I have seen crazy pups and dogs many times, they have boundless energy, they leap on every person and every dog they see, they have a hard time keeping their feet on the floor, they grab anything and your hand in a flash and it’s extremely difficult to mark any desirable behaviours, because they are JUST SO QUICK! So, how do we work with a puppy or dog like this? How do we even start to manage a dog who is so innately off his rocker?
Well, there are ways. Often we feel we need to ‘stop’ this crazy behaviour, this hyperactivity and this lunatic tendencies. We think they should generally be calmer and overall, completely alter their personality type to suit us and how we feel they should behave. However, if we look at it slightly differently, do we really want to train the personality out of a puppy? Do we want to change that puppy so drastically? I think not. These kinds of dogs are common, and they’re FUN. We can work with that energy and use it to our advantage.
When dealing with a puppy like this, we are always pointing out the negatives. “He jumps up”, “he constantly wants to play and I don’t want to”, however, are we not seeing a dog who actually desperately wants to work? Desperately wants to interact with you? And should that not be encouraged? You will find, as ‘crazy’ as these dogs are, they will work fantastically well for you because they THRIVE on it. They’re enthusiastic, and we can’t ask for more than that when we’re training new behaviours.
So, what do you need to do? Firstly, find the right motivation. Something that your pup is going to want to gain, your reinforcement tool. If he’s pawing at you and desperately trying to get whatever you’ve got, fantastic, you’ve done your research with your pup and found what he loves, well done! It’s much much harder to train a dog if you can’t find that one thing he really gains satisfaction from. Secondly, stop focusing on what he’s doing wrong, and focus on what he’s doing RIGHT. He may be leaping about and you may see him as ‘crazy’, but is he offering eye contact periodically? Is he ignoring other dogs because he’s so busy leaping at you? Is he pawing you? Brilliant, you can mark and reward eye contact, leave (other dogs), and paw, all without having to actively teach anything. You can capture all of these behaviours. So, the reinforcement we have, that one motivator, is always on offer to the puppy, but only when he performs certain behaviours. This limits frustration and this encourages your ‘crazy’ dog to keep trying new behaviours to gain that reinforcement.
So, an example, you’re trying to mark and reward ‘all 4 on the floor’. No dog can levitate in mid air, no dog is capable of staying on two legs (or no legs!) for longer than a few seconds. When that crazy dog lands with all 4 on the floor, you get that marker strait in ‘YES’ or ‘click’ and you reward immediately!!! I say immediately, and I mean immediately, within 1 second. You repeat, and you repeat again, and soon your pup will be actively putting his feet on the floor more and more to try and gain that reinforcement.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with a crazy pup, I don’t have an issue with a dog leaping all over me whilst it’s learning. It makes it easier, your pup is already half way there, he’s interacting with you and willing to perform behaviours for reinforcement, half the battle is won! I much prefer that to a pup who seems disinterested in me and doesn’t give me the time of day. I find that harder to work with!
Be realistic with your training goals, for example don’t expect to start your training sessions and by the end of your 15 minute session you’ll have a sit/stay to rival the best obedience champions. Aim for focus, aim for attention on you, think eye contact, think enthusiasm, think offering behaviours which you can mark and reward and think achievable and realistic progress. If your training criteria is realistic and appropriate, and you’ve found a great reinforcement tool, you will always always find a behaviour to mark and reward. LOOK for it, you will find it. Don’t just keep saying to yourself ‘he just doesn’t listen he’s crazy’. If you watch your pup, he will perform behaviours you like, ALL the time. He may simply turn round to look at you mid-leaping to another dog, mark and reward that. He may land with all 4 feet on the floor, mark and reward that landing. He may ignore other dogs because he’s so intent on you, mark and reward that ignoring.
Bear in mind, when working with a ‘crazy’, keep your training sessions short and sharp, your pup will NEED a break and require an outlet for the energy. Learning is tiring and stressful, not ‘distressing’, but more ‘eustressing’, so ‘good stress’. Walk with your pup, have a game with your pup, take a break often during training sessions. If you have a ‘crazy’ often we try to teach a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ to try and calm these dogs down in certain situations, for example when you have guests over. You may have more success with teaching an ‘active behaviour’, rather than a passive behaviour, for example fetching and holding a toy to greet the visitor, or ‘target training’ to an object from a distance when the visitor arrives, or scatter treats about for distraction, something your pup can actively DO rather than sit still and just wait.
Remember, with a crazy, get in BEFORE the ‘crazy’ appears. You know your pups and you know their triggers, it’s 10 times harder to bring a dog down from the ‘crazy state’, than to get in before it starts and channel the energy into something productive. Also, always remember management!! You don’t want your pup eating your slippers? Move your slippers out of reach. You don’t want your pup leaping at you whilst you’re cooking? Put him in his crate with a kong. Simple, effective management through those early months is essential.
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