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Discipline! - How firm is too firm? And how to even be firm??

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Hudderz19, May 20, 2020 at 11:20 AM.


  1. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    *newbie dog owner*

    Hey All - After some advice!

    I have a 5-month old Weimaraner who is by no means aggressive. In fact he's very sweet. However he is extremely wilful (breed trait) and used to 'snap' quite a bit when being told off/moved away from somewhere he shouldn't be.

    Thankfully, I'm guessing somewhere between an improved bond, maturity and better management on our part, this has significantly reduced. HOWEVER...there is still the occasional air snap from him when he doesn't like what you're telling him.

    I used to crate him for a minute or two when this happened, but he's getting bigger and stronger and not so easy to pick up. Plus I don't want to engage him in a dominance type stand off as I feel that will make it more of an issue?

    Questions:
    • how do I check the unacceptable behaviour correctly in this case?
    • At this point I'm sticking with a firm "No" and waiting for him to sit/down before anything happens and praising him when he does. Is this too confrontational - standing over him till he succumbs?
    • What age is 'the cut off' for this kind of behaviour? Is 5 months not too old for this - When can it not be passed off as 'being a puppy'?
    • How firm should you go without damaging relationship/encouraging aggression?
    Advice to as many or as few of these questions welcome :)

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    Welcome :)
    Your instincts are correct in that getting in to a confrontation with him will not help things.

    I would encourage you to shift your mindset slightly. Instead of viewing misbehavior as willful disobedience, think about how he might be feeling. Is he confused, not entirely clear on what you're asking him to do? Is he conflicted? - I really want to mind but I just got settled and comfortable in this spot. Is he insufficiently motivated? Praise is okay but a tasty treat is even better. Is he worried because in the past he has been reprimanded?
    Or maybe a combination of factors.

    Instead of thinking about punishing or 'checking' him, think about clarifying what you're asking him to do, adding motivation, and making the requests easier for him to comply with.
    For example, if you're moving him away from somewhere he's not supposed to be, offer him a treat to move to where you want him.
    Or instead of a "no" and waiting for him to sit, why not simply ask for a sit - make sure he really does understand the cue in all its different criteria, and reward him with food when he complies.

    Think in terms of what you want him to *do*, ask for that behavior, and reward him for compliance.
    Whenever we have a new puppy or rescue in the house, I walk around with treats and kibble in my pockets so that I always have a reward for any behavior I like.

    If you could give some specific examples of unacceptable behavior you're wanting to check we can give some more specific things to do that are less confrontational :)
     
  3. Ian246

    Ian246 PetForums Senior

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    I think (as ever) O2.0's advice is 'spot on'. Saying 'No' to a dog is not helpful - in reality it is just a sound to him. Even if the dog has worked out that 'No' means he's done something bad (perhaps because, in the past, there have been 'bad' consequences attached to that sound), it doesn't help him to know what to do instead. I guess a good way for you to think of it is: if you're at work and your boss keeps making a noise at you as you work, it just doesn't help. Even, if somehow, from the tone of that noise, you've worked out that it means he's not happy, it's still confusing for you, because you still don't know what you're doing wrong or what your boss really wants you to be doing instead.

    I'll also add that using the crate to 'punish' the dog is a bad idea. You really want your dog to want to go in the crate because it's a good place (you may need to crate him for all kinds of reasons in the future) and him associating the crate with 'punishment' (eve if it's just isolation) is not the way to achieve that.

    As O2.0 has said, try and see it from your dog's point of view - in many cases, he wants to do the right thing, but he perhaps doesn't fully understand what you want. Remember, as well, that at 5 onths he is very much a youngster. If he's guarding his place on the sofa, it's because it's not been established (in his mind) that he can only go on there when you say so and/or he needs to get off when you say so. All these things need to be trained and you need to show him that following what you want (eg, getting off the sofa when you say so) is a GOOD thing because it's associated with praise or a suitable treat. The reward needs to be something more valuable to him than staying on that nice, warm, comfy sofa with the people he loves. If you give a suitable command (like 'off') and entice him off the sofa (and if he has some sort of light line on so you can encourage him (and I do mean gently) off the sofa it's a bit easier) with a suitable treat and lots of praise when he's done what you want, eventually he will learn that leaving that comfy bed when you say that 'off' noise is a good thing - you won't have to give him treats for complying forever (though you'd be wise to reinforce it occassionally - dogs can 'forget'.) It all takes perseverence and consistency - but like humans you willget better results with encouragement and praise than by using 'punishment' or negative reinforcement - much like you and your boss. ;)

    Weimaraners can be quite wilful dogs, so I emphasise the need for effort - and consistency and patience. They also need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation (training can provide some of that), of course - but I guess you've worked that out! Hope that helps! :)
     
    #3 Ian246, May 20, 2020 at 1:09 PM
    Last edited: May 20, 2020 at 1:24 PM
  4. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    @Ian246 @O2.0

    Thanks for the replies!

    Yes as I mentioned before I think a massive reduction is due to better management e.g. getting him into a sit and stay BEFORE I have to change the bins and he runs up and tears the bag for example, so I've removed a lot of instances like that.

    And noted. Crate 'timeouts' came later on, after speaking to a friend and I only started doing that because crate training was so solid (he still runs to his 'kennel' happily whenever you say, and loves to sleep in there undisturbed). But that is a fair point I don’t want to damage that...

    I guess the best examples I have to give are the unforeseen situations like something drops and spills on the floor or a door/cupboard wasn’t shut properly and he decides to dash for something he shouldn't and I need to hold him back for a sec while I avert the danger or something like that...At which point if he decides if he really wants it he will still gnaw at my hand to tell me to get off.

    Or if he decides to keep putting his paws up on the sofa and lunging for TV remotes or whatever else is beside us while we are sitting down in the evening...he will snap when you guide him down. I assure you we are gentle, but he knows he's going to be moved so he snaps. (But typing this out I think this might be more of an attention seeking/lack of exercise issue as he gets less exercise in the eve than in the mornings).

    I feel like I am waiting for him to mature out of it, aside from increasing physical/mental exercise. I guess I thought saying "No" (without any punitive follow ups of course) as much as I understand its meaninglessness to a puppy, was a way of showing my displeasure at his action. But yes I will admit I forget, despite having thought about it, to provide him something TO DO that he can get right. He’s is 80% compliant with the “off” command but we probably don’t praise and reward as much as we should for that too! It's truly 'when he decides he wants to be' but you are both right in that I need to change my mindset more.

    In any case I was just wondering what to do in the moment after the snap or nip. I'm just concerned he’s getting larger and I didn’t want him to think he can get what he wants by doing that. He is still young I guess...

    Thanks this was all very helpful! More to think about...
     
  5. Sarah H

    Sarah H Grand Empress of the Universe

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    Try to think of him as an alien toddler with no knowledge of our culture or language. Would you get confrontational when they are telling you, in their language (in his case freezing, snapping etc) that they are confused and worried? Probably not.
    Try to flip it and work out what you DO want him to do and train him to do that, whilst managing the situation by using baby gates, crates, leads etc to give him only a couple of choices so hopefully he can only pick the one you want him to pick and reward that.
    I also think he sounds a bit frustrated, biting and thrashing around is like a toddler not getting their way, teach him some self control, as well as improving his tolerance of frustration. A stuffed Kong is good for this as they have to work to get it all out, or scatter feeding in a wide area so they have to work hard to find every piece.
    Always keep a pot if his food on hand so that if he's getting up to mischief you can call him off and reward him highly. Make coming over to you better than what he was doing before. If he's getting up on the sofa say "OFF" and then scatter some food or engage him in a game. Keep remotes out the way, he likes it because it smells of you and it gets your attention, even if that's bad attention! Calmly get up and call him over and reward him for that, then show him that you want him in his bed and give him a nice chew to get his teeth into instead of the remote!
     
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  6. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    I don't know, obviously I can't see this in person, but my guess is that he's not gnawing on your hand to tell you to get off, I think this is more of an "oh I'm so excited I was going to pounce on the spilled food, but I can't get to it, oh look! Favorite human's hand, let's chew this instead!" He's 5 months, their brains don't always work very well :D
    This is the mindset change I mean. Don't look at his biting as deliberate defiance. It's just him being a puppy, they bite things when they're happy, when they're bored, when they're curious... Young dogs bite things. Your hand happens to get closer to him when you go to hold him back, it's there, he bites. I wouldn't read much more in to it.

    This sounds like puppy witching hour. Humans are all settled down to relax for the evening, puppy has a mad hour or so where they forget all their training, drive you up the wall, then eventually crash in to a heap of exhaustion so they can do it all over again tomorrow. Toddlers of the human variety are good at this too ;)
    This is a good time to use that crate that he loves. Prepare him a nice stuffed Kong or meaty bone and pop him in his crate with his chew. Not as a punishment, but as a nice quiet place to chill and wind down.

    A lot of how you react to biting depends on the dog. With most of my puppies I've either ignored them, removed myself from them, or sometimes I'll let them know how bad that hurt and that I'm not happy <-- the latter is not exactly planned, it's usually a big oaf of a young dog did something that really hurt in the moment and I react with a loud "ouch! (insert cussword of choice) you big (insert insult of choice) WTF!?!" I'm not convinced this is a helpful or appropriate response, I just know it's one that eventually happens.
    Ignoring and removing works very well though.

    We have had some older dogs who are geniuses at this tactic and it's fascinating to watch. The older dog sits there being chewed on completely uninterested, and when they've had enough, they get up and leave and go somewhere the puppy can't reach.

    In human terms that translates a couple ways. When you're holding him and he starts gnawing - ignore it as best you can. Maybe reposition your hands and how you're holding him so it's harder for him to get to you, but the goal here is to keep him away from the spill, not to have a lesson in bite inhibition. One thing at a time. Personally I would just pick pup up, put him on the other side of a baby gate, clean up the spill and move on. There's really no training here, just management.

    When he's lunging and attention seeking while you're quietly watching TV, quite literally, get up and leave. This is where strategic baby gates work wonders. If the TV room is baby gated, get up, leave the room, leaving pup on the other side of the gate. They learn this message very quickly, that if they're obnoxious, human plaything goes away. If they're sweet, human plaything stays.
     
  7. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks all. All of this makes sense and I think I see where I need to step my game up...particularly pre 'witching hour'...he's so chilled till about 4pm lol

    But I have a fresh example for you just from this afternoon!:

    As the other half tried to leave the kitchen he was a bit slow in closing the gate behind him. Obviously the dog scrambled to get out, which resulted in my other half's leg, and the dogs head trapped between a half closed gate :rolleyes:

    I placed my hand on dogs chest, by reaching over his shoulder, to pull him gently backwards, and while still scrambling forwards, dog turns and nips my arm. Not hard. But definite.

    I guess he's in a heightened state and this is just something to ignore? Or could I have planned for that situation better by allowing him to run through and calling him back to me for a reward? (I just didnt want him running through to a room I knew wasnt dog ready! I.e. my work from home area!).

    And that reminds me of something else! He's never really been a fan of being held or picked up. And has definitely got worse as hes grown older (I carried him loads of places pre vaccinations) And unless you're picking him up to put him somewhere within a couple of seconds, you can be sure he will try to nip your hands and start thrashing about till you let him go...is this more about him fully trusting us? Feeling threatened? Just seems odd as he is basically a velcro dog and always comes to sit next to us to entice us to pet him...do I just need more handling training? Or patience? Or both :D

    I'm painting a horrible picture of him, I promise this is on occasion! Lol he's honestly amazing most of the time...I'm just focusing on what I might be doing wrong.

    Thoughts?
     
  8. Kakite

    Kakite PetForums VIP

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    Some dogs just don’t like to be picked up and I personally would respect that.

    Our dog Nova weighs about 21kg and I can still pick her up but I never need to. If I want her to move or get behind a certain area that’s gated, I call her to me and treat her. Obviously she’s a bit older than your pup (she’s 17months), but It was a great way of teaching her the “come” command as a wee pup and her recall is really good now. I never have to physically move or remove her.

    does your pup growl when you try and pick him up?
     
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  9. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    He's never growled at us no...
     
  10. Kakite

    Kakite PetForums VIP

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    PS: your dog doesn’t sound horrible at all, just a typical puppy. They need to learn to settle at night, they need to learn not to nip and how to co exist with us humans. It takes time but it’s such a pleasure seeing them grow up and behave better :D
     
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  11. amplecrumlin

    amplecrumlin PetForums Member

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    Hi, I have just commented on your other post, too :).

    A couple of things occur to me here - the first is that you might be interested to read "the Culture Clash" by Jean Donaldson. It's a strange little book full of typos, and is deceptively simplistic, but it really shifted my attitude to my dog. I'd read too much beforehand by other authors, that I found unintuitive and confidence-sapping, but this book reassured me that it's not really so complicated to treat my dog with respect and empathy.

    The second thing is about him trying to barge through the baby gate. It's a really useful habit to get him to sit and look at you before he goes through - it doesn't need to be a chore or frustration for him if you show him that he gets treats if he waits, then more treats if he moves when released. It quickly becomes a habit, and makes all doorways safer and more civilised.

    And yes, we're throwing all these suggestions at you, but we know that he's gorgeous just the way he is!
     
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  12. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    Ah thanks for the heads up will be sure to check out that book.

    Yes we try to make him sit and wait at gates/doors. But on this occasion I wasnt paying attention and my partner went to leave. I've not been treating him on this though so maybe I need to up my game here too...

    Thank you very much!
     
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  13. amplecrumlin

    amplecrumlin PetForums Member

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    Oh yes, and picking him up.... A lot of people would say that he doesn't like it so don't do it, but I feel strongly that being picked up calmly should be in every dog's repertoire. He's going to be a big boy, so teaching him now to enjoy being picked up - not just to tolerate it - could be very useful. If he already dislikes it, you need to work on counter conditioning him (which isn't as simple as I first thought; the details really matter!).
    Deb Jones has a Facebook page on co-operative care, and a book, too. I'd recommend them. :)
     
  14. CheddarS

    CheddarS PetForums VIP

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    Picking

    Completely disagree, handling is essential yes and will be great to address some issues, but picking up a 40kg dog...get real!
     
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  15. Kakite

    Kakite PetForums VIP

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    I must say that seems strange to me as well. My dog doesn’t particularly like being picked up or moved but when we had to help her in the car or similar when she had an injury, she was happy to be handled. But if it’s not absolutely necessary why pick up your dog? Of course it’s beneficial to have a dog used to being well handled and that needs to be trained but that’s different to me than picking a dog up and removing him from a space.
     
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  16. CheddarS

    CheddarS PetForums VIP

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    Things that come to mind reading your posts...

    1) join a local training club to train and have fun with your pup
    2) put in management at home e.g, dog gate to keep out of kitchen
    3) exercise but mental stimulation is more important
    4) what Peter your rules be consistent
    5) speak to other Weimie owners as tbh he sounds pretty normal
     
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  17. Hudderz19

    Hudderz19 PetForums Newbie

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    To be perfectly honest we had to try and weigh him during lockdown on a video vet consult. And the only way was to subtract his weight from my weight holding him. It's not like I randomly pick my dog up for the sake of it lol (Hes 20kg at the minute so I would rather not anyways).

    And he also made it to the first landing of the stairs once as he dashed out of the gated kitchen by mistake. He was clearly too nervous to get back down and he didn't have a lead on him so I couldn't guide him down. So rather than have him panic and fall I picked him up.

    So I figured is this something that he should be comfortable with. Hope that clears it up :)
     
  18. CheddarS

    CheddarS PetForums VIP

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    Think of alternatives as not sustainable... I pick my pup up to put him in the car, but I guide him on stairs when necessary (no lead here) and weighing for vets can wait...can estimate by how he looks!
     
  19. amplecrumlin

    amplecrumlin PetForums Member

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    The dog isn't 40kg, so it seems (to me! Personal opinion alert!) like a good idea to teach him to cooperate with being lifted before he does reach that weight.
    I'd be surprised if an adult male couldn't lift a 40kg dog when necessary, but if it takes more than 1 person, then all the more reason to teach cooperation.
    It's not without the bounds of possibility that a dog might unexpectedly need to be lifted (into a vehicle/over a barrier/when sick or injured) and it will be easier for everyone if the dog doesn't freak out.
    My friend's 35kg dog once, uncharacteristically, refused to jump into the car. She lifted him up and he bit her face. Foresight would have been useful there, a compliant dog would have been even more useful.
    Both of my dogs are tiny. Lifting them is easy and drama-free, although it rarely happens. It's just another string to a dog's bow, a useful trick like cheerfully wearing a muzzle. Versatility is power.
     
  20. O2.0

    O2.0 PetForums VIP

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    We've always had big dogs. Large mutts and of course the danes were XL. We didn't practice picking them up, sorry that seems silly to me. Weimies are big dogs, no one is picking up a full-grown Weimeraner with regularity.

    Once we had to carry Breez down the stairs, the cancer in her foot had progressed and she got it in her head she had to go upstairs, but then she couldn't figure out how to get back down. First OH thought he was going to do it on his own, he squatted down, got his arms around her, and found he couldn't get back up (which led to some giggles from the peanut gallery). So then I took one end, he took the other and we got her downstairs. She never batted an eye.

    The thing is, a dog who is used to handling, and has a relationship of trust with the handler isn't going to freak out no matter what you do to them.

    If it was uncharacteristic of the dog to not want to get in the car I would think there were other issues going on - pain springs to mind. This is not a 'dog doesn't like to be lifted' issue, but possibly a 'dog was in pain' issue.
    In any case we've been able to lift all of our dogs in cases of emergency or need as above and never had any issues despite not 'training' the dogs to be lifted.
     
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