We sat down with Talia from Curious Canine Training, talking about puppy and adult dog behaviour. In this short read, Talia will be answering some questions typically asked by pet parents struggling with their pup’s naughty or embarrassing tendencies, and sharing some simple tips and insights in nipping it early, or managing it later in adult life.
1. What’s really going on between those ears?
I think I could talk for days about general misconceptions of dog behaviour. We have a real tendency to think our dog's think like humans, and generally overcomplicate what we think goes on in their heads. While they are extremely intelligent animals, they simply don’t have the mental capacity to muster up evil plans… Your ‘toilet trained’ dog didn’t pee on your rug when you left to spite you!
They generally display behaviours for two reasons.
1. The behaviour has had a history of reinforcement in the past, for example pulling on the lead, hanging out around the dinner table, barking at the back door, etc.
2. Out of emotion or survival, when they are in a genuinely distressed state, such as lead reactivity, separation anxiety and resource guarding.
I always like to get owners to have a think about what makes you content as a human on a day to day basis. It’s not JUST exercise, or hanging out with your friends, or working; it’s a combination of lots of things.
The same goes for our dogs! Every day should be made up of a combination of mental stimulation, play, physical exercise, outlets for species/breed specific behaviours, quality rest/practising independence, and of course those wholesome cuddles on the couch at the end of a big day!
When all of these needs are not met, that’s when we generally see ‘problem behaviours’, as the dogs try to meet their own needs.
2. Walkies - how to make it great for all parties!
Loose-lead walking is something that SO many owners struggle with! I think we need to shift our mindset first and foremost – if your dog can’t loose-lead walk in the backyard, or up and down the driveway then they most definitely won’t be able to take on Manly Promenade with distractions coming at them in every direction.
Scrap the ‘taking the dog for a walk’ mindset, and start thinking I’m doing a ‘loose-lead’ walking session!
Set the foundations in a low distraction environment, use high value rewards, short and successful sessions, and be consistent.
We can’t expect loose-lead walking one day, and let them pull the next – every step they take with a taught lead is being reinforced as acceptable.
Again, people come unstuck with expecting too much too soon. Recalling in the yard, and then expecting them to recall away from a bunch of dogs at the dog park is going to send your recall downhill real quick! There’s 99 steps you need to climb before getting to 100 at the top, and trying to skip them is only going to send you backwards.
A 10m longline is the best way you can ensure errorless learning with recall until they are bomb-proof against EVERY distraction you can think of!
Until then, stay out of the dog park, and work on your bond, making yourself the most reinforcing thing in your pup's environment.
4. Biting and nibbling as a puppy
Every single puppy is going to nip and bite. It’s been their form of communication with their siblings their whole life up until they land themselves in your home. They also start teething around 12 weeks of age, and become little furry piranhas.
Outlets for appropriate ways to use their mouth are super important, as well as teaching them rules of what they can and can’t do with their teeth through games like Tug. Things like long lasting chews, frozen enrichments, and cardboard shredding are fantastic ways to keep those teeth occupied! Check out #dogbowlsareout on Instagram – there are some fantastic ideas on there.
Management of your puppy is crucial, especially with kids in the household. Kids become the most perfect loud, fast moving, arm flailing toy for a young puppy to sink their teeth into when they are left to their own devices.
Things get worse when they are over-tired, over-stimulated, or over-handled. As pups they need 18-20 hours of sleep.
5. Wrap up, general tips & tricks to a lovely and wholesome relationship with mutual respect
Just be present and mindful with your relationship. Their entire existence is you, they don’t have Instagram, or a full-time job to get lost in. It’s just you, and what you can offer them to enrich and fulfil their lives. They give us unconditional love every day in return!
Have fun with them and play with them every day… Be silly, and be genuine, they have a great sense of humour!
Be consistent with what you are reinforcing and teaching, but don’t be boring… Don’t get stuck in the same daily routine.
Prioritise building a solid bond and relationship with you first, and making ‘doggy friends’ later!