Helping Buddy the Puppy Learn to Play Nice with the Grandkids

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 5, 2015


Buddy is a six-month-old Corgi pup who gets so over excited when guests arrive he jumps up, occasionally nips and  stops listening to his owners. His owners have small grandchildren who visit and Buddy has knocked them down so often, one of the children refers to him as “Bad-Buddy,” which just won’t do.

When I arrived for the session, I was expecting a ball of energy. But Buddy seemed on the lower end of the energy spectrum for a puppy. He was curious, but only barked a few times, was using his nose and aside from jumping up – Id call him a pretty well behaved dog.

We had arranged for a few of the children to be there for the session. When I arrived they were playing in the basement away from where I worked with Buddy. I spent the first half hour going over various non verbal communication methods and the set of escalating consequences I like to employ when a dog isn’t listening or gets into trouble.

The first step is to communicate that you disagree with the action or behavior with a sound. His owners had been using a “eh, eh” sound that only worked with Buddy felt like listening. I suggested that they start using a hissing sound like a cat. I prefer this sound as it mimics the sound cats and many other animals make as a warning. I translate the sound to mean “no,” “do;’t do that,” or “don’t even think about doing that.”

Mother nature has added the recognition of this hissing sound into the dog’s DNA so it carries weight that causes most dogs to take notice right away. Buddy was no exception. As soon as he heard me use this sound, his ears flipped back and he immediately stopped trying to jump up on me.

When the hissing sound does’t work, the next step is to stand up and turn so that your hips and torso are facing the dog with your shoulders back and chin up. To a dog this is the most authoritative position a human can take. It says “I mean business.”

If the hiss or standing up while facing the dog doenst stop the behavior, my next consequence is to march directly at the dog. When I say march, i mean a deliberate movement that does not slow down. The dog needs to think you are going to run it over if it doesn’t get up and move out of your way. Keep marching at the dog until it turns away or sits down. If the dog just backs up but remains facing you, it hasn’t gotten the message. Be careful to not corner the dog, just march towards it to get it to move away.

When none of the other consequences work, my next and final step is to place the dog on the leash and step on it about a foot away from the dogs head. This is the dog equivalent of the “time out” strategy many parents use with young children. After placing the leash on, I wait until the dog sits down. Once it does I slide the foot on the leash towards the dog to take the tension off the leash. Usually the dog will lay down a minute later. Once it does I slowly take my foot off the leash, but do so in a way that doesn’t alert the dog that it is free. The idea is to restrict its access and movement until it settles down or complies. A laying position usually means just that.

Next we had the children join us to work on a few positive reinforcement exercises that will help the dog see and identify the children as being in a leadership position to the dog. The kids were from 1.5 to 6 years of age and some needed a little encouragement to participate. But once they did, it was a kick seeing them command, disagree and lead the dog. I suggested that the parents and grand parents supervise these activities with the children to ensure the proper technique.

By the end of the session Buddy was drained, snoozing in his kennel or while i tried to snap a few pix of him. He took to the new communication methods, rules and exercises like champ. Buddy is a really well mannered puppy, he just got a little too excited at times and wasn’t completely sure what his owners wanted out of him.

Now that Buddy’s owners are using these new communication methods to explain the rules and limits they want him to respect, it shouldn’t take long for the kids to stop calling him “Bad Buddy” and become a real four legged buddy to all of them for life.


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