I have had my beautiful dog Unique, a Poodle/Maltese mix, since her birth a year ago. She is a very loving dog. She listens to me very well, but when she’s around other people she is extremely active and jumps on them to the point where I have to lock her in a room to prevent her from irritating guests.
She’s so hyper that guests are unable to pet her because she won’t calm down, and it prevents my own daughter from playing with her. I don’t want to give Unique away, but my daughter absolutely hates her and doesn’t want her in our home.
– Lynnette, Los Angeles, Calif.
Thank you for your email. I strongly suggest you and your daughter enroll in a training class with Unique. All of you will gain invaluable skills, learning how to train Unique effectively using positive reinforcement and motivational techniques. It’s a great start that Unique listens well to you, and the class will allow you and your daughter to train her in increasingly distracting environments.
Locking Unique in a room when you’re feeling frustrated with her leads to more stress for all of you. It will actually make Unique even more active. She’ll think that because she may be taken away at any moment, she’d better get as much attention as possible from your guests!
I also recommend you crate train Unique. You didn’t mention where she sleeps, but she would greatly benefit from sleeping in her crate, near someone. The crate can be introduced to her in such a way that it becomes her little bedroom, where she has great toys like stuffed Kongs waiting for her.
While you’re training Unique, place her crate about 20 feet from where you’ll be sitting when guests come over. At night, put the crate in your bedroom. Having Unique nearby in her crate with lots of Kongs when visitors come is ideal. You’ll have trained her to love her Kongs, and she’ll still be near enough for her social needs to be met without being free to jump on people. The 20-foot distance keeps her from being too close and easily excited by guests.
Teach Unique the command “In your crate!” for when people come over. Repeat this exercise many times before actually using it when guests arrive. With a few stuffed Kongs in your hand, say, “In your crate!” in a very inviting, upbeat manner and then toss the Kongs in the crate. When Unique goes in the crate, close the door behind her.
When Unique is happily chewing away, take her outside for a potty break. Do this several times throughout the day. The next day you can wait until she’s done chewing her Kongs to take her outside. You want to take her out before she has a chance to start whining, or you’ll inadvertently teach her to whine to be let out.
Keep the crate door open throughout the day to allow Unique access; you should start seeing her wander in all on her own, looking for Kongs, within a few days. She may even curl up in there and take a nap!
Your daughter’s relationship with Unique needs to be mended for both their sakes. Unique’s behavior will improve when the stress of your daughter’s dislike for her changes into a partnership. This can be achieved by making your daughter responsible for feeding and training Unique, and taking her for walks and potty breaks as much as possible. Have your daughter teach Unique the Sit and Go To Bed commands, and then toss a stuffed Kong in Unique’s crate right after each session.
Training sessions should be short and upbeat. You, your daughter and Unique will all be learning at the same time, so patience is key! Also remember that when either of you is training Unique, it’s not a time to critique the trainer’s skills (i.e., back-seat training)! Talk about the training after the session, if you want to.
It’s very important that the relationship between Unique and your daughter improve, and the best way to achieve that is to allow them to forge their own relationship through training and giving general care. Your daughter will be pleased with Unique’s responses to the training, and will become more interested in working with her.
Training using positive reinforcement is a great way to build a bond between a dog and handler, so your daughter should be the one working with Unique in class. If she’s old enough, have her take Unique on her own. Unique will gain better social skills being in a group environment and learning how to properly greet people.
Set Unique up for success by having someone come over for a 15-minute “pretend” visit. When the visitor arrives, give Unique the “In Your Crate!” command. Be sure to put some stuffed Kongs in the crate with her.
When Unique is settled and quiet, very softly praise her for her good behavior. If you’re too enthusiastic at this point, she’ll get
When you think Unique is ready by being quiet and focusing on her Kongs, quietly open the crate door (your visitor should be sitting down). As Unique goes over to your visitor, ask the visitor to give her the Sit command. The visitor can calmly pet her, but if Unique starts jumping up, the petting must stop and you should quietly put her back in the crate. Unique should stop jumping in just a few sessions so she’s able to stay and interact with the visitor.
The next step is to have two people come over for a visit, and then when she’s fine with them, three people, and so on.
A great place to start your search for a training class is at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a worldwide association of trainers dedicated to using positive, gentle and fun methods. Just type your zip code on the Trainer Search page, and you’ll see a list of trainers near you along details of what they offer.
One last thing — if you’re not doing so already, please use a harness rather than a regular collar for Unique. Small dogs’ tracheas can get injured from the pressure of a regular collar.
Please let me know how the training is progressing.
PHOTOS: puppydogweb.com, rainbowpark.ca