Those of you with autumn pups will now be heading towards dog adolescence and all the challenges that brings. Young dogs often go off the rails at this time and the ‘perfect puppy’ can suddenly morph into ‘Dennis the Menace’. Puppy play biting can try our patience but teenage zoomies- which might involve nipping human body parts as your hound does the wall of death round your living room- can tip us all over the edge.
Adolescence is also the time unwanted behaviours like jumping up at guests re-emerge. The teenage brain gets overloaded by the process of growing up and the dogs can seem to regress. As we know, teenagers also tend to push the boundaries and try new things. Young dogs may suddenly refuse to move from a comfy spot on the sofa when asked or go deaf to your recall cue when out in the garden. Most of these issues are temporary and owners should stick with all and any training through this stage. However, a houseline can become an invaluable tool in the process.
There are all sorts of situations where we need to control a young dog in the home, especially as training cues are unlikely to be sufficiently proofed to be effective. It is tempting to grab the dog by his collar or harness but this is a risky strategy and can increase the very behaviour you want to reduce. Grabbing can cause dogs to start to avoid contact with us, some will roll over and refuse to budge, others may turn and mouth to get us off, and worst case, to bite. Collar grabbing can seem overbearing and even bullying to some dogs. Pushing the dog away can seem like an inviting form of rambunctious play and feed attention seeking behaviour.
A houseline gives the owner an opportunity to control their dog in a way that is non-confrontational and reasonably safe. For instance, you can stop your dog jumping up at guests or mounting them, especially at the front door which tends to augment excited behaviour- remember the more your teenage dog practises various unwanted behaviours, like barking at the window, refusing to get off the sofa or even chasing the cat, the more he’ll want to, until the problem behaviour is habitual.
The houseline allows you to interrupt and refocus your dog by leading him away from an area or activity and rewarding compliance. Simply pick up the end of the line and call your dog to you (use a pleasant tone). Ask your dog to do something for you- a ‘sit’ or ‘down’ will do- now you can praise and reward a behaviour you want instead of chastising your dog for misbehaviour. Try to anticipate when your dog might do something you don’t want and interrupt him before he reacts.
Once the dog has actually reacted he probably won’t respond to you. If this happens, use the line to gently prompt him away from whatever context is causing the reaction. Wait for your dog to calm down then ask for a ‘sit’ or for him to look at you. Reward calm behaviour with praise, a treat or just letting the line go again. With repetition your dog will understand which behaviours earn him reward.
There is no need to spend lots of money on a houseline. Go to your local DIY and buy some lightweight, nylon line between 3 to 7 feet, depending on the size of your dog. Get an old lead, cut off the trigger clip and tie the line onto this. The line should simply trail behind your dog until you need to interrupt any misbehaviour. Ensure the line is attached to a safe, flat collar, don’t use it with any sort of collar that tightens. Never leave the line on if the dog is unsupervised or overnight.
By Leonie St Clair | www.londondogstraining.co.uk