Teaching a Very Pushy Newfoundland Puppy to Respect People’s Space

hugo

Hugo is a one-year-old Newfoundland puppy that lives with a family in midtown Omaha. His guardians set up a puppy obedience training session to stop him from rushing the door when people arrive, jumping up and not leaving guests alone; invading personal space.

I got a up close and personal view of Hugo’s over excited behavior when I arrived for the session. At first his energy and behavior were ok, but after he got a chance to sniff me, Hugo started invading personal space, slobbering on me and jumped up a lot.

When I sat down with Hugo’s family to discuss the situation, he really got into high gear in terms of invading my space. He jumped up, bumped or crashed into me, covered me with drool before running around the room only to come back and do it all over again. Training the dog to respect space is going to go a long way towards eliminating his unwanted behaviors.

I tried a few different techniques to stop the dog from jumping up, but weighing in at 150+ pounds, to say it was challenging was a bit of an understatement. I ended up pulling out a chain leash and stepped on it a few feet away from his head to help him settle down with a leash time out. Sometimes dog training is all about helping a dog learn to stay calm and balanced.

It took a few leash time outs, but eventually Hugo calmed down a bit. Because of how excited he was, I asked how much exercise he was getting. While his guardian usually took him out for a daily walk, that wasn’t on today’s agenda so I was getting the full Monte, so to speak.

I recommended that the guardians ensure he gets a proper walk early in the day every day and to add in short games of fetch any time he showed too much pent up energy. I recommended that the family get a spiral notebook and start journaling how much exercise he gets each day along with an accounting of any behavior problems and a final grade.

By varying the length and exercise activities, his guardians will eventually find the right combination of exercise to help Hugo burn off this over exuberance so that he can listen better and is easier to work with.

Another problem I spotted in the session was the Father’s physical interactions with the dog. When Hugo didn’t listen, he would sometimes push or shove Hugo down or away. While this tactic worked for the father, it compounded the issues with his wife and young children as they don’t have the capacity to react the same way with this large breed dog.

I suggested that the guardians start to practice my petting with a purpose method which asks the dog to do something like sit or lay down before any of the humans pet him. Because of how bad his behavior is regarding personal space, I recommended that everyone in the family stop petting Hugo unless he did something to earn it. Sitting and laying down are more subordinate positions so getting Hugo into a habit of sitting to earn praise and attention is a great way help him start to identify as a follower. Once this is the case, Hugo will start to ask for attention, instead of trying to make it happen by foisting himself on anyone.

I also went over some new non verbal communication cues that the family can use to disagree with Hugo instead of using a physical touch. When the father had to go to pick up his children from school, we had them knock at the back door so that I could show the guardians how to use these consequences to tell Hugo he needed to stay back behind an invisible boundary.

By increasing the distance between Hugo and the guests, we can lower the intensity and his excitement level while also helping him practice some self control.

Because the guardians had allowed this behavior to continue for so long, its going to take a week or two of consistently disagreeing before Hugo gets into trouble (This is why careful observation is so important, or within 3 seconds in order for him to get the message and change his behavior.

Because of how exuberant Hugo was, I believe this is one of the rare cases where a repeat visit is needed. I asked the guardian to practice the techniques and exercises introduced in the session and call to text with progress reports or any problems or questions so we can establish a foundation to build on.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Increase Hugo’s daily exercise regimen.
  • Find an easily repeatable exercise like Fetch and incorporate it when Hugo gets excited or shows signs of too much energy (Pacing, getting too physical, mouthing, etc). May need to use this method a few times throughout the day.
  • Look into a dog walker or dog day care options as dog on dog interaction will be very effective way of depleting Hugo’s excess energy.
  • Journal Hugo’s daily exercise activities and any unwanted actions or behaviors along with a daily grade so the family can find the right combination that drains his energy so he is pleasant to be around.
  • Pet Hugo with a purpose so that he starts to identify as a follower who must ask for and earn praise.
  • Introduce rules such as respecting personal space, having to sit to go in or out a door, etc and enforce them consistently to help Hugo transition into a follower mindset.
  • Stop physically interacting with Hugo to disagree and utilize the 4 Escalating Consequences instead.
  • Recreate situations where Hugo gets into trouble so that the guardians can practice the proper way to act when they can give him their full attention.
  • Practice the door claiming exercise with family and friends so that Hugo gets used to not rushing the door.
  • Add structure to letting Hugo out of the kennel. Only release him when he is completely calm (usually in a sit).
  • Use the Mudroom as a last resort if he refuses to listen, but use this option sparingly. The leash time out would be preferred.
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