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HELP! Wild Puppy!

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Dear Karen,

I have an 8-month-old chocolate Lab who we cannot get to settle down when other people or animals enter the picture. She obeys pretty well the first time or two using the clicker and treats, but then totally ignores us and goes her own way - jumping on people and running off with whatever distraction (i.e. other dogs) come her way. She seems to have gotten wilder in the past month. We take her for at least 1-1/2 hour hikes/runs everyday (sometimes twice a day) so she is not a dog desperate for exercise or company. She just likes to jump and play - to everyone's dismay. She will only work with me and the clicker/treats for short time spans - then does her own thing. When we're so far from the house (on these walks) it's a dilemma how to "positively" deal with her so she "gets it". Any advice? I don't want a juvenile dilinquent dog. Is 8 months too late to break these habits that have arisen?



Your dog is just entering into the adolescent period in which Labradors, particularly, drive everyone crazy. This is when many a lab changes owners or ends up in the shelter.

She will eventually settle down. A few clicks during the height of the distraction is not going to make much difference; the work needs to be done when distractions are at a minimum, and then distractions can be very gradually introduced. Maturity will bring major changes but is not complete with labs until they are two or three.

Meanwhile I suggest a) a Gentle Leader so you can walk her without having to battle her strength, lose control, or resort to force (which she'd ignore, largely, anyway). You can get these safe head-halters at www.dogwise.com or www.sitstay.com. b) I'd try to find a clicker class or a gentle, all-positive puppy or beginner class, so that she has a weekly experience of working in spite of the presence of other dogs. and also some chance to meet more dogs and c) I'd try to find her a dog playmate or two so she can have regular experiences of roughhousing with other dogs, who will teach her good dog manners. You might also start working through the exercises in Peggy Tillman's Clicking with Your Dog, available on our website. An energetic young hunting dog needs activities for its mind as well as its body, and these will tire her out mentally and help her relax (and they're fun for you.)

Karen Pryor