Today, I had a brief training session with Bob and Janey (not their real names), a couple who adopted Comet, a lab puppy from a rescue in the south. Although I’d been told by another instructor that the dog and the couple were ‘doing great!,’ it was clear to me instantly that the dog runs the household.
Comet jumps on people. Comet charges out of the house as soon as either Janey or Bob open the door. Comet bites – and hard – when receiving a cookie. Comet screams and shrieks at the top of her puppy lungs when she does not get her way. Comet ignores her owners unless they have food, and as soon as she’s received her treat she loses interest in them. Comet pulls like a tank at the end of her leash when walked. And last, the very beginnings of ‘I am going to nip you if I do not get my way.’
In short, Comet has completely bamboozled two highly educated, capable adults. She has few (if any) manners, and no respect for either of her humans. Throwing temper tantrums is a form of bullying, and biting sure is, too.
I showed the couple some impulse control and focus games to play with Comet, taught them how to react when Comet starts bounding toward them, intent on jumping up, and we worked on ‘look at me!’ games.
Comet is a smart little girl, and pretty quickly twigged on to the fact that jumping, biting, screaming and moaning would not move or persuade me. Both Bob and Janey were amazed at how quickly she learned to accept a cookie politely, and to orient towards me.
I am not a professional dog trainer. I train teams in the sport of nose work because I love it, as do my dogs. Comet had actually started beginner nose work. After she screamed for the first part of the first class, Bob took her out of the building until it was their turn.
We spoke after class, and I suggested we spend time training Comet some manners and focus. “That sounds fantastic to us!”
At the end of the session today, I asked if either felt overwhelmed by the amount of information I’d given them. “No!” Bob said vehemently. “I actually feel relieved because I know what to do now, and there is light at the end of the tunnel!”
Laughing, I said “Comet has been bullying you. That stops today, right now.” Janey looked up sharply. “Gosh! You are right! She HAS been bullying us.”
Pet dog owners sometimes seem to forget that they are the humans, and are supposed to run the show. It takes work and consistency to have a well-mannered dog — and that’s all this couple wants. I give them credit because they’re willing to put the time and money into making sure Comet learns manners, and because they realized they needed help.
Bob and Janey will be happier as their dog learns to respond politely to new people and in new places. Comet will be happier because she knows her place in life. Win-win for all.