Ira our 16 month old Kuvasz is having an especially destructive and annoying teenage dog phase. I have raised a female Kuvasz, my dog AJ, before but I don’t remember this much difficulty. Maybe I forget!
Sometimes it actually seems like he has forgotten all that I have been teaching him for the last year.
One particularly irritating habit he has is biting at our feet when he gets overly stimulated. That can happen just by us walking into the dog pen when he is outside. We have never done anything to encourage this and have never rewarded this behaviour yet is still exists.
These behaviours can be part of most dog’s young lives, but especially the Livestock Guardian Breeds. Many LGDs stay playful and destructive for years even with regular consistent training. They often cannot be trusted with livestock until two years of age, of left alone in the house even for a few minutes without doing damage.
This time can be referred to as a dog’s teenage time, when she/he will challenge the training you have been doing. This happens even if you have been training with no corrections or “force free” and using food rewards to train. It doesn’t mean the dog is trying to be “dominant” over you, it means he is trying to figure things out.
Livestock guardian breeds especially, were bred to work without you and think on their own to solve problems. This is what is happening. Your dog is likely trying to figure out a different way to get what he wants.
Don’t let a dog’s “teenage” phase rattle you. This is something I have been telling myself continually for several months.
It is important to remember that if you are training any amount or spending time with your dog where you do a particular activity, such as walking, fetch, hiking etc, then YOU ARE TRAINING YOUR DOG.
Don’t forget that any time you are with you dog you are training her.
This can apply to even sitting on the couch watching tv, or relaxing in the backyard. No your dog is not learning by osmosis, but by watching you and thinking about how to get the things she wants and that are pleasant.
One thing you can do to make sure you are reinforcing the behaviour you want with your dog is to be prepared. If there is a behaviour that you are not completely satisfied with, then you need to be ready to capture the correct one.
Most people reward the behaviour they don’t want because it is so annoying that they inadvertently pay attention to it, which can be reinforcing to the dog.
Instead, pay attention to the dog when he is NOT doing anything that you don’t want. Like, nothing for instance. When you do this, you will most likely be rewarding the dog for being relaxed and calm. This also keeps you relaxed and calm as well because you are not jumping up to stop your dog from doing something he shouldn’t do, or yelling at him to stop doing it.
Most people don’t pay attention to their dogs when they are lying there quietly, do they?
Of course you are not going to totally IGNORE the behaviour you don’t want. This means that if your dog does something that you don’t want him to do, you won’t just ignore him and let him do it.
You still must take action.
Depending on what your dog is doing you would move him away from the trigger, stop him from chewing that thing by exchanging it for something more appropriate, or just stopping what ever behaviour it is you don’t want in a calm and relaxed manner.
Then you ever so calmly change the situation so that your dog is doing something else.
No getting upset, yelling, etc. Since the situation was created because of a lack of paying attention to the dog in the first place, you can’t rightly be angry at the dog. Simply take action, make the change and continue on.
There is always some time between the training that is being done and the result that you want to see in your dog. It takes time.
This is especially so when a dog is going through her transition to adulthood. Dogs want to find out what works to get the things they value. So dogs will often test to see what works.
This is often when you will look at your dog with wide eyes and think “I thought we already worked on this???”
I did this with Ira. Since he was a puppy, I have been working on door manners with him. I even have it in a video. I prefer the dogs not rushing to the door to go out. I have taught Ira to stay back from the door so I can reach it easily and open the door. Then he can go through.
I have NEVER reinforced anything except waiting nicely with space between the dog and the door for me to walk in and open it.
The other day as I walked towards the door, he ran right up to the door and stood there and would not back away. This is completely opposite of the training that we have been doing for the past year and I couldn’t have been more surprised.
It took only a short while before we worked it out. He had already been trained to do the behaviour of waiting, so it didn’t take much to “re-train” him to do what was needed using a few pieces of cooked chicken.
When your dog does something like this, continue on the same way as you have been with the training. Calmness and patience help.
You will come out the other side with an amazing dog.