Introducing Rules and Structure to Help a Golden Doodle Puppy Stop Nipping

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 27, 2016

By Tara B Parks

Sadie (Tara)

Sadie is a seven-month-old Goldendoodle in Elkhorn Nebraska. Her guardian set up a puppy training session with us to stop her from nipping the kids, jumping up on people, counter surfing and getting too excited when guests come to the door.

We got a good illustration of Sadie’s energy level when we arrived for the session: jumping up, invading people’s personal space, and not listening to her guardians.

We sat down with Sadie and her family to discuss her behavior and what they wanted to get out of the session. In the course of the discussion we learned that Sadie’s guardians had not introduced any rules or boundaries.

Without structure or rules, a dog thinks of itself as the rule maker and then and does as it likes.

We suggested some rules and boundaries to help change the leader/follower dynamic. It is going to be important that everyone in the household consistently enforces the rules within a maximum of three seconds for the dog to understand and make the connection to what they are disagreeing with. If only half of the people in the house participate, it’s going to take twice as long for Sadie to adopt desired behaviors.

As we were wrapping up the section on structure, the boys got a little rambunctious as well as Sadie and from my seat it was hard to tell who the “no’s” were directed to.

My mentor David likes to point out that a UCLA study shows that four year old children hear the word “no” over 400 times a day.

Dogs have learned irrelevance which means they start to filter out words they hear too often or that are not consistently directed at them.

I wanted to help the family effectively disagree with Sadie when she breaks these new rules. David developed a set of four Escalating Consequences after observing how dogs communicate and disagree with one another. Because these communication methods are unique to Sadie, there should be no confusion as to who the corrections are directed at.

It usually take a couple days to a week or two before these new communication methods become a habit.

While it is important to disagree with a dog, we always like to focus on utilizing positive reinforcement. Rewarding dogs when they engage in desired behaviors is more effective than disagreeing or correcting them when they are wrong. That is why positive dog training is so much more effective.

Adding a little structure to petting your dog can go a long way. Consider how you feel when someone corrects you vs when someone compliments you on a job well done. We consider petting a dog a way of paying them so I suggested that they have the dog sit or lay down in order to earn affection. This may seem like a small thing, but it helps the dog adopt more of a follower’s mindset. This makes obedience the dog’s currency.

One of the activities that gets Sadie the most worked up is people arriving at the door. I had one of the children play the part of a guest knocking at the door so I could show her how to control the situation.

If you open the door while the dog is in front of you, you are assisting the dog in handling security. Security is handled by an authority figure in a dog pack. If the humans can take over this job, it will help Sadie identify as a follower.

I spend the next couple of minutes coaching the guardian through the exercise to get the same results.

While the guardian was successful, it would be better if she were to pause in between each step as she backs away from the dog. Frequent pauses in between steps in dog speak is similar to how we use a comma when writing.

We usually suggest family members call or text each other before arriving home so everyone can practice the door exercise without the pressure of it being a real guest.

We even got one of the little boys to do the exercise and keep Sadie away from the door while the mother played the part of the guest.

When practicing this exercise, the person playing the part of the guest should not come in the house on their own. The person doing the exercise should be the one to open the door.

For many of our clients a lack of exercise contributes to the dog engaging in unwanted and unruly behaviors. In this case, it was not a lack of exercise. I was impressed to find out that the mother taught Sadie how to use the treadmill. This is an outstanding way to burn energy especially in cold weather states like Nebraska. Teaching a dog to use a treadmill is no easy task.

But because it is a beautiful time of the year, the guardian would prefer to walk Sadie but can’t due to her leash pulling.

I spend a couple of minutes going over some leash training basics. I waited till Sadie was in a nice calm energy before going on a walk. Due to this being my first solo session, I regret not pointing out how important it is that the dog has a nice calm energy before going out on a walk. The energy the dog has inside when attaching the leash is the energy they will carry on the walk.

A good rule of thumb is to stop immediately any time the dog steps in front of you when walking to where the leash is kept. Instead go and sit down somewhere and wait for the dog to return to a calm state before trying again.

Once you can walk to where the leash is kept and the dog is behind you, the next step is to stop any time the dog gets excited. Again, go and sit down without saying anything to the dog before trying again. If you consistently stop the instant the dog gets excited, the dog will learn that the only way it is going outside is if they are calm.

Sometimes it will take four, eight, ten times of stopping before the dog gets the message.

Another tip is to leash the dog a couple of times a day with no intention of going for a walk, this way the dog does not associate the leashing up process with a guaranteed walk. We call this desensitizing.

Now that we’ve covered the tips I forgot during the session, we can return to your regularly scheduled dog write up.

In the video below, I take Sadie’s leash and demonstrate the proper way to leave the house.

Going for a walk seemed to be a bit of a challenge as it seemed like everyone in the neighborhood was out that day.

After sharing some leash training tips with Sadie’s primary guardian, it was her turn to take the lead.

At first the guardian’s timing and technique were a little bit off, which is understandable since this is the first time she’s walked the dog this way. As she practices, she should get a better feel of when to correct Sadie. You want to apply the correction when the dog’s chest is one or two inches in front or your torso. This communicates to the dog that it is getting out of position.

It is also important to not put any tension on the leash except for the exact second you are correcting the dog. Dogs will always pull against a tense leash. Mistake many people make is to try to pull the dog back into the proper position rather than communicating the instant the dog starts to get out of place.

We ended things by going over a simple recall exercise with the kids. Teaching a puppy to come is a skill that will pay off big time for the rest of her life.

By the end of the session Sadie was calmer, staying behind the boundary to the door, stopped nipping at the kids and starting to sit down to ask for attention instead of nudging her guardians to be pet. If everyone in the family starts petting with a purpose, consistently enforces the new rules with the escalating consequences, and practices the exercises we introduced, Sadie should adopt the behaviors they want.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categorized in:

This post was written by: David Codr

%d bloggers like this: