Our 11-week-old puppy, Louie, loves being outside! He tries to chew and eat everything he can get his mouth on, to the point that he got a mouth infection. What can we do to keep him focused on playing, walking, or going to the bathroom?
I’m always telling people, “Dogs are much smarter than they realize, are manipulative, and get away with what they can.” And that applies to 11-week-old puppies too, in spite of the fact that I often refer to such young pups as “egg for brains.” And the truth is, even at 11 weeks they’re a lot smarter than most people would think, but the “smarts” are hidden from plain view by the almost total lack of self-restraint of most puppies. Over the years I’ve had several calls from worried dog owners saying, “Bowser has lost his mind! He’s flying around the house like a complete maniac, not listening to a word I’m saying, slamming into walls because he’s skidding on the slippery floors, acting completely nuts! What should I do?” To which I usually respond, “It’s a joyous energy release, referred to as a FRAP” (frenetic random activity period).
And FRAPs are not just relegated to puppies. As an adult, my search dog Michelle used to embarrass me a little at the beginning of every search, practice or real. When I said “Go find,” she was so joyous for the adventure to come that she would run huge circles with stupid-looking hops for a couple of minutes before actually getting down to the business of finding a missing person. At 11 weeks, Louie is simply overwhelmed with the fascinating newness of everything — things you’re totally unaware of. Such as the blade of grass the squirrel peed on an hour ago, the smell of the crow that caught the worm, the odiferous footprint of a skunk.
And how is Louie going to check out all these wondrous discoveries? With his mouth, of course. “Been there, done that, seen that, no big deal,” will be his response as he becomes more and more experienced with the great outdoors. In the meantime, try bringing a small favorite toy, perhaps a cut tennis ball with a couple of treats in it, to redirect his attention. Also, teach him to trade. When he grabs a stick or something, put a treat under his nose and tell him, “Drop it.” Assuming the treat is more interesting than the stick, he’ll quickly learn to trade.
All dogs should be taught “Leave it,” “it” being whatever you want him to ignore. In most cases I prefer that command be taught by a pro, especially with an 11-week-old. But you can try this. Put something he’s likely to pick up right away on the floor, and when he goes for it, put your foot over it so he can’t get it. Tell him, “Leave it,” and when he quits snuffling around your foot trying to get at it tell him, “Leave it” again, and offer him a treat. Repeat this until he quits the interesting “under shoe” immediately when he hears “Leave it,” then offer the treat. In any case, keep the faith. Time is on your side. As Louie becomes more worldly, he’ll become less frenetic about grabbing everything.
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