Adolescent Dog Behavior

May 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Dog Behavior

Today I spent my first appointment walking with a client’s dog and dog walker. The dog is a 7 mo. old, male Australian Shepherd. The dog walker has been having trouble with him jumping up & nipping at her for the first 1/2 hr of the walk, the second half he is better.

We began walking him and within the first few minutes it became very obvious why he was doing this behavior. She is a very good dog walker who has good instincts and asks a lot of great questions, so had she seen the behavior from my point of view, she would have realized the situation immediately.

First off, she was walking him on her right side. Though we haven’t worked much with his walking, when we have it has always been on the left side, so he was obviously a little confused about where he should be. But the main thing I noticed was that although she was walking briskly to tire him out, she wasn’t giving him any feedback.

There was very little interaction happening between them. The dog was going to her left side, jumping up at her, and it was as if he had a big bubble over his head saying “look at me, look at me, look at me!!”

The answer, of course, is he needs more mental stimulation. This is an extremely intelligent breed that needs as much, if not more, mental exercise than physical. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m all for physical exercise. However, if that’s all you do you end up with a stupid marathon runner. A well-exercised dog with great stamina and endurance, yet he still doesn’t know anything. So if the physical exercise now takes 1 hour to tire him out, in 6 months you will need 1.5 hrs to tire him out and it will keep increasing from there. If you think about it, what makes you want to take a nap more? An hour on the treadmill or an hour of calculus or physics? Personally, an hour on the treadmill gets me energized, but use my brain like that for an hour & I want to take a nap.

All this stuff about people thinking they can just run the dog or put a heavy back pack on them (without knowing if the dog is physically fit enough to handle it), and thinking that will cure all their problems is ridiculous.

Mental exercise, of which training is the most important part, is what tires a dog out the fastest. And at the end of it all the dog will know what you want/need him to know. At the very end of it all you have built a great relationship with your dog. And the relationship is what it’s all about isn’t it?

So, you know it occurred to me that I didn’t mention what we did to help resolve this pup’s boredom during walks. We are going to teach him to touch things with his nose & paw. That way when they see a construction cone, lawn jockey, or other interesting thing on the walk she can ask him to touch it with either or both, his nose or paw. When he wants to sniff a bush we ask him to sit, shake, spin, lie down, something/anything. Then he gets to run over & sniff the area. We tossed a few treats into a grassy area and told him to find it, so he gets to use his nose. On our walk we found a big palm frond he wanted to play with. So we picked it up, asked for a sit and played a quick game of tug o’ war. Asked for a “drop”, then another quick down, spin, shake, and tug again. He had a blast and it really broke up the monotony for both the dog & walker. The walk was much more enjoyable and he was thoroughly exhausted at the end of it!

Laura Bourhenne
copyright 2009

Laura Bourhenne is a the owner of Animal Attraction Unlimited, a Professional Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an Associate Member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , and has a Degree in Exotic Animal Training. She has been training dogs in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, hosted a radio show, and has a dog training DVD.

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