Thursday, May 21, 2009

Puppies trying to "run the show"...

This is a response to an email from one of my new puppy owners re: puppies trying to "run the show"...

This is easier to explain in a live conversation. He's basically decided to manipulate you, because he can.

They need a firm, but loving approach to raising. I wish you could watch Luna interact and play with them. She is very rough, she is not gentle in any way, and she puts their entire heads and bodies in her mouth and holds them in a vice grip until they are squealing, running, and desperately trying to get away from her because what started out as play turned very quickly into 'mommy' having complete and total control over them and took it to a level for them that was unpleasant, and she didn't let them get off the hook easily (she continued to pursue them and bat at them with her front paws, and maul them, and chase them ....all playing from her perspective.... but ultimately they got overwhelmed and decided, "this isn't fun anymore"). Once they flee, she leaves them alone, they leave her alone.

When they bark at me, I scare the crap out of them and lunge at them and bark or shout back and say "enough" or no. I basically go after them like Luna would and make their "demand" unpleasant because I give it right back to them. Here's a classic example of what Shillelagh (O'Leary) was doing to Stephanie yesterday. Stephanie crawled in her crate with her and Shillelagh was relentless about eating her hair and biting at her. The more Stephanie laughed, the more out of hand Shillelagh became. To Shillelagh, Stephanie was a littermate to chew on. To Stephanie, she couldn't get control of the puppy and make her stop. I intervened and reached in the crate, grabbed Shillelagh by her lower jaw with my right hand, while pressing my thumb nail down....HARD... on her tongue. As she backed away and pulled her head away, I kept pressing and she squealed. When she was opening her jaws and backing up to get away from me, because now the fun game became unpleasant for her, I said in a firm tone, "Leave it!". She didn't touch Stephanie again! I am not abusive with them, but I am not gentle either.

The puppies were the hardest on Alyssa, my youngest, because they would gang up on her and all maul her at the same time. I would go after them like a mad woman and they learned really fast, stay away from Alyssa! I also taught Alyssa how to establish her dominance over them, how not to run away from them and encourage the chasing, and how to "pop" them if they started jumping up on her. Don't misunderstand discipline as abuse, it's not. Those of you that have owned dogs and large animals know what I'm talking about. It's about establishing under no uncertain terms, that you (and all humans for that matter) are the ALPHA over the dog, at ALL times! Nothing is for free. Start using their meals as training opportunities. I had a trainer once recommend the entire meal to be fed through training spurts throughout the day. She also taught me how to teach my dogs that NOTHING is free. They must earn their right to everything in their lives, and you are the resource! They need you to survive.

George (O'Manny) used to love barking at me when I was reprimanding an overzealous puppy that was jumping up on me. If I was disciplining his littermate, he'd bark and bark and bark. I'd finish the discipline, then run after George and grab him by the scruff of the neck and roll him over sideways until he yelped and relented and thought to himself, "why did she do that to me, that wasn't cool?". They learn quickly to do what is pleasant and to do what I expect, because if they don't, I'll turn into Luna and do unpleasant things to them!

Lets take nail dremmeling for example. They don't like it! They squirm, squeal, bite at my hand, bite at the dremmel, anything they thing they can do to get away from the undesired task. The more they bite, squirm, or squeal, the firmer my grip gets. They'll even pee on themselves and me. Because I'm always alone when I do the nails (no one to hold peanut butter to distract them), I will wrestle with them for a few minutes before they finally realize I'm not giving up. Once they relax and give in, I get the job done quicker, praise lavishly when I'm done, then they can carry on about their business. As we progress through each Sunday, they actually figure out from week to week the less they struggle, and the more cooperative they are, the faster I get the nail dremmel job done and the faster they get to go back to whatever it was they were doing. They are not dumb dogs, but they will make you feel like dumb owners.

I have 15 years of expeience and have raised so many Swissy puppies, I think I actually think like a Swissy. They are going to be testing boundaries and limits with you all. I highly recommend Karen Pryor's book on "Don't Shoot the Dog". Swissies love to please you and make you happy. They aim to please, always remember that. They'll do anything for a snack, treat, or foodl.

If they jump up a lot, which Luna does and her mother, Rixey,'ll have to work really hard on the sit stay. They get no love, no food, no treats, NOTHING, unless they are sitting first. When their leash is attached, you can step on it quickly so they can't jump up. DO NOT let a 100+ pound animal jump up on you. MAKE THEM SIT or DOWN first. They will learn, because they want to please you. If you establish this now, while they are little and puppies, the sit or down will become a habit. I had to "rewire" Luna from an automatic sit when greeting family or strangers, to actually commanding her to a "stand stay" when she was in the ring being judges. It was worth it to me to keep her feet "four on the floor" when she would first sit for judges on examination.

Imagine the concept of a 100 pound mother staving off 9 ravenous little puppies wanting to nurse, when she's dried up and doesn't want them to nurse. It is not a pretty scene for several minutes. The most stubborn ones keep coming back for more, and the more they come back to try and nurse, the more aggressive and firm Luna gets. She tries with just a bark warning, but then she'll actually chase away and pin down the ones that don't get her first warning....and I've seen her have them completely on their backs with their entire heads in her mouth and she won't stop until they turn into jello and just lay there, completely relaxed.....submitting, basically.

When they jump up on me, I grab their little paws and hold onto them and squeeze in between their pads. The don't like it, they pull back, then they squeal. When they realize that if they do something unpleasant to me, I'm going to return something unpleasant to them, they figure out really quickly to act and behave in socially acceptable ways.

As for the biting, I would scream bloody murder and scare the daylights out of the puppy, even though it didn't actually hurt. I like to set the precedent and tone that human skin is like butter. When they chew on each other, they know their limits by how loudly the puppy being bit screams or gives it back to them.

While they are still young and impressionable, you need to become "mom" and establish dominance over them at all times.

Shillelagh is really vocal about being in the crate while she can't see us, but she hears us. Last night, every time she started to bark or whine, I squirted her from a distance with a water bottle. She was not happy. She continued to bark, I continued to squirt. She was soaking wet, but figured out in about 10 minutes, if I bark, I get squirted, if I'm quiet, no one squirts me. The water didn't hurt her, but getting wet was unpleasant. If you return your discipline with something unpleasant to them, they figure out pretty quickly they don't want to experience unpleasant things.

Hope this helps!


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