Helping a Pup Named Haskell in Hollywood

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 29, 2016


Haskell is a three-month-old Yorkie Maltese mix who lives in Hollywood. His guardians called me in to help with some puppy basics; obedience, house training, etc.

One of the first bad habits new dog guardians usually adopt is rewarding the dog for jumping up on them. It’s not surprising, after all, how could you not pet a dog this cute when he jumps up on you for attention?

Now in Haskell’s case, his not going to get that much bigger, so this isn’t as bad of a problem as it could be for other dogs. Still if Haskell has been out playing in the mud and you walk in wearing your nice crisp white pants, you’re not to be too pleased with the dog for jumping up on you and muddying them up.

This is why I always remind my clients that whenever they provide attention or affection, they are reinforcing whatever action or behavior the dog is exhibiting at that time. To help Haskell’s guardians learn to reward him for engaging in desired actions and behaviors, I went over a technique that I like to call petting with a purpose.

Petting with a purpose is probably the easiest and most effective changes a new dog guardian can adopt. Dogs inherently wish to please us, but most of us just do a pretty poor job of explaining to the dog what it is that we want from them. Petting a puppy for jumping up on us is a classic example.

While I always start out with positive reinforcement, sometimes a dog isn’t going to listen or take your direction. When that’s the case, it’s important to communicate with the dog in a way that it understands and respects.

A few years ago I came up with a set of escalating consequences that I share with most of my clients. These consequences were derived from my careful observance of thousands of dogs and how they interact with one another.

Because these nonverbal cues are based on inter-social dynamics between other dogs, most dogs recognize and respond to them immediately. It will take a couple of days to a week or so before Haskell’s guardians adopt these nonverbal communication cues without even thinking of them. But once they do, they will find that both dog and human quickly get on the same page.

Next I showed Haskell’s guardian how he can use subtle hand motions and positions to communicate with his dog.

I’m a firm believer in always teaching a dog a verbal and hand signal for each command. One of my dogs became deaf late in his life, but because I had always used verbal and hand signal simultaneously, we were able to continue on without skipping a beat.

Because puppies often get into things they shouldn’t, I wanted to give Haskell’s guardian the ability to recall the dog. This is a great way to redirect your dog’s attention rather than objecting to its interested in an inappropriate object.

This was a really enjoyable session for me. Haskell is quite an adorable little pop with a good level of intelligence and sincere desire to please.

By the end of the session, Haskell was sitting to request attention from his guardian rather than jumping up on him, recognizing and responding to hand signals and recalling any time his guardian gave him the new command.

Because his guardians have him in a puppy socialization class, have a nice balanced energy themselves and reached out to me for help at such an early age, this dog should grow up to be extremely well-adjusted and confident.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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