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.
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Dog Gone Problems,
I have a 60-pound female labradoodle who is about 7 months old now. She is smart as a whip. When we walk, come into a room, pet her or love on her, she all of a sudden goes into Cujo-mode. She bites, jumps, backs up and barks a kind of "let's go" bark. It's scary. I can’t control this behavior and I’m at my wits end with her. She also jumps on our two small existing dogs, who now they live in terror. Is it bad if I re-home her? She’s not the girl I had hoped she would be. I know she’s a puppy, but I can’t keep pretending it will get better.
When we get a puppy, we are making a commitment to care for, educate and look after the puppy for the rest of her life. Discarding a puppy when she misbehaves is something no one should ever do.
It sounds like your puppy has too much energy, doesn’t see or respect you as an authority figure and is confused about how to communicate what she wants from you. The energy part is to be expected. Labradoodles have a ton of energy.
Your puppy’s behavior is a result of how you have raised her. Anything your puppy is doing when you pet her is what you are thanking her for. Do you pet her when she jumps up? Doing so when she was small trained her to repeat this action. Now that she's about 60 pounds, you aren’t as happy with the interaction. But to the pup, nothing has changed except jumping up sometimes makes you mad now.
Establishing good boundaries and limits is key when you get a new puppy. Puppies are practicing everything they do — including both good and behaviors. This is why we place importance on setting up a long-term confinement area in our puppy socialization classes. By limiting puppies to a confined area, we can ensure they don’t develop bad habits like chewing the wrong things, stealing, etc. It's also a safe place we can put the puppy when he or she is not acting as well as we would like.
Puppies doesn’t develop their true personalities until they hit 9 months old, so you still have time to address these problems. It will take time and effort, but this is your responsibility. It's not fair to the puppy. It's also not fair to the person you'd give the puppy to, since they'll have to clean up the mess you (likely unintentionally) caused.
I'd strongly recommend you get your puppy into puppy socialization classes immediately. Classes that include socialization and play time can help assist you in developing better social skills and drain some of that excess energy. Here are 5 additional things you can do.
1. Start increasing your puppy’s daily exercise. She needs a minimum of one hour of exercise every day. Click here to watch a video of some creative ways to exercise your puppy.
2. Start asking your puppy to earn her pets. I call this petting with a purpose, and it's incredibly easy and effective.
3. Be sure to communicate what you do like from your puppy by petting her or giving her attention when she does what you like. I call this passive training, and it's the easiest way to train any dog.
4. Start introducing and enforcing rules. This video covers a number of the rules I suggest to my in-home clients.
5. Start practicing some impulse control exercises. The leave it command and teaching a dog to wait for permission to exit an open door are a few examples of ways to help a puppy develop some restraint and control.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.