Everyone at some point has “that moment”, or three. Everyone. You know what I am talking about. “That moment” when your nerves are at wit’s ends and your playful pooch continues to trample each one. That moment when you’re thinking a puppy-skin rug might be a nice addition to your den. That moment when your every attempt at using a pleasant voice and calm repetition to reinforce good behavior becomes moot in the face of the spring-loaded jackal bouncing at your face. We have all been there. The whining, whimpers and boastfully bouncy beast that you love so much somehow does not have the same appeal as he once did. Instead of blowing up or feeling helpless, hang in there! Here are some simple tricks to calm your bouncy beast and stop your dog from jumping all over the place.
Yes! You read that correctly. Have a staring contest with your dog! The nifty part about this contest is that you want your pup to win every time 😉 This silly trick helps your dog understand that giving you his full attention is always a good idea. If you have a young pup (under 8 months old) you need to keep the reward action quick for at least a month or two for him to get the point. Puppies generally have a short attention span that grows with proper training and time. Otherwise, here’s the simple program:
- Get your pup to Sit in front of you.
- With a treat in one hand (put your other hand behind your back as to not distract him), hold it to your nose while saying “Look!”
- As soon as he looks right at you, give him the treat and say “Good!”
- Each time you do this and he responds quickly, lengthen the time between saying Good and giving him the treat.
- Remember, you always want to keep eye contact during this game, especially when he responds.
- As he gets better with this (with treats and without), you can add variations such as wave your other hand in his peripheral to distract him. Tell him again “Look!”, with the treat in hand at your nose. As soon as he looks right at you again, reward him!
The ultimate goal is to eventually have him Look whenever you say so, even without a treat. It may take him a while to get there. This is something also that can be done throughout the day. When you put food in the oven and are waiting for it to cook, for example. Sit him down and play this game!
Most folks have experienced the ravenous animal your precious little pooch can turn into when you drop something–especially food–on the floor. It can be maddening! Rather than yell, stomp or otherwise scare her, here is a fun simple game to prepare her (and you) for those times.
- Get her to Sit in front of you.
- You will have one hand full of treats, and one hand with one or two treats.
- Drop one treat with the full hand and say “Leave it!”
- If she grabs it anyway, just give a firm but gentle “No.”
- If she stops and does not grab the treat on the floor, get her attention (you can incorporate “Look!” here) and give her a treat out of your other hand and tell her “Good!”
- Pick up the treat from the floor, if she did not already get it, and start all over again.
- If she responded well with the first one, go ahead and leave the treat on the floor and start again. Toss a treat with your full hand, tell her “Leave it!” and reward her immediately when she responds well (leaving the treats on the floor and looks to you) with a treat from your other hand and say, “Good!”
After a few times of this most pups get it and do well. Next time you accidentally drop something on the floor and she starts toward it, just say “Leave it!” in the same playful tone you use in the game. You may be surprised at her response! And, even outside game time, praise her for a good job!
End Your Game On the Up
One crucial thing to keep in mind is to always give your pup the opportunity to succeed. Always. There will be times when it seems she is ultra distracted or just simply not into the game at the time. That’s alright. Just give her an opportunity to do well even once–even if it seems halfhearted. Don’t get in the practice of rewarding okay behavior or mediocre responses, but just on those occasions when she may be a bit under the weather or worn out from play. Females especially will become hyper distracted by even the smallest things when they are in heat. So amend your game time accordingly, but always continue to play these and other games with your dog and always end the game on the up-side–for her sake! It will pay off!
Incorporate Games In Daily Life
Much like the game “Leave It!”, a variety of games can be incorporated throughout your day, each day. Games are important for pups and older dogs. It is how they learn, interact, one way they communicate and feel involved–part of that pack. Watch dogs together. Usually they are playing something. Whether it’s tug, chase, play-fighting or keep away, play is a vital part of every dog’s life. So when you can incorporate games that teach, as well as making training time fun, you will have a well-rounded dog that values you as the center of his life–eager to please you at every turn. Even when pleasing you means to remain calm, just lay at your feet, she will do it because she has grown to know she can count on you as boss–leader of her pack.
Around my house, I incorporate a variety of tactics (games) in our every day life. For example, when I feed my dogs of course I have them Sit/Wait. With Hanani, since she is younger and needs more focus built, I have her “Look!” and hold for a brief moment (less than a minute) before I give the “Okay” for her to eat. We do the same when she is going outside. Sit/Wait, “Look!”, and hold her there until I have her full, focused attention. Then I give her the “Okay!”
Be creative! Make this FUN time for you both! You will be amazed at how your dog will eventually respond, no matter the age, gender, breed or his background. These games, as all, can be done using treats for a reward or “tug time” or “ball time”–mix it up! You will get the hang of what your dog prefers the more you play with him 🙂
Dogs are amazing critters! Go be amazing with them! And along the way you will discover the joys of becoming Pack Leader!