical closeness or by being looked at.
It’s probably a nuisance to get up while you’re having a snack on the sofa because your pup is trying to put her nose in your cream cake. But you need to. Pushing her away with your hands is a game to her (hands are like paws, and paws that are pushing or raised mean play to a dog – it’s how young dogs play) Saying anything is giving her attention. So the only way is to move your plate out of reach and then move away.
MANAGING THE SPACE
With a dog like this, it’s much fairer and easier to train by keeping temptation out of the way. Have family meals at the table (including small children in high chairs. Shut her out of the room so that she can’t jump up or beg). Asking a young dog to sit by quietly while a toddler is chucking food around is a big ask – and far too tempting for her, so make it easier for her by putting her in another room or her puppy pen so she can’t get near to the food.
Use her mat – practise mat work as often as you can. Once it really is her default mode, and she sees it as her calm and safe place, then you can put a mat in the same room as you eat. Try tethering her to something safe that won’t get pulled-over with her house-line and harness, so that she can’t get physical access to the table or food while you’re eating. But remember how difficult this is for her – dogs have no concept of food not being for them. To them, there is food. It is there to be eaten. Preferably by her. Make it easier and fairer on her by giving her a stuffed, frozen kong while you eat, or a cow hoof. Anything that will keep her busy and focus for the time it takes you all to eat.
As time goes on, you can throw her the occasional treat for sitting or lying quietly while you eat. Ignore any whining or barking. If she keeps it up, take her by her house line, without getting eye contact or saying anything, and put her in another room until you’ve finished eating.
COUNTER-SURFING AND THE POWER OF SHAPING
There is only one way to stop a young dog from counter-surfing (stealing stuff from tables or kitchen surfaces) and that’s by either keeping her out of the kitchen, or keeping the surfaces free. It isn’t fair to blame a dog for stealing a loaf of bread from the counter – she has no idea that it’s wrong. Dogs have no sense of right or wrong, only what Feels Good or What Feels Bad. And a loaf of bread feels good.
Keep temptation out of her way. When you’re in the kitchen, start working her on her mat. Mark and Treat her regularly for lying quietly on her mat while you’re in the kitchen. Mark and Treat her with different time lapses in between each M&T, so that she is guessing when the rewards will come. Give her a stuffed kong as well. Completely ignore any attention-seeking behaviour, and if necessary, tether her so that she can’t jump up at the surfaces.
Put bits of food on the surface in her line of vision and give her a really high rate of reinforcement (click treat click treat click treat click treat) for staying on her bed. If she gets up, move the food out of the way and turn your back on her. When she lies down again, give a high rate of reinforcement. Then say ‘All done’ and put her out of the kitchen.
Try this for several sessions while you’re cooking. Slowly build up to putting more and more tempting foods closer and closer to the edge of the kitchen counter. Keep up the rate of reinforcement, and then use a Mark and Treat randomly. Keep her guessing! And keep sessions short, so that she finds them manageable.
The next step is to move further and further away from the food at the edge of the counter, while you M&T like a Crazy! Use high value treats while you’re doing this. After 4 weeks, I can now have Archie lying on his mat while I leave a block of cheese right on the edge of the counter and go into the other room. It’s taken several sessions a day to get him to this level, but it’s working – he just lies there waiting for me to come back and give him a tiny bit of chicken. It’s nowhere near as nibbly as the huge block on the counter, but that’s the power of Shaping!
BARKING FOR ATTENTION OR WHEN LEFT
Barking is a very powerful way for a young dog to get attention. It can be used in a lot of ways, and a barking, squealing, nearly howling young dog with a high pitched yelp can drive you to distraction. Some dogs will bark for longer than others before they give up. I’m afraid the only way of dealing with this is by totally ignoring her.
Teenage dogs have staying power! And barking is what we call ‘self-reinforcing’. It can become a habit. It feels good, and releases tension, and some dogs really can seem to get into a groove when they’re doing it. Management is the first line of defence here, again. If your pup is left unattended in the garden to bark at birds, she will keep barking. It feels good. The more she does it, the better it feels, so you need to manage her by not allowing her unsupervised access to the garden.
If she flies out of the garden and pelts up to the back fence to bark at the cats next door, hold her house line when you open the door and wait. She doesn’t get to move forward until she comes back to you. Then she moves outside on a loose lead. Keep stopping and waiting every time the lead goes taut. Mark and Treat her every time she moves backwards, looks at you or sits down. While she’s in her Teenage phase, make sure you always go outside with her and have her on a long line until she learns that being out in the garden means not barking. Whenever she barks, stand on the long line, and then hold it in your hand. Move towards her, taking up the slack of the line as you go. Then the instant she stops barking, M&T her several times. M &T her every time she looks at you. If she keeps barking, take her back inside. M & T her when she gets back inside so that you make the coming-back-indoors feel really good.
If there are cats or other dogs in the neighbourhood that bother her, see our leaflet on My Dog’s Worst Enemy is The Dog Next Door for help with this.
When you first start working on barking, you will probably find that the noise level and frequency intensifies. This can happen with nipping as well. Your pup has probably got used to getting a reaction, so she will try even harder to get one. And the instant she gets a response, she will know it’s worth doing. This is the same as chewing or destroying things. She either needs moving away from what she’s chewing (or harassing, if cats), or she needs ignoring if she can be ignored.
Most pups will very probably only try it for a couple of days until they find it doesn’t work, but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is that no one takes any notice of your pup during this time. The instant anyone reacts, she’s got what she wanted and it could take weeks to stop her doing it.
SALMON OIL AND BREWER’S YEAST
Salmon oil is brain food and helps the brain function smoothly, which improves a dog’s ability to improve her Impulse Control. Most of our teenage Thinking-dog adult dogs are on Salmon oil, and their owners find it makes a real difference to their levels of calmness. Research on human guinea pigs found that salmon oil given daily reduced levels of cortisol, and since this stress hormone tends to be very high in reactive dogs, it’s a good natural way of helping them control their anxiety levels.
All mine are on it, and will be all their lives, because it’s such a good supplement. Give one squirt of a good quality, pure, virgin salmon oil per day to a small dog, two to three to a medium and three to four to a large dog. Mixed with kibble, it can make dry food more appealing. Start with only one squirt and build up to the required amount over a week or a fortnight, because some dogs with sensitive tummies can find it a bit rich.
Brewer’s Yeast is a natural product which was originally used by show Breeders to improve the gloss on their dogs’ coats. An unexpected bonus was that they found their dogs were much calmer after being on Brewer’s Yeast for about a week. It makes their coats glow and your dog will be much calmer.
There are other methods that you can use if you’re finding that your Teenage Terror is going through a really difficult time of it with anxiety or fear. Ask for our leaflet on Remedies for Anxious dogs for further, natural ideas.
If your dog is a digger, or a chewer of prized specimen rhododendrons, then you can try cordoning off a bit of the garden so that you can let her out to have a wee where that’s all she can do – nothing else out there apart from a fence (or hedge) and lawn. The back garden may look a bit unsightly and like a cattle ranch for a bit, but it should be a short term solution to the problem. Once she’s stopped practising the habit for a few weeks, she should lose interest. This is also a solution for the pup that goes out for a wee, promptly forgets why she’s outside, and then wees when she gets back indoors.
If possible, the best way to do it is to have a ‘run’ from the back door, so that you can let her out without having to handle her, and so that she goes straight out to her ‘wee area’.
Playing in this area on her own or with toys that you take out is fine, once she’s weed and pooed, but it needs to be clear of toys when she first goes out.
The other option is to use her house line and hold her when she goes out, so that she can’t get into mischief. Ignore her until she’s weed or pooed, then praise her as soon as she goes. After that, you can let her off, and just quietly stand on the house line, pick it up and take her back indoors if she starts getting-up to mischief.
RETURN AFTER LEAVING THE HOUSE or COMING in FROM ANOTHER ROOM
There are two methods of working with this. You can either try ignoring, as follows, or you can try to Shape the behaviour you want. Try either for at least a week before moving on to the other method.
- Ignore her unless she is calm
- Smile at her
- Get on with something else for a few minutes
- When she’s calm, go and greet her. If she gets excited or nippy, walk away from her.
Everyone needs to do this with her, including if she runs into a room and bounces them. Just stand and walk away if her behaviour is unacceptable.
MARK AND TREAT FOR CALM
- Ignore your dog when you first come in and get on with something until she is calm.
- Mark and Treat her for any calm behaviour.
- Do this until she has moved away from you, even following her to her bed if she puts herself in there.
- M&T M&T M&T her for being in her bed. If she is still calm, then you can touch her, but if she goes giddy, turn your head away, walk away and wait until she’s calm. Then start the process again.
I have tried both methods, and different things work for different dogs. The important thing is to be consistent.
USING A PUPPY PEN
If a pup gets to a stage where she’s ‘rehearsing’ bad behaviour (such as nipping someone from behind while they’re washing up, she will keep doing it. The more she practises it and gets a response (some puppies nip really hard, and squeaking ‘ouch’ is very exciting to them, and likely to make them bite more intensely) the more she will keep doing it, so you need to limit her opportunities to do it.
The best way to confine and manage an over-excitable dog is either with a puppy play pen, or by cordoning off the kitchen or utility room with a baby-gate and ‘puppy proofing’ that room so that there is nothing she can chew.
My favourite option for a puppy, both during the day and at night, is a puppy play pen – they’re a vital piece of equipment. A crate can be useful overnight, especially if the breeder has taught her to feel safe and happy in a crate at night. Don’t use them during the day, though. No crate is big enough for even the smallest of dogs to be left in for longer than 2 hours during the day. We see so many customers with dogs that have distorted spines and back legs because they’ve been crated during the stage when their muscles and skeletons needed exercise. No matter what your breeder or your rescue centre may tell you, crates are not good for puppies 0r dogs under 2 years old for long periods during the day. They need the space and room to wander about that a puppy play pen allows. Puppies need to explore their world to feel safe – and their bones and muscles will only develop properly if they’re able to move around in enough space.
Vet surgeries are increasingly full of damaged dogs who have been over-crated because so many owners see it as a viable option to stop their dogs from chewing. If a puppy or dog is chewing things that can be damaged, it means that it either doesn’t have enough chewable toys, or safe things to chew without ruining them (such as stag bars or nylon bones) Or it means that it’s highly stressed – crating a dog to save the furniture isn’t a kind way to go and if you’re worried about your things being damaged, you need to invest in a puppy play pen.
Practise the following with any pup that has started barking, whining, or jumping up for attention. I would try to get up 15 minutes earlier so that you can do this work with her before letting her out, then you won’t worry that she needs a wee.
- Completely ignore when you go into room unless she is calm.
- Smile and say hello, leave in her pen or crate if you use one, and put kettle on.
- Wait until she is calm and lying down before you let her out of her crate/puppy pen, or before you stroke her
- Let her out into the garden.
If you use a house harness and house line, and she’s starting to nip you when you try to put it on, or tries to avoid you, try the following:.
- Have a treat pouch full of small, smelly tasty treats.
- Lift up her house-line and show it to her. Take several treats in your hand and hold the lead down in front of her
- When she touches the lead with her nose, give her one treat
- If she backs away from the house line, or goes into giddy-mode, or barks at you, leave the room without eye contact or saying anything.
- You may well need to do this several times until she is quiet.
- Build up to Shaping her to letting you put her lead on, by moving your hand further and further back along her head and along her body, and giving her a bit of her breakfast with each movement as she lets you. If she makes a fuss, pick up the bowl and walk out of the room with it.
- And start again! And start again and again until she is completely calm when you put the lead on. The idea with this is that she sees the lead as a good thing, because it comes with treats.
Everyone in the family needs to do this work with her over the next couple of weeks so that she gets used to everyone doing it.
Your pup needs no more than 5 mins per month of a pup’s life per day. If she is becoming very excited or fearful, have a break of a day or so when all exercise happens in the garden to let her cortisol and adrenaline levels settle, then try again.
Start by setting your timer on your phone for 10 mins and walking for that amount of time, then turning round and coming back. Use the walk to practise walking calmly on a loose lead.
THE MYTH OF NEEDING OFF-LEAD EXERCISE
Please ask to see our Calm Sniffly Walks leaflet. Our aim is that all dogs should be able to be exercised off-lead, but they need a solid recall for this to be possible and safe.
Your pup will get plenty of time to whoosh about in the garden and the house. She needs controlled high-impact exercise until her bones are fully developed (in bigger breeds, this can be as late as 2 years) A dog that is cycled with, or run with, or allowed to do zoomies for 30 minutes at a time is simply getting over-excited. Her brain isn’t being stimulated, and for young dogs, this brain stimulation is more important than physical exercise.
We have convinced ourselves in the UK that our dogs need huge amounts of exercise, because we tend to get dogs so that we can enjoy long walks with them. However, the closest relative to the domestic dog is the feral dog on the streets of European and Asiatic cities and towns. They live around their food source. They spend most of their day asleep. They tend only to run about when they’re young and playing with other dogs. The myth is that our dogs are evolved wolves, when in fact, they’re one step removed from the feral dog and have no need to have a fitness level that will allow them to healthily hunt moose ;)
DOMESTIC DOG, NOT WOLF
We tend to feed our dogs too much, on poor forms of protein, and exercise them too much. Then we leave them alone all day and expect them to sleep. Their bodies can’t cope with this, and many of our dogs are pumped full of insulin, cortisol and adrenalin, so it’s little wonder that so many owners come home to destroyed sofas. They assume their dogs are bored or protesting about being left alone. In reality, their dogs are so chock-full of stress hormones that they are chewing and shredding to relieve some of the frustration.
The first year of a dog’s life needs to be a time of teaching her good habits. If she is able to run freely off-lead every day, she is likely to practise bad habits, such as not coming when she’s called, ‘bouncing’ other dogs, eating stuff that she finds in the undergrowth and jumping up at people. Teaching her a strong recall using Thinking-Dog methods will result in a dog that never wanders further than 20 metres away from you and is always quick to come when she sees you walking away from her.
By spending the first six months of your puppy’s life practising Loose Lead Walking, politeness around other dogs and people, and not letting her off the lead, you will have a calm, happy and secure dog for the rest of her life.
It doesn’t last! Like teenager people, they go through it and come out the other side. And at least pups don’t do drugs, or come home with a tattoo on their forehead!