How To Handle The Ultra-Exuberant Labrador

Peter | January 4th, 2009
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For those ultra-exuberant Labs who have trouble controlling themselves from jumping on people, even after being taught the sit and off commands, a harness and leash in the house can help immensely.

Put the harness and leash on, then sit in a chair and put your foot on the leash so there’s only enough slack for the dog to stand up or sit, but not to jump up. This way you aren’t jerking the dog around or punishing it, and if the dog starts to jump up, it can’t. Just make sure the leash is firmly under your feet with a wide enough base so you don’t get pulled off the chair!

Although the harness is a way to manage jumping behavior it must be coupled with teaching the sit command with lots of positive reinforcement. This will keep your Lab from performing the behavior you don’t want, while teaching it the behavior you do want. You want to physically prevent them from jumping up, then immediately train them to sit with a big reward.

A headcollar, which fits over the muzzle (similar to a horse halter), is another option for over-exuberant Labs, especially those that pull on a leash. Many dog trainers are great fans of the headcollar for over-excited dogs. It’s a fabulous management tool.

Use it in the house or on walks while your dog is learning how to walk on leash, so you aren’t getting your arm yanked out of its socket. Also, headcollars can help potential adopters to recognize that they can handle that 75-pound, full-grown Labrador Retriever.

Don’t Give Up!

Most importantly, all new owners of adopted Labs are urged not to give up on their rambunctious buddies. There is a light at the end of the tunnel for these dogs. Work with them every day that you can. Provide as much time needed to get them domesticated to your needs and the needs of the family.

Seek out a qualified, positive trainer, and get the help you need. Particularly good would be a trainer that has experience with training adolescent and adult dogs.

Be patient, consistent and understanding, and one day the Labrador fairy will raise her magic wand and sprinkle her magic dust over your Lab. Suddenly, you’ll realize that your hyperactive shelter Lab has become a really great, respectable, and well-trained family pet, one that your neighbors will be envious of.

Your Adopted Labrador Retriever Can Learn To Behave

Gemma | December 24th, 2008
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If you adopt an adult Lab from a shelter or rescue group, you certainly can’t go back in time to puppyhood to avoid behavior problems. But don’t despair! Your Lab can still learn how to behave.

Habits that have taken a year to develop won’t disappear overnight. Consistency and patience are required to train a Lab of any age. You can’t let your Lab get away with something once just because you are tired. You can’t pat it on the head for jumping on you one day because it’s cute, then yell at it for jumping on you the next day when you are in your work clothes.

The trick is to see the pearl in the oyster, so to speak. You can have a wonderful family dog hidden inside that rambunctious adolescent. All you need to do is channel that energy with patience and nurture those natural Lab tendencies into behaviors that are appropriate for life with the typical loving family.

Back To The Basics

They key to training a shelter Lab, a Lab from a rescue group, or any adolescent or adult Lab is simple. The golden rule in training is to forget that they are adolescents or adult dogs and treat them just how you would treat an 8-week old puppy – using positive training methods.

In many cases, people who adopt adult Labs from the shelter believe an older dog should know better, and this can set both dog and human up for failure and disappointment. If your adopted Lab is acting up, it isn’t because it is being spiteful. Just because a dog is older doesn’t mean it should know better.

A lot of people get really resentful about the behavior of their shelter Labs. They think their dog is abnormal because it isn’t acting like that calm, sweet, mellow Lab down the street. But this is normal behavior for Lab puppies and also for adolescent Labs that haven’t had any training or that don’t understand what is expected of them.

This kind of behavior is frustrating, but you have to understand the Lab’s natural tendencies and you have to be patient. Rambunctious behavior from a shelter dog is actually a good thing. A dog that has been moved around a lot tends to be insecure and overwhelmed, leaving it subdued for a few weeks when placed in a new home.

The dog isn’t sure whether it is going to stay with you but when he starts jumping up and running around like a toddler, that’s really good news! It means that your Lab is finally feeling comfortable and starts acting more normal. At this point, you can manage training problems and start back at square one, as if it were a puppy.

Why Were These Wonderful Family Dogs Given Up?

Gemma | December 21st, 2008
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An adolescent dog is a hard sell for adoption, even if they are the types of pets considered to be ideal for family living, such as the Labrador Retriever. And when people do make the commitment to bring home a large, enthusiastic canine that hasn’t learned any manners yet, regret may set in quickly.

You see these types of dogs in shelters all of the time because, in the outside world, people see other family-oriented dogs that are calm and sweet and think they naturally come that way. They don’t realize how much time it takes to get these dogs to that point, and they give up because the drive and the high energy level is more than they are willing or able to deal with.

Many otherwise well-behaved dogs act wildly in shelters, not because they are always that way, but because of their situation. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, what you see isn’t always what you get. If the dog is wild and jumping up, it could be crying out saying, Hey, look at me! I’m a friendly dog! Pick me, Pick me!

On the reverse behavior, if you see a dog that is really quiet, it could just be overcome by the noise and all the changes it has just experienced.

Why Are These Popular Dogs There In The First Place?

Popular family dogs you can find in the shelter may have been dropped off because many families found that they could not tolerate the typical behaviors that came up, such as the incessant need to chew and an energy level that sometimes seems unquenchable.

Dogs bred for fieldwork (hunting) can have even more energy and drive than other breeds. Their exercise needs may seem impossible to meet, so many of these guys and gals end up in animal shelters or in rescue groups without ever having had any training.

Constantly shifting from one home to another and having to endure long periods of confinement in small spaces can make inappropriate behavior even worse, simple because the dog isn’t getting the exercise or attention it craves.

When an adolescent or adult dog has never received any formal obedience training, he may seem incorrigible, and that’s not what people expect from an adult family-type dog. Take the Labrador Retriever as the perfect example one major reason why people adopt adult Labs is to avoid a lot of the work that comes with a puppy.

These people have heard that adult Labs are calm and they think this adult dog will be no problem at all. But if the Lab was never trained, you can have real problems, such as a Lab that has never learned to stop the habit of puppy mouthing or jumping on people. It’s one thing for a puppy to do those things but when a large adult dog does them, somebody could get hurt.

How To Combine Playtime With Obedience Training

Alan | December 15th, 2008
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Puppies are like children in many ways. They need constant care, supervision, and a lot of affection. Having both together, your kids and your dog, especially during playtime, require extra supervision and patience. The key is to teach your child how to play with the puppy and for the puppy to understand that he needs to listen to the child the same way he listens to you and the other adults in the family.

Always Use The Same Commands

It is important for your child to use the same commands that you and the rest of the family use. Doing so teaches your child to use the commands with respect toward the dog. At the same time, your puppy will realize that he needs to obey the childs commands, thus teaches both to respect one another.

It sounds like it can be quite a handful, but it is also a lot of fun. Combining training and playtime helps to create a closer bond between your child and puppy. Let them run together and then see how fast your child can command the puppy to stop and sit. The puppy needs to learn to sit and wait while your child to throw a toy for your puppy to retrieve. Your child can also train the dog how to roll over by rolling in the grass while having the puppy mimic him.

There are many other ways you can incorporate training and fun between your child and puppy.

Some helpful rules to keep in mind

1. Your dog should understand who the leader is. If he has an instinct to herd, dont let him herd your child. Doing so will make the dog think that he is in charge and will not obey your childs commands.

2. No roughhousing whatsoever. Discourage aggressive play at all times. Do not let your child drag, pull, wrestle, hit, or poke the puppy, even in a playful way. Your puppy may react differently and may jump and bite. At the same time, do not let your puppy jump on your child. A four year old German Shepherd can easily knock down a 6 year old child.

3. Teach your child to respect the puppy, and vice versa. Your child should learn how to properly treat the dog, which will then earn him the respect and leadership from your puppy.

4. Establish consistency. Puppies learn through repetition. Your child needs to understand that commands that we teach him are firm and absolute. If the puppy doesnt obey the command, the child should repeat the command until the puppy does what he is told to do.

5. No squeezing. Hugging the puppy too tight can result in injury.

6. Always be there to supervise playtime, especially if you have a young child and/or you have a new puppy. This way, you can easily intervene if things get out of hand.

Keeping Your Children Safe From Strange Dogs

Gemma | December 10th, 2008
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Children are amazingly loving and carefree but too much friendliness could get them bitten, and in some cases even killed, when coming across a strange dog while playing outdoors. Teaching your children to approach new dogs in a calm, controlled manner can help prevent these problems.

First, children need to ask for permission from their parents and the dog’s owner before approaching any dog. If the owner isn’t nearby, avoid any contact with the dog.

Second, children should approach the dog slowly, offering their hand palm up for the dog to sniff. Depending in the dog’s size and age, children may need to squat down to the dog’s level so as to avoid appearing dominant by towering over the dog. Because dogs view a pat on top of the head as a threat, children should scratch under the chin instead.

Finally, children should never try to pick up the dog or stare directly into its eyes because the dog can perceive these actions as threatening. Speaking in a soft, gentle voice can help the dog see the child more favorably as well.

Well Behave Dogs May Still Be A Threat

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trusting a dog that seems to be well-behaved (showing signs of having been training by sitting or staying put), but although a dog may be well-trained, if it has not been socialized (accustomed to being around children), then the bite risk is still high. This is why you should teach your kids never to hug a strange dog.

Hugs can be dangerous. Some dogs feel hugs intrude on their personal space. During a hug, a child might also accidentally squeeze the dog too tightly around its neck or body, causing the dog harm. For a dog that isn’t comfortable around kids, even direct eye contact could be seen as threatening.

What To Do If Your Child Is Bitten

What if despite your best efforts a dog does bite your child? The very first thing you should do is wash the bite immediately with soap and water. Make no haste in contacting your child’s pediatrician (unless it’s only a scratch) and the dog’s owner to let them know what happened.

If you don’t know who owns the dog, try to find out. Follow the dog home if necessary. This is especially important if the dog is acting like it’s unhealthy. Rabies is more prevalent in some areas than others, but it’s a reality and needs to be considered.

Once a doctor or other health professional gets involved, they are required by law to notify the local animal-control agency. The dog will probably be quarantined for 10 days. Usually this is done under house arrest. However, some states may require the dog to be kenneled at the animal-control or veterinary facility for observation (in case it starts showing signs of rabies).

How Dogs Teach Our Children Responsibility – Part 6

Samantha | December 9th, 2008
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In every instance where a dog is used within the family household to teach children important life lessons – lessons of responsibility, lessons of care, and lessons of sharing, it has been the dog’s similarity to us that has done the teaching.

His differences can helps us grow, too. You can use the unfamiliar to widen a child’s view, tickle his curiosity, exercise his senses, and encourage two soft spots understanding and respect.

Curiosity exercised can establish a love for knowledge. You can begin to form your child’s learning habits before he enters school. Let his dog be a focal point for his natural curiosity.

Search with him for the dog’s differences in behavior and appearance. Some interesting facts and insights can be found in like-minded dog books and videos how a dog reads with his nose, how a dog’s ears make him a remarkable eavesdropper, how a dog can fight with his eyes, how a dog has a tail that talks, how a dog loses the battle to keep peace.

These facts and insights can answer the child’s questions and stimulate new interests. They are fascinating enough for bedtime stories. It could be a running series of: Charlie, the dog who…

Make the illustration even sharper by using the dog’s name. Help him see the answers to his questions. Use the word like to put a picture in his mind. Explaining a dog’s acute hearing you could say, ears like scoops. Then make the picture move: that can tilt and reach out to dip into sound.

Involve the child actively in an illustration. It doesn’t always have to be scientific as long as it gives him the feel of it. Charlie wags his tail because he can’t smile. It won’t fit on his mouth. Now show your child by stretching the corners of your mouth back as far as you can pull your lips as tight as you can. That’s the shape of Charlie’s mouth. His mouth was not made to smile so he wags his tail.

In stories like these you can give your child a valuable approach to the unusual. He can learn that there is a reason behind behavior. That what appears funny, or dumb, or even ugly can look differently when we know the purpose it serves.

He learns from seeing you actively seeking reasons behind the dog’s behavior. You are showing him the beginning of understanding. A child that is involved with animals soon learns there are different types of intelligence used for different ways of life.

How Dogs Teach Our Children Responsibility – Part 5

Samantha | December 4th, 2008
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Not only does the new addition of a puppy into the home make children happy, it also creates an unexpected learning center that can teach the kids care, tenderness, responsibility, and ironically sharing.

I stress the word ironically because you probably feel that this would be the last result of adding a dog to a family. Would a dog be the spark to further ignite sibling rivalry? Would one child wind up with the dog’s ears while the other held onto the tail?

One fundamental element can help you cool off sibling rivalry and create a real sharing experience.

A dog is not a toy to be shared, but a coexisting being who expresses his personality and has a fill of his own. It is not easy to manipulate a dog. You have given the children something not just to play with, but to reckon with. You have taken the emphasis off each other and diverted their attention to the dog.

A True Story

I asked my friend Heather if I could use her story. She said yes but to change everyone’s name except the dog he’s the hero.

Heather’s problem was not unusual.

After three sentences, a conversation would be broken. The two boys responsible (her kids were not even in the room with us. The constant interruptions came over an intercom that linked the kitchen to their bedroom. Heather’s two boys (age 2 and 3) were in constant competition with each other, classically called sibling rivalry.

Suddenly, there was a scream and crying.

Heather said, Christopher, are you making Paul cry? The polite answer came, Yes, mother. Heather, on the far edge of exasperation said, Please don’t hit him. That’s your brother!

One month later, there was a change.

Heather, reasonably free from interruptions, gave her answer, We’ve got a dog. He was a stray. I said to him, ‘Look, Brown Dog, I give you a week. If you can take the kids, you can stay.’ Heather thought, God bless you dog, and introduced him into the children’s circle.

Look, we gotta help this dog. He’s a stray and he needs us. Now Paul, you choose a place for him to sleep. Christopher, do you have an old shirt for him to sleep on? Let’s decide who can do what. Can you give some time to walk him? We’ll alternate, but Christopher, you can feed him tonight and at the same time show your brother how, so he can tomorrow? Now, what should I do go buy him some food?

Heather’s Method Worked

She took the boys by surprise. She gave them several things:

1) An honest approach told them the problems they would have and exactly how to solve them. She made it their giving and their suggestions that made things right.

2) She diverted their attention. What had been riveted on each other in competition was now dispersed. Something else demanded their attention. They were too busy at first and too involved later.

3) The sibling rivalry cooled off and sharing developed because they had a go-between the dog was the object of their giving and receiving but, in fact, they were learning to give and take from each other.

How Dogs Teach Our Children Responsibility – Part 4

Samantha | November 30th, 2008
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As a parent who brings home a new puppy for the joy that the children will experience, your role is also to use the puppy as a teacher-dog, which simply means using the pet to teach your kids morals and responsibility. Specific situations come up all of the time in the home to take advantage of this opportunity.

A Real Life Example

My neighbor, Irene, did not like dogs to begin with, but a Basset Hound was being abandoned. It was scruffy and had rickets. Irene took him, saying all the time she didn’t want that dumb dog messing up the house, but someone had to take it.

Now, one of her sons, Eric, is knee-deep in chores. He is 8 years old and exercises the dog, finds the places outside of Irene’s flowerbeds for the dog, Lily, to dig holes. Little boy Eric sees Irene preparing Lily’s food. She fries fat, adds it to the dog’s food, and mixes in vitamins.

Eric sees the medicine and the care…

… and he sees a change in his dog.

Her coat glistens from the food and her personality opens up. At first, Lily would not even move. Now she chases Eric with a fast, bow-legged waddle. At first, she would not even respond to a scolding. Now when Irene gives commands, she obeys but grumbles under her breath.

Irene sees not instant companionship but a growing bond between Eric and the dog. The eight-year-old does not consider this as a responsibility, but just a new kind of loyalty he never felt before.

Being put in Eric’s situation having something weaker dependent upon you is a rare experience for such a young child. It gave Eric his own place in the family. He has an older brother and sister, and although they get along very well, there is a five-year gap between their adolescence and his childhood.

Eric’s association with the dog gave his brother and sister an opportunity to truthfully admire what he was doing without talking down to him. It was something Eric could do that was not just a child’s accomplishment it was considered important in the adult world, too.

Eric also solved a problem he was having with not being able to play ball with his older brother. He would not play with Eric due to his age and lack of coordination that a 13-year-old just could not have fun with. Now Eric can play ball with Lily. It’s not the best – Lily can’t throw and neither of them can catch – but it evens out.

How Dogs Teach Our Children Responsibility – Part 3

Samantha | November 28th, 2008
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By using your dog to teach a child, positive life lessons can formed and crafted that will last forever in your son or daughter. This works by getting your kids involved in activities that not only take care of the dog, but teaches your child at the same time.

They keys to this practice working effectively must revolve around verbal and physical coaching. Always follow a pattern. You do it with the dog, then let the child do it. Skills are learned by imitation. At the same time more than physical actions are imitated.

Connect The Dog & Child Together

Connect what the child does with how the dog responds, and how the dog looks or feels after it is done. This encourages the child to work for natural rewards as opposed to being paid for chores with money or privileges.

Stress this accomplishment by pointing out that the dog is happier or healthier. Be specific as in the example of showing a child how to brush the dog’s coat. The dog wags his tail more often now or his dull coat is now shiny, and that the child made this happen.

Use Failure

As well as success use failure to teach a realistic sense of responsibility. In failures, show the child that the dog is not a toy but has a mind and personality of his own. Explain the dog’s bad behavior.

Show the child, since he or she is much more intelligent than the dog, that he has inherited the responsibility for making the relationship work or not. (Of course, there are times when this would not work when fundamentally there is something wrong with the dog or the problem is too difficult the solve.) When problems arise, trace them with the child to their root.

A Common Example

Take the instance of a little boy playing with his new dog in the back yard. Both are strangers to each other. Both are trying to play before they properly know what to expect from each other. The boy shouts and pretends to shoot the dog with a toy gun. Then the boy runs around the yard.

The dog gives warning signals of being scared and uncertain. The boy doesn’t know how to read this so he runs away, while the dog makes a choice that the boy wants him to chase him. That is what the boy wants except the dog catches the boy by the seat of his pants and holds him against the wire fence.

The boy screams, the mother runs out, the dog backs away everybody is confused.

Find out how this could be prevented: Let a new dog settle down first smell around, explore the yard, meet the boy under quiet, calm circumstances. Have the child play slow games with the dog at first, so both will know what to expect.

Then, turn the frightening experience into understanding. It can save this from being the first of many bad incidents and bad feelings toward animals for the child.

Guide the child into re-establishing the relationship. Let him solve the problem by going back out in the yard, approaching the dog slowly, giving him food, patting him and reassuring him in a soothing voice.

Explain to the child this was a misunderstanding. And if he gets through the hard times, it will help him understand his dog better, he will have a better pet and they will have more fun together.

How Dogs Teach Our Children Responsibility – Part 2

Samantha | November 27th, 2008
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Every person who buys a puppy, or adopts a new dog, does so with the intention of teaching the new member of the family dog tricks, training plans, and such – but it is also common to use them to help teach the children.

How Can A Dog Teach Your Child?

Not only have I seen teaching-dogs in homes all around the country, but many progressive schools use animals as an integral part of their programs. Marie Montessori, the famous Italian doctor and educator, filled her books on the Montessori Method with fruitfulness of animal/child relationships.

Psychologists, too, use dogs as one way of teaching children who are lost mentally into a deep world of fantasy. The dog is sometimes the only reality that these children will respond to. The basis for this method of communication no matter how serious or light-hearted is an age-old recipe. It is the simple, uncomplicated friendship of child and dog. This simplicity frees the child to learn.

Missing are two natural ingredients found in human relationships complexity and competition; a child’s relationship with brothers and sisters is normally fraught with rivalry, and parents are seen as symbols of authority.

A dog simplifies by acting out his feelings whether joy or shame. You can explain to children the dog’s motivations and reactions. In fact, dogs are a teacher’s ideal a living illustration.

How To Teach Responsibility

Dogs are an excellent tool in teaching your children about responsibility. Remember not to make your child feel that he is doing a chore, rather suggest the activity, then give him the skills to handle it.

Let’s take brushing the dog as an example. Don’t forget that your child may not know how to use a brush properly and the dog may not know what the brush will bring pain or pleasure.

Aquaint both of them. Tell the child that the dog has never seen the brush before and that since he recognizes things through his sense of smell, letting him smell the brush and any other equipment you use will make them familiar.

Demonstrate brushing against the dog’s fur and then back with it. Break down the brush strokes into different lengths one to use for long hair, another on the dog’s chest, and another near his head. That way you give the child more control and the chances of his unintentionally hurting or scaring the dog and the dog scaring him are lessened.

Point Out Verbally To Your Child

Point out the purpose of brushing - You brush with and against his fur to loosen dead skin and stimulate the new skin. You are really dressing him in a new coat one that keeps him warm, and keeps the rain from getting through to his skin or even helps him to be cooler in the summer.

Relate it to the child’s own experience - Brushing makes him comfortable. Like how mommy irons your clothes to keep you comfortable, dogs feel good when they have been brushed.

Point out how the dog is responding - See how he lies on his back. He’s showing you he enjoys it.

And finally, make good use of the times that do not by-the-book – He’s wiggling to get away because he’s not sure what you are going to do. Do it easy and be persistent. Give him a chance to see how nice it is. Maybe then he’ll be still.