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Play as You Train Your Dog — 11 Comments

  1. I really appreciate your thorough, thoughtful approach to getting a new dog, Thayna. I did it that way with Cider, our Rhodesian Ridgeback some years ago and she was one of the best two dogs we’ve ever had. The other best dog is Lola, our Rottweiler. We didn’t get her till she was 6 or 8 months old but we were able to learn that she had been carefully bred and raised. Cider was still puppy-nipping mildly when we got her, but Lola had outgrown most of it.

  2. I have never had a puppy bite me. This is one of the reasons I go to good breeders I have checked out thoroughly. I want to know my kids’ background, health, etc. and rescues cannot tell you that most of the time. I want to know how the puppy has been bred, reared and loved. I am NOT SHOPPING as the new ADs like to say, I am adopting a new family member, and I exclusively bring home German Shepherds. They have to be stable and healthy. Good breeders, particularly those raising the puppies in their homes with their 2 legged children don’t tend to have more than one litter at a time and give their puppies the time they need to grow up properly. This isn’t to say there aren’t bad breeders out there. If any breeder allows anyone to take a puppy from 5-7 weeks old, the person should RUN AWAY-FAST. Puppies learn NOT to nip from their litter mates and mom. If they are taken away too early they haven’t learned this.

  3. This is very good site for dogs. There are many information about dogs. Thanks for sharing……………………

  4. Wow, I love it when we get into discussions here! Julie, thanks so much for your helpful post. Mara, do bookmark this page and come back sometime with an update!

    Happy New Year everyone.


  5. In response to Mara’s nippy puppy:

    Rosanna is right, puppies do bite, but they must also learn not to. Usually in a litter or pack of dogs, puppies get scolded or ignored by adults and other litter-mates for biting, and this is how they learn control. I would suggest avoiding games like tug of war with this puppy. Also, never let the puppy think biting any part of your body is O.K. By running away from him you would be encouraging niping – so by taking a few moments to calm down and chill out is fantastic. Just be sure your puppy doesn’t think that he is being rewarded with attention for the bad behavior.

    Find some Bitter Apple or other bad-tasting spray, and apply it on your skin and clothes a few minutes before every play session. This should help to discourage nipping.

    Better than saying AH AH would be “Ouch!” or yipe like you’ve been hurt. Let the puppy think he really hurt you. Then (temporarily) stop game play and ignore him. Stand still, fold your arms and look up.

    You shouldn’t avoid high-energy games with a herding breed – quite the opposite. The more, the merrier!
    If the puppy doesn’t get out his energy every day, it will be channeled into bad things like digging, chewing, barking etc.

    Your puppy is not necessarily being dominant or in control. He is just doing what he was bred to do. He will gain SOME control with age, but being a herding breed, this is not something he will just grow out of. Time and consistency are the key.

    Hope these tips help.

  6. Mara — you DO have your work cut out for you! I see both plusses and minuses in your situation.

    The main plusses are you, your willingness to dig into this, and that beach because your dog IS going to need a lot of exercise!

    My first concern in any household with young kids is for the safety of the children. Be sure the dog isn’t with the children unsupervised unless you are positive the situation warrants it. This may mean taking the dog into the bathroom with you when you need to use it. A really important part of things would be a large dog crate.. see my page about them here:


    Your family not liking large dogs especially Alsatians can change with time as they get to know your girl. These can be wonderful dogs, loving and intelligent. I had a cross once. I’m not familiar with Kelpies so I can’t comment there.

    In my opinion, your best chance of success will be if you can work with a good dog trainer, not one of the school of thought you so vividly describe, but one who is versatile. Ask all your friends and ask local veterinarians for recommendations. Another place to look is http://www.apdt.com — look at the section about finding a dog trainer and select Australia. People listed here lean towards the same school of thought as I do, that pain-free methods actually work better. If none of these people are anywhere near you, then you might contact some of them anyway, for friends they might have in your area.

    You may find a class or you may prefer someone who works directly with you. If money is tight or your husband doesn’t feel this is needed, point out that one dog bite on a child can cost a lot in money and in suffering.

    Best wishes,

  7. Thanks Rosana both for your quick response and an excelent outside perspective!

    As you can probably read into my last comment, I’m somewhat inexperienced with training dogs and a little nervous. I’ve ended up with a puppy of a breed that I would never have chosen or under other circumstances, even accepted. My husband wanted something more macho than the Groodle(Golden Retriever x Poodle) I had alreadypaid a deposit on and was to be ready at the end of Jan, now next month.

    He has a job with high exposure to the public and unbeknownst to me was on his own hunt for what he considered the perfect dog. What I was presented with was a choice. Ethier, after six years of begging, hinting, presenting evidence of the benefits and arguing pros and cons I would have to accept his choice of a German Shepherd x Kelpie(have you ever even heard of a Kelpie?) bread from military working lines and available immediately or my hard won deal was off and we would stay a one small, elderly Jack Russell family.
    I was desperate for a big dog and decided to take up the challenge of raising a high intelligence, high energy and high prey drive puppy. To add a little spice to an already challenging situation we live in a country town full of men that think, not only that a woman cant train a powerful dog, but that you have to use a “firm hand” to be effective(we all know what that means). These same men also usually own a completly out of controll large mixed breed(rotweiler x mastiff x pharoah hound or dane x doberman x staffodhsire terrier)which patrols the area in front of their house with dangerous agression when it periodicly escapes a friend or neighbor who is just trying to get out of or into their mates yard. They also tend to own “staffies”(you can read that pitt bull, the most popular breed here in Austalia) with no manners no training and no socialisation or a working breed like a kelpie x Border Collie or Australian cattle dog kept in a small yard and only taken out restraind in the back of a ute(pickup) or when they escape, which highly energetic and intelligent dogs can turn into an art form when bored, and herd the neighbors cat to the top most limbs of a nearby tree.
    I also live amongst an extended family that I have just learned does not like large dogs, especially not “Alsatians”. I have three small children, two, four and seven. We sail and spend a lot of time wet so we need a dog that is a good on boats and in the water.
    As you can see I have my work cut out for me!
    On the positive side we live in paradise, very near a longgggggggggg sandy beach where dogs are allowed in the morning and evening and tolleraed at othertimes as long as they are unobtrusive. Our family is always on the go and a dog fits quite nicely into our lifestyle. Provided it is well trained and patient it can acompany us anywhere with lots of exercise and fun in the mix. Our Jack russell, a rescued dog who is now twelve, has spent ten years as our constant companion and If I can get it right this new pup can enjoy the same privelages and fill our lives with even more love and fun.

    Thanks for the Confidence Boost!!

  8. Mara,

    I do not think your puppy nipping means anything about “dominance.” Here is a basic law of life:

    *** Puppies bite. ***

    They are hard-wired to do it, and the sort of short time out you have been doing is perfect. It’s very much like what littermates do to each other. It’s how puppies learn what is acceptable.

    We had an Australian shepherd for his whole life from the age of 8 weeks. He had those nipping inclinations and man I wondered if he was ever going to outgrow them. Dominance? He was the least dominant dog I have ever had.

    Since you have young children, obviously more care needs to be taken otherwise, but it sounds like you are handling it great. Thanks for sharing your game. People with a nearby beach are lucky!


  9. Hi Rosanna,
    I’m really enjoying your blog, thank you!
    This is a game I’ve been playing with my puppy and it has been fabulously effective. We take her to the beach and spend a few minutes both on and off leash. At 14 weeks she walks with a loose leash as long as there are not too many distractions. I’m having a little trouble with her herding instinct however. She has a tendancy to get excited and give me a quick nip on my lower calf or heel. Does this mean she is being dominant and thinks she is in controll? Will she grow out of it or learn not to nip?(I always quickly correct her with and “AH AH” and take a short time out from the chase, about 10 or 20 seconds of her sitting calmly) Is it a game you shouldnt play with dogs with a high herding instinct? I have small children and as I can still remember the terror of being herded by the neighbors very agile and snappy Blue Heeler when I was about five, it is not a behavior I want to encourage. It is such fun though, sometimes I’ve even fallen over trying to out manouever the dog, we must be a funny sight!
    Thanks for all the great tips and advice,

  10. Hi Rosanna – I’ve just recently found your blog and love what I’ve read so far!

    We recently invented “Run, Run” – Teasel, our 20 week old Miniature Schnauzer, was getting into the habit of stealing things and running off with them. I’d heard that you ought to ignore such behaviour but what if you actually *need* what she’s just taken – like a bra! – or don’t want her to damage it… my husband certainly wasn’t managing to ignore the sock stealing or losing his glasses to her…

    I watched what she was doing and thought most of it was a wish to be chased.

    So we invented “Run, Run” – mostly this centres around one of her toys that is easy for her to carry. She runs off with it – I chase after her crying “Run, Run” – and then after a few circuits I say “good girl” and give her a treat. She drops whatever she is carrying and I take it. If its something precious I keep it. If its the “Run, Run” toy I’ll either throw it for her or leave it somewhere that she can get it.

    As a strategy for getting things back its working very well… she is more reluctant to give back some things than others and occasionally its hard to say “Run, Run” as joyfully and playfully as others…

    And it is beginning to teach her to drop which she’s been very slow to accept as a concept.

    But the biggest bonus is that simply giving her what she really wanted – to be chased – now and again – has improved her behaviour all round.

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