Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I Have Learned About Piper

He doesn't look like a challenge, does he?!  ;)


Piper challenged us as early as 8 weeks old.  He showed his teeth, growled and didn't hesitate to try and show me he was boss from very early on.  We could not take toys, food or treats from him once he had them.  He most definitely would bite us if we did.  I knew this was a very bad sign, but being a new puppy owner to such a cute baby, I sort of laughed it off and explained it away.  As he got a bit older, it didn't get better and it wasn't cute.  Pretty much any time I asked Piper to do anything HE did not want to do, he would snarl and say no (his way of saying no).  We knew fairly quickly we needed some advice.  We took him to dog school around 8 months old.  We had a strict trainer (not the same trainer we had for Murray) which stressed me a bit at first because he still was my baby, but she turned out to be just what Piper and I needed.  She required that we use either a "gentle leader" style collar or a prong collar.  I didn't care for either option, but we opted for the prong.  We use a prong on walks to this day, so it wasn't that bad.  Piper used to literally drag me down the street, and it wasn't any better with Jamie walking him.  At the time we started school, it had come to the point that Piper was becoming more head strong with me and less so with Jamie.  Our trainer, Sylvia, recommended I do most of the training with Piper just for this reason.  She felt he was dominating me, being female.  In 6 short weeks Piper became less scary and more of a dog who wanted to learn.  We learned the basics of sit, stay, come, down and off which Piper still knows.  Yes, he was likely the worst behaved dog in class, jumping, rolling and being an overall distraction for others, but we got through and he and I were better for it.  Embarrassed at times, yes, but better in the long run.  Some of the advice we received, specifically for Piper being a dominant dog:

1. Do not allow him on our bed... ever- One big issue we had was getting him off our bed once he was on it.  He became like an attack dog when simply told to get down.  Due to that behavior, he was not allowed on the bed at night.  As time has passed, and he has settled into his routine with us, he sometimes jumps on the bed in the morning for a bit if  I sleep late, and he is fine getting down, but initially our bed had to become off limits.

2. He always had to get out of our way when he was in our path- Originally we had thought stepping over a dominant dog that is in your way helped teach them you were in charge.  Sylvia recommended to go a step further and demand that Piper get up and move if he was in the way.  Funny thing now is when I go to step over him today, he usually jumps up to move mid-step and we both almost end up in a pile on the floor.  He learned well :)

3. Make him "heel" for a lot, if not most, of a walk - Once we learned how to "heel"  in school, we were able to walk safely.  Heeling means if the human says the word "heel", the dog should drop back to your side and walk next to you at your pace with no pulling.  Piper does this perfectly still.  Sometimes if Jamie and I walk together and he has Piper and says "heel", Piper drops back and walks next to me!  LOL

4. Make him sit and make eye contact before treats are given- This gets his attention on you and less focused on the treat, again, giving you control.  I had heard making a dog make eye contact with you was something to avoid.  It's not.  I know Piper is paying attention to me when he is looking at me.  It's actually times when he is mad that he does NOT make eye contact with me and I have to be more concerned.

5. Make him wait to go out doors after you- Again, you being the leader and in control, he waits for you.  I like to make them sit and stay until I call them through to the other side.  Piper can get pushy still, and we usually just have a reset.

Now I am not saying Piper is a perfect dog today.  He still is a dominant dog in general, but he knows his limits thanks to Jamie and I setting them.  We can do just about anything with Piper today with confidence and security.  We can take food and toys away and with treats he helps control himself.  When we give the boys a "long lasting" dog bone, Piper refuses to eat it inside the house.  Dog bones are one of his triggers.  Once he has one, he wants nothing around him that could possibly take it from him, and because we have 2 cats and Murray, Piper just about insists on eating it outside alone where he won't be bothered and he won't bother anyone else.  Maybe I'm crazy, but I think that's pretty smart of him!  Maybe I'm just a proud dog mom, but for everything he is, we love him!

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