How to Stop a Pushy Dog

As a life long retriever person, I know a lot about pushy dogs.  Labs love everything.  They are not known as a breed with impeccable manners. When my Labs want something, they go for it with much enthusiasm and not much forethought.  I haven’t met a Lab that wasn’t a pushy dog in some way.

So, when trying to maintain a pack of them, I had to teach them all to wait for my command, because otherwise anarchy reigned.  I learned these techniques to keep my pack in order and my sanity intact.

The biggest problem I had with my little pack wasn’t their enthusiasm for food, since two of them had a healthy fear of consequences, and the third had taught me to keep food well out of reach.  No, my problem was getting through the door without being knocked over.

You see, the puppy had no boundaries, and the two big ones would take advantage of her excitement and push out the door behind her, and then if the collie got out I was in trouble, because he did not respond to anything.

Teaching Patience

First, I had to teach them all two things: patience, and their name.  Now they all knew that they had names, and would respond to only theirs.  But they had to learn to respond, in specific situations, only when I used their name.

Teaching Names

Teaching their names was pretty straightforward, and also helped with patience.

I started by getting a big bag of training treats, and used very small treats that I could hide in my hand.  I set a treat on my hand, and called a name.  If anyone else touched my hand, I just closed my hand around the treat.  Only when the specific dog touched my hand, did I open my hand.

At first, I shoved off the other dogs’ noses and made sure to treat just the right dog.  Eventually I expected them to each take turns, and within a week they all waited patiently.

Once I had this trick down, I started using higher value treats and awards.  They could stand in a line for their food, and would take turns for most tasks.  I started asking them to perform specific tasks, each in turn, like laying down or coming to me.  They had definitely learned that their name sometimes meant “only you.”

Teaching Patience

Once I knew they each understood that sometimes I would ask only one of them to complete a task, I had to teach patience.

I began asking them to go out the door one at a time.  If they went out of order, everyone had to come back in and start over.  Even the most impatient (the puppy) understood that it would take a lot longer if I had to let everyone else out multiple times.

Once we had patience, and waiting on each other down, then it was just a matter of going through the door without them.

By this time, they didn’t crowd at the door, because they knew that they wouldn’t be allowed through the door without their release command.  They could handle deliveries and neighbors patiently.

I also taught them patience at other times.  Any time I had more than one dog, they were released or directed individually, and by name.  They quickly learned that they must only do as I ask, when I ask, or there would be no reward.  They did not get “extra credit” for doing something early or out of turn.

“I’ll be back.”

Finally, I had to teach them a sign that I was leaving without them.  This obviously disappointed everyone, and they did not like me to leave them at all.

A good solution would’ve been to teach them to go to their beds and wait there, but since three of them weren’t destructive and the puppy stayed in a crate, I didn’t need to go that far.  My problem wasn’t the three older dogs, it was the puppy winding up the older dogs.

I taught them all that at my statement “I’ll be back,” I was leaving and they weren’t.  They waited as I tossed a handful of treats behind them.  The three of them scrambled, and didn’t pay attention to me as I left.  (Plus side to Labradors – they’ll do anything for food.)

Have you dealt with a pushy dog?

I love the enthusiasm of my Labradors, but it also takes work to teach them manners.  Have you dealt with a dog that needs manners and patience?  How did you react?

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