DAVE AND LINDA WRITE: Hello! I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirit. I enjoyed your book and believe I have the basic idea.
[The book they’re referring to is, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!“]
However, Our 7 month old Rottweiler puppy is displaying behavior that has me a little confused. The commands that we are having trouble with are down and come. She will only go down when I go to grab the lead, then she hits the deck in a flash.
ADAM: At this age, you should be reaching for the leash and making her go down, every time. If, by the time you grab the leash, she’s already down, then just praise her. But it’s (apparently from the behavior you’re describing) too soon to be expecting 100% performance in all circumstances. I would make her do it, EVERY TIME, for at least another several months, since she’s still young. You still need to condition the immediate response. (As a side note: At this age, we consider what you’re doing to be regular dog obedience training, not puppy training, which is generally done prior to 4 months of age.).
DAVE AND LINDA: This has been a consistent problem for a few weeks now. Next, she responds to the come command consistently when we are training; so to say, but she is inconsistent at best when she gets in that I want to play and run around like an animal mood.
ADAM: You’re missing a KEY element. At this stage in the training, and at this age, YOU SHOULD NEVER give a command that you cannot enforce. Leave the leash (instead of the tab) on the dog if she’s trying to get away from you. After you step on it a couple of times and give her a good correction… and she learns that SHE CANNOT run away from you anymore… AND THAT YOU WIN (get her) EVERY TIME… she will drop this behavior.
DAVE AND LINDA: When I try to use the training collar to coax her to me, she goes submissive. Then I back off a few steps… she may get up, but then goes submissive again when we resume.
ADAM: Just make her come to you, all the way, and then praise her. Do lots of repetition, and be neutral with your voice. Make sure that YOU ARE NOT leaning forward, into the dog, when you call her.
Through the repetition, and praise after she completes the exercise, he fear/submission will disappear and she’ll realize that the submission is not necessary. Some dogs will use submission as a form of passive resistance. They learn that when they go submissive, the owners stop asking them to do something. Teach her that there is no reason to be submissive by making her do it, and then praising when she’s completed the task. Success is the best reinforcer.
DAVE AND LINDA: She displays a semi-aggressive kind of play, or maybe it’s not play, behavior. She looks like she means business, but when we go to correct her she’s as sweet as could be. This sort of bite- ya, lick- ya behavior will go on for hours. Is it wrong to let her grab your arm or hand in a mock battle play?
ADAM: Yes. Don’t ever let her bite you… even in play. Correct her, then walk away.
DAVE AND LINDA: How can we play and show affection without pain?
ADAM: Pain? There should be no pain. For her OR FOR YOU! Play fetch. Play hide and seek. Play with obedience (if she goes down fast, then give her the release command and let her run after the ball). Massage her. But do not allow any nonsense. Teach her to do tricks. All of this is fun for the dog.
DAVE AND LINDA: Can you share any information on raising my friend and protector? Does this breed need more space or respect? Am I over dominating her now? Will she grow out of this? Don’t get me wrong she appears to be happy and she seems to love my wife and myself. I don’t want to over-correct, and of course, I don’t want her to grow out of control.
ADAM: I think you’re doing fine. Just be consistent, and review my THREE KEYS to successful behavior modification. Never forget to use common sense, and THINK about your goal, and how everything you do, your dog will learn from. Also, as far as being a family protector… she’ll naturally become territorial within the next few months… as a watch dog.
But if you want her to become a personal protection dog (to bite if necessary) you’ll need to pursue formal training. You cannot do it yourself.