Bad habits.

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!


Barked: Thu Dec 13, '12 5:12am PST 
I have a five month old Miniature Australian Shepherd puppy. He has two bad habits that he seems the have developed. First one is when on a walk he will grab the leash and tug of war with me. Like a game. He does this soon into the start of each walk. If I stop turn around and ignore him he starts growling and barking at me. I have to pick him up and take the leash from his mouth to get him to stop. After I do so he is then an angel for the rest of the walk. The second one is he tends to suckle/lick/nibble his frount paws. Usually in the morning or at night when he is laying down and kinda sleepy. Sometime he will be doing it and ill only notice because he will start whimpering. I had the vet chech his paws there is no problem with them. The only way to get him to stop is by giving him a treat or chew or to start playing with him. He is teething right now so maybe this is causing his bad habits and maybe he will grow out if these things as he gets older. But overall I would love some advice on if people have experienced these things befor, if they are common or normal and stratagies to stop or prevent these behaviors.
Sanka- I'll Miss- You

The ground is my- newspaper.
Barked: Thu Dec 13, '12 7:50pm PST 
I never had to deal with the suckling, but I know many have. Hopefully they'll comment.

But for the leash tugging, oh yes, I have dealt with that! Totally a fun game for the pup. You can choose a side now. Either use tugging on the leash as a reward or curb the behavior entirely.

They make specialty leashes that are made like a nice rope chew toy so people can use playing tug as a reward for dogs that love it. So, like if you ask your pup to sit while on a walk, you can reward them with tugging on the leash. Tug is a great way to teach a dog to release an object on command too.

To curb it, you have to become boring. The pup wants your attention and wants to play, so picking the pup up is letting the pup know that tugging on the leash is a way to get attention. So if the tugging/whining starts up, I'd just stop, stand still and ignore the pup. Once the pup stops or even offers a better, alternative behavior (if known well, something like sitting), then we'll continue on the walk.

And yes, you can use treats if you think that'll really help. But if the pup enjoys the walks, then the walk is already a reward in and of itself.way to go

The Monster
Barked: Fri Dec 14, '12 5:44am PST 
The paw licking/nibbling could be an allergy. What are you feeding? Are you willing to try a couple other foods (over the course of a few months) to see if it has any affect on the behaviour.

I remember the leash tugging well. Cohen would get a glint in her eye moments before she turned into a whirling, barking, tugging pain in the butt. My dad would stop and try to remove the leash from her mouth or just stand there and be boring and try to wait her out. It sometimes worked in the short term, but the behaviour persisted.

I had much more luck with catching her before she started. You can kind of see the frenzy coming, and it's at that point where you need to cue an incompatible behaviour. I would cue a focused heel with a very high rate of reinforcement, or some fun sit-stays, tricks, etc to work her through her tug impulse. Preempting the tugging ensures that your pup doesn't rehearse this unwanted behaviour. In dogs, practice makes perfect, so practice that good, focused heeling (or whatever you want) instead. It obviously takes some energy and attention to figure out when your pup is going to tug, but it will pay off in the long run.

Within a few weeks the tugging frenzy was gone when I walked her. However it took months before my father was able to walk her without her going nuts. It's a good example of dogs behaving very differently for different people, and not generalizing behaviour well. So to really get rid of this behaviour make sure everyone is on the same page.

Edited by author Fri Dec 14, '12 5:46am PST



Mr. Personality
Barked: Fri Dec 14, '12 7:59am PST 
A five-month-old pup is going to get into trouble. That’s pretty normal. Bring a chew toy along with you on walks to give your pup something to chew on. Don’t yank the leash out of his mouth, as he will see this as a game. Instead, distract him with the chew toy. You also need to find the trigger of your pup’s growling. Keep an eye on him throughout the walk so you know when he grabs the leash. It sounds like this may be an attention ploy. When does he lick his paws the most? Does he do it after coming in from outside? This sounds like a stress-related behavior. Try bathing him with some oatmeal shampoo. Pay special attention to his paws. Make sure you have several chew toys for him. He needs to chew in order to massage his gums.

Barked: Fri Dec 14, '12 7:58pm PST 
Thanks for the great advice! I've been carefully observing my pup and your right that he totally gets a look right befor our walk turn into a game of tug of war and its always at one if two places on our walk. Usually I walk him with the leash loose but now when I see him getting that playful look or we approach one if those spots on our walk I just tighten up the leash then if tries to turn and grab the leash he cant and so he gives up attempting to grab it and we walk on. I even think now he is trying to grab it less.
Now I just need to figure out how to stop him from sucking on his paws. I think maybe it's because his skin is dry. I first noticed it when we came to Toronto, Ontario from Jacksonville Florida which is a colder dryer climate, that's a big change. Oh and I feed him only high quality grain free, soy free limited ingredient food and treats.

I love sitting- in laps
Barked: Fri Dec 14, '12 8:23pm PST 
Moose would turn into devil dog on walks, biting and tugging on the leash. I started bringing a tug rope with me on every single walk and it has stopped the leash war.

Now he loves holding the tug in his mouth and presents the other end of the tug to me, which I grab. Then we go running down the sidewalk, always with me tugging on it. He absolutely loves that.