Help! My puppy has a rude play style!
A client recently reached out with concerns about her five month old pups “over the top” play style. Petunia rushes up to dogs, uninvited, making fast physical contact while standing on her hind legs biting at their faces. Petunia becomes quite activated and persistent in her play style and climbs on top of the puppies in her weekly play group. Her owner believes Petunia likes all dogs and becomes overly excited as her body is constantly in motion. She has never witnessed Petunia freeze or growl at another dog. This behavior observation speaks to Petunia’s confidence rather than an insecure dog. I was excited to meet Petunia and see for myself if she was overly excited or possibly trying to intimidate other dogs.
Can you see where this pups’ behavior might get her a harsh reprimand from another dog? Do you know an older dog who might snap at or bite this puppy out of pain or just low tolerance? Do you think this puppy needs to be put in her place?
The owner understood Petunia was in danger if she behaved this way with a less tolerant dog. She was also very clear that she did not know how to teach her puppy to be more respectful when greeting new dogs. She was told by well meaning friends that Petunia needed to be put in her place. Fortunately, Petunia’s owner did not want her highly social pup to become afraid and reactive to unfamiliar dogs. Hence, she wisely listened to her Reward Based Trainer and reach out to me for help.
Who is petunia?
Upon meeting Petunia, I quickly observed that she was indeed a highly social pup. She trotted up to me with fluid forward foot steps and jumped up placing her front paws on my legs as I stood watching her. She looked up at me with a relaxed open mouth and soft blinking eyes. As if she were asking me, “Are you as happy to meet me as I am to meet you?!” Her excited, confident, social, nature as well as her preference to make physical contact was readily apparent. Petunia was clearly a happy, well balanced, enthusiastic, adolescent.
Why a harsh reprimand is not recommended.
If Petunia does receive a harsh reprimand from another dog, how might this change her? Will she become submissive and begin to turn away, roll on her back with a tucked tail, or avoid other dogs completely? Will she begin to bark at dogs while jumping forward and backwards when they try to engage with her showing she wants to be friends, but is conflicted? Might she begin to freeze or growl in a defensive manner? Will Petunia be able to recover from a harsh reprimand? All these answers depend on Petunia’s individual social confidence, arousal level and her resiliency.
Can Jade teach Petunia a lesson in self control?
Jade’s mother, Lynx, was a wonderful rule setter who set clear boundaries without physical harm. I believe this is Grandma Flicker chewing on a bone as Jade watches respectfully.
I suggest you watch the following video a few times as there is much to understand. Note how fair, calm and clear Jade is when setting rules for Petunia. Consider the social gestures from each dog as this conversation unfolds. Note their visual and physical engagement as they take and yield space purposefully. What question did Petunia ask of Jade and what was Jade’s response? I love how Jade simply says “you cannot take my toy, but we are still friends.” Petunia’s body language at the end of the clip expresses how she feels and how much she learned in this short session. Yes, they did also play appropriately and calmly together.
Unlike Rule Setters, Resource Guarders are often insecure dogs who rush across the room with lots of emotion to express themselves. They are often seen bullying other dogs in different settings and may gather resources to guard them.
Petunia’s owner informed me Petunia met two small dogs the next week and laid down to greet them. Petunia invited them into her space and mirrored their energy and play style. Well done Petunia! You learned much from a fair and friendly Rule Setter.