Teaching a High Energy German Shorthair Pointer Control to Help Him Listen to His Guardians

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 26, 2016


Osborne is a two-year-old German Shorthair Pointer who gets over excited, barks, jumps up, pulls on the leash and tries to bolt out the door any chance he gets.

I like to refer to German Shorthair Pointer’s as a professional class of dog. They are extraordinarily energetic, usually high strung and need more constructive exercise than just about any other breed of dog.

Osborne was kind enough to demonstrate just how high energy he was during the greeting.

I sat down with the guardians to discuss the situation and observed Osborne as he paced around the room, nudged his guardians and jumped up on the furniture without hesitation.

Knowing that Osborne had way too much pent-up energy to affectively work with him, I fitted him up with a harness and strapped on my rollerblades so that I could do a little bit of dogskiing.

Unfortunately I don’t have any footage of Osborne pulling me when we started our dog skiing adventure, so let me just say that he was probably the strongest pulling dog I’ve ever worked with.

I let Osborne pull me as long as he wanted, for as fast as he wanted. It took us about 10-15 minutes, but eventually Osborne was able to fully empty his tank.

When we returned to Osbourne’s home, it took him a good 20 minutes to cool off. It’s important that you give your dog a recovery period after any type of strenuous exercise, especially during the heat of the summer. Fortunately it was cooler and still early in the day when we took headed out for this dog skiing session.

As Osborne cooled down, I suggested a number of rules and boundaries that the family should start to incorporate. In the initial evaluation, I had learned that Osborne really didn’t have any rules. This often causes a dog to think that it has the same authority as the humans it lives with. But if a dog considers itself to have the same authority that you do, then listening to you becomes optional to the dog.

So we had a combination of a dog that has way too much energy and the perception that he has the same authority as the humans. This caused him to frequently disregard their commands or corrections or not hear them at all.

By incorporating rules, boundaries and limits and then enforcing them with good technique and more importantly, good timing, the guardians can help the dog start to see them as authority figures. Once it sees itself as being in the follower position, then his response and respect for them will increase.

While it is important for us to correct our dogs when they get out of line, I find positive reinforcement or positive dog training to be the most effective way of getting a dog to do what you want.

But if we pet a dog without any structure or at the wrong time, they can give the dog the wrong impression. To help the family start to reward Osborne for desired behaviors I went over my Petting with a purpose strategy.

If all of the members of the family can consistently ask the dog to come, sit or lay down before they put him, they will engage in a mini dog obedience training session every time they pet him; without even thinking about it.

Because burning of excess energy is such an important part of Osbourne’s rehabilitation, I showed the guardians how they could use a Martingale collar to stop Osborne from pulling on the leash. Because of his supreme pulling power, the family had stopped walking him; instead attempting to channel his energy through play in their oversized back yard.

I spent a few minutes going over some basic leash training; how to position the dog, when and how to correct, how to communicate while on walks and most importantly how to lead the dog instead of trying to pull him into position. I also showed them a simple trick at the door that teaches the dog that just because it opens, it is not an invitation for him to exit.

The leash training really did the trick. Within minutes, the dog’s guardians had Osborne walking in a heel rather than having him pull them all over the place. By teaching the dog to heel on walks, both human and canine will have a more enjoyable experience.

A big part of this success was burning off his excess energy early by dog-skiing. Fortunately, both of Osbournes guardians have experience skating. I suggested that at first they take him out for a nice fetch session in the backyard because he is a truly powerful dog. A short game of fetch can help them take the edge off and make him more manageable when they start learning how to dog ski safely.

Sometimes burning off the dog’s excess energy needs to happen multiple times over the course of the day. I have found that there are many other ways that you can help a dog burn off excess energy. The fetch I referenced earlier is a perfect example. If the guardians can take Osborne outside for 20 or 30 throws, then give him a recovery period before dog skiing or walking him in the future, they should find it much easier to repeat the experience we had today.

Because Osborne liked to run out of the door, I spent a couple of minutes teaching his guardians how they can claim the space before actually inviting a guest inside. I demonstrated the technique myself first, then coached the guardian through it so that she had the same result.

This exercise will take a little bit of practice so I suggested that they enlist friends and family members to play the part of a guest as it may take a couple of minutes to answer the door this way. However once Osborne has practiced it enough, he will start to stand behind the imaginary boundary on his own.

We wrapped up the session with a structured eating ritual that will go a long ways towards helping Osborne develop more self-restraint and control.

I recommended that the guardians consider taking him to dog day care a few times a week as well as incorporating scent games in their oversized backyard. As a true hunting dog, getting him to use his nose will be stimulating as well as a good way to help him channel some of his excess energy.

By the end of the session, Osbourne’s guardians were communicating with him much more effectively and getting amazing results. He was already starting to follow some of the rules and respecting the new boundaries on his own. If his guardians can continue to burn off his excess energy while continuing to assume the leadership position, it should be easy for them to teach Osborne what they do and do not want from him moving forward. As a smart dog, I think this is going to happen for him pretty quickly

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This post was written by: David Codr