A few days ago as I was walking Zeldi (who is always ready to play with pretty much any dog) when we ran into a woman with her puppy. The puppy was happy and made overtures that clearly showed he wanted to play. But what did the woman do? She restricted the pup with the leash, trying to get him to sit and not “jump” and play.
The result was that she was annoyed, the pup was disappointed and confused, Zeldi was frustrated, and I could not help but think: What signal is this puppy getting?
Aside from being unreasonable about her desire to have the puppy sit: she was also teaching the puppy that playing with other dogs is not desirable. Tensing the leash and forcing him into a sit by pulling the leash could cause the dog not only to think it’s a bad idea to play but that the pup could interpret the nervousness from his human as a signal that something is “wrong” and “be wary of other dogs”. In fact, this person could be creating a leash aggressive dog.
There is a time to teach and there is a time to play. Jumping around is part of play. Why stifle that? Why all of a sudden was it important for that woman to assert her “no jumping” rule?
Puppy manners are really important, I would be the first person to endorse civilized behavior. But we also have to realize that we cannot stifle our puppies’ needs.
As we teach our dogs we also have to allow them the space and time to learn in circumstances that are conducive to learning and paying attention. Let’s help puppies by manipulating the environment in such a way that makes it easy for them to understand the behaviors we are looking for at that moment. Then, once the puppy truly understands and is successful in a highly controlled circumstance we can add distractions and see if the puppy can still focus and perform. It is all a great game.
But we humans have to be reasonable. If you kind of know it would be futile to ask for something in a highly distracting circumstance, don’t even try. You are setting yourself and your dog up for failure.
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