Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We adopted a 3-year-old pointer/lab mixed dog named Jubal from a rescue shelter five months ago. We just watched your training with Maya the pointer dog where you were working on focus. It was a great video. Jubal gets so excited with my son, Brian, and humps him if he is hugging me or his new wife Myra. We have not been able to get him to stop that. He minds me, but also becomes over-excited and barks and whines every night or day wanting to go to the door just to smell outside.
I have had many dogs over my 71 years and Jubal is a handful. I realize he is a hunter type dog, but his behavior is daily. I can get him to settle by putting him on his bed and giving him a Nylabone to chew, but it takes a few tries. He does respond to me but it is a daily undertaking. He gets unfocused a lot and his bark is the same pitch for everything. I usually can read my animals, but he's a hard one.
Any suggestions on the humping behavior? Brian does not encourage the behavior and will turn his back but Jubal jumps on him. I am wondering if Brian reminds him of his former master? We would never give him up, but want to help correct this behavior as I am about to have my first grandchild and I'm not sure how he will be with the baby. Thanks for the help.
Often, dogs who are over-stimulated may hump. I would suggest you focus on helping the dog remain in a calmer state of mind when your son is around. This operant conditioning exercise will teach the dog to calm himself down when Brian comes to the door.
If you have a screen door the dog can look through, have Brian approach but stop and remain outside the door. Jubal will likely be excited while looking at and waiting for him to enter the room. When this is happening, everyone should ignore Jubal and simply observe. If Jubal jumps at the door, Brian may need to brace it at the bottom by holding his foot on the base of the door.
Brian needs to wait outside the door where Jubal can see him and wait for him to calm down. Do not tell him to calm down or interact with him in any way. It may take a few minutes, but Jubal will eventually start calming down. Once the dog is pretty calm, Brian should reach for the door handle. He likely won't be able to reach it before the dog gets excited again.
I want you to break down answering the door into multiple steps — reach for the door, jiggle the door handle, open it an inch and then immediately close it. Then open it two inches and close it. This should progress until you can open the door completely and the dog isn’t excited or rushing the door.
After each attempt, Brian needs to return to a full stop, standing outside the door completely still before trying again.
The instant the Jubal gets excited, Brian needs to stop and wait completely still until the dog calms down again. Once he is calm, Brian can try again. It will take time, but if Brian starts as soon as the dog calms down and stops as soon as he shows the smallest amount of excitement, Jubal will learn that Brian will only start to come inside when the dog is completely calm.
This will take multiple practice sessions, so try to repeat it a few times a day if not more.
You can help set the dog up for success by giving him a few minutes of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of rest before practicing. Keep in mind that the average dog needs an hour of exercise — sprinkled throughout the day — every day. Not getting enough exercise can be a contributing factor for humping behavior.
Once Brian is inside, the instant the dog tries to mount him, he needs to immediately exit the room and wait outside until the dog returns to a calm state. This is referred to as a “negative punishment” — meaning the dog's actions cause Brian to leave.
One more tip: The focus exercise you saw in one of my dog behavior videos would be a great thing for Brian to practice with the dog when he is in a calm and balanced state of mind.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
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