Teaching a Yellow Lab Pup to Calm Down and Listen to Her Owners

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 4, 2015

RebaIts been a while since I have had a chance to work with a puppy and so I was delighted to work with this amazingly cute Yellow Lab named Reba. Her owners wanted to make sure that she learned good habits from the start. If only more of my clients did this, I could say good by to my frequent four hour sessions!

We started out by introducing some limited boundaries and ways to disagree with unwanted behavior. When Reba started to lick the wood of the living room table, I mentioned that is often a precursor to chewing. As if on cue, little Reba started to chew on the corner of the table so I redirected her with a hand motion. I suggested that her owners pick up some baby carrots and throw the bags in the freezer. The next time Reba starts to chew on an inappropriate object, offering a few of these frozen carrots (wash off the hard frost first) to her on the other side of the room will cause her to move away from the object they don’t want chewed. When it comes to puppies, sometimes distracting them is the best option.

Next we went through some new non verbal communication methods. Puppies are constantly exploring and can get into the wrong things pretty easily. The sound I introduced as a new way of saying “no” got an immediate response from Reba. I suggested that they use it when they want to communicate “no,” “don’t do that,” or “don’t even think about doing that.” Its usually easier to stop a dog from engaging in an unwanted behavior before they start.

I noticed that Reba was exploring using her mouth and eyes, but not much from her nose. Scent is the dominant sense for dogs, its how they explore and know the world, so I pulled out some highly scented meat treats to engage her nose. As soon as I broke the seal of the bag, I could see her little nostrils start to flare.

Because Reba didn’t know any commands, I offered her one of these highly scented treats to her by positioning it right in front of her nose. When she started to move forward to snag the treat, I slowly raised it up and over her head towards her butt. As I did this, she tracked the object with her head and I was able to move her into a sitting position. After repeating this process a dozen or so times, she was sitting on command!

Next I showed her owners how to get her to come when they called her and how to get her to lay down. I advised them to repeat a one word command the second the reward touched her lips and to keep repeating the command word as she chewed. In another 10 minutes Reba was recalling and laying down on command for her owners.

Reba’s owner had started to limit her access to water due to her frequent accidents. Usually I advise my clients to follow the dog outside and calmly repeat a one word elimination command like “potty” while the dog did its business. But it became obvious that the vocalization was interrupting Reba from completely emptying her bladder. Instead she would only eliminate a small amount then stop and come to whoever was out with her. I suggested that instead they remain quiet and then when she finishes, drop to a knew and throw their arms open when she finished. When she ran over to them, I had them repeat the “potty” command over and over while they petted her. If the consistently apply this technique each time she eliminates for the next week or two, Reba should pick up on the outside potty.

By the end of the session Reba was much calmer, was responding to her owners corrections and commands and generating wide smiles from her owners. Now that they know how to communicate what they want in a way that Reba understands, her training and development will go much faster and smoother.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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