puppy acting up

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Postby babyreba » March 5th, 2006, 9:03 pm

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.
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Postby cheekymunkee » March 5th, 2006, 9:37 pm

The only suggestion I would make is to get his little butt in puppy school ASAP. It sounds like he has had great training so far but it will help THEM as well as him to learn who is boss. Other than that, I think you covered it.
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Postby Maryellen » March 5th, 2006, 9:47 pm

if it is like this now, i would hate to see this later on.. it sounds like they are not going to be able to handle him.. if the kids were schooled on dog stuff they shouldnt be running around screaming when he does this. it also sounds like him being a jerk with them is that he knows they cant control him.. i would take him back erin, and try to find him another home, one that is better prepared for a puppy that has more experience. i would not let snuffy stay in this home, if they want a dog, get them a dog that will not take advantage of their softness..
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Postby luvmyangels » March 5th, 2006, 10:01 pm

I agree that this home may not be the best fit.
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 9:16 am

that's what i told them when they called. i think they did a lot of reading up on what to do, but didn't understand what it would be like to have a puppy in real life, you know?

i told them that i'd like them to take 24 hours to try what i'd suggested, and if they aren't able to get the situation under control, that i'd like to rethink the placement and help them find a puppy more suited to their family.

they were on board with that plan. i figure that if they are going to get this puppy in their control, it's got to happen FAST and if they aren't able to do it with him in 24 hours, it's going to get worse, not better.

damn it, they seemed like such a good fit, i felt so good when i left him there on saturday. the pup normally LOVES little kids and plays with my neighbors kids (2 and 8) with no problems. i guess this family just isn't as ready for this kind of puppy as they thought.
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Postby Maryellen » March 6th, 2006, 9:29 am

they might not be as ready as they think they are.. if they taught their kids how to act with puppies/dogs it should have shown when snuffy was on his own with them.. some people just cant handle pit pups like snuffy who is not a submissive pup, and he can sense that... its not a failure, its more like a learning experience, maybe if the kids were older, like 10 and up snuffy would have done better, and maybe if the kids were really dog savvy it would have worked.. i am thinking they might need a more laid back pup.
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 10:06 am

Maryellen wrote:they might not be as ready as they think they are.. if they taught their kids how to act with puppies/dogs it should have shown.


i'm pretty sure you're right about them not being as ready as they thought. the kids behaved fine with him when i was there. the youngest was afraid of him when he jumped on her, but she didn't freak out, she just got up on the couch off the floor to get away from him. the oldest boy was great with him, playing with him, giving him commands.

i think that the problem is that they prepared for the basics, like how to play with the dog, not to touch the dog when eating, to always be nice to the dog and not hit it or scream at it, but didn't think about the more challenging scenarios you have to deal with when owning a puppy. like how the kids should act if/when the puppy has a spurt of insane puppy energy and won't stop running laps around the room.

they are a really great family, very active, and they would probably give some puppy a really great home, so i'll probably try to help them find a pup that's a bit more easygoing . . . lab mix, shep mix, somehting along those lines.
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Postby pLaurent » March 6th, 2006, 10:59 am

Sounds like the puppy was just overcome with excitement at all the new space, people, kids etc. as any puppy and even many grown dogs would be.

I also told them that they really need to restrict his access to the house and his movement in the house


Definitely. All the instant freedom is just overwhelming for him.

It's so hard when people expect perfection and when it's not forthcoming in one hour, the dog is gone. :(

They can keep aquiring and returning puppies, but I very much doubt they'll get one who behaves like Lassie when it arrives and never runs, chews, barks or bites.

I know of someone who has said she's really "tired of getting rid of puppies" and gone through 3 so far, but they just wouldn't stop peeing on the floor. :x
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 12:06 pm

pLaurent wrote:They can keep aquiring and returning puppies, but I very much doubt they'll get one who behaves like Lassie when it arrives and never runs, chews, barks or bites.


I really don't want to give anyone the wrong impression about these folks.

I adopted this pup to them on a "trial" basis because I knew that they haven't owned a dog in a long time and that the kids have been acquainted with dogs but have never had one of their own. Snuffy's a great pup, but he is very smart and active, so I want to make sure that wherever he goes, it's a fit. I don't think his behavior is in any way abnormal for a pup his age, but he is more active and intelligent than the average dog from down the block, if you know what I mean. He's not hyper, but he's busy and he's a real thinker and you can sometimes watch the little gears turning in his pea brain when you're teaching him something. I think that being such a quick learner, he probably absorbed the fact that they were cutting him slack with everything and just figured out how he could use that to his advantage.

They didn't call me to complain or to ask me to take the puppy back--they called to ask me how I thought they should handle the situation. I suggested to them that if they don't figure out fast how to keep puppy in control when he tries to get wild that we rethink the adoption and bring the puppy back to me.

I really don't think these people are puppy dumpers at all, and I don't regret dealing with them. In fact, they've been asking me questions about training and care and the breed from the very first day they called me. I think that I might have overestimated their ability to handle Snuff because they'd done so much reading and research and had really given a lot of thought into whether they were ready for a dog.

I'm concerned about this particular placement, but I have faith that this family is going to be good for a dog--probably just not this particular dog. Which sucks because he really likes kids and I think he'd do well in a home like this one if the people just had a little more understanding about how to put my training advice into action.
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Postby dogcrazyjen » March 6th, 2006, 12:09 pm

How about retrieval work? When the puppy starts zooming, could they redirect that energy with a game of fetch outside? Maybe they need to see a pattern of when he tends to get the zoomies (say 7 at night) and at 6 make sure they take him out for a half hour of seriously tiring play. A tired puppy is a happy puppy, as we all know.

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Postby msvette2u » March 6th, 2006, 1:43 pm

With our new puppy, who is not a pit bull, we restrict her access for housebreaking and also because she does zoomies and up on the couch as well, and is very rude. We have her tethered on a 4ft. lead and while she's housebroken, still needs to learn rules of the house. Daily she's off the lead while inside, learning rules about not jumping ON people, and how to obey, come when called etc. (This is our deaf puppy). Not giving her free reign has helped the training process.
As far as not touching the puppy when it's eating, the puppy should be trained to not snap or guard at all. Any member of the household should be able to (if they so desired) walk over and take the puppy's food, or at least walk by without a fear of it snapping.
If it guards, the food goes, and it is fed by hand and made to SIT prior to being fed when finally allowed to have the foodbowl back. Not sure if this is an issue, but if it is, those things have helped with our baby.
A misbehaving puppy shouldn't be crated for being puppy-mischievious. But it could have restricted access at that point (tethered or put behind a baby gate).
Also the best way we've found to discipline if the puppy is jumping on the kids and being awful is to gently give it a scruff-shake, that is grab it's scruff and gently shake it, then put it in a time out (but not the crate) of some sort, restricted access to the home/kids.
Granted, I've not raised a pit bull, fostered some, but not raised one from puppy on up. Not sure if that's appropriate for pit bulls, but it's how the mom would discipline the dog.
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 2:01 pm

Hey Yvette, thanks for your response.

Just to add a bit more to this story, this pup has not an ounce of human aggression. Not even when eating raw bones or rawhides or a dish of chicken livers. So I just went over the rules with them about puppies, and I explained to the kids that a dog that is eating or chewing on a bone or sleeping needs to be left alone. The parents had gone over that with them as well. I just think it's always smartest to teach that kind of thing to kids as a safety precaution. This pup has never so much as growled or grumbled at a human being before.

It's just that he's a pushy booger and that he is obviously taking advantage of them. His nipping and mouthiness is all bratty puppy mouthiness, and the mom told me that it's very clearly play behavior--but it's inappropriate play behavior that should not be allowed.

So thanks for the tips, I will pass them on. Restricting his freedom (which is what I told them from the beginning) is going to be imperative. He simply can't be allowed to go where he wants, when he wants, how he wants. I think that now that they've seen a couple of bouts of wild-thing behavior, they understand what I mean when I say that.

Again, I'm only going to give this a day or two before I talk to them again. I don't ever want to leave a dog, especially a pit bull or PB mix, in a home where he could become an out-of-control animal that's a bad representative of the breed. If they can't get him to show improvement quickly, it could lead to serious problems in the next few weeks as he gets bigger, stronger, and more aware of the fact that he can boss the kids around.

ETA: Scruff shaking doesn't phase this puppy much. When I have to really, really get the message across to him, I have to take him by the collar and make it impossible for him to get away till he looks at me and realizes that he's not going to get anywhere at all till he stops struggling and listens. When I did the scruff shakes, he'd just act like we were playing and keep at whatever he was doing.
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Postby Maryellen » March 6th, 2006, 2:10 pm

i would take scruffy back NOW, instead of later. you are going to have to probably teach him some stuff allover again, and its not good to allow him to get away with being a brat to these people and the kids, as he might associate this with all kids that he can be bossy and obnoxious. i always hesitate to place a pushy pup in a house with young children who have never dealt with a pushy pup before. while their intentions might be good, i dont want scruffy to come back with any ill lasting effects either.
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Postby msvette2u » March 6th, 2006, 2:22 pm

babyreba wrote:
It's just that he's a pushy booger and that he is obviously taking advantage of them. His nipping and mouthiness is all bratty puppy mouthiness, and the mom told me that it's very clearly play behavior--but it's inappropriate play behavior that should not be allowed.

So thanks for the tips, I will pass them on. Restricting his freedom (which is what I told them from the beginning) is going to be imperative. He simply can't be allowed to go where he wants, when he wants, how he wants. I think that now that they've seen a couple of bouts of wild-thing behavior, they understand what I mean when I say that.

Yep. Lambie does a wild girl thing and it sure changes her attitude when she's tethered. I hate doing it and we are giving her more access as she earns it but she still has a ways to go. Dogs have to learn they are dogs before they can earn the right to be part of the family!
babyreba wrote:ETA: Scruff shaking doesn't phase this puppy much. When I have to really, really get the message across to him, I have to take him by the collar and make it impossible for him to get away till he looks at me and realizes that he's not going to get anywhere at all till he stops struggling and listens. When I did the scruff shakes, he'd just act like we were playing and keep at whatever he was doing.

Yikes! I've only had to do it a few times with Lambie but she usually pays attention ;-) It sounds like your little guy does need a bit firmer hand!
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 2:28 pm

i don't think they are incapable, and they are actually quite well-informed about different training techniques through reading--the problem is that they haven't been putting them into practice yet. i don't think they are going to ruin him if they try to take another day and try to follow my advice.

believe me, if i thought this was an emergency, i would have been down there yesterday. i'm in touch with them, they are keeping me posted and asking questions, and they aren't freaking out. they are concerned about whether or not they can handle this. and i think that's an appropriate and responsible response from them at this point. they wanted advice, they wanted to know whether it was behavior that i had to deal with when i had him and how i handled it when it occurred. i told them that he didn't get the chance to act that way in my house becuase i didn't allow him to run wild at all--first sign of puppy insanity and i took his leash/collar and had him sit with me till he calmed. or i would get him involved in structured play (fetch, for example) initiated by me, rather then play initiated by the puppy.

we're supposed to talk tonight and again tomorrow to see if giving him more structure and less unfettered freedom has helped them at all. if not, i'm picking him up on tuesday or wednesday night. i'm not abandoning them or him, if they are not equipped for this pup, they won't be keeping him. this is a trial placement only, and we all agreed that in a few days, if it was too much for them, Snuffy would come back to live with me.
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Postby msvette2u » March 6th, 2006, 3:14 pm

That sounds good!
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Postby babyreba » March 6th, 2006, 3:37 pm

I just talked to them. Things have improved significantly with the two boys, but the little girl just can't control her fear of him. He's treating her like another dog. The oldest boy can make him listen, the middle boy is having fun with him, but the little girl just can't bear to even be in the same room with him because she's petrified from having him jump all over her.

I'm picking him up at 3 PM tomorrow, so everyone can have some time to say goodbye to him and and the boys and the parents are very upset that they are not going to be keeping him. They did see his positive points. I'm going to help them find a dog, a non bully breed, because they are really and truly a wonderful family that I know can raise a dog. They just need the *right* dog.

I'll chalk this up as a lesson for me, too. Thanks for the advice everyone!
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Postby rockermom » March 6th, 2006, 4:31 pm

Hello, I must say from my experience with a new puppy. My Pup quickly became a dominent pup with the zoomies when we brought him home from shelter at 4 mos. My youngest who is 10 had the most problems my oldest is 16. At the time I was wondering how people with young children can handle it when a puppy is being bratty. My pups biggest issue was tying to boss you when we wanted him off the couch. Even with doing NILIF I still could not imagine having this pup when my son was any younger than he is let alone at 4 yrs old. Having had to give up a dog who was not compatable with our family I can understand what is going on. THis is best for everyone. My opinion is that you find them a calm adult dog. And if it were me I would wait untill the youngest is older and can understand her fear. My son was fearful of dogs too and even at 10 he still was nervous but has improved in the 4 mos we have had Rocky.
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Postby Maryellen » March 6th, 2006, 4:49 pm

dam erin i am sorry to hear this, but it sounds like its for the best. if the girl wont get over her fear there is no sense having scruffy there as he will just pick on her..
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