Dogcharmer: Jumping and biting

It can be fixed, and that persistence can be put to good use.

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Being social and full of energy, a Labrador puppy may need persistent training. — Lauren Liebhaber

Dear Tom,

We have a soon-to-be 4-month-old black female Lab puppy, Molly, who is very persistent with her jumping and biting. Do you have some suggestions for us?

Marcia

Dear Marcia,

To me, the unofficial maturation of a dog goes from puppy to punk, to young adult (still “punkish”), to adult, to senior. Molly sounds like she’s an early bloomer — 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 4-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 3 minutes with a simple leash correction. As the puppy’s front paws leave the floor I’d snap the leash to the side with a frown on my face while saying, “Uh-uh”. 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. A few more of those, and Molly is sitting automatically to earn the small treat.

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-uh” 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 equals 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 that a dog with that type of perseverance, when channeled properly, can be a fantastic dog. A search dog, whether looking for missing people or bombs or whatever, needs to be a dog with that kind of perseverance. So does a duck hunter’s retriever.

Persevere in the training now, and it will be well worth it for the rest of her life.

Good luck,
Dogcharmer Tom

Have a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at dogsrshelby@msn.com. Find him on Instagram @DogTrainerDiaries.

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