Ask Tom, the Dogcharmer: Alex the rambunctious retriever

He's just an excitable boy.

Alex, at rest. –Courtesy Alex’s dad.

My 13-week-old golden retriever Alex, while a bright and loving little guy,
jumps up when we are sitting or walking, and bites our hands as well as
pants. We’ve tried standing and turning from the jumping, but to no avail.
Sometimes we give him a knee in the chest when he jumps. Does not seem to
deter him.

Regarding mouthing, we’ve said “no bite” while alternately twisting his
collar and holding his mouth closed. We also sprayed lemon juice extract
into his mouth, as recommended in the Monks of New Skete’s “The Art of Raising
a Puppy” book. All of these methods do not impede him.

On chair chewing, we’ve tried bitter apple no-chew from Cronig’s, and white
vinegar, but he licks and seems to enjoy all of them.

Is he simply too young to accept remedies to such unacceptable behavior — or

What do you suggest?

Jack Scanlan

Dear Jack,

One of the ways to describe the maturation progress of dogs is to say that they go from puppy to punk, to young adult, to adult, to adult adult, to senior. I’ve seen young puppies run the gamut from being very sensitive to the displeasure of owners by displaying very little mouthing and jumping, to “the puppy from hell” that often acts like a four-legged shark, totally oblivious to the owner’s negative reactions. From your description, Alex seems to fit into the “Jaws” category. But the good news is, I’ve seen plenty of Jaws-like pups have complete turnarounds at about six months of age. It’s almost like an epiphany; the dog hits that maturation point, and starts cooperating because he realizes that he prefers your praise and treats to your sour face. But until that point arrives, I might suggest the following. No. 1, exercise! The saying “A tired dog is a well-behaved dog” is especially relevant with this type of puppy. Alex should be dragging a flat leash with the handle cut off when he’s not in the crate, so that you’re better able to physically control him without your hands going to him negatively. If he seems immune to all kinds of corrections, i.e. squirt gun, startling noise, ultrasound device … try “redirection.” Redirect his attention to a toy that is more attractive than your pants or a chair leg — a hollow marrowbone with a piece of bologna in the middle, so that he’s very interested in the bone but can’t quite get to the meat. Or a tennis ball with a cut in it so you can put the bologna inside — that should keep him interested. There are plenty of toys on the market that will garner his interest by having him work to get at the enclosed treat.

My wife Jaye is a retired speech pathologist who helped disabled and developmentally delayed children. I remember her telling me that one of her 6-year-old patients finally started talking under her guidance, and the kid’s parents thought Jaye was a miracle worker. But Jaye told the parents and me that the 6-year-old just reached the developmental stage of a 2-year-old, and that’s when most kids start talking. So Jack, the likelihood is, time is on your side with Alex having his epiphany around six months of age. If he’s still a wild child, then you may want the interference of a pro.                       


Good luck

The Dogcharmer


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