We are the proud owners of two male Labrador Retriever puppies – 11 months of age. Because there are two of them, what one doesn’t think of the other one does! The yellow one is laid back, listens well and complies with commands. The black one, my ADHD dog, is very impulsive, easily excited and has difficulty exercising self control. What would be your advice in helping Strycker learn to exercise self control, walk down the street and ignore other animals and people. At our last obedience class, Strycker spent his time tied to the wall observing others and trying to stay calm. Am I expecting too much, too soon? – J.
In dogs ADHD stands for “Absent Discipline Halts Development.” The cure is quick and easy. Don’t ask Stryker, instead tell. His personality speaks for itself, so don’t be worrying about his self esteem. Sounds like he has plenty and I’m pretty sure he’s going to walk all over wishy washy.
A good dog trainer lets the dog define consequence and reward. What’s right for one, may not be for the other. Learning how another feels about things in any relationship is essential to success. So what does Stryker take seriously? I doubt you’re going to learn that in a group class, at least that one. In the human realm, I’m guessing if a teacher ties an ADHD child to a wall, it’s not to “observe others and to try and stay calm”. It’s an act of frustration. It’s because the child’s needs surpass the teacher’s ability or because the teacher hasn’t been provided with the resources to extend to the child ‘one on one’ help. In the dog training world it often means, “This is more dog then I can handle.” There is nothing the matter with saying, “I can’t.” or “I can’t in a group class.” or “Let me refer you to someone that can.”
You need private lessons where your other dog is present, as that’s the situation you’re going to have to deal with when you go home. A good private dog trainer will understand the importance of balance and clarity and be able to show you how to be firm but fair. What “No” means to one dog might mean, “Is that the best you got!” to another. You’ll learn to let Stryker define consequence and reward and when to apply it.
We don’t want a robot nor do we want to quash Stryker’s ‘joi de vive’ but if you don’t get on top of this, like many dogs he’s ultimately going to be left out of a good part of your life. How many people have dogs that when they couldn’t or didn’t get on top of unruliness, the dog ends up spending their time in yards or looking out windows. Both of which are just a different version of being tied to a wall. If you get the right help I have no doubt you’ll see Stryker blossom in ways you can’t imagine.
Don’t buy into the, “He’s a lab, he’ll grow out of it.” If he were a lab pup in a feral environment, if he didn’t get his act together he’d be in the belly of a bear. If you don’t get on top of him what you see now as energetic will be a symptom of the stress caused when a dog doesn’t know where it stands. Stryker needs to have clarity as to who’s the teacher and who’s the student. Dog’s like Stryker take a lot more work then some dogs, but the pay off is usually a lot more dog.
-John Wade the Dog Trainer