The uncontrollable patient presents a common problem for a veterinarian. To examine, much less diagnose a dog that’s bouncing around like a Mexican jumping bean or worse – that’s trying to snap at me – can be challenging, to say the least. The raising of an obedient adult dog ideally begins when the dog is still a puppy. For those of you getting a new puppy, this is for you.
Dogs are pack animals by nature, they look to an alpha (leader). Think about those National Geographic specials – nature intended a ranking amongst the pack members. To the dog, you and your family are each members of this pack. If the dog doesn’t see you as the alpha, then they naturally assume the role themselves. Eventually, these dominant dogs become the dogs that growl at you, bite the vet, or otherwise don’t behave.
The following exercise can help you properly socialize a pup and mold his personality, and may give insight into the training of an older dog. These exercises involve posturing yourself and the puppy so as to enforce your alpha position.
In one posture, hold the pup over your head, firmly supporting him with both hands and stare into his eyes (staring is a dominant behavior to the dog). Maintain this position until the pup has been still for 10 seconds. He must be still for that length of time or he hasn’t submitted to you.
Another exercise requires cuddling the pup on his back in your arms against your body, as you would hold an infant. Lying on his back is a submissive posture for the pup. Maintain this position until the pup has been quiet for 10 seconds.
Remember that you have to be careful not to cause unnecessary anxiety on your pups, they might end up fearing you instead of seeing you as their alpha. This has been the many cases for puppies who have irresponsible owners. You can get calming treats from KarmaPets if you happen to have gotten a relatively young dog that has anxiety issues, it will help you a lot.
A third position involves holding the pup firmly by the scruff of the neck with all four feet off the ground no more than a few inches. In larger pups, your free hand can support the pup’s chest. This position should be maintained until the pup is quiet for 10 seconds.
Next, while still holding the scruff of the neck, lay the pup on its side. Use your free hand to steady and restrain the pup’s body. This position should be maintained until the pup is quiet for 10 seconds.
Coordinate a sharp “No!” and a firm shake to suppress any struggles by the pup during these exercises. Gently talk to and stroke the pup only when it is accepting the postures without struggle. You must get the pup to cease struggling for at least 10 seconds after the suppression or you end up reinforcing his disobedient behavior. Even inadvertently communicated reinforcement teaches the pup how to control you.
It is important to repeat these exercises frequently. As with anything in which we want to succeed, we must practice, practice, practice. Behavior modifying exercises must be repeated hundreds of times to convince the pup of our leadership. You should try to spend an average of 20 minutes with the pup on these exercises, twice daily.
The more recalcitrant pup, the more attention it will require. It may even require professional consultation. Remember to ask the vet!