Barky humpy puppy is making me a little crazy!
March 24, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

My puppy barks at me if he has too much energy, but he's been so humpy at the dog park that we can't stay long enough for him to burn it all off. Please help by recommending some training we could use!

Some of you know my adorable rescue pup, Franklin. He's about 10 months old and because he was a rescue, he was neutered really early--around four months. I got him around 8 weeks. He's super snuggly, friendly to every dog or person he's ever met, a quick learner of his tricks, and generally just an awesome little guy. This new habit is making me crazy and it has been getting worse lately.

I usually get up around 6 to let him out and give him his breakfast. Often after that I want to go back to bed, check my email, or read. Lately after breakfast, he's taken to standing a few feet away from me, looking me in the eye, and barking at me. Or he'll steal something he isn't supposed to have and prance away with it. (Usually either some delicate beautiful scarf that he could destroy in seconds or something that could be dangerous to him.) I know he's totally doing this because he wants attention. He never does it when he's alone in the house or when he's properly tuckered out. He also never does it if other people are around.

I've read up a bit on training and I know that any reaction is feeding into this behavior, but that's sort of challenging. I would ideally just ignore his barking and then give him positive reinforcement when he's quiet to teach him the Quiet command. But I live in a densely populate apartment complex and I don't want him disturbing the neighbors. I've also tried telling him no or interrupting him when he's about to bark, but it didn't do much good. I even squirted him with the kitchen sink sprayer once. He stopped, but it seems mean. I also don't want to let him destroy my stuff or hurt himself. He's tall enough that if he jumps, he can get stuff off counters and high tables.

Usually after trying to deal with this for a bit, I'll walk him a mile to the dog park, let him play for about an hour, then walk him home. He's usually perfectly well behaved for the rest of the day after that. Recently though, he's been super humpy. As I said, he was neutered a long time ago and I know it's not a sexual thing, just a dominance thing. The dogs can usually sort it out themselves but the other owners freak out. I'll pull him off and make him do a sit and stay, but as soon as I let him go play again, he races directly back to the object of his affection and launches right back into it. If the dogs do have the chance to sort things out themselves, he'll usually spend the rest of our time romping around and wrestling and chasing--all good non humpy playing!

I've talked to other dog owners and they say it's just a phase that dogs, especially males, hit at this age. Many of them are totally understanding and say it's just what dogs do. But other people freak out. One guy hit Franklin for trying to mount his pit while I was distracted picking up poop. He got an EARFUL.

We are weekday morning regulars and he always gets along fine with that crew, but if we try to go after work or on the weekends, he's just a mess. I usually give him one chance to stop, but if he continues and the other owners are wigging out or if the other dog seems unhappy or too submissive, we just leave and walk around the lake, and back home.

Here's the kicker. That doesn't tire him out enough, so after a couple hours of napping, he's back to yelling at me!

Relevant information: I work from home 3 days a week, but I've been on a bunch of business trips lately with more to come. I always hire someone to stay at the house with him, but I am wondering if the worsening of this behavior is related to some kind of separation anxiety.

This is my first time raising a dog myself and my first time ever having a boy dog around.

So, dog-owning MeFites, help! What should I do?
posted by chatongriffes to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Squirting him with water won't physically hurt him and has worked for you.
posted by brujita at 8:28 AM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

What's the difference between these two situations?

Usually after trying to deal with this for a bit, I'll walk him a mile to the dog park, let him play for about an hour, then walk him home. He's usually perfectly well behaved for the rest of the day after that.


Here's the kicker. That doesn't tire him out enough, so after a couple hours of napping, he's back to yelling at me!

It sounds to me that he's a puppy and that he needs more exercise that is play or thinking oriented. Walking is often not enough to wear out the most energetic of dogs. Perhaps try putting a backpack on him? My husky always loved that and it wore him out big time. Or work with him on obedience training or tricks. The humping is a phase but it's important to keep correcting him out of it, or it will be a behavior that sticks around.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:33 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are taking him to the dog park AFTER he's sat and barked at you for a while, you're pretty effectively teaching him that barking earns him a trip to the dog park. Better to just take him right away after getting up and before he has a chance to start his annoyance routine (early, I know), or after he's stopped on his own (or with encouragement via squirt bottle). If you take him while he is still in "I bark and look, it gets me out the door!" mode, then you're totally rewarding him for that behavior and he's not going to be eager to stop it anytime soon.

Another option would be to wake up at 6, check your email, read, and THEN take him out and feed breakfast, OR wake up later at a time you're willing to take him to the park. Adjusting him to "day starts at park time" vs "day starts at 6 and then bark until park time".

Either way, the key is to remove the "I bark and am annoying, then I get to go to the park" sequence. He will treat it as a cause and effect, which basically it is at this point, but that's not what you want. Only take him to the park if he can be quiet and calm. Perhaps after breakfast give him a peanut butter filled Kong or tasty bone to chew on. Or feed him breakfast in a food cube (they have to roll it around to get the food out). That way you have a span of time where he can be calmly occupied and THEN you can go to the park so he associates calm time = park vs barking = park.
posted by HermitDog at 8:40 AM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

HermitDog, I should have mentioned that we go to the park at 8:30 every day, regardless of how irritating he is or isn't being, so there isn't a direct correlation between barking and parking.

Those food cubes sound awesome! I do have some puzzle treat toys that he loves, but I fear that he will equate barking with the puzzle treat toys mom gives me to shut me up. I try to give them to him either preemptively or when he's already calm. But as a delivery for breakfast...I like this idea!
posted by chatongriffes at 8:46 AM on March 24, 2013

One guy hit Franklin for trying to mount his pit while I was distracted picking up poop. He got an EARFUL.

I might have reacted like this guy. Some dogs react badly to being humped and no one wants to break up a fight between two bully breeds. With my dog, I've seen him shrug off being humped and I've seen him get into squabbles so it can go either way. Therefore, I'm cautious about letting the dogs work it out. You have a bully breed and have to be more thoughtful than say, beagle owners.

I would recommend taking him away from other dogs immediately when he starts humping and giving him a timeout. After five minutes or so, let him play with the other dogs again. But do a timeout EVERY single time he starts humping. I would also continue the spray bottle treatment. In addition, I would give him something to chew on that's appropriate. Keep a bully stick, horn, or nylabone in your nightstand that is just for morning use when you're not ready to get up.

If he barks and you take him to the park, he's training you.
posted by shoesietart at 8:50 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would still encourage enforcing at least SOME separation between annoying behavior and actually going out the door.

The food cube is available on amazon (as is everything) and most pet stores, but here's a video talking about it. The Buster Food Cube is the same one I had when I had one dog. With 3 it's a bit more complicated. Do note that if your food has particularly large bits, then it might not work as well. It's something to play with.
posted by HermitDog at 9:45 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Often after that I want to go back to bed, check my email, or read. Lately after breakfast, he's taken to standing a few feet away from me, looking me in the eye, and barking at me. Or he'll steal something he isn't supposed to have and prance away with it. ... I know he's totally doing this because he wants attention.

My dog is always a little bit keyed up after walks. I have no idea why this is, because we go on long, brisk walks and I know he's tuckered out (he eventually settles and konks out for an hour or two at least). But my solution is twofold.

A) Apres-walk we do a little bit of indoor playing. Would I rather be drinking coffee and checking email? Sure. But I find that five minutes of tug or (gentle) frisbee tossing or some training games is enough to get him over the transition between OUTSIDESMELLSCHASESQUIRRELSYAY and calm indoor behavior.

B) Routine, routine, routine. We come in from our walk. We play in the front room for a few minutes. Then I go to his crate for his food bowl, walk over to the food, and plate up breakfast. Then I say, "Kennel up!", he dashes into his crate, and is served breakfast. While he eats, I go settle in with my coffee and laptop and whatever calm boring human activities I want to do. This is the signal that playtime is over, and post breakfast vegging out is to begin.

I think the first few weeks I had him, I tossed the occasional treat his way to reward general calmness around the house. I also would occasionally go over to him and cuddle, tell him what a good sweet lazy boy he was being, etc. Being a big lazy galoot around the house definitely got rewarded. It's possible I just happen to have a big lazy galoot of a dog, though?
posted by Sara C. at 9:46 AM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am wondering if the worsening of this behavior is related to some kind of separation anxiety.

I am wondering if whoever you're hiring to care for him while you're away is indulging this behavior, or possibly if he's not getting exercised enough while you're away. I'd probably have a talk with the dog sitter and ask exactly how much walking and playtime is happening and what the routine around that is like.
posted by Sara C. at 10:12 AM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You were wrong to yell at the man who hit your dog. His dog could have spine or hip problems or a history of not tolerating that behavior. My dog would definitely put some holes in a dog like yours if he repeatedly tried to hump her and I certainly don't want her fighting with a pit mix like you have. Your dog needs to modify his behavior, not the other dog owner.

In general it sounds like your dog could use a Come to Jesus moment on the humping where you make it very clear YOU are not ok with it and there will be consequences. If you let him do it sometimes he's not going to learn. He's also not going to learn to not hump by getting smacked around by tougher dogs. He'll just target the weak and can become defensively aggressive. Letting dogs work it out is sometimes appropriate if they live together (sometimes). Its never appropriate when the other dog is not yours.

As far as the barking, that one is easy. Teach him the command "in your bed" and send him there when he's being annoying.
posted by fshgrl at 11:32 AM on March 24, 2013

While walking around the lake can you have him chase a ball/other toy that will still tire him out? With one of those extendable leashes he can do quite a bit of running without needing you to run with him. Maybe some swimming if that is possible? My parents had a husky that needed to run for hours each day to tire out but 30 min in the river would do the same. With a short hair dog like that a quick toweling will remove most of the water.
posted by troll on a pony at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2013

I agree, letting dogs 'work it out' at the dog park is not a good idea. It's a VERY bad idea, actually. Humping is harassment of the other dogs by your dog, and it is your responsibility to make sure it doesn't happen. Working it out can turn into a fight in the blink of an eye, and you would be the cause of it. I don't agree that that man should have hit your dog, but it would be completely acceptable for him to ask you to leave.

Unless both dogs are in agreement, no two dogs should be in physical contact at any time.

With him doing that and also the barking, I am seeing warning signs that he is going to slowly work his way into being dominant over you. The best time to nip that in the bud is now.

And, he's adorable!
posted by Vaike at 12:46 PM on March 24, 2013

Also, I forgot the advice part, sorry.

I had a very high energy dog that needed more exercise than I could give him. What I did was get a fishing pole and attached a tennis ball to in in a way that if he got the ball, it would instantly release from the fishing line. Then I would just spin in circles, the ball would ma a really big arc (about 40 feet in diameter), and he would chase it like crazy. I 'lunged' him just like a horse like this 10 minutes each way. He loved it and all I had to do is turn around where I was standing.

You could also do this when he is on a long 20' leash, but it might be more tricky.
posted by Vaike at 12:53 PM on March 24, 2013

It sounds to me that he's a puppy and that he needs more exercise that is play or thinking oriented.

Yes. I was starting to experience this with my (much younger) puppy in the evening, and was getting frustrated because, like you, I have close neighbors. I'm talking him to a puppy class (where they practice positive training methods), so I asked the instructor about this and she suggested making sure the puppy is mentally stimulated as well, and getting his main "drives" met. Common dog drives are prey (chasing, catching), chewing, and scavenging.

For instance, my puppy comes from a long line of street dogs and has a SUPER strong scavenging drive and needs outlets for it. So now he gets all his meals in a food puzzle (like the aforementioned buster cube). Added benefit, it takes him about 20 minutes to finish his meal, instead of 15 seconds, which gives me time to do whatever I need to do.

For the prey drive, the instructor advised tying a toy to the end of string or even his leash and having him play with it like a cat would. He loves it!

Also, I've noticed that daily training sessions help keep my puppy much calmer and more responsive to me. Even just a few minutes a day (using about half a meal's worth of kibble) does the trick.

Oh, and the trainers who teach my class swear by "time-outs" as an effective punishment. It's a way to show your puppy you mean business and teach him what the rules are without confusing him or making him afraid of you. The key is to say "time out" as soon as the offending behavior happens (to mark it) and then lead your pup to the time-out area (I use the bathroom) and keep him in there for 10-15 seconds. The first few times I did it, he came out like "oh shit, you mean business!" His agitated "demand" barking has become much less of an issue since I started doing that just about a week ago. You could start by doing bathroom time-outs at home so he knows what it means, and then the next time he tries to hump a dog at the park, say "time out" and bring him right home.
posted by lunasol at 7:46 PM on March 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

He sounds like a good candidate for agility classes. Could help him calm down around other dogs and focus some of that energy, and it's generally good for cementing obedience.
posted by walla at 9:32 PM on March 24, 2013

After scanning the other responses, many of which I agree with to a greater or lesser degree...

More exercise. And not just a longer walk. Give him a chance to really run, preferably several times in bursts. Bikes are great for this, or whatever other favorite mode of non-motorized wheeled transportation you have. You could teach him to pull you, though I wouldn't do this until you've completely curtailed his dominant behavior.

It all starts with respect toward you. If he's barking at you, playing keep-away, and returning to behavior that you already expressed your displeasure with, he does not see you as a leader. That, at the core, is what must change. Thoroughly tire him out (not just once; every day - get a treadmill or a dog walker if you have to), enforce rules, master your walk (who is in front? I bet it's him), and then consider going back to the dog park. In the meantime, you can't trust him there. His behavior could cause another dog to lash out, and you would be in the wrong for bringing your unstable dog around others.

Now, I am going to make a suggestion for correcting his mounting behavior from a distance. I do not mean to make this suggestion as something to do instead of what I previously said, but rather a possible option to quickly remove the dominance behavior if he returns to it after he has progressed to the point where you are able to take him to the dog park again. An e-collar, set on the vibrate setting or a low pulse (try it on your hand; it doesn't feel like anything) will instantly correct him the moment he begins to fixate on another dog. Find a good trainer near you to teach you how to use this device, as timing is incredibly important and most owners need to be taught how to properly use an e-collar. However, once you know how to use them they are an amazing, highly effective, and perfectly safe and humane tool to correct behavior instantly when you're not right next to the dog.

Best of luck with your strong-willed pup; sounds like you picked quite a handful.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:45 AM on March 25, 2013

I 2nd Urban Winter's advice on the e-collar. I have a large breed, strong-willed dog and the e-collar was a godsend. BUT, find a good trainer to teach you how to use it.

And like fshgrl with "in your bed," the command I use is "go to your pillow." That's his quiet spot, it's a great command for when people come over and he wants to wig out cause he's so excited about company or if I just want him to settle down.

Your puppy is cute as a button. Tire his little butt out frequently, spend some time each day working on commands, do some at home and more importantly do some outside where there are distractions, and you'll have an awesome dog.

Not everyone is a fan of Cesar Milan, but his maxim of "exercise, discipline, affection" is spot on. Good luck with your pup.
posted by shoesietart at 8:28 PM on March 25, 2013

I want to thank you all for the great feedback. We already spend time training every day both at home and at the park and he knows his "go to bed" command. I try to keep him mentally and physically active. I am definitely a proponent of the idea that a well exercised dog is a good dog. That's exactly why I asked this question!

He's already stopped barking! I used lunasol's great idea for timeouts in the bathroom. I'd already been having him go to his crate, but since he could still see me, he laid in there and whined. Just a couple short timeouts of real separation did seem to show him I meant business.

Franklin also started life as a street dog (though only for a couple weeks) so I've been trying to give him opportunities to use scavenging brainpower and he seems really happy about it.

Thanks for helping me help my pup to be the good little guy I know he wants to be!
posted by chatongriffes at 10:10 AM on March 28, 2013

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