September 23, 2010
Plus, ensuring obedience to the whoa command.
(Problem) I was reading your "Aggressive Gun Dogs" column in the December/January issue and I thought you could help me with a possible dilemma. My family currently has a German shorthair (Gunnar) that will turn nine in March and we will be getting a puppy at the beginning of May. I feel there might be some trouble in the home.
Gunnar always has been great around people and other dogs. Our neighbors had a male vizsla three years older than Gunnar and they would play together for hours. Then about three years ago the neighbors got a new male vizsla and Gunnar was fine--he didn"t like the puppy jumping on him but just moved and showed no aggression toward the puppy. Two years ago the older vizsla developed cancer and ended up being put down. That"s when Gunnar started growling at the younger dog and acting more aggressive toward him.
The neighbors then got a female Lab because the younger vizsla didn"t turn out to be a hunter. Now, both dogs will run around Gunnar and he will stand still, but when they get close he"ll growl. They will both be submissive but when they are right under him he"ll lunge at them.
We haven"t seen or heard of him breaking skin. A few times I saw him lunge and I thought he bit but didn"t know how hard or if he really did anything to the other dogs. I live an hour away from my family"s home so I don"t see everything that goes on. Gunnar is mostly good with other dogs; it"s just the two neighbor dogs and one Lab-Chesapeake cross he doesn"t like.
My question is, what do you recommend we do when we bring the new puppy home? I"ve heard you should let the older dog find the puppy but how and where should this happen? They will both be housedogs. I know the curious puppy will get in Gunnar"s face eventually and of course I want them to get along even though it might not be possible.
I also know Gunnar is starting to get pain sensitive as he ages; it"s getting better with the long break from hunting season, but the pain is always there--he snapped at my dad for the first time in his life a month ago. So I"m looking for any tips or suggestions you may have.
(Solution) The first thing you want to do is try to get the breeder to keep your new pup in the litter with the mom overseeing and with littermates until the pups are 10 weeks old. You want to make sure the pup knows it is a dog and that it understands all the dog signals, knows what they mean and knows which ones to give when.
This will save you a ton of grief up front. The minimum age to remove pups from the litter should be at least eight weeks, but 10 would be better. You want the new pup to know that Gunnar"s growl, his posture, the expression in his eyes, his ears and his lips mean either "Get out of my face right now" or "That"s okay; let"s play for a while."
Pups learn to communicate like that during their first 10 weeks of life. Taking them at the so-called magical seven weeks (49 days) is too young for them to have learned everything they need to know to fully understand "dog." Some pups in a litter will learn this by eight weeks; others need more time.
You might have trouble believing this (because the 49th-day business has been so deeply ingrained in puppy mythology for the last 40 years), so I would recommend you read four articles I wrote for Gun Dog some years ago. The first article is "The Forty ninth Day." It explains exactly what goes on in the primary and secondary socialization of puppies and when it can occur. The next article is "Producing Behaviorally Sound Pups." It explains the developmental stages of puppies.
The third article is "Giving Pups a Head Start." It explains what breeders should be doing to prepare pups before fear develops so they are able to handle tough stuff later in their lives. The fourth article is one you will want to pay particular attention to, called "New Pup Coming, Now What?" It tells you how to bring the pup into the home where there already is a resident dog.
You can locate these four articles by going to this website: wpgcaerf.freeservers.com. In the menu on the left, click on "Pup"s First Year." Scroll to the bottom of the page that comes up and you will see the four articles listed. You can print them out from the website and have the breeder read the first three--and you should read them too so you better understand what is going on in the fourth article--but really study the fourth one, the "New Pup Coming" article. When you have gone through it, you can get back to me with any questions you have or any clarification you might need.
In the meantime, Gunnar"s growling, lunging and snapping at the neighbor dogs is nothing to worry about. He stops short of actually hurting them. If they show a submissive posture or yelp or indicate any kind of "apology" to him, he will stop. If they are not reading him correctly and insist on keeping after him when he has told them politely to quit it, he might have to come down a little harder to make them stop pestering him.
He will do the same with a new pup. That is why it is important that the pup knows the drill, knows how to defuse the situation and reads Gunnar"s intent correctly. I think Gunnar will handle the new pup fine. Depending on the breed you get (as some breeds tend to be a bit more aggressive than others), another male might cause more of a problem two years down the road. If you purchase a male there will be more jockeying for top status as the pup approaches sexual maturity than if you get a female. But Gunnar will be 11 by then and most likely retired.
If you have any questions with this or with the articles, email me right away so we can get things straightened out quickly.
(Problem) Found your column on anxiety disorder very interesting. My problem is with a six-month-old Lab that will not walk on lead. I put the leash on him and he goes down on all fours. This dog is a little laid back and the lady who owns the dog says he"s fine off lead and his former owner just let him out in the yard with other dogs, then back inside. My other concern is the lady said his parents were OFA. I did not see any OFA number on the AKC registration. Any help?
(Solution) Your Lab pup has figured out quickly that if he lies down the leash comes off and he can do as he pleases. Try putting the leash on him and holding a treat in front of him, telling him to come. Keep dangling the treat in front of him repeating the come word until he is walking on a loose leash. A good treat usually changes their minds.
You might need to keep doing it for a while until he is coming quickly and walking with no problem on a loose leash. Keep coaxing him to follow your hand with a treat in it. He will quickly forget the leash on his collar.
Ideally, the OFA number and classification (like fair, good, excellent, etc.) should be on the registration, but they are not requi
red. AKC registration is no guarantee of quality; it only shows that the dog is purebred and the breeder paid the fee to register the litter. You should have been given the OFA registration numbers by the breeder for at least three generations. Contact the breeder and ask for them. Good luck.
(Problem) I recently adopted a fully trained five-year-old German wirehair. He is the first gun dog I have ever owned so I am not familiar with the training process. I took him to hunt pheasants at the local farm and put out one bird at a time for training purposes. He is wonderful at everything; however, when he goes on point he will hold until I approach the bird and then kill the bird before I can kick it up for a shot.
I took pleasure in his happiness so it was no waste, but I would like to get him to hold point on my "whoa" for a longer period of time. A local trainer recommended a whoa rope, which consists of tying a rope to his hind legs and neck, but this doesn"t interest me as I think the dog has been through enough, as he was a rescue dog. Can you recommend a more liberal way to keep my dog on point?
(Solution) First, I want to commend you for not wanting to take the advice of the local trainer. You are wise to ignore him.
I don"t know how you know that your dog was fully trained if he was a rescue dog when you got him. But at the same time, the "jump in and grab a planted bird" scenario is often typical of a dog that has had a lot of birds shot over him. To the very experienced dog a dizzied, planted bird is in shock and smells like a crippled, shot bird. If this is so, then he is doing the right thing.
To fix this kind of problem your wirehair needs to be put into wild birds or at least birds that have been released and running around in the fields for awhile. He might then respond differently. But if he has learned he can catch any bird he smells and points, that is a different story and the dog must be treated differently.
Also, there is the possibility he doesn"t know the "whoa" command. Still another possibility is that he has mistakenly learned that "whoa" means jump in because the command was given at the wrong time€¦i.e., as the hunter was approaching and the dog was tensing his muscles to dive in and grab the bird, so the command acted as a release.
No matter which scenario is correct, the first thing you should do--both for your dog and yourself--is enroll in a good obedience class. Start with an eight- to 10-week beginner class, then enter and complete an advanced class. It will help you achieve some bonding between you and your dog and will teach you how to stay in control of your dog.
Choose a class that is based on reward and mild to moderate correction. Go through walk at heel, sit, stay, down and come, and especially make sure he is fail-safe on whoa so you can be in charge of the dog and the dog is happy with that.
To teach your dog to hold a point while you thrash about in front of him, first construct or buy two or three wire cages about a foot square with one side (the bottom) open so it is a five sided wire cage. Tie a string 10 or 12 feet long to the top edge at the center of the cage so when you pull on the string the cage will tip over.
Place a pigeon (a barn pigeon is as good as any because they are usually good fliers) inside the cage and lay the string out in the direction any wind is blowing€¦that is, with the wind. Be sure the cage is in grass deep and dense enough that the dog can"t see the cage and the bird in it. Or cover the cage lightly with grass to hide it.
Then get your dog, snap a 30-foot line to his collar and let him drag it. Work him toward the bird with the wind from the bird to the dog. When he smells the bird he will, or should, point it. When he does, quickly grab the rope and go up it hand over hand, keeping enough control so the dog can"t jump in.
Keep saying "good boy" in a drawn out, quiet tone. Do not say whoa. Get up to the dog, kneel down beside him and talk soothingly and calmly to him until you can get one hand on his collar and the other hand flat against his behind under his tail. With the hand on his behind, push him forward. He will resist it and push backward. This is a way to staunch him up on the point. Still do not say whoa.
The first time, keep a hand on his collar and with the other (or let a helper do this if you have one) pull the string on the cage to tip it over so the bird will be free to fly away. If the dog moves, give him a sharp "Whoa!" and prevent him from moving by your handhold on his collar.
After a few of these he will be holding steady for you. Then you can do the same thing but instead of pulling the string, approach the dog from the front and side so he can see you approach, step in front and shuffle your feet in the grass near the cage. If he moves, caution him so he remains still. If you have a helper, he or she can hold the rope to ensure your dog doesn"t leap in. Then tip the cage and release the bird, again making sure he can"t jump in when the bird flushes.
After each flush, be sure the dog is standing and relaxed, then pick him up and carry him 20 or so yards in the direction opposite where the bird flew. Put him down and head him off in a direction 90 degrees or so from where the bird went. Do not let him chase at this point. Retrieve training will come later, after he has become totally steady on pointed birds.
Remember, tell him "whoa" only when you have control and can prevent him from moving. And if he does jump in, all he will get is the cage and the bird will fly away when he knocks it over. If he does jump, don"t yell "whoa" after he has done it or you will only be teaching him to disobey. For any command, give it only when you can enforce it until he knows it cold.
(Problem) I have a two-year-old French Brittany who consistently and continually eats or tries to eat her own poop. She avoids that of other dogs. I have tried everything--Deter, Forbid, pineapple in food, Tabasco sauce, change of diet (currently feed Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover). I pretty much know when she is going to mess and I tell her to "leave it" and then scoop it up. But three times a day for the last two years with no end in sight is daunting. Other than this problem she is developing into an excellent gun dog. Is it time to bring out the e-collar?
(Solution) The collar would work as long as you have the collar on her. It would mean put it on her every time you let her out, watch her and then beep her when she is going to pick up the poop, then go out and scoop it up. That is exactly what you are doing with telling her to leave it and then "the stoop to scoop."
Perhaps some counter conditioning would do it. When she goes to eat it, call her to you and give her a small treat. Keep doing it until you don"t have to call her to you but she does her job and comes for the treat. Pooping alone should soon trigger the run to you without saying the "come" command.
You can also substitute a clicker command for telling h
er to come, in which case the click will take on the reward function so a treat will only be needed periodically. This would require you to teach her the click means reward first, then use it as the reward.
I also think she will slow down when the grass gets past the snow and she can use grass instead of poop. Why dogs eat it is not really known. We know it is a learned thing and doing it is self-rewarding so it gets to be a habit.
For solutions to your dog"s behavior problems or behavior-related training problems, contact Dr. Ed Bailey at email@example.com.