So I left Snuffy with a family yesterday as a trial placement. He's 14 weeks old, about 25 pounds, smart as all get out. The family consists of a mom, a dad, and three kids, 4, 6, 8. They waited until they taught all the kids how to behave around dogs before getting one, they read up on dogs and breeds and training, and in general, they would make a GREAT home for the right puppy.
I brought him to them yesterday, and he was wonderful while I was there with him. Behaved, showed them his commands, played nicely with the 8 year old, etc. A little gentleman. Well, it seems that he turned into a little hellion after I left.
They said that for the most part, he's been wonderful, but he got into a couple of really crazy outbursts (zoomies, I explained to her) where he ran around the house, grabbed at the kids' clothes, scared the crap out of them, and pretty much bounced off the walls. I guess when they tried to get control of him, he got wilder, mouthed their hands when they tried to catch him, grabbed at the woman's sweatshirt, and just in general acted like a little jerk. Eventually they caught him and threw him in his crate but the experience has them a bit unnerved. He's also started biting his leash like wild and refusing to let them get it on him without him grabbing it out of their hands. Basically, he's walking all over them and while they are, on one level, aware of this and aware of how to handle it, they are a little worried.
I know that for many of us who've lived with pit bull puppies, this kind of behavior is normal, even if it is frustrating. The mother and father want to try to work this out and show Snuffy that they are in control, not him, but the kids aren't dealing all that well when he gets insane. They scream and run, and the puppy gets even more crazy and jumps on them, grabs their clothes, etc.
I told them to leave the drag line on him at all times, which will help them get ahold of him when he's running amuck. I also told them that, above alll other things, they need to remain calm and not further excite the pup when he's in his crazy mode. Instead, they need to be calm, collected, and take drag line, show the pup that he cannot get away and restrict his movement until he calms down. After that, I suggested that they run through some commands with him and give him a bit of structured activity to take the place of the unstructured activity. If they can't calm him on leash (and I think they will be able to) they need to give him a time out in the crate till he's settled a bit.
I also told them that they really need to restrict his access to the house and his movement in the house so that he can't get away with being insane and running like a wild thing all over the place. They admitted to me that they had "cut him some slack" over the past day and a half because they figured he was confused by the big change in his life. I told them that was a mistake and that cutting slack is actually even more confusing and difficult for a puppy because he needs structure and someone to tell him who's in control right from the get go.
Basically, it sounds to me like they have already shown Snuffy that they are soft and can be pushed around, that the kids are afraid of him, and that he can use both of those things to his advantage to get what he wants.
They are going to implement the things I told them, but is there anything else I'm missing here? They have the NILIF information and they have a couple of decent training books. I want this to work out for them and for Snuffy, but I know that if they don't nip this problem right away, this is not going to be a good placement. Snuffy is a very good puppy, but he's also a very SMART puppy. I'm wondering if he might be too much dog for these folks, but it's only been a day and a half so I'm trying to remain upbeat for now.
In the meantime, any advice or thoughts I can pass onto these folks would be much appreciated.