This dog is driving me nuts! Dog people, help!
My wife and kids are gone until Sunday night. I’ve got to take care of this new dog until they get home. And I’m losing my mind.
The dog is a stray who showed up on our doorstep three weeks ago. She’s an Irish setter, looks to be about a year old, and I can’t tell that she’s had much in the way of training. She doesn’t go for walks, she goes for RUNS. She’s a strong dog and very … dogged when she gets running. On a leash, she just pulls you along at high speed. Off the leash, she’s impossible to catch. She’s got way more energy than I do.
She also likes to jump up at me and paw me and bite at my hands. Not hard biting, just kind of nipping. If she was serious, she could do major damage, so I’m pretty sure she’s just playing, but even so, I don’t know how to handle it. I’m not a dog person, never had a dog, and I don’t like this kind of playing. How can I make her stop? Or can I? She also likes to grab the leash in her jaws and do a tug of war. And then she just won’t let go. How can I make her quit playing? Or can I?
How do I handle this beast? She’s a nice dog, I’m sure, but I don’t know what’s normal and I’ve never had to deal with this kind of thing before. Any advice would be appreciated. I’m willing to trade her for a good used tiger.
Christina Berry says
I think you’ll get the quickest result with click training. You can google it and you’ll be all set. You’ll need a clicker (about $2-ask at a pet store) and treats. If you have the patience to chop up some milkbones, more power to you. Despite my massive upper body strength, I soon tired of this and started using raisins, which my labs loved. However, I read last year that dogs shouldn’t have grapes or raisins. Go with either one piece of her normal food or little pieces of carrots, which most dogs actually love.
Every time you see a good behavior, you click and feed her a treat. It is AMAZING how fast a dog will catch on to what is a postitive behavior.
Example: I watched my dog until she lifted one paw slightly. I clicked and treated. She lifted it again, higher. Reward. Within five minutes she was high fiving on vocal command. Our favorite trick is to face the two girls toward each other in a sit and make them high five each other. 😉
She’ll be Happy, and you’ll be ecstatic.
Watch the dog whisperer (or whatever his name is) on TV. He’s amazing.
Otherwise my best advice, is to take him through an obedience class. It won’t help this week though.
We took our mutt through one class, and people rave at his great behavior.
Gail Brookhart says
I used to be a dog trainer.
Based on the fact that she appears setter to you and that she is young, it sounds like she is going stir crazy to burn off her energy. Setters don’t deserve the bum rap they get as stupid dogs, you just have to bore through their energy and enthusiasm to get to their very normal, trainable, willing brains. She’ll also mature out of a lot of this need for speed.
As Christina said above, any training you do will help but any training will be more effective with a dog that’s getting the chance to burn off her energy.
Does she fetch? Do you have a fenced yard? You can run her legs off of her with a hundred fetches while you work from your own comfort zone.
You’ve got my email address so if you want more ideas and help, just ask.
Or, you could do what her last owner did: leave her on someone else’s doorstep.
Tina Dearmont says
Keep her away from the litter boxes, unless she’s trained to use them. Otherwise, she’ll think it’s treat central. I know, very gross, but you’d rather find out from me than from Happy.
Lacy J Williams says
I agree with Gail, she probably has a bunch of excess energy to run off before she’ll be trainable at all. If you can get her enough exercise every day, you’ll be surprised how many bad manners that will prevent (digging up your backyard, incessant barking, etc.).
Have you tried a head halter? I have a friend who uses these with her 2 Labradoodles very successfully. When the dog tries to pull on the leash or run ahead of you, their head turns back in a very uncomfortable position (would you want to run while being forced to look behind you?). They learn very quickly to walk beside you and not pull. My friend walks two 60 pound dogs at the same time with no pulling.
You can get head halters at Petsmart or other pet stores. With such an active dog you might want to get the strongest version they have.
Hope this helps!
Sally Bradley says
Anti-pet person that I am, I’d accidentally set her free. Okay, maybe give her away.
Sorry, I’m no help.
Dupe Olorunjo says
I am not a dog person; so my advise is short and simple – give her away fast before the family gets back.
Carrie Stuart Parks says
I’m a dog breeder and AKC judge. The advice you’ve received so far is great–exactly what I’d say. First burn off that puppy/hunting dog energy. Then use the clicker/food for reward. (my dog likes apples, broccoli, cheese, and carrots–go figure.)
Hope Marston says
DROP EVERYTHING AND READ “CESAR’S WAY.” I mean it, Randy, for your sake and the sake of the dog. He’s the Horse Whisperer and he can help. Above all, you have to calm down, bury the hatchet and then be assertive in tiny steps. You must show you are in control, but not by brute force.
Lois Hudson says
Hope you can bond this weekend. You’ve had enough advice. I’d just beg you to hang in there. After having to put down a wonderful dachshund, we chose an Irish setter pup. Didn’t want to try to replace the first one, but color and head shape similar. Dachshund had run of houise freely–what could he get into? Learned quickly that the setter, taller, not yet used to house, got into everything. Came home from church one day to find he’d raided the cereal cupboard (low and easy for kids to get into) and strewed dry cereal all through the house like a snowstorm–didn’t appear to have eaten anything. At least no residue. He saved that for the freshly iced chocolate birthday cake left on a high counter.
He’d always find, and open, the See’s chocoates under the Christmas tree,
and chewed up one very expensive shoe from a pair my husband gave me for Christmas. I was able to get the last pair from the boutique where he bought them–he never knew why I had three shoes in the closet after that. At least he never asked.
Red wore a circular path in our back yard with his racing, and wore out many a sock with our tug games.
Then I hoped my beautiful red-headed dog would ride regally beside me in my bronze Ford Torino–but alas he always got carsick!
But he slept at the foot of our bed–be prepared for that–a comforting footwarmer in chilly weather. And yes, he finally settled down–actually slept most of the time in later years, getting up to eat and tour the outside.
And who can resist such beautiful eyes!
Joleena Thomas says
Talk to Happy. Learn Happy’s language. Then use firm commands in a low voice. Down. No etc… And like Christine said, use rewards to reinforce positive behavior.
Only you can know the right way to teach Happy. Just like children, each one is different and responds differently. Some dogs are just really outgoing. It sounds to me that Happy is encouraging you to play on a dog level. How about helping Happy to learn human games thereby burning all that excess energy. Some dogs love Frisbee. Are you near water? Take Happy swimming.
Paulette Harris says
Carrie and Gail are right on. The dog’s energy and strength indicates that she is young.
You, Randy, are the Alpha in the pack. So be the boss and help this young pup out. I bet she is beautiful.
Don’t give her away yet. Once he matures and settles down, he will be a wonderful and loyal family pet.
What kind of collar are you using? A buckle on one or a chain-choker? I recommend a chain-choker for right now. Its cheaper and easy to use. Start by putting the choker collar on before a walk. Use a 6′ – 10′ leash. When she decides to bolt, stop and hold the leash tight and let her hit the end. Everytime she bites the leash in “tug-of-war” jerk the leash straight up until she is standing on her hind legs, then lower her down SLOWLY to the ground. When she walks with no tension on the leash, praise her. The walk should be long enough to wear her (and probably you) out. Usually no more than an hour, depending on if you have a yard to play with her in or if her only release will be the walk. For more energetic dogs, they will need two walks a day. Repeat for as long as it takes.
For jumping, when you can see she is going to, get your knee up to block her. If she is too quick, shove her off hard with a stern NO!
Along with this, use the Click method to reinforce good behavior. Be sure she has a chew toy that she happily chews on/plays with by herself. Chewing relieves stress and having such a toy will bring about a calmer state.
Be sure to set aside a time of day and/or night when she is returned to the porch for alone time. Stick a toy under your shirt for about a minute or five to absorb your scent and let her have it during this alone time. With your familiar scent, she will be more relaxed to be home alone and less likely to chew on things when your gone that hold your scent. Socks, shoes, the remote, etc. Never let her out of the porch until she is quiet and relaxed. Also, after a walk, leave her in the porch for a good 20 mins with the scented toy and a bowl of water.
The dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, is an excellant source for advice and even for intervention. His site is http://www.dogpsychologycenter.com
Carol Umberger says
Jumping up is pretty easy to discourage. Just stick your knee out and when she rams into it tell her No and Down. She’ll catch on pretty quick. And definitely establish yourself as the alpha of the pack. I have Jack Russells, very high energy dogs. They have learned that unless their little bottoms are on the floor and they are quiet, I will ignore them. If they want my attention they must sit quietly.
Having taught dog obedience I recommend enrolling you and the dog in a class. Once you learn how dog’s “think”, training becomes a matter of providing consistent correction, praise, and patience. But I suspect that Irish setters, like many hunting dogs, will require constant reinforcement/training. Smart as they are, they are always looking for ways to get around doing what they know they’re supposed to do. 🙂
Emme Gannon says
We adopted a young abandoned dog three years ago. After patiently training her, we are blessed with an obedient, loving companion. It was worth all the work. Randy, wouldn’t you like to be writing while your obedient, devoted dog is laying at your feet?
Hope Marston says
Oops! Sorry. I should have said “dog whisperer” in my earlier comment. 🙂
mary andrews says
when she jumps up on u, lift ur knee and push her away. tell her “no jump.”
if she is very energetic, u might need to wear her down a little before a walk. If u have yard, go out and throw the ball or frisby or something like this until she calms a bit, then walk her. If not, roll the ball down the hall for her until she slows down.
It is possible to rub something that she will not like the flavor of onto the leash (tobasco, vinegar,etc).
U will have to maintain a leader of the pack attitude with a young dog. (much the same as u do with kids: no means no.) A choke chain may seem cruel, but as they leave the walking area at ur left side, u snap it so that they will feel it, and eventually they will respond to the sound.
I took a class with my doberman a long time ago where they taught us to walk with the (10 ft leather) leash held firmly in the right hand (to snap easily) and draped loosely from the dog’s choke chain.
If a dog barks too much or is ignoring u in the house, a mild mixture of vinegar and water in a spray bottle will put a quick stop to that.
Dogs really go out of their way to please their masters, but a line of communication has to be opened.
Use ur command words consistantly, don’t change them.
Heel , stop, sit, lay down, outside. Be specific, No is not enough.
When ever i get a new dog, i keep iton a long leash and forced it to stay with me all day. They will want to go to the bathroom (outside) after they sleep and eat usually.
if u wrestle with a dog, make sure to get her on her back and rub her belly. this is a sign of dominance and makes u in charge.
the AKC schools start off by using treats as rewards to get a young dog going. (I once taught a poodle to roll over by using a bag of cheetos.)
Since this is a big dog, I recommend that u teach her to sit first. If a dog can do this, they can always be controlled easier. to teach to sit, simply stand in front of the dog and tell it to sit. when it looks at u like ur crazy, put one hand under its jaw and the other on it’s butt and push the hind quarters down….until it stays there. keep saying sit in an authoritative manner while u do this. and praise,praise, praise her every time she gets it right. (GOOD sit, GOOD heel, GOOD down, ..U got the idea.)
dogs pick this up real fast, and it is the first command u teach ur kids to use with a big dog.
NEVER allow a big dog on the furniture. They can be just as happy at ur foot, and they think they are getting attention if u rub them with ur foot while ur doing something else.
If nothing else, research pack mentality and the Dog Whisperer, but he’s gonna tell u that attitude and and a well exercised dog will help most…then u open communications.
It is not really as much work as it sounds. If she’s a year old, you’re dealing with a seven yea old child. Start from there.
Oh, and don’t forget make sure that the dog has plenty of toys to chew and play with inside as well as outside…otherwise, garden hoses and shoes can become targets for a bored dog. If u tie the dog to the corner of ur bed at night,with a short lead, it will not roam about and it will not go to the bathroom where it sleeps (not if it can help it) I use to tie new dogs to the bed and give them a little rug and chew toy/rawhide in case they got bored.
bad part: u have to take them out at what ever hour they stand up and start to tell u out it–no matter what unGodly hour it is. But since this is a big dog, she can probably sleep all night.
If u have a dog carrier or crate, u can contain them and make them feel safe. they need their own territory too…but that’s another story.
Another bottom line: Whoever feeds the dog will becomethe most beloved.
Good luck, and have an uneventful weekend.
Ok, bleeding heart that I am, I am against choker collars. I would recommend a harness. It will fit around Happy’s chest, giving you more control while not hurting her.
And a piece of advice from a person who owned two cats before the dogs came along: This puppy will not be independant like your cat. At this stage in her life Happy wants nothing more than to be around people and receive attention.
As a puppy, you will need to wear down her energy quite a bit in order to control her. As a setter she’s going to have more energy than the average one-year-old, so patience and a nice run in a backyard or park – daily – are very important.
And always, always, always reward Happy whenever she gets something right. In my experience, setters will pick up good habits very quickly with positive reinforcement. And don’t physically punish her for bad behavior. Use a spray bottle the same as with cats.
Hope that was helpful for you, and I wish you the best of luck surviving a weekend alone with a new puppy. Happy sounds like a wonderful dog.
What she is trying to do is get your attention. And the more you hoot and holler that happier Happy will get. The best thing to do is IGNORE the behavior. I know it’s a little counter-intuitive. And I’m not saying ingore her completely, but praise her when she’s being good. SO when she’s jumping up turn your back to her, do not look her in the eye, and keep turning when she jumps. When she stops, backs away, sits down, or walks away, THAT’S when you give get down on her level and give her lovies. You just need to be patient, cause she will try to find away to get your attention. She may even bark at you, JUST IGNORE IT.
For the nipping, which is a puppy trait that her mom didn’t have a chance to teach her not to do it. Probably because she was taken away from her mother at 6wk. There is a bit of a soap box here, so I will stop. You can email me if you have more questions 🙂
So to stop the nipping, press her tounge to the bottom of her jaw. YES, also counter-intuitive to stick your hand in a dogs mouth, but when you press her tounge down you create a negitive experience, but the next step is to encourage her to lick your hand. Yes it will be slimy but you have to agree a little siliva is better than teeth marks.
Hope this helps! I also encourage a training class, and clicker training. I trained hearing and seeing eye dogs by the clicker method and it is a great one. Also watching a little Dog Whisper on the National Geographic channel is helpful too.
Best of luck,
A Well behaved dog is a tired dog. EXCERSIZE is KEY!!
Marian Clough says
Almost every response was a great response. She definitely needs a lot of exercise and let the cats deal with her. She’ll soon learn to keep her distance. The nipping is baby response and she needs to learn not to do it. I called my Australian Shepherd The Demon Seed for her first year and the nipping really worried me at first since she ripped the right arm of my trenchcoat. LOL.
Most of the advice you’ve gotten here is very good advice, actually. Listen to the trainers!!! My brother and sister are Service Animal Trainers (for psychiatric service dogs, which is extremely difficult to train for), and their dogs are heavenly! So listen to the trainers! =)
And before training, play with Happy and tire her out. Trust me. Being tired out, she’ll be more inclined to listen and pay attention to you more, and will respond better to POSITIVE reinforcement. With my own service dog, training time always came after play time, and before dinner time. Worked wonders. And he loved his job. Happy is a hunting breed, so she needs a specific job in order to feel like a useful member of her pack.
Also, get Happy to the VET! Check-up, vaccinations, and get her licensed! WA is very strict about their dog laws.
And you’re a writer! What happened to writers are phenominal researchers? Sit down, take a deep breath. You can do this. Having an untrained dog is very much like having a three year-old around. Having a trained dog is very much like having a well-behaved three year-old. Seriously! Go to obedience school, just for the basics. You’ll learn the right way from the get-go and won’t learn bad habits. Plus, whoever recommended the choke chain–NO! Choke chains and pinch collars should NEVER be used by an inexperienced dog owner/handler! I know a shop owner who refuses to sell them to anyone who cannot demonstrate proper technique. A good harness should be enough.
I don’t recommend training Happy yourself, seeing as you have admitted you don’t know a lot about dogs. A dog’s pack mentality, and dog language is entirely different from humans’.
Once you’ve got Happy checked up, vaccinated, licensed, and obeying vocal commands, you’re P.O. is in Battle Ground!! You’ve got dog parks coming out your ears in the surrounding area! It’s nothing but wide, verdant fields, horses, and the occasional town. True, most dog parks are in Vancouver, but it’s a pleasant and beautiful drive, and Happy will love it!
Here’s one to start you out: SW 20th Ave, West of SR 503, between Main St and 199th St.
That’s one thing I love about the Portland Metro/Vancouver area. We love our dogs! =) Congrats, you proud new dog owner, you!
Oooh, also remember. This is a saying that my siblings (the Service Dog trainers) are **always** saying, and as a pet groomer my own experience has proved amazingly true:
“The first sign of a bad dog is a bad owner.”
Should you opt out of such suggestions as obedience classes or clicker training (which takes TREMENDOUS time, attention, and consistency, I won’t lie), remember that saying when Happy’s less-than-stellar behavior makes you hit the roof.
Karen D'Amato says
Lock her in the bathroom with every cat you can find in a 3 mile radius. That’ll humble her.
If you have a bicycle and a safe place to ride, leash her and let her run beside the bike. You can tire her out more easily that way than running yourself.
My hubby and I used to stand at opposite ends of our block (quiet street) and call our dog back and forth. She got a ton of exercise. We didn’t. And she got pets and ear-rubs at both ends.
I think that the best thing to do is reenforce good behavior, but punish bad behavior. So, if your dog misbehaves by say jumping or biting, you could push it down, hold its jaw shut, flick its nose, or shake a jar full of pennies. For good behavior, just give it a little treat and a pat on the back. This dog should be well behaved in no time.