Have you ever had a puppy that liked to use you as a chew toy or use your arm as a navigational source for directing you to their particular problem at hand? We have. Years ago in 1995, we brought home our sweet boy, Phoenix, and his methodology for getting us to address his immediate concerns was in the form of the latter: Leading us.
Phoenix was a soulful, intelligent wolfdog who loved to show us everything and if we were too busy at the time to stop what we were doing to go scout the source of his problem at the time, he had a difficulty waiting on us. Therefore, his tactic was to show us what was going on by leading us by the forearm. Intelligent on his behalf? Yes. Wise to let it continue? No. Why? Because it was a bad habit to allow as acceptable behavior for obvious reasons. Not to mention, I bruised easily and going to the bank in the dead of summer (here in the valley, the temps get around 110 degrees some days) with bruises all over my forearms had many an eye quietly shifting the blame to my poor, unsuspecting husband. Of course, wearing long-sleeved shirts during summer was out of the question. So, it was time to act on the problem.
We had Phoenix for a couple of weeks before he had his surgery to remove his dew claws and get neutered. When he came home, the veterinarian had recommended we purchase a bottle of Grannick’s Bitter Apple Spray to keep him from chewing on the bandages around his feet. Since the solution wasn’t supposed to be harmful if swallowed, I called my Vet and asked him that if I used the solution as a training agent by spraying Phoenix directly in the mouth (not a full-blown, all-out spray, but a light tap of spray), would it harm him? My Vet said “no”. Hence, the training began.
It didn’t take long for Phoenix to understand the concept that grabbing was not allowed. I think it took literally two times of me using that bottle on him for him to completely stop. Afterwards, if he was doing something unacceptable, depending on what he was doing would determine the type of correction but if it was something that warranted the bottle coming out, I would tell him “et-et” and just show him the bottle. His ears went back, he laid down and immediately stopped what he was doing.
I worked with him to bark if there was something that needed my immediate attention, and he did. Sometimes, he would come and paw me, give a grunt (he was part Malamute so all of you Malamute owners, you know their “speak” and know where I’m coming from) and as I got up to investigate, he would lead the way to the source of the problem, which was generally one of my kids getting into trouble or someone around the property line that was a stranger.
Since the business opened, when I’m working with mouthy pooches, I advise their owners on the destructive behavior (this behavior transcends from human to object to other animals, too, so it’s a good thing to get a handle on as soon as you can recognize it) and to use Bitter Apple Spray with a calm but commanding presence to correct the behavior.
It’s on our list of demonstrating the training technique in video format as soon as possible so keep watching the site for it. I’m hoping it won’t take too long for us to get it created and uploaded but it really depends on the amount of time we have and how busy we are.
Phoenix when he was older
We miss you!
Enjoy your training and have fun with your pup!