Helping a Jumpy Puppy Named Beans

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 14, 2015


Beans is a four-month-old Wire haired Mini Daschund who is mouthy, jumps up and doesn’t listen to his guardian very well.

One of the first things i did was inquire about puppy socialization. The first four month’s of a puppies life is called the Imprint Period and it is when it learns how to act and behave around other dogs. This is the most important period in a young dog’s life in terms of how they see, feel about and learn to interact with other dogs.

Due to a major event in his family’s life, they were not able to get him into a socialization class yet. While the imprint period is passed, he still has the rest of the first year of his life to load up on experiences to help ensure he is a well adjusted, confident dog.

I stressed the importance in finding him a puppy socialization class that affords him the ability to play and interact with other puppies. This will have a positive impact on the dog and help to curb some of his behaviors like mouthing. Puppies sample things with their mouth so its natural for them to lick, bite and chew on things at this age.

When puppies play with one another, they like to rough house and chew on each other. When one puppy bites too hard, the receiving pup will let out a yelp and both puppies stop momentarily. This social interaction helps the dog calibrate how hard is too hard to bite. Enrolling the dog in a puppy socialization class will be extremely beneficial in curb his mouthing of his guardian.

But in order to mouth or bite his guardian, Beans needs a little help at times. Due to his lower stature, he can only mouth his guardian’s hands or ams if he jumps up or is in her lap. For that reason I suggested that she immediately put him on the floor the instant he starts to mouth her while on her lap. By applying this consequence the instant the dog starts, we can help it realize that mouthing the guardian results in a loss of lap.

But I always look for a way to bring positive reinforcement into the situation when dealing with unwanted behaviors. In this case, Bean’s guardian reached over to pet him each time he jumped up on her. This is basically rewarding the dog for jumping up. To put a stop to this behavior, I showed his guardian how to reward him for another action instead.

At the start, Bean’s guardian started to repeat the command word before he was in a sitting position. But because the dog didn’t know what “sit” means, repeating the word before the act of sitting can cause the dog to not correctly identify what she wants when she says “sit.”

But the main thing I was trying to accomplish at this stage was to help the dog understand that jumping up no longer will result in attention or affection from his guardian. His guardian wasn’t even realizing that she was instinctively petting the dog each time it jumped up. It can be hard to restrain yourself from reaching over and petting a puppy when it jumps up, but stopping this rewarding will quickly stop the dog from jumping up.

We ran into a little trouble with the rewarding of the sit as Beans didn’t really know how to sit on command in the first place. The technique I outlined above will help with that, but to make even faster process, I showed the guardian how to use a hand motion and positive reinforcement to teach the dog

By consistently petting or rewarding the dog the instant its butt hits the floor while repeating the command word of “sit.” the dog will eventually put the sit position, the reward and command word all together.

His guardian needs to stop repeating the command word until after the dog’s rear is on the ground, but even though its only been a few repetitions, you could already see that Beans was starting to put the word and action together.

Another great way to develop a good leader follower dynamic is to reward the dog whenever it engages in a follower act or behavior.  There are a number of different ways to do this, but one of my favorites is the recall exercise. Each time the dog comes to the human, its doing so as a follower. And each time the dog does so properly, the dog is rewarded which reinforces this behavior.

I showed the guardian how to use a simple hand posture and movement to get the dog to recall when called.

As with the previous two exercises, the guardian kept repeating the command word before delivering the treat. It can be a little confusing, but as she practices this she will get better at it and learn to only give the command word once before the dog moves into the commanded position. Only then should she repeat the command word for as long as the dog chews the reward.

I wanted to show the guardian one last exercise that will help her practice he commands and corrections of Beans and help the dog learn some control and respect for his guardian so I demonstrated the leadership exercise I developed a few years ago.

The exercise involves placing a high value treat on the floor then claiming it as a dog would. Only after the dog moves away and gives up does it get the reward.

I was able to get Beans to complete the exercise a few times, but his adolescence combined with a shorter attention span made it more challenging than usual. Before I had his guardian try it on her own, I grabbed a tennis racquet from the car to assist her. The racquet is essentially an extension of the guardian’s arm and will allow her to better interact and block Beans who is much lower to the floor than most dogs.

In the video, Bean’s guardian kept stopping after only one step towards the dog when I asked her to step forward. The reason we step forward is to take territory and get the dog to back away. In this exercise the dog is not supposed to move within three feet of the treat on the ground.

But if we only take one step towards the dog and then stop, the dog has no motivation to move away. By stepping forward briskly and marching right at the dog until it moves more than three feet from the treat, we can communicate that we want the dog to keep a distance of at least three feet.

She will also need to work on her reaction to Bean’s movement. As you can see in the video, the dog circled his guardian while moving forward at the same time. Beans was testing or probing to determine where the boundary was. This is why its important that the guardian keep the dog in front of her and keep pivoting to make sure it isn’t able to get behind her.

As I mentioned before, this exercise is probably a little too advanced for Beans right now. But it is an effective exercise for helping the dog and guardian and is something she can pick up again in a month or two.

After we finished up the leadership exercise, poor little Beans was pooped.

Beans After

While Beans has some unwanted actions and behaviors, he is a good little dog. Once his guardian started communicating with him in a way he understood, he picked up the sit and come quite easily. By consistently petting him for desired actions and refraining from giving him attention when he does things his guardian’s don’t like, Beans will start acting the way his guardian wants him to all the time.

Combined with a puppy socialization class with other dogs his age, Beans will learn the proper way to play and socialize with other dogs. This will result in a well mannered, balanced dog that is confident in itself and knows how to make his guardian happy.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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