Helping First Time Dog Owners Calm Down Their Rambunctious Puppy

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 26, 2014

MurphyMurphy is a four-month-old Australian shepherd quarter polynese puppy who’s owners were at their limit with his rowdy behavior; not listening, accidents in the house, jumping up, chewing on people and objects, etc.

When I first met Murphy I had to chuckle a little bit. He is quite the entertaining little ball of energy. While he was far from what I would call well behaved, I didn’t see much that wasn’t in the category of normal puppy behavior except an abundance of unspent energy.

It turns out that Murphy’s owner’s backyard is not completely fenced in yet, so his only experience with freedom was being left in the kitchen which was gated and barricaded. His owners were dutifully taking them out for walks and runs, but in my experience any puppy needs at least a limited amount of time to run free off leash. This factor is at least partial responsible for the dog’s seemingly abundance supply of energy.

Fortunately, Murphy’s backyard only needs two five foot sections added to be completely fenced in and his owner agreed to do so. Giving the dog the ability to run freely in their backyard will do wonders for burning energy in a natural and convenient way.

I went over some communication methods to help them get Murphy to follow their lead as well as work on some basic obedience; sit, lay down and recall. I recommended that the members of his family practice and reinforce these lessons in basic obedience so they can start to use positive reinforcement to help condition him to the behavior and demeanor they want.

Next I went over a few methods to discourage his mouthing and chewing on people and things and suggested that his owner purchased a wide variety of acceptable chew toys; nylabones, antlers, actual bones, etc. I always tell my clients that they can decide what their dog chews on or their dog can decide. In my experience, dogs always have more expensive taste.

Because Murphy is about to start teething, I suggested that his owner pick up a bag of baby carrots and toss them into the freezer. The next time she catches Murphy chewing on an inappropriate object, I advised her to pull out some of the baby carrots, rinse the hard frost off of them and then offer them to the dog in a way that distracts it from chewing not he inappropriate object. To do this its important that they offer them to him by standing on the opposite direction from the object the dog is chewing on. Getting the dog to turn away from what it was chewing on to receive an appropriate object to chew on is an excellent way to redirect the puppies attention while also giving it an object that will help soothe it’s gums from the pain that is caused by their adult teeth coming in.

Next I showed Murphy’s owner’s a leadership exercise that will help the dog start to see and identify the members the family as being in a position of authority. It will be important for the members of the family to all practice this exercise with Murphy daily for the next week or two to really establish the leader-follower dynamic that they’re looking for.

I also suggested that they incorporate a more structured way of letting Murphy out of his kennel. They told me that as soon as they got back home, the dog was so excited and energetic in his kennel that he could barely control himself. When a dog is showing this level of over excitement and we let it out of the kennel in this state, that is the energy level they will take with them.

I suggested that in the future they only allow him to exit the kennel when he is in a calm balanced frame of mind. To do so, I demonstrated a technique to help the dog calm himself down in that situation. The technique involves communicating to the dog that it is not allowed to leave the kennel while the door is open unless it has permission from a member of the family.

Murphy’s owner’s jaws were almost on the floor as I was able to walk away from the kennel door and still keep their excitable pup inside, restraining himself. In fact, it wasn’t me that was keeping the dog inside. I had simply communicated to him in a way that he understood that he was not allowed to leave until I gave him permission. It will take regular adherence to this technique for the next week or two before the behavior becomes automatic. But once that is the case, the dog will have developed the ability to calm itself and his owners will enjoy a more manageable dog to boot.

As first time dog owners, it’s clear that Murphy’s family was feeling a little bit overwhelmed. But by the end of the session Murphy was much more responsive to their commands and corrections and seemed to be gaining confidence as he mastered the leadership and obedience exercises. Once his family adds a completely fenced in backyard, Murphy will be able to channel his unspent energy into more appropriate activities then jumping or chewing on the members of his family.

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