• The Dog Charmer

The Dogcharmer: Riley

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

Dear Dogcharmer,

My 6-month-old puppy Riley is smart, but she has a lot of energy! Two issues with training we are having include 1) Constant chewing on walks, chairs, etc. (the minute the bitter apple spray wears off, regardless of millions of dog toys); and 2) jumping up to grab pillows and/or food on the table. The loud noise doesn’t seem to faze her when we try that, and even if it works once, when I turn around, she’s back at it. Help would be greatly appreciated!

The Carestia family

Dear Carestias,

I’ve lost count, a long time ago, of the frequency with which I say to people, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news. The good news is, your dog’s real smart, and the bad news is, your dog’s real smart, and not Mr. Cooperation.” Add to that, Riley entered “punk age” about a month ago. But don’t worry about that, she’ll probably exit “punk age” in about a year. No, I’m not suggesting that you should tolerate punk behavior for 12 more months waiting for her to mature. It’s just a reality: Dogs go from puppy to punk, to young adult, to adult. Young adult is often not much better than punk.

For the inactive approach, I’d suggest bitter apple paste (if they still make it), as opposed to the spray, which is alcohol-based and evaporates pretty quickly. The proactive approach is two-pronged — corrections, and stronger redirection. Have Riley (only under supervision) drag a nylon four-foot flat leash with the handle cut off (less likely to get caught on stuff). The leash is not used to restrain her, but rather to correct her and stop the chewing. Your hands are only for love, petting, and treats. Let her commit to putting her mouth on the chair leg, or whatever, and the second she does, give the leash a snap, or startling jerk to the side, as you say “Leave it!” (the side to avoid trachea). The moment she startles and takes her mouth off the chair, smile and say, “Good girl.” (Contrast: It’s important.)

Getting her to cooperate is not just telling her what you don’t like, but more important, what you do like — for example, how happy you are when she cooperates with you. As she matures, she will want to please you. The timing of the corrections and praise is critical for her to “get it” and work with you. As for the “million toys,” it’s like the kid with a million toys whining, “I’ve got nothing to do, I’m bored.” Put away some of the toys, and alternate them every so often to keep them fresh, and leave just a few, with one or two that have a piece of people food wedged inside that’s practically impossible to really get at and consume. I find hollow marrow bones good for that. If Riley’s “punkness” is the type that’s really pushy and obstinate, you may need to reach out for some help.

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer

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