Q. I have a very smart, 11-week old Golden Retriever puppy. He has learned “Leave it,” “Come,” Sit,” “Down,” “Look,” and to touch my hand with his nose on command. However, I have problems with biting and “heel.” On walks he is more interested in biting my hands, my pants, and especially the leash more than anything else. Using the command “leave it,” will get the dog to temporarily abandon the leash, but go back to chewing immediately after receiving a reward. Often, it is almost impossible to
get him to move; he lies on the ground, zeroes in on biting the leash and wanting to play tug-of-war. When I go down to remove it or pick him up, he turns to my hands.
I’ve also tried giving treats every 10-15 feet for good on-my-side heels, but once the treats are gone, the good behavior is as well.
Rewarding pets are returned with bites and verbal praise for good behavior is ignored.
At home, I’ve eliminated the biting by isolating him after every nip, but I cannot do this on walks and he seems to know.
A. Sounds like you’re off to a good start with your 11-week old Golden. I’ll point out one of the Wildrose laws—#5—”Make haste slowly.” You’re trying to teach a lot of commands and behaviors to a very young pup. Pups this age have a short attention span and are easily distracted. Keep things simple, interesting and the sessions short. You’re likely teaching far too many commands at one time before each is becoming a conditioned behavior.
Secondly, your pup is very young and youngsters, especially retriever breeds, very much enjoy using their mouths. Tugging, chewing, pulling are normal behaviors. At this age I’m concentrating more on holding focus, crate training, tying out patiently, early leading (not heel work), and perhaps a sit.
For the tying out, I use a flat collar and a steel tie out cable, 10 feet long. My pup fights, chews, and pulls at this cable which is a fruitless behavior and earns him no results. Therefore, he is not pulling against me nor is he gaining my attention. Once the pup ties out patiently, we can begin to teach leading. Heel work with a loose lead comes a bit later.
Lay off the treats which is only giving the puppy more interest in mouthing your hands and collect all the chew toys which is just reinforcing the chewing. One has to be very careful when training with treats that you are not conditioning in an undesirable behavior that must be trained out later… Wildrose Law #4 – “Don’t train in a habit that you’ll later have to train out.”
Follow these simple procedures, lower your expectations for a pup this age, focus your efforts on gaining patience and the pup’s attention, and be careful not to unconsciously reward your pup for inappropriate behaviors with treats, affection, and praise.
Best of luck.
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