Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ask The Trainer - Demanding Dog

Question: Tag is feeling better after his neuter and wants a lot of attention. He tells me that he wants me to pet him by "grabbing" my arm with his mouth--he doesn't bite down, but it would be dangerous for children and quite frightening for them if they don't know that he's not trying to hurt them. He also tends to jump up at your face to lick you, but hits you with his teeth. How can I stop him from doing this--teach him a different way to "tell" me he wants attention.

Answer: Sounds like Tag needs to be on No Free Lunch program. He should not be asking for attention - or in this case demanding attention - from any human at all, ever. You need to be in control of when he gets attention, when he eats, when he's allowed to play, everything. Sounds like Tag ended up at PACC because his previous owners allowed him to be in control.

So, to control his demanding of your attention, he needs to learn to ask by sitting, not by pushing, grabbing, jumping, licking or bumping, he needs to learn that he gets no attention or affection unless he does something for you first.

When he jumps, walk into him as though he wasn't there and just keep walking no matter what he does. Then ignore him for awhile. Don't ever let him jump on anyone else. Put him on a leash when people come to your house. You don't have to hold the leash, just let it hang, but if he tries to jump up, step on the leash. Then have everyone turn their backs on him until he walks away. Let everyone know they are not to look at him, talk to him or touch him until he sits nicely.

Bumping with the nose and grabbing body parts with the mouth are things that the mommy dog did to discipline her puppies. She did these things to teach them what they needed to know to live in the canine world. For an adult dog to use these methods on a human means that this dog thinks it controls humans. So, same thing. The dog gets nothing when it demands by bumping or grabbing. If you are sitting, stand up and either turn your back to the dog, or walk away from it. If you have guests - again, put the dog on a leash and take it out of the room if it does that to your guests. Keep it out for a count of 100 or long enough that he's calm, then lead it back in. Drop the leash after you are back in the room. Repeat this until he understands that he isn't to try and control your guests and goes and lays down or otherwise relaxes.

Teach him sit, down, shake, roll over, and any and all tricks and commands you can think up. This teaches him that you are the one in control. Teach using a minimum of reinforcers (treats) as you want him to understand that what you say is what he does, no matter what.

Do not free feed him. Feed him on a schedule and make him work for his food. Pushing is the best way to make him work for it but doing a routine of "tricks" will work as well.

Get him out for exercise twice a day. Real exercise, not a walk where he's allowed to stop and smell everything or pee on every tree and post. This can include a great 1/2 game of fetch or fetch/tug, flirt pole, swimming or a treadmill if you have one.

I noticed that you said "I think he would do best with older kids, as he does occasionally "heel" me." on his writeup with TCWN.  Yes, this is typically heeler, but it's also the way a heeler controls the animals it is herding.  For it to do so with a human again means that he thinks he's in control.