Ford Learns its Not Nice to Mouth the Members of his Family

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 20, 2015

Ford 1

Ford is a four-month-old German Shepherd puppy who has been mouthing and nipping members of his new family. Additionally he doesn’t always respond when they call him, preferring to hide under the deck in the back yard.

While I was discussing the session with his guardians, Ford went over and took the sleeve to the mother’s shirt in his mouth and started to pull. I made a sound to disagree with his action and because the timing of my correction was immediate, Ford let go right away.

Whenever puppies are playing with one another, its inevitable that one of them will bite too hard at some point. When that happens, the dog that gets bit lets out a yelp which usually stops the action for a moment. This lets the biting pup know he or she bit too hard and is how puppies learn to calibrate the strength of their bites.

To solve the mouthing problem for Ford, I suggested that his guardians immediately yelp and stop playing or stand up any time he bites or mouths them. This way Ford will learn that play time ends when he bites too hard. It will take a week or so of corrections this way before Ford puts it all together. The timing of this yelp will directly impact how quickly Ford learns to give up this habit.

To address Ford’s not coming when called, I went over a basic recall exercise. I had all the members of the family sit in a circle in the living room, then distributed a small handful of high value treats to each person. I showed them how to use a hand movement to make the treat more appealing to the dog as well as how to move their hand to get the dog to sit in front of them politely when called. It took about 4-5 calls before Ford started to get it. You could see the light come on with his reactions; he looked to who called him immediately and started to trot over to them with a bounce in his step. The bounce is the sign that I look for to know the dog is gaining confidence in the exercise. Within a few moments, Ford was recalling like he had been doing it for years.

I suggested that his family practice this exercise inside until the dog comes reliably each time he is called. Once that is the case, the family will need to practice the exercise outside in the back yard. This location will make it more challenging for the dog but is extremely important as the most important times for a dog to respond are when its outside.

Practicing this outside will also help stop his habit of running and hiding under the porch when called. Many dog guardians only call a dog outside in the back yard when its time to come inside. But for most dogs, playing outside is preferred. So when their guardian calls them while outside, they interpret that as the end of play time. By practicing the recall and letting the dog continue to play, they will quickly change this perception by the dog.

One of the reasons for Ford’s mouthing and not listening were how he perceived the authority of the humans in the home. Because of how they petted and rewarded him, the pup had gotten the idea that he was an equal in status to hs guardians. I suggested some rules and structure to adopt, then asked how much exercise he got.

Because of his hiding under the deck, his guardians sometimes took the pup into the back yard on a leash to do his business. Even when left to run free, playing in the back yard won’t help much in terms of changing his perception as being an equal so I suggested we go out for a short walk.

I fitted Ford up in a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash as his guardian said that he pulled pretty good on walks. As usual, the Martingale did the trick for the pulling. But Ford still darted all over the place so I showed his handler who to get him to walk at a heel by placing him on a shorter leash. It only took a few corrections before Ford was walking at a heel and sitting nicely next to them when they stopped, even when the family’s three-year-old approached him.

Ford 3

All the family members commented on how nice it was to walk with Ford at a heel instead of pulling them all over. Its a good thing they addressed this issue now as its much easier to stop a dog from pulling when its a pup.

By the end of the session, Ford was minding his guardians commands and corrections right away. He was much calmer as well due to the exercises and walk we went on. I suggested that his family continue to practice these daily to help ensure that Ford masters them and learns that he needs to remain in a followers position.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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