Monday, July 09, 2007

Chocolate Labrador Retriever gets to Excited - part I

This is part one of a two part e-mail that was sent in by Lloyd (USA) in regards to his 20 month old chocolate Labrador Retriever named Peanut. Seems Peanut gets himself all excited around other dogs and is also slightly vocal when going on car rides.

Reader's Email - Lloyd Writes:

My wife and I have a 20 month-old chocolate Labrador whose name is Peanut. We brought him home at 8 weeks old and he has been a great dog for us. He is great around kids and other people. He listens relatively well, but seems to definitely have a mind of his own. He doesn’t respond to praise as some other labs do that I’ve seen, in that he doesn’t get as excited and sometimes seems to ignore it completely. Without going too in depth, he definitely seems to be wired a little differently than most Labs.

He has a good lineage, but I know that doesn’t always guarantee perfect offspring.

Anyway, we are basically having 2 problems with him that may or may not be related (it seems they might be).

As I said previously, he is great around people, but when he sees other dogs he goes absolutely nuts! Not in an aggressive, growling, barking kind of way, but almost instantly whips himself into a frenzy with excitement! He becomes extremely vocal and whines and whinny’s like a horse and is very obnoxious. The fur on his front shoulder blades stands up like a mohawk and he struggles with all of his might to reach that other dog so he can check him or her out. If I am to let him off his leash (at the dog park for instance) he runs at top speed to reach the other dogs and sniffs and plays and gets very up-in-their-face, but never growls or bites or anything of that nature. He just seems sooooooo excited to see other dogs, he literally cannot contain himself.

He shows a lot of the same symptoms vocally anytime we put him in a vehicle and take him for a ride. He is fine within the first minute or two, but he gradually works himself up to the point that by the time we get to town 10 minutes later he has a crazy look in his eyes and is whining and whinnying like a horse again! Again…extremely obnoxious. This behavior seems to intensify when we slow down to make a turn or stop and goes through the roof when I turn the blinker on!

These are the only two circumstances where I’ve ever seen him exhibit this behavior and I cannot figure out what is causing it, and perhaps more importantly, how to get him to calm down and stop it. I don’t think we let him see other dogs enough when he was very little, and maybe that could partly explain why he goes so crazy when he sees them?

I would like to think he would gradually stop this with age, but he’s been doing this since he was a few months old and continues it now. He is not neutered, but after today’s obnoxious and embarrassing experience at the dog park, we are considering it, but I don’t know if that will help or not.

Any advice or insight you have will be greatly appreciated. Thank you,

Lloyd

Continue Reading...


All About Labradors Answer:

Hello Lloyd,

The information given here is to help you learn more about your Labrador Retriever and not to replace your veterinarian's advice. Disclaimer

Thanks for the great photo of Peanut. What a fitting name for such a big boy. He is beautiful!

When a dog whines or whimpers it is a mode of communication. Some of the different reasons why your dog might whine:

When they greet each other, defensive whining, when they are showing submissiveness, as an attention-seeking behavior, and when they are in pain.

Let’s start off with Peanuts interaction around other dogs.

You have a valid point in your letter with the comment "I don’t think we let him see other dogs enough when he was very little, and maybe that could partly explain why he goes so crazy when he sees them". The socialization period (7 - 12 Week of age) is a time, when your dog needs to experience positive interactions with other dogs and people. When dogs don’t get this lesson early in their life, they don’t know how to react around other dogs, which can lead to them being fearful or aggressive.

What you also need to know, is that it's also normal for dogs to get excited about greeting other dogs. It’s how they work a social order.

Peanut’s hair standing up on his shoulders "hackles" can be a sign of different things; nervousness, excitement, scared / aggression. With what you told me, I’m assuming you feel there is no possibility of aggression. Peanut’s whining when seeing the other dogs is probably his being just so excited to join them. By learning to read Peanut’s body language, you can really get a better understanding of him and what he might do next.

When you get a chance, take a look at this website, as it is very informative on this topic: Body Language, Understanding what dogs are "saying".

Besides my recommending obedience classes, here are some things you can try:

What we are trying to accomplish, is keeping Peanut’s attention on you by teaching him to heal. Now you might say "teaching him to heal, how is that going to help". Believe me, a dog that knows how to heal will never lunge at another dog, animal or person, will never pull, and won’t reach out to sniff other dogs or passersby.

When out on walks and in the dog park, use a Halti or Gentle Leader collar on him. The Haltie or Gentle Leader makes it easier for you to control Peanut.

Start out with regular walks (I us a six foot leash), keeping Peanut on your left side and have him sit. You’re going to start walking, giving the "heel" command as you start moving. If he doesn’t start, try taping on your left leg to coax him into going. If necessary, a gentle tug and release will help.

Remember to keep moving forward and never keep a tight leash.

Now, what you want to happen is to keep Peanut in a specific area, while you are walking. Imagine an area to the left (if he is heeling on left), a rectangle, approximately two feet wide and four feet long (two feet in front of your arm and two feet behind). Your job is to keep Peanut in that heeling area at all times or until you give him permission with a release command to stop heeling. I use an "okay" command, but feel free to use what you want. Just make sure it is always the same command, and always give the release command from a sitting position (that is Peanut sitting, not you).

Remember, Peanut is to remain in the heeling box at all times. If at any time he starts to walk out of the imaginary box, simply say "heel" and turn either 90 or 180 degrees away from him. Let him run out of leash as you turn, and brace yourself for the tug, but don’t stop walking. After he catches up with you, and he is back in our imaginary box, praise him and say "heel", then praise him again.

What you’re doing is teaching Peanut that when he’s in our imaginary box everything is good, and when he’s not, things are not good.

You have to make sure you do the turning EVERY TIME Peanut makes his way outside of our imaginary box.

Well, what if he sees another person or dog/ If you come across another dog or person on your walk, you will act as though you see absolutely nothing. If Peanut moves outside the box, do your turns. He is to remain in the heeling position, regardless of distractions. He will learn to ignore the distractions. Practice, Practice, Practice.

In most cases Lloyd, you will never have to tug on his leash, as the turning will help correct the problem. The only time you might have to give a quick tug and release is if Peanut is adamant in his tugging in one direction and you have no turns left. This is the only time.

Once you have Peanut heeling, you will be walking right past other dogs and people, without incident. When it comes time to interact with another dog, by your choice, ask Peanut to sit and wait 'til you give a release command. After the release command, he is free to meet the other dog. Remember, he is not allowed to interact with other dogs while heeling.

You can also use treats to get Peanuts attention if he is distracted by another dog while teaching heeling. When your done training for the day, get him to sit and give your release command but keep him on his leash for a few minutes. Play with him, fool around with him, and let him do his business. This will teach Mr. Peanut how to be in release while still on the leash. When you finished with the exercise, have him sit again, remove the leash and then give him the release command.

Keep practicing and working up to more distractions as Peanut gets the hang of it.

Here is another training option that might also be helpful to you: Attention Please!

As for Peanut riding in the car:

He might be stressed or excited by riding in the car. The car is constantly vibrating and making noises which might scare him. Another possibility is that he is visually stimulated, with him seeing things coming at him and going by him at fast speeds. If might make him feel like he wants to chase and interact with these things.

Some things that might help:

A crate for him to sit and lay in, which can help restrict his view. A toy added to the crate (I have great success with the Kong toys filled with treats) can help.

There is a product called The Calming Cap that is used to ease hyperactivity in a dog that became agitated while traveling in a car, and help to quiet and calm anxious or excitable dogs . You can find out more about this here The Gentle Leader Calming Cap.

A dog harness may help him feel more secure and calm him down, not to mention provide safety for him.

Try this exercise:

You need to people in the car for this and plenty of treats or his favorite toy.

Take a short trip around your block, and every time Peanut starts his whining and getting crazy, get his attention by saying a word or phrase (ex: “block it”) or whatever you are comfortable with. Once again always use the same word or phrase.

Once he hears the word or phrase and you have his attention, offer him his treat (or favorite toy). What you will accomplish with this is that you’re taking his attention off of what ever is bothering him, with the word or phrase and teaching him that these things aren’t going to bother him.

As for neutering, I’m not sure that neutering him will help with his problems. It definitely has many health benefits as well as preventing unwanted litters. It will also help whenever a female in heat is nearby, as a male dog that’s not neutered can become quite uncontrollable when this occurs, and can cause confrontation between males that aren’t neutered.

I hope you find this to be of some help to Peanut. If you don’t understand anything, please ask. If you have any other questions, also please don’t hesitate to ask.

Please keep me updated with how it is going with Peanut, what works, and what doesn’t. Good luck and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Take care of yourself and Peanut,

Fay

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