“Correcting” my puppy

Discussion in 'Labrador Puppies' started by RandM, Dec 18, 2019.

  1. RandM

    RandM Registered Users

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    I’ve been reading a lot of articles on puppy obedience training and all of them mention giving your pup a “correction” when they don’t properly do what you’re trying to teach them. Right now Molly is 14 weeks old and we’ve had her a month. We are still dealing with just basic obedience training, but it occurred to me that I don’t really know what a “correction” looks like. What do they mean? When I tell her “No” in a firm voice for things like biting and grabbing at our pant legs, she starts barking furiously. The only way to quiet her is to cover my eyes so I’m not making eye contact with her, but I’m worried that’s too submissive on my part??

    We’ve made some progress with “sit”. She no longer jumps into the food bag as soon as we open the cupboard door. We’ve stopped feeding her from her bowl, and now feed her from our hand because one trainer said that’s what to do to establish yourself as “Alpha” - to teach her that every good thing comes only from us. We also use a couple of toys to give her portions of her kibble - one ball that she has to roll around to make the kibble fall out, and one ball where you stick the kibble into little groves with soft rubber “teeth” that holds it and she has to chew it out. Also, she is only “rewarded” when she gives a sit or obeys “leave it” when playing fetch, etc. This seems to have settled her a bit, and has effectively stopped her frantically scarfing down a meal in 30 seconds flat from the bowl. These “tricks” seem to have taught her to be more patient, but I’m nowhere close to having her “sit” directly in front of me, or lie down and wait patiently to go out, or eat, or whatever. And we are really struggling with the biting/nipping/lunging behavior, and then the barking response to being “corrected”. So what is correction supposed to look like? We’re still not communicating well with her and if I’m confused, doubtless so is she . Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
     
  2. Peartree

    Peartree Registered Users

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    I have had labradors for a long time and I have never corrected my puppies. They have grown up to be calm well behaved and well trained, obedient dogs.

    Puppies need to feel safe and secure and you must be the centre of their universe. Consequently any harsh correction can severely undermine their trust in you.

    With my pups I use distraction, redirection and removal. Scatter a small amount of food on the floor so you can get through the door, remove the precious item from their mouth or distract them from something for example.

    You also need to think about your ABCs. This is antecedent, behaviour and consequence. You need to look at what triggers the behaviour you are struggling with and manipulate the environment so that it is less likely to happen again, rather than trying to change the behaviour. This stops you creating unwanted behaviour chains ie responding to the puppy misbehaving by giving attention can increase that undesirable behaviour not stop it.

    I hope that helps. Your trainer sounds very ‘old school’ - establishing yourself as Alpha is not a current training protocol. Google some videos on YouTube by Kikopup on capturing calm would be very helpful for you. In fact almost anything on her feed would help you greatly.

    Good luck and remember some of the most challenging pups grow into the loviest dogs.
     
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  3. Ruth Buckley

    Ruth Buckley Registered Users

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    Your trainer sounds like they haven't kept up with modern training methods at all. Ideas about 'Alphas' and dominance have been completely debunked (personally I'd always suspected it was a rubbish theory). There are some good articles on this site you can read for more detail. Get yourself a good book - I liked Pippa's ' Labrador handbook' and Jean Donaldson s 'how to train like a pro'. Jean Donaldson has good YouTube videos too and try to find a class that uses positive force free methods.
    Definitely ditch the food bowl - not because it establishes you as alpha, but because you can use all food for training/games/shaping behaviour you like.
    My current dog's previous owners used outdated training methods (choke chains, corrections etc) and it took a lot of work to undo the damage done so I feel quite strongly about this.
     
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  4. TEE

    TEE Registered Users

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    If you feed by hand at least integrate into some useful training. For example let her sit on a box and have her switch btw sit, down and stand in random order.it will help later, you can even extend the pause btw command and reward and introduce steadiness. Look at Stonnie Dennis on YouTube.

    As for the bowl simply hold it in you hand above her and she will eventually sit. Mark that behavior. Then place on floor. If she moves lift it again and wait for her yo sit again. Repeat. In no time she will wait for you to go to food. Feeding time with labs allow for so many easy and playful training ops.

    Agree with above that you rethink your trainer.

    Good luck.
     
  5. SianMJ

    SianMJ Registered Users

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    I have learnt so much from doing Pippa’s online course about successes and failures when training. If my dog doesn’t succeed it’s my cue to go back a step or two until my dog succeeds and then we build up again to the desired behaviour step at a time. No need for corrections using that approach:)
     
  6. RandM

    RandM Registered Users

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    Thank you all for your suggestions, but I still need help with this lunging/biting issue. I don’t have a trainer - “old school” or otherwise. It’s Christmas time and all the dog obedience schools are closed for the Holidays. I’ve gotta wait til January to get her into classes. But I have an escalating problem now and I’ve got no other resources but online sources. I’ve been watching all the Stonnie Dennis videos on training since before we brought her home. I’ve also watched Kikopup videos, and I’m reading everything I can get my eyes on - I even spent $50 on an online course that talked about using “sharp jerks on the lead” with a choke chain for ”correction” - which I am ABSOLUTELY opposed to (and I let them know it and asked for a refund). So, please, I’m not needing advice that my trainer is “old school“ and that “Alpha training” is not the modern mindset. I’m at my wits end because all I’m seeing from Kikopup or Stonnie are these amazing, well behaved dogs who follow them everywhere for a treat (which mine will happily do as well) but NOBODY shows me what to do when a 14 week old puppy suddenly morphs from a sweet, loving, cuddly puppy to an attack dog, and then stands there with front feet spread, head low, furiously barking at us after she’s just lunged at one of us from behind and bit hard enough to break the skin and cause an immediate bruise. I started conditioning her with “soft mouth” when we first brought her home at 9 weeks, just like I did with Bella (our first lab). Bella NEVER, EVER deliberately bit any of us and we had kids in the house when she was little, too. I have a 7 yr old granddaughter who comes here everyday after school, and a new granddaughter expected April 2020. I won’t have a dog in my house that I have to worry will bite my grandbabies - so this has got to be dealt with now. I can’t wait to see if she’ll outgrow it with her puppy teeth. I don’t consider what she’s doing “play biting”. It is full-on aggression and it’s directed at us. I can take her to my granddaughter’s school and she will roll over on her back and let any and every kid pet her. She is properly submissive with my daughter’s 5 yr old dog. But she is aggressive in our home with us and I won’t have it. So please, somebody, tell me what I’m doing that is making this dog behave like this. I’m willing to take responsibility - I’m not blaming her. But I’ve tried everything that I’ve read/heard will help - “yelping”, diverting, time outs, etc. And I keep getting mixed messages. One source will say “hold her down, hold on to her muzzle if she bites and tell her ‘Uh uh’ with a firm voice” and another will say don’t ever hold their muzzle because you might cause damage to their smelling, etc. Some suggest squirting her with water, “be a tree” . . . Stonnie says never - and he’s right. Doesn’t work. If anything, every suggestion I’ve tried has only made it worse. I know lots about what doesn’t work - but what does? I don’t want to feel like I do now about having gotten this puppy. Please help!
     
  7. J.D

    J.D Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi
    You can tell from reading your posts that you are very stressed by the situation and that is probably being transferred to your pup. I notice your photo is still of your old dog that you said died suddenly. I may be wrong but you may still be grieving for the well behave adult dog you lost and are finding a young boisterous puppy all too much.
    It’s a really busy time of year for everyone with lots of new smells/visual temptations activities for an already hyped up young pup.
    I looked back on my old photos to remind myself what a 14 week old pup looks like. Of course Toby looks like an angel in all those photos but I also saw my husbands hands that were covered in scratches where he was whipping his hands away in frustration every time the teeth came out. There was something about the stress in his manner that made him a target for Toby’s excitement.
    I hope someone else will give you the right tools but they can still be picked up at this stage. Removed Molly to a quiet space when she gets over excited but do it calmly and bring her back when she is calm with lots of praise.
    You may find a one to one positive reinforcement trainer more helpful than a group class and you have a long long time before the new baby and Molly will be interacting.
    Good luck and try to enjoy her.
     
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  8. RandM

    RandM Registered Users

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    Thank you, J.D. You’re very perceptive. Yes, life is super stressed right now, plus I’m sick with a bad cold. And yes, it’s hard to let go of Bella. I’ve looked at that avatar many times in the past month and would love to switch it out with Molly’s beautiful little face, but I don’t want it to seem like I’m replacing Bella with Molly. Molly is her own little self with a completely different personality - maybe I’ll find a way to make an avatar that shows them both. Anyway, after I posted yesterday I looked up info on “aggressive” puppies - because I called it that - and I realized she’s really just wanting to play. She isn’t snarling or curling her lips back, showing her fangs. She’s just wound up. Hubby finally found a way to install a baby gate in our open floorplan home yesterday, so I now have a way to separate her from us when she’s too wild without having to shut her behind a door (which elicits lots of barking and whining). This morning she was on my lap, being semi-calm but still wanting to nip at my hands. I told her “No bites” and gently held her under her chin and started stroking her in front of her ears, and she would open her mouth and reach for my hand, and I would say “No bites” and stop stroking. So she’d pull back, and then I’d put my hand near her nose again and she’d tentatively lick me and I’d say “YES! Good girl”, and scratch her ears. And then she’d try another bite and I just kept up with the different responses - “No bites” and withdrawing my touch when the teeth came out, and praise and scratches for the licks. I don’t know whether that’s what I should have done or not, but it felt right and she seemed to be experimenting with how to get the right response. Since then she’s gone for my legs a couple times, but today she’s backing off when I say “No bites” instead of continuing to lunge at me, and I realized it’s the feeling of her being out of control that scares me. When she responds to my voice, even just to back off for a second, my perspective changes and she responds. I believe she will one day be a “fine animal” (like Stonnie says). I won’t give up on her, but I really wanted to thank you (and everyone) for walking me through this. I just really want to do right by her.
     
  9. J.D

    J.D Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    You sound calmer already! Keep going and all will be well. It is a bit of trial and error and not all dogs respond in the same way. Enjoy the holidays and keep reacting calmly to the challenges ahead. All the best. :):):)
     
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  10. Jo Laurens

    Jo Laurens Registered Users

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    Puppies get over-excited. So do kids. Put puppy in the crate with a frozen Kong until they have come out of this mood.

    But more importantly the bigger issue is to ensure you are providing your puppy with enough time and attention - training, playing and being with them. Oftentimes puppies get hyper and excessively demanding like this, because it gets a reaction from you - which is a reinforcer. If they felt like they were getting enough training time and attention, playing and socialisation outings each day, they wouldn't often have the need to 'demand' attention in this way - they'd be getting plenty of it anyway.
     
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  11. Ruth Buckley

    Ruth Buckley Registered Users

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    It gets easier to see this behaviour for what it is - over the top, inappropriate play- as things start to get better. It really isn't meant as aggressive however bad it looks. For a very long time mine would get humpy and bitey when overexcited, the best way I found to deal with it was to anticipate it and ask for a different behaviour when I could see it coming (find a toy/stick was easy to train or just a sit). Always have treats in your pocket - I walk a few steps away and reward the sit by tossing the treat for him to catch which gives me some distance and him some focus. You'd obviously have to build up to that with a young puppy - mine was much older when I got him. An indestructible toy like a goughnut is good to redirect to if the biting starts or just stepping out of the room for a minute and waiting for calm worked for us eventually.
    I had a placid dog before this one who never used her mouth in play or by accident, so I can entirely empathise with the shock (and probably anxiety) you are feeling at the moment. My dog is 2 and a half now, still boisterous and hyper at times but basically a good dog and a lovely companion.
     
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