Who's the boss

It seems that the age old training problems start and end with the same old thing...establishing leadership of the pack. You have no idea of how many calls I get with same complaint..."He just won't listen to me." Well of course, and that's because he's smarter than you. German Shepherds are always smarter than us...until they learn differently. They are establishing themselves as the boss...OVER YOU!


A puppy is not human. It is not your baby, to be coddled and cooed over. A puppy is a dog and as such it has a pack mentality. He is driven by thousands of years of genetic programming that tells him he must establish himself in the order of the pack for him to survive. And who is his pack? You are, and your spouse and your children. All he is doing is substituting his dog pack for a people pack. It makes no difference to him, a pack is a pack, and he must establish himself as the leader in order to thrive. This is his mindset and until you accept this framework of his thinking...you will lose. You will lose at everything associated with having a well trained, obedient and most of all..a happy puppy. Your nerves will be frayed and you may lose your beloved pet.


Let's look at some of the major complaints:


1. He won't stop humping me and my children.


2. He won't come when I call him.


3. He bites my hands and feet.


4. He won't stop jumping on me.


5. He's protective of his food bowl.


OK, that's enough to deal with for now so let's get into the cause of the behavior and the remedy.


1. Humping is not a sexual thing with your puppy. He's far too young to understand anything about that behavior. Those hormones haven't kicked in yet for that activity. What he's doing here is showing dominance over you. To hump you means to be over you and being over you means dominance in the pack....and remember...you are the pack. Here is where you need to find your "adult" voice and with that adult voice you say very loudly and firmly "off" while at the same time pushing him off. Do not use the word, "Down" as that word should be reserved for training your puppy to lie down. Be very loud and firm. This shows authority! Your authority over him. If he continues....it's time for a time out in his crate. If you are firm, he will get it quickly and that nonsense will be over.


2. Of course he won't come. Again, he is testing you. Now assuming you've taken the time to train him to come (while on the leash and off), not coming to you is simply being obstinate. He is doing it because he doesn't respect your authority and if he doesn't respect your authority, he will do what he pleases when he pleases. I've seen this play out several ways. Let's say you are at the park and he is running off leash and now it's time to go home. You call your boy and head for the vehicle. But something is wrong. He is sitting there watching you walk to the vehicle and not following. Don't panic! Even though you are far away, you have him in sight and so stand there and call him. Do not give into the temptation of walking back to get him. This is a test of wills and the one who gives in first is the one who loses. He wants to come. He's just testing your will. He wants to see how long he can hold out or if he can hold out longer than you which means you really didn't mean it when you told him to come. Wait for it. Stand your ground and make him come to you. It may take a bit of time but don't give in. Sooner or later he'll break and come. When he does, do not scold him, but praise him. Tell him what a good boy he is. Sooner than later he'll trot happily by your side all the way back to the vehicle.


3. First, and as tempting as it is...never use your hands or feet as toys when you're playing with your puppy. If you do, of course they'll assume they are toys. Do know though that teething and mouthing are a way for him to feel close to you. It's their puppy brain that tells them that. Make no mistake however, that a mother wolf in her den of pups would put a quick end to that behavior if a pup was doing that to her. So should you do the same. A quick and sharp admonishment is in order when they do this, and if the behavior continues...cup the palms of your hands over the top muzzle and with your fingers on each side, fold the upper lips down and under their teeth and push up until you hear a yelp. It won't kill them but it will sting and they'll soon learn that the result of biting your hands and feet are not pleasant.


4. A sharp knee to the chest and firmly saying, "OFF" should do the trick. Remember...do not use the word, "DOWN!" If he won't stop...time for a time out in the crate. But act quickly so he knows why he's being admonished....AGAIN!


5. Yeah, that just isn't going to happen in your house right? Again, they are harkening back to behavior that is thousands of years old when every pup needed to protect every bite of food in the wild in order to survive. This is where your action needs to be swift and sure. Grab the puppy by the scruff and give him a good shake. This is what his mother would do to correct bad behavior. At the same time, firmly and in a very loud, authoritative voice say, "NO" or "STOP." Quick action on your part will send the message very quickly that this behavior will not be tolerated and it will cease.


A puppy's brain is growing rapidly and they are at their highest learning levels between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Please do not waste a moment setting the ground rules for your puppy and you'll avoid some of the more serious corrections that must be made later on if you fail at a young age. Remember...there is very seldom a "bad dog." There are, however, bad owners who just don't take the time to do the early work. It is imperative that you do this. Does this mean that you won't be challenged when your puppy gets a bit older...absolutely not. He will challenge you, but he already has the knowledge of your expectations so bringing him back into line will be far less work than if he never had the foundation to start with. Please train your puppy. The small accomplishments of sit, come, down and stay are small by your measure but they are gigantic achievements in your puppy's mind and they are tools that will serve him well all of his life.




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