Stopping a Rambunctious Portuguese Water Dog’s Unwanted Behaviors

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 7, 2017

Mochi is a one-year-old Portuguese Water Dog puppy who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up this in home puppy training session to get him to stop jumping up, stop mouthing the kids, not listening, stealing things and ignoring the human’s commands and corrections.

When I sat down with Mochi’s guardians, I listened to them describe a mature puppy who did not see or identify most of the family as authority figures. Although he was no longer small in stature, he still acted very much like a puppy. As I continued this discussion, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Mochi had no rules to live by. This can easily confuse a puppy into thinking it has the same authority as his humans. If a puppy thinks it has the same authority as you, then listening to you becomes options and its difficult for them to develop respect for humans as leaders.

He was also able to tell the humans when to pet him and the times that they didn’t do as he pleased; he would bark, whine, paw at them, jump up, mouth or display other rambunctious behaviors. When a puppy demands attention this way, and you comply, it tells the dog they are the leader. After all, when they tell you what to do, you do it.

To deal with this, his guardians had started to separate him from the family via gates and closed doors. While this can be an immediate solution, its something you should only do in a limited capacity as you are not addressing the problem, you are only covering it up. Additionally, for dogs, a very strong punishment is to be separated from the group. Repeated banishments usually makes things worse and that was the situation I walked into for this puppy training session.

I suggested the guardians start petting with a purpose, use passive training to reward desired actions and behaviors and introduce rules to start to shift the leader follower dynamic. This structure and positive puppy training will go a long ways towards helping with Mochi’s unwanted puppy behavior.

Most of Mochi’s mouthing and nipping behavior are an attempt to play, but now that he is nearly full grown, it can be dangerous. Teaching a puppy not to mouth or nip is easier when they are small, but the techniques to stop mouthing and stop nipping are pretty much the same. Here is a link to a video I did with another client that includes dog training tips to stop nipping and mouthing.

Another option is what is referred to as a Negative Punishment. This involves removing something that the dog finds desirable. So if the yelping or offering another object tactics don’t work, the human should leave the room as quickly as possible, closing the door behind them. Wait for a few minutes, then return. If they are consistent with this technique, Mochi will learn that playing that way has a consequence; the human he enjoys playing with leaves.

I also shared the series of Escalating Consequences I use to disagree with unwanted behaviors. To help the family practice using these and jump start Mochi’s puppy obedience training, I demonstrated the leadership exercise I developed a few years ago.

After Mochi was responding well to the exercise with me, I had the family’s father take a turn. You can watch him run the puppy through this puppy training exercise in the video below.

The rest of the family took turns running through the leadership exercise, but struggled at times. Mochi had little to no respect for the other members of the family. The mother is super nice but Mochi took this for weakness and her habit of giving in over and over only reinforced the dog’s perception. The family’s children were seen as playthings as opposed to leaders. Because of these things, it took more practice at the exercise for them.

The youngest had the most difficulty so I suggested we use a kennel to do a different version of the exercise. But because the family had put Mochi in the kennel as time outs or to keep him away, it was looked at as a negative by the dog. I recommended that the family practice this kennel exercise if they are unable to successfully do the leadership exercise. But once Mochi responds well in the kennel, the other members of the family should go back to the leadership exercise demonstrated by the father in the above video.

Ive developed a reputation for solving most dog problems in only one visit. So far after 2400+ dogs, I have only needed to come back again for 13 clients. I have a sneaking suspicion Mochi may be number 14.

If the guardians add in rules and structure, they should start to see better behavior quickly. That will allow them to start teaching Mochi how they want him to behave in various situations. It would be highly advisable for the two boys to take turns teaching him a new trick or command each week. Mom could actually get involved in this too. Not only will this train the puppy to do new tricks, it will help develop its respect for them as authority figures.

We wrapped up the session by filming a Roadmap to Success video which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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