Humping (or mounting) in puppies – Cambridge Puppy Training

puppy mounting and humping

Puppy humping, the very shame of it. You have a guest over and before you know it your adorable little ball of fluff is attached to your guests leg and humping away like crazy…mortifying! As our dogs grow we may start to feel less ‘surprised’ by it, reaching sexual maturity can forgive all manner of sins! However, in a young puppy, why is this behaviour being performed? And what can we do about it?

Firstly, it is important to say, that humping (or mounting), is not uncommon. If you do have a ‘humper’, please don’t think you are alone as it is a very common behaviour shown. Male and female pups may hump, so again don’t feel if you have a female pup that it is ‘strange’ that they hump, it’s not.

Humping is a topic which is actually still being researched to this day, and if you do your own research you will find a LOT of varying opinions as to why dogs (and puppies) do it. Lots of these opinions are scientifically shown to be untrue, and some are in the process of being researched. Many people will throw ideas around as to why it occurs, but largely many people are still fairly unaware as to why this behaviour occurs in the first place. A lot of assumptions are made with regards to mounting behaviour, but how much do we really know?

Humping is a behaviour which can be seen in relation to ANY object or being. A dog may mount another dog, another animal ie. family cat, an object like a cushion or bedding, a persons leg or arm, or indeed objects like toys. Mounting, whilst not the most pleasant behaviour to witness for an owner, is in fact a perfectly normal part of a dogs behavioural repertoire. Whilst we don’t necessarily want our dogs or puppies to do it, it is, in fact, normal canine behaviour.

Largely we see mounting or humping as a sexual behaviour, a reproductive behaviour which we may believe should only be displayed in that context. However, there are many other contexts in which mounting and humping can occur, such as play.

For example, some common instances of mounting or humping may be seen during:

  • Play
  • An anxious emotional state
  • A high arousal/excitement level
  • During stress
  • As a displacement behaviour

For puppies, the key reasons we should be looking at are play and high arousal/excitement levels. This is not ALWAYS the case with puppies, anxiety may well play a part, but certainly in my experience it is most common. Puppy play is not always pretty and may include barging, jumping and indeed mounting, so all of these can be motivated by play and social interactions in those early days, exploring via various displays of different behaviours.

I have talked about arousal levels before and the behaviours high arousal levels can elicit, well mounting is one such behaviour. If a puppy is super excited, because for example you have a guest over, this excitement is going to be released and directed into a behaviour be it biting, running, jumping, or indeed mounting. It must also be remembered that mounting can also, in itself, quite simply be enjoyable! A puppy can, believe it or not, find it fun and it’s as simple as that! However, I would hazard a guess that largely a puppy mounting is either play, or arousal.

Additionally it is important to remember that your reaction to a puppy mounting, can increase the likelihood it will be repeated. As with all behaviours your pup displays, if you reinforce it, it becomes a great behaviour to perform and will be seen again at any opportunity!

If you look up puppy mounting and humping you may well find many an article suggesting puppy mounting is a display of dominance over another dog, person or animal. An attempt to gain a higher status level. This is not true, research has vastly shown this to be inaccurate, for example Peter Borchelt PhD found “mounting could be part of a suite of behaviours associated with aggression, such as high posture, resource guarding, direct stares, and standing over. But mounting, in and of itself, doesn’t indicate a status issue”. Furthermore Marc Bekoff Phd found in his research of social behaviour in young dogs, coyotes and wolves, that mounting, clasping and humping were not directly related to dominance.

Really, more research is needed as to why dogs (and puppies) display mounting or humping behaviour, not enough has been done to reliably determine a common cause. Some have other ideas as to the reason a dog may mount or hump, for example as a calming gesture, to calm another over-exuberant dog down for example.

However, what can we do about it? What if we have a puppy who is a humper?

  • Determine the cause – why is your dog/pup doing it? Is it play? Over excitement? Or a mix of the two? Anxiety? Look at why the behaviour occurs in the first place.
  • Is it a problem? – if the humping is occurring very briefly, very infrequently, do we really need to do anything about it?
  • Antecedents – what is happening just prior to the humping or mounting? If we can determine the cause or activity which elicits the behaviour, we can alter/modify to elicit a different response.
  • Teach a ‘settle’ – more practically speaking, keep excitement levels as low as possible and encourage a ‘settle’ behaviour. There are other training based techniques you can use, get in touch for more information on these.

To be honest, whilst WE may find mounting and humping hugely unpleasant, it’s NOT an abnormal canine behaviour, so do not fret. Dog are, at the end of the day, dogs, and they will perform behaviours which sometimes don’t necessarily cause any harm, but we just do not like. Pick your battles, is it hugely disrupting your life or anybody else’s? Is it becoming excessive? Is it something that is causing a problem to you, or others around you? If so, work through the above. If not, let them be dogs.

For more information about any of the services I offer just get in touch!
Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: cambridgepuppytraining.com
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Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

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Jumping up in puppies! – Cambridge Puppy Training

jumping up

Jumping up is a normal and common behaviour puppies display. It certainly isn’t unusual to be greeted by a puppy with paws all over your legs. Largely, this occurs because it has been reinforced from the very beginning. The first time your pup does this, he will likely be extremely young and extremely small!! The recipient of the ‘jump’ will likely put their hands down, stroke, and say how cute your puppy is. This isn’t unusual, I think we are all guilty of a little bit of ‘over-tolerance’ when it comes to puppy jumping, however this serves to reinforce the behaviour. So, what can we do about it? And how can we teach our pups NOT to jump up?

I have briefly touched on jumping up before, but not in too much depth and if we’re honest I think most puppy owners will face this issue at some point. I do offer advice regarding jumping up, beyond what is covered here, in my 1-2-1’s so if you ARE struggling just get in touch.

Firstly, it is important to say that as mentioned above, this is not an unusual behaviour. Not only does a behaviour such as jumping up get reinforced from the beginning, it is also a natural behaviour for puppies to perform. Their first inclination is to get nearer to either our hands, our faces, or our treats!! All of which are out of reach if ‘all 4 are on the floor’. If you watch puppy play, it is largely unregulated in those early weeks and manners are often somewhat lacking! Pups will leap, jump, bundle, bat, and mouth……all in the name of play. So it is of little surprise they see fit to treat us in much the same way until shown different. As stated above, jumping up works, it results in a rewarding response (our attention), so we can see how it then develops into a behaviour which is performed whenever a person approaches.

It is important to mention not ALL dogs are ‘jumpers’, breed differences, personality, genetic predisposition and reinforcement history will all play a part. However I would hazard a guess that at some stage, most pups due to their opportunistic tendencies, will have a go at jumping up. This may seem all very sweet when we have a tiny little puppy, and indeed if you have a small breed again it may not seem like a big issue. However, if you have a larger breed of dog, or quite simply would like to instil some self control into your puppy regardless of breed, it needs to be under control from as early an age as possible. I should also add, some people don’t actually mind their dogs jumping up at people they know. As long as they are not causing distress, concern or worry in any way to the public (ie. jumping at strangers etc) then I am a firm believer in each to their own. What works for you and your dog is what is best.

So, what can we do about jumping up??

We have a few things we can do, ideally all in conjunction with one another.

Firstly, before our pup even starts to jump up or display the behaviour, we’re going to show our pups what we WANT them to do. This isn’t something we start doing AFTER our pup has started leaping at every person it passes in the street, this is something to be doing from the very beginning. If, each time your pup jumps up at you, you say ‘off’ or ‘down’, your pup may well comply and he may put all 4 feet on the floor. HOWEVER, be mindful of just how clever our pups are. They will very quickly learn that when they jump up, you say ‘off’, they then get off and get a reward. They ARE that clever. So, when you come home, or when you walk into the room etc, as your pup starts running towards you (or the second you get in the door) immediately mark (ie. YES, or clicker) and put a treat on the floor for your pup, before his feet even leave the ground. Your pup will then look up at you again as you’re walking through, immediately mark and put a treat on the floor. Keep repeating every single time you come through the door. We are not ‘asking’ our pup to do anything, but we are marking and rewarding an offered behaviour of ‘all 4 on the floor’. If you find you weren’t quick enough, and your pup has leapt at you, step to the side to get the paws off and completely ignore. Try and remember that interaction isn’t simply ‘talking’ to our pups, it’s touching, it’s eye contact, it’s verbal (even a firm voice!). If you are not quick enough with your marker and reward, walk away.

Secondly, we’re going to start working on our ‘settle’. Encouraging our pup to ‘settle’ is hugely beneficial, not only will this be incredibly useful throughout your pups life in varying situations, it will really help to improve your pups ‘self-calming’ skills.

Thirdly, we are going to work on impulse control and general self control exercises. Leaving food/toys of high value when asked, offering eye contact, stay exercises, and proofing these. Practicing and proofing a solid sit/stay or down/stay will be very helpful, it can be used as an incompatible behaviour to jumping up. I would be cautious of attempting this with visitors when your pup is very small, it’s highly unlikely a young pup will have the patience or reserve to perform a stay when a guest arrives! A stay is a ‘passive’ behaviour and whilst we aim to encourage these, we need to be realistic in our training goals and possibly think of an ‘active behaviour’ for our pups early on. However, start practicing these, it will pay dividends in the long run and serve to keep arousal levels low generally. Try practicing ‘fast movements’ and click and put a treat on the floor when your pup keeps ‘all 4 on the floor’. Rush about, run up and down, jump around, WATCH your puppy, you will see when they are about to jump, get in before they take any feet off the floor, click and drop a treat down. Use a high rate of reinforcement to start off with, make slight movements at first, and build it up. Remember this isn’t something we are ‘correcting’ once it has started, it’s something we are showing prior to any jumping starting.

Fourthly, use reward stations! I wrote a blog post about reward stations the other day, have a look back! Maybe your front door would be an ideal place for a reward station?

Lastly, ask people to ignore your pup until you have done what you need to do. People WILL understand. I know I certainly would and I would be pleased someone has the good sense to ask me to wait before approaching their pup. Interestingly, nobody ever has, and I have met a LOT of puppies. Also, if somebody is keen to cuddle your pup (as most people will be!) try asking them to help you, ask them to approach slowly whilst you ‘click and drop treats’ etc. If your pup gets too excited ask them to take a step back and work up slowly again. People will like helping a little puppy in their training! I know we are all guilty of cuddling puppies when they approach but there are a few ways we can stop a pup jumping on us even if they don’t belong to us. Whilst we are saying hello we can put a finger in the collar to limit any feet coming off the floor. We can also get a treat out (if we have one!) and immediately throw it on the floor, or lastly ask for a sit when we approach a pup or they approach us. We can also completely ignore/turn our backs if any feet come off the floor. Or, quite simply, we can ask the owner if it’s OK to say hello! Something I am sure we could all do more of.

So, whilst jumping up is a normal behaviour for a puppy to display, it is one that continues because it is reinforced. Show our pups how to behave upon greeting before jumping even STARTS to become the ‘norm’ and we may set our pups up for success. Teach incompatible behaviours, teach self-calming behaviours and focus exercises and teach our pups to control their impulses!

This is a normal and common behaviour as I said, and I do cover this in my 1-2-1’s so do get in touch if you need more information.

Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgepuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Separation anxiety in puppies – Cambridge Puppy Training

separation anxiety in puppies

Separation anxiety is a common and quite distressing problem for dogs. Many dogs develop separation anxiety largely due to them never having to face the prospect of ‘being alone’. In puppies in particular, we can see why separation anxiety may occur. They have left all they have ever known, been put into a strange and unfamiliar environment, and when the one thing they DO cling to (you) leaves, they simply do not know how to cope. So, what can we do about it? And more importantly, how can we prevent it even starting?

Firstly, let’s look at what separation anxiety is. Separation anxiety, or isolation anxiety, displays itself when a puppy is unable to cope with being left alone. I’m sure we have all at some stage felt a little anxious or uneasy at certain points, maybe your first day in a new job and it’s daunting and scary and you just want the familiarity of home, or your first day at university when you really don’t’ know if you can cope and again want to run home! Well these feelings to us are merely a normal emotional response to a new and daunting challenge, we have the ability to see these feelings for what they are and the context they are felt in. However, for our pups, it’s a bit harder. Our pups develop a very real and strong attachment to US, so when we leave, without prior preparation and conditioning for this, it can be hugely traumatic for our pups.

So, how does separation anxiety begin in the first place?

  • A puppy who has never had to cope alone, or never been left alone.
  • A puppy who has had a frightening incident at home ie. fear of the washing machine sound, fireworks have given pup an irrational fear of a certain room of the house etc.
  • Rescue dogs – not always, but a dog who has been moved about a fair amount may develop anxiety when left alone (understandably!).
  • Genetics – exactly what it says! Genetic predisposition to the behaviour.

How does separation anxiety display itself? What will we see?

  • A shadow – does your dog follow you around the house, everywhere, even to the bathroom?
  • Obvious signs of distress – pacing, scratching at the door/flooring, whining, barking, howling, urinating/defecating.
  • Physiological signs of distress – increased HR, increased respiration, dilated pupils, restless, unable to lay down, moving constantly.
  • Destruction – often this can be something with your scent on ie. slippers, clothing, sofa cushions etc, and leaving a little ‘den’ of destruction! We have all seen images of such destruction on Facebook I am sure, the dog chewed up cushions and the debris is all around him and he is in the middle!
  • Overly-excited greetings – an overly boisterous and over-aroused greeting when you return.

Ok, so we know why separation anxiety may develop, and we know what to look out for, but what exactly can we do about it? We can prepare our pups from early on, it’s really the only way. We need to gradually and positively habituate our pups to being on their own. This IS easily done, even if you have a pup who is already showing signs of distress when you are not there.

I cover the prevention of separation anxiety in my 1-2-1’s, however we can briefly look at some top tips to gradual acclimatisation:

  • Rest/sleep area – make sure your pup is well aware of where his sleeping area is, be it a crate, pen or simply a certain area of the kitchen.
  • Start off very gradually – do not attempt to leave your pup for 2 hours to start off with! We’re looking at simply 30 seconds out of the room in the early stages, then building up slowly, ensuring the pup is confident and comfortable all the way.
  • Make sure you leave your pup with something interesting – something which will not only take your pups mind off you leaving, but something he doesn’t normally have randomly throughout the day ie. a stuffed kong, activity ball, chew/bone.
  • No long goodbyes! – as much as we WANT to have a big drawn out ‘I love you I’ll see you soon my baby you be good mummy loves you’……it won’t help with an already slightly anxious pup. A nonchalant attitude is best, ignore your pup for 5-10 minutes before you leave.
  • No big greetings! – similar when coming HOME, don’t make a big song and dance of your return, ignore your pup for a few minutes, get yourself a drink etc and then a calm hello/cuddle etc.
  • Mental/physical exercise – make sure your pup has had an adequate amount of mental and physical exercise prior to you leaving.
  • Music/radio/tv – always have some kind of background noise left on when you are out. Classical music is said to be soothing, or the tv for the sound of voices.
  • Consistency – try to make it a routine, practice all of this daily, don’t start practicing the day before you’re going out, this needs to be built up over the course of weeks/months.

A final note of caution, if you are obtaining your puppy NOW, in the summer (well it’s supposed to be summer!) months, be mindful of when you are all back at work/school and what your routine will be. Try NOW to build up the routine that your pup will have. Do not under any circumstances spend all day every day with your pup over the summer holidays, and expect he will cope just fine when everybody disappears to school/work in September. Start routinely leaving him every day now, it will pay off come September and with the correct preparation as detailed above, your pup will see you leaving as not only a nice thing because he gets something fun he doesn’t have all the time, but a completely normal and routine procedure.

As with any behaviour, if you feel it is going beyond the realms of ‘normal puppy behaviour’ please seek your vets advice. There are indeed medications to help with severe anxiety and your vet will be able to talk to you through these and discuss the best course of action.

It is essential your pup is shown how to relax and feel fairly comfortable when being left. Separation anxiety in adult dogs is not only hugely stressful for the dog, it is a huge problem for us, the owners, too. Be sure to start setting your pup up NOW to view being left as a positive and relaxing experience.

For more information just get in touch!
Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgpuppytraining
Instagram: @cambridgepuppytraining

Coprophagy; eating faeces! – Cambridge Puppy Training

coprophagy in puppies

Coprophagy, to put it bluntly, is the behaviour of…..eating faeces. I know, unimaginably awful for us to think about, but for our dogs it’s actually quite a common behaviour. But why exactly does it happen? And what exactly can we do about it?

Coprophagy is the consumption of faeces. It is surprisingly common and I have had many a puppy owner asking me how to solve this little delightful dilemma! There are a few explanations we can offer for this behaviour and if I’m honest, opinions do vary on why exactly this happens. One expert may say something different to the next, to the next, to the next. However, I’m going to outline some possible reasons as to why this may occur.

Firstly, it is important to mention a term called pica. This is essentially the desire to ingest non food items. Now, under the umbrella of pica, we find coprophagy, which is the eating of specifically faeces.

There are, amazingly, different types of coprophagy:

1. Autocoprophagy – dog eating own faeces
2. Intraspecific coprophagy – eating faeces within own species (other dogs!)
3. Interspecific coprophagy – eating faeces of other species ie. cats, horses etc.

So, you can see there’s actually quite a bit of variation within the whole process. So, why do dogs do this? Well there are as you may expect a number of suggestions out there. There is no one specific answer, well certainly none that are universally agreed upon, there are a number of factors to consider.

Here are some possible explanations:

  • Opportunistic behaviour – puppies specifically, are extremely exploratory and investigative in their behaviour, and will pick up pretty much anything in their mouth in those early months! So, however unwittingly, it could merely start off as exploration of a novel item!
  • Scavenging – it is not unusual for many dogs to be scavengers, indeed wild dogs scavenge for food!
  • Taste – I’m sorry, I really am, but if the animal which produced the faeces has, for example, a meat rich diet…..well, whether it’s faeces or not it may seem appealing to a dog! Faeces will often contain certain amounts of undigested food matter.
  • Reinforcement – specifically, from us! We give a LOT of attention to our pups if they start to eat faeces, we rush in at the speed of light to stop it! Whilst we may be saying ‘no no no!’ etc, it is in itself attention thus reinforcing.
  • Innate grooming/cleaning behaviour – a pups mum will sometimes lick/clean a pups faeces up, this could be possible motivation?
  • Gastrointestinal upset – quite simply, malfunction of the absorption of vitamins or nutrients due to a medical problem! Any medical issue that will increase appetite, alter normal appetite, cause gastrointestinal upset or increase the likelihood of coprophagy.
  • Diet – this is a controversial subject which I am not keen to dive into! However, a dog on a restricted, or a suddenly changed diet, may begin to eat faeces.

So, some ideas there. However, the big question, how can we STOP our pups doing this?? This is something I can explain in my 1-2-1’s, however a few ideas may be:

  • Ask your vet – if you feel there may be an underlying issue as to why your pup is eating faeces, always ask your vet in the first instance.
  • Pick it up! – sounds too simple doesn’t it? Often the simplest answer is the best. Pick it up, pup can’t perform behaviour, behaviour ends! Why overcomplicate things?
  • Remove reinforcement – do NOT rush up and try and ‘shoo’ your pup away! This provides further reinforcement and shows your pup that actually, eating faeces is fun because it gets you involved too!
  • Diet modification – I won’t delve into this too much, some have claimed a dry diet which is quite rich may produce faeces which is equally rich! Ask your vet for advice regarding any dietary alteration.
  • Use a long line/puppy pen – monitor your pup when outside! Remember I talked about management the other day? It’s just too easy to be true, use ie. a long line, call your pup AWAY from the faeces excitedly and reward reward reward!!
  • Teach a ‘leave’ – I’ve covered this in my videos before, start early and build up the distraction level, the context in which is it practiced and keep increasing the criteria gradually to incorporate all sorts of stimuli, not just a treat on the nose! A ‘leave’ is something to be utilised in many different situations, including this one!

Not all puppies perform this behaviour and many will never do this throughout life! However, it is something I have been asked a fair few times so thought the subject worthy of some basic information. If you are eating your lunch, I apologise!!

For more information about this topic or any other, just get in touch!
Email: puppies@cceg.co.uk
Web: http://www.cambridgepuppytraining.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cambridgepuppytraining