"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Boston terrier is spun sometimes

– Posted in: Columns

We have a 15-week-old cross between a Boston terrier and a Blue Heeler named Buster. There are some problems like jumping up when someone comes in and nipping and not listening to commands in general. It’s worse in the evening when you want to watch TV and have a little quiet time but that’s his most “Psycho” time. Is it because he is bored or that he needs to be the center of our universe?

We had him on a leash both in and outside for the first 4 weeks here. He still has times on the leash outside. He has been attending puppy training and we know he is a smart dog, as he knows all the commands when asked as long as a treat is promised.

– TDJ

Dear TDJ,

A dog that responds to a command because it knows it will get a treat isn’t necessarily “smart”. Smart is finding a way to get to the treats without having a pesky human go-between and then closing the cupboard afterward.

Besides, having a truly smart dog isn’t necessarily always a good thing. An IQ of 140 will put a kid in jail just as easily as university and smart dogs like smart kids can be a lot of work.

Training that begins and ends with treats has its limitations and its consequences. It winds an awful lot of dogs up. They’re only interested in the paycheck. What I think of as obedience is more than producing dogs that do momentary sit/down/stays and get a certificate for doing so. To me, that’s just trick training. Part of real obedience is, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, to teach a dog to keep its head when all other dogs are losing theirs around common every day distractions – treat or no treat.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with giving a dog a treat for behaviour that is even headed a little in the right direction, anymore then a treat for the kids when they need a little extra boost. It’s just that if it’s the only tool in the tool bag, you’re going to build a mighty shaky house.

Either way, part of nature’s template says, “If a dog can’t be caught, the dog can’t be taught”, so I think you gave up on the leash far too soon. Keep in mind that the real classroom is indoors. That’s where we spend 80+% of our time together.

Go back and let him drag his leash around indoors and out until he’s a young adult. He’s easier to supervise and catch but still “free”. Just not free to go “psycho”. With the leash on if he’s having a “moment”, you can just stand or sit on it if need be until he calms himself.

Whether “gifted” or not if he’s like most dogs Buster may not have his mind sufficiently taxed so you should also look for brain drain activities to supplement his exercise. Real obedience is one way but there are others as well. I often puzzle-feed my dog. Instead of eating out of a bowl he has to figure out how to dislodge his food from a container designed for the job. It can take a half hour and from the contented look on his face afterwards, you’d think he’d run down a gazelle on the Serengeti. There are other brain drain, self calming activities as well. Send me an email and I’ll give you some suggestions.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
*protected email*
www.askthepetguy.com

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