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Let’s See What You Got

Rhodesian Ridgeback in Classic Play BowHi John,

Bear is a 4 month old highly intelligent dog. He is playful and loving. He does not guard his food, bones, etc.   However he keeps challenging members of our household.  The behaviour is marked by his stance, front paws and forearms down, rear up in the air, tail wagging and barking.  I realize that this is a ‘play’ position, but the barking is accompanied by him trying to bite at you.

I usually grab his collar and pinch his cheek, as a mother dog would.  We also use the leash to correct this behaviour by jerking the leash straight up. We have also taken our vet’s advice and laid him on his side, pinning him with our forearms until he submits.

My wife’s fear, and certainly mine as well, is that this challenging behaviour will get worse, and he may injure our kids.  My boys are afraid of him when he’s hyper, but love him when he’s not.  My daughter tries to correct him when he steps out of line, but is less effective as I am.

I don’t know what to do John.  My wife wants him out, and I say that he is still a puppy and needs time to work it out. -Jeff in Toronto

Hi Jeff,

Yes the paws down, butt up position is a play bow, but so is the barking and biting part of it. However, play in nature is a very serious thing. How your playmates react to your overtures tells you a lot about who’s going to be the teacher and who’s going to be the student when you’re bigger. So what your puppy is saying to you is much the same as what I’m hearing from my own sons these days, “Come on old man! Let’s see what you got!” Fortunately for me I’ve still got enough that they take the garbage out when I tell them. Next year, I’m not sure.

What you’re doing now would likely work on most dogs, might put others into therapy, but obviously with him it’s just foreplay. A good teacher adapts their style to the student’s needs. They are balanced in their distribution of discipline and reward but it is the student that defines what is a valued reward and unwelcome discipline.

You mention that you, “pinch his cheek, as a mother dog would.” Well maybe, if his mother was Italian but not a doggy mom. If she had a pup that wouldn’t take no for an answer she would in a blink of an eye knock him on his keester and mop the floor with him. Then she’d look at the rest of the pups and say, “Did you see that? Do you want a piece of that? Then don’t make mommy say no more then once.” Then all would return to normal.

I’m not too thrilled with the “ jerking the leash straight up” advice you got. Too much danger of damaging something in the puppy’s throat. I don’t use a leash and collar on a dog to correct it I use it to get the dog’s attention so I can correct it. If you’re using the leash to do that, pop it to the side.

Yours isn’t a problem dog. Yet. I’d book a one on one appointment with a balanced trainer and let him or her gage what to do to get this dog to understand that “No! Means No! You get the right trainer and this will be straightened out in a single appointment.

-John Wade the Dog Trainer


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