Hi, Mr. Shelby:
We have a soon to be four-month-old black female lab puppy who is very persistent with her jumping and biting.
Do you have some suggestions for us?
To me, the unofficial maturation of a dog goes from puppy to punk, to young adult, to adult to senior. Molly sounds like she went right into “punkdom.” I’m not a fan of all-rewards training, but rather adhere to the international system of LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) especially when it comes to persistent jumping coupled with biting. I haven’t used the word “No” for many years, because by the time I get there, half the dogs think their name is “No!” I’ve met a zillion obnoxious four-month-old jumping, mouthing puppies in my career, and with the dog dragging a light leash I’ve probably gotten 90 percent of them to stop the unwanted behavior within three minutes. As the puppy’s front paws leave the floor I snap the leash to the side with a frown on my face while saying “uh un.” The split second four feet are on the floor I’m smiling, saying, “good dog.” The right timing of the correction and praise is critical. What really helps make the dog a fast learner is first teaching the pup to come with an automatic sit. When the dog arrives, my hand (with a small treat) rises up past his nose to my chest as I say “sit.” After a couple of those I don’t have to say “sit,” the hand signal alone will suffice.
As for the persistent jumping to bite, the aversive I’ve found to be quite effective is a spray bottle with a strong stream of water right in the face with an “uh un” as the front paws leave the floor. If a puppy is strong willed enough to persist through that it’s time for a time out. The leash is immediately picked up and clipped to a spot where she can’t reach anyone and is separated from the action for 10 or 15 minutes. Being social animals, most puppies will hate the separation and put it together, jumping to bite = separation. Having met Molly’s incredible persistence, I suggest that when she gets really obnoxious, she can’t have you to harass and abuse, she’s cut off for a period of time.
The good news is a dog with that type of perseverance, when channeled properly, can be a fantastic dog, for search and rescue or duck hunting or in general.
Persevere in the training now and it will make it well worth it for the rest of her life.
Dog Charmer Tom
Cooperstown author Tom Shelby will answer pet owner questions on dog training.
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