TO PREVENT BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS
Puppies like to play with people and unfortunately use their teeth a lot in play, often resulting in cuts and scratches on people’s limbs. Puppies should learn, however, that biting people is not acceptable behaviour. Bite inhibition is taught as follows:
- Allow the puppy to bite your hand or arm, but discourage the harder bites consistently by screeching “OUCH!” and immediately withdrawing the hand. You can also use another form of distraction such as a shake can or water pistol. The puppy learns that play stops when it bites too hard. Turn your back and walk away to make it really clear that nice things end the moment he bites too hard.
- When the puppy starts showing some self-control, target even the medium-pressure bites.
- Let other people do the same.
- Gradually redirect the dog’s attention to toys before games get too rough, so that the dog learns that it is OK to chew on toys but not on humans.
Get the young puppy used to having human hands in its food bowl by feeding it by hand from the bowl, and then putting down the bowl with your hand still in it, feeding from the bowl.
Sharing the bed
Puppies need to learn that their sleeping place is not their possession. Sit in your puppy’s bed often so that it does not become possessive of its bed.
Encourage your puppy to give up toys, especially tug toys. Teach this by showing the puppy a nice treat in your hand, and as it opens the mouth to take the treat and the toy is dropped, say “give” and let him have the treat while you take the toy. Do this often until the puppy will release anything in his mouth on the instruction “give”.
- Don’t chase the dog around to retrieve an object it’s not meant to have. If the object is harmless and not valuable, simply ignore it and retrieve it once the dog has lost interest. If it is dangerous or valuable, replace it with something more attractive and be more careful in future!
- If your dog grabs the lead in its mouth when you want to walk, drop the lead immediately and walk away. Call the puppy using a tasty lure, and as it drops the lead give the treat, take the lead and move forward, constantly giving treats. By tugging at the lead you are simply giving the dog the game it wants!
- Do not encourage rough games such as wrestling. Rather let a toy be the object of a game. (Play with toys, not limbs).
Wait for attention
Teach your puppy to be patient. Do not respond to it every time it asks for attention. Learn to ignore the puppy when it demands attention, and give the attention instead when it is quiet and well-behaved. This way it learns to be relaxed and that you are the one who makes the decisions about the important things in life. It makes puppies feel secure and helps them develop into confident dogs who respect their owners.
Only give attention on your terms
- The alpha pair will only give attention to the rest of the pack in a time & manner that suits them. They will interact & play with the pups but if play becomes too boisterous or out of hand, they will get up and leave the pups. By being ignored, the pups understand that they have behaved inappropriately towards their leaders.
- Attention must be earned by good behaviour e.g. Sit when asked (do not give a food reward to your dog if he sat & you didn’t ask him!)
- Attention is only given when your dog is calm & not displaying inappropriate behaviour e.g. jumping up or barking at you – stop interaction immediately if he starts to become excited / behave inappropriately.
- Games will only be played when you initiate them & will be stopped when you want to stop. Be careful to stop before your dog becomes tired or loses interest. Always make sure that you end the games and most importantly, if your dog’s teeth touch your skin, even accidentally, the game ends.
- When your dog is not demanding attention, you can give him as much attention as you like!
Attention is given in a structured manner
- The alpha pair of the pack will always dictate when what activities occur within the pack, be it hunting, grooming or relaxation time but the entire pack will all receive attention from their leaders at some stage during the day.
- To ensure that your dog doesn’t feel ignored, make sure you take him for a walk, groom him, play with him or do some training at least once a day. (positive interaction)
- Make sure you spend as much time as possible interacting positively with your dog (one or two 15min sessions is fine but the more the better!)
- Rotate toys so your dog doesn’t become bored with them & as you are controlling the toys, this reinforces your leadership.
Reward good behaviour
- Reward is a powerful reinforcer of good behaviour. It always helps to have a tasty treat in your pocket to show your appreciation for good behaviour – immediate treats have a dramatic effect. You do not have to reward every good behaviour with a food treat every time – praise is a powerful tool too. It helps to keep your dog guessing as to when the next edible reward will come his way – he will constantly try harder to please you just in case! (This is known as variable reinforcement. It is important to use a variety of treats to keep your dog interested. Even biltong can become boring if that is the only treat they receive.
- All good things have to be earned by your dog – no treats unless he earned it by listening to what you wanted e.g. calm down
- Remember punishment increases anxiety and is not a suitable method to alter a dog’s behaviour.