Like I mentioned in my last couple posts, I’m having a little bit of a tough time with some things and Oy. Mostly pants and hand biting, leaf eating and getting so hyped up that he wont listen to anything I say.
I’m trying super hard to be positive and upbeat when dealing with him, but like with the pants biting thing it’s really hard when I’m actually in pain. And of course your first reaction is to pull away and that only makes him want to play more.
I know I asked about the laying down thing for tips, but anyone have advice for the other things I mentioned? I’ll go into a little bit more detail.
It mostly happens when he gets super hyped. Like, I play with him, and then he gets so energized that he does laps around the apartment then crashes into the floor to grab his rope toy or something. I can sometimesget him to stop, sit, and look at me. I knew he was going to be high energy, but it’s like he doesn’t have an off switch unless he’s sleeping.
He’s also very rambunctious outside. While I know there are many more distractions outside, he does sometimes respond to me out there. I can get him to sit and look at me, but then when we walk he sees a leaf or even just random plants, and suddenly lunges for them and eats them. He does it for trash too, and if I’m not fast enough I end up having to pry it out of his mouth because he wont drop it. (He’s learning let it go and can do it for the toys and leash, but not reliably enough to drop garbage.) He also tries to eat rocks. Which again, I have to pry out of his mouth. I tell him to leave it when we walk by trash but he still goes for it, so I have to hold the leash out from me so he cant reach it. And I don’t like doing this cause he ends up just pulling and flipping out.
When we’re walking, or he’s doing laps in the apartment, he does the pants biting thing. I’m worried he’s going to do it to some random person he’s sniffing, so I want to keep him away from people right now. But obviously people want all over him, and he’s super cautious as it is so I want him to get used to letting people touch him, but not at the risk of being bit or having their pants ripped. I’m trying to redirect his biting to toys and off of things he shouldn’t be biting like pants, hands, arms, and the leash. He wont stop and switch, but if you pretty much shove it in his face he gets the hint. I follow with a big yes! and praise, but then 2 seconds later hes back to biting inappropriate things.
And while this isn’t really something about Oy directly, I find my self getting frustrated with Steven, my boyfriend, more and more because he’s not doing things exactly the same way I do them. And that’s not fair.
I feel like I really need some help with a couple things that I’m doing wrong and that’s why he’s not responding, so I was looking into doing a training class. So my last question of this post is this. Has anyone done the PetSmart puppy training class? It’s $119 for 6 classes once a week for 6 weeks, which I don’t think is really that bad. The paper the woman at PetSmart gave me says the puppy class teaches simple things like sit, come and stay. Also basic manners and problem prevention, loose leash walking, and take/leave/drop it.
I hope some of you lovely dog owners can give me some tips.
Question mark for answers?
A LOT of this sounds VERY familiar! Bae is my now 8 month old Australian Cattle Dog. Cattle dogs and Aussies share a lot of similar herding and behavior characteristics, like nipping and wariness of strangers. Yes, they’re high energy dogs, but that doesn’t make them impossible to train. They’re smart and rambunctious and will try to outsmart you if you let them. Here are some things I did with my dog that may help in your situations:
Bae went through a similar nipping phase (gotta love those herding instincts). Not only was he attacking my pants, but he was also jumping up to bite my hands. Those puppy teeth HURT! I started keeping Bae on a leash anytime he was outside of his crate, and whenever he would try to nip at my hands or legs, I would make a sound like, “at-at!” At first this only excited him more. He thought this was a fun game and would be persistent in trying to bite me so I would use the leash to my advantage and tug on it to keep him from being able to bite. Then I would either A.) use treats to lure him into a calm sitting position and then praise him for the calm behavior, or B.) give him something appropriate to chew on (usually a beef knuckle if I wanted him to lie down and be calm, but sometimes I would give him appropriate chew toys and then praise the crap out of him for biting on something appropriate). After a LOT of repetition and NOT letting him attack my legs and hands, he started to show signs of improvement. I really think having him on a leash as much as I did when he was little really helped to keep him in line. He wasn’t able to go crazy and do zoomies when he was on a leash, so it was a lot easier keeping him from getting TOO excited.
[ Remember that rewards don’t always have to be treat based. Sometimes food wasn’t a big enough motivation for Bae and I had to use a toy to get his attention. ]
The leash, yet again, came in handy whenever Bae would try to eat things off the ground as well. He was a rock eater. Leaf eater. Stick eater. Trash eater. He would literally pick up ANYTHING he could find on the ground. It drove me nuts because Helo was never like that when he was a puppy, and I didn’t know how to stop Bae from trying to eat things off the ground. You can ask Ali, I’ve had to stick my hand down his throat to retrieve things he tried to eat!
What ended up helping with this was learning the, “leave it,” command. Before Bae even tries to pick up something off the ground, I can tell him to, “leave it,” and he will refrain from trying to pick it up off the ground. I could also use the, “leave it,” command to get Bae to leave other dogs alone in the pet store (so if he saw another puppy in the store and tried to pull towards it, I could simply tell him, “leave it… let’s go,” and move on. Anytime Bae would still try to pull towards another dog or something on the ground, I would use the leash advantage and pull him with me in a different direction.
The next command I recommend working on is, “drop it.” This command was so important when I was trying to teach Bae to stop picking things up off the ground. Sometimes he would pick up something before I even noticed it was on the ground, so being able to say, “drop it,” to get him to spit it out was very helpful (and meant I didn’t have to go digging down his throat to retrieve foreign objects anymore). “Drop it,” is super easy to teach and can also be associated with the trading game (which can help prevent guarding objects). I would simply find his favorite toy and use it to encourage play. He would get lots of praise for putting his mouth on the toy (a bite appropriate object that is thankfully NOT my hand). I would play with him and the toy (usually we’d play a game of tug or fetch) for awhile and then, with my hand still gripping the toy, I would stop moving and wait for him to release the toy (by not waving the toy around, it becomes less exciting). Sometimes you have to use a second toy if your puppy doesn’t want to release the current toy. I’ve never had a problem using my method, though there are many methods you can try! Once Bae would release the toy, I would praise him and give him treats, and then try again. We would play some more, and then I would get really boring and wait for him to drop it (usually in moments) and then praise him again for releasing the toy! Basically he would eventually start releasing the toy as soon as I stopped playing with it. Once he began to drop the toy willingly, I started using the verbal command, “drop it,” followed by praise and rewards. Sometimes the reward was more playtime with the toy so, “drop it,” became more like a game to him than a command because he learned that fun things would happen if he let go of the toy (this made him more willing to drop the toy).
Once your dog has learned to release items, you can use the command to stop playtime if things are getting too exciting. I learned from doggydayjob that frequent breaks between play (and even training) are pretty important. Frequent breaks from playtime have helped keep Bae from going crazy. When he starts doing the zoomies, that’s when you know he’s passed the threshold of sanity and is now a mindless spaz! There’s no hope for training him when he’s in that state of mind. Until he learned to control his excitement, I usually had him on a leash for training. Nowadays I don’t leash him as often as I used to (unless we’re out in public).
REPETITION IS KEY!!!
None of these issues got better overnight for Bae and I. We had to work on it a little every day, but he DID improve! It’s possible for you and Oy to get passed these naughty puppy phases, too! You just have to practice a little every day. You can even go on YouTube and look up positive reinforcement techniques on how to teach leave it and drop it. Personally, I’ve learned more useful training information on the internet than I have in any training class I’ve taken so far. I trained all three of my dogs using mostly positive reinforcement methods (I say, “mostly,” because I learned forceful/abusive methods from local trainers and I did utilize those methods on one of my dogs). Believe me when I say positive reinforcement is the way to go. Don’t buy in to the methods that involve punishment. I’ve met a lot of amazing positive reinforcement trainers on the internet, and I would rather tell someone to use the internet as a source for positive reinforcement methods, than to go to a pet store class where you might learn to some very harmful things.
Someone I know once took a PetSmart class (despite my offering to help) and she ended up leaving that class with the following beliefs:
- If your dog runs ahead of you, it’s trying to dominate you.
- If your dog puts it’s paw on you, it’s trying to dominate you.
- If your dog jumps on you, it’s trying to dominate you.
- If your dog is trying to dominate you, you should alpha roll it.
- You have to show your dog that you’re the alpha.
That is not to deter you from taking a PetSmart class, but please be mindful that there are a lot of different kinds of trainers out there and some of them teach harmful techniques that can ruin a positive relationship with your dog. Your dog should be able to trust you and look up to you. Not fear you. Unfortunately, one of my dogs fears me because of the outdated and harmful training advice I took from a local trainer. My other two dogs will never know that kind of fear.
Another important thing I wanted to mention is to be patient and don’t let yourself become frustrated. If you become frustrated, angry, annoyed, or upset because of Oy’s behavior, stop interacting with him. Put him in his crate and take some time to clear your mind. Dogs can definitely tell when you’re getting upset, and that negative energy can effect how successful (or unsuccessful) training is. I got annoyed with Bae PLENTY of times. Sometimes dealing with him felt so stressful… But whenever I started to get upset, I had to remind myself to stop and take a break. Never try to work on training when you’re in a bad mood, it will only slow down your progress!
Also… I noticed you said you didn’t want to take Oy around people because you’re afraid he might try to nip at them. PLEASE do yourself a favor and BRING HIM AROUND PEOPLE! You’ll have to learn to stop people from approaching him. Just let them know he is in training. People WILL want to come up and pet him. When they ask if it’s okay to pet him, just say, “I’m sorry but we’re working on training right now.” Then walk to a different area. Some people might take it the wrong way, but they’ll just have to deal with it. And if anyone tries to pet him without first asking permission, use the leash advantage and walk somewhere else away from that person. Even if people don’t pet him, it’s still VERY important to get him around strangers and to socialize him in new environments any chance you get! These dogs are naturally wary of strangers and they also tend to be very protective. What you DON’T want is for those two behaviors to get out of hand. If they do get out of hand, you’ll have an even trickier challenge to face!
When I first adopted my Australian Cattle Dog / Australian Shepherd mix, she was just under a year and a half. She seemed friendly when I first met her, but not long after I had adopted her, I found out she had some serious behavior problems. She wanted to bite children and strangers. This has a lot to do with her herding instincts. Wanting to go after kids (especially kids that were running and bouncing) was a result of her drive AND lack of socialization around children. She tried to bite a kid in the pet store once, which is how I found out she didn’t do well around kids. It took a lot of work, but now she can be around kids without wanting to bite them. She is still, however, very wary of strangers (especially men, as they can appear to be a little more intimidating). She would still, to this day, bite a stranger if she thought they were a threat.
I strongly believe in socializing the CRAP out of these dogs. That was one of my biggest goals when I got Bae. Being a purebred cattle dog, I was so worried he would turn into a big jerk. These dogs tend to have pushy and aggressive personalities towards people AND other animals. So from day one, I started socializing him in all sorts of environments and around all sorts of people; big people, small people, light skinned people, dark skinned people, people with glasses, people with hats, people with hoods on, etc. At first I didn’t want anyone to interact with him because he was SO freaking mouthy, always trying to bite hands!!! It was impossible for anyone to really pet him until he was a little older. Now he will let people pet him without trying to bite their hands, thanks to all of the training we did (both at home and out in public). So far he is still very accepting of strangers and I hope it stays that way as he continues to grow and go through his phases!
I have faith in you and Oy. Just keep practicing and researching different training techniques and you’re bound to turn him into a well mannered companion in time! Bae started out as an obnoxious, growly, bitey little monster when I picked him up from the breeder’s at 9 weeks old, but today he is a goofy, still obnoxious, but much better behaved dog than he was 6 months ago! So well behaved that we finally decided to take a class at the local training club with his friend Briar when they were around 5-6 months old, and although they were the youngest puppies in class, they were the best behaved; not because we had already worked on basic obedience at home, but because of the socialization as well!