Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Wednesdays to see common pet behavior questions answered by our Senior Director of Operations and pet behavior expert, CJ Bentley. If you have an immediate behavior concern with your pet, please call a qualified trainer or behaviorist! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

Senior Director of Operations CJ Bentley and her adopted dog, Rogue

“We adopted a greyhound-doberman mix from the MHS almost two months ago. She was perfect for about two weeks… but now she is just way too comfortable! She knows how to sit, paw, sit pretty, spin around and lay down (only when she knows she’s getting a treat) but does not know what NO means, won’t stay down, or stop jumping/scratching you (in the face, anywhere) so inconsiderate! She doesn’t even care if she’s hurting you. She’s a year and a half so I’m hoping it will pass, but she is just so bad and does not listen. She has plenty of chew toys, has never chewed on shoes or anything, but – blankets/comforters are her favorite! She will totally destroy them until all the stuffing is gone and other than taking them away and sternly saying NO, I’m not sure how to train her. Anyone know how much dog training classes/obedient schools may cost? Help!”

Congrats on your new family member! I am a proud parent of an adopted MHS Doberman too! I just love mine. And yep, he uses his paws a lot as well. And because it hurts when he “whaps” us…we simply trained him to “whap” something else.

Here’s how we got there…first, we need to teach your girl that she must listen whether she sees a treat or not. The best way to do that is to vary the rewards. Find the awesome things she likes to do and make those rewards instead of using food treats. For example, my dog loves to run outside in the yard. I have a “That was Easy” button by my door. He needs to whap that button to go outside. So when he hits the button his reward is to go outside. No food involved.

When I want to put his harness on to go outside…he used to jump around like a crazy man…so we stopped putting the harness on when he was being a wild child. Now he has learned that the harness only goes on if he’s sitting nicely. His reward for being nice is to get the harness on to walk. No food involved, but the reward is still there. Once you teach her that rewards come whether she sees them or not…we’re on our way.

Next, instead of working on saying “no”…cuz she really doesn’t know what that means…we’d be better served to teach her what to do instead. Remember, she doesn’t know she’s hurting you – all she knows is that when she does one thing…something else happens. She only does things that work for her. Now you may not feel like she’s getting a reward for her crazy behavior but believe me, she is. Or she wouldn’t keep doing it. All we have to do is figure out the reward she’s getting, remove that and replace it with something else.

Like this for example: Her jumping is probably being rewarded by getting attention from you. Even a stern “no” and pushing her off or down is a reward. Because to her, you’re talking to her and touching her. Both things she likes. So…to get her under control, you can try putting her on a leash so she can’t bowl you over. Have someone hold the leash or loop it under some unmoveable furniture. Approach her. She goes nutty…walk away. Try again, and again and again (remember she’s got over a year practicing this behavior…she’ll need a bit of time and patience to unlearn it). When she keeps four feet on the floor THEN you can talk to her and pet her, etc. Anytime she launches herself at you or whaps you inappropriately, walk away. Don’t say a word. At the same time, whenever you “catch” her standing still or sitting…even if she’s just walking across the room nicely…talk quietly to her, praise her and pet her. Good things happen when she’s behaving. Nothing happens when she’s acting crazy.

What’s interesting, is that my dog loves stuffing too. He hasn’t touched one, single thing in my house except my pillows and comforters that have stuffing. I currently pick all that stuff up. Bedroom doors are closed, and all my pillows are picked up when I’m not home. I have some tricks in mind for retraining that … but first let’s tackle the obnoxious leaping and scratching behavior. One step at a time. Good luck! And welcome to the Doberman gang! It will be worth it!

Oh and for dog training classes, MHS works with the following folks: Ann Arbor Canine Coach, LLC – www.A2CanineCoach.com; Four Legged Rascals – www.fourleggedrascals.com; and Trainers Academy, LLC – www.woofology.com. Petco and PetSmart also offer group dog training classes.

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