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Ask AKC
with Lisa Peterson
Lisa Peterson with Jinx
Lisa Peterson with her Norwegian Elkhound Linx.

Dear Lisa: We have a male 16-month-old Shih Tzu that we love dearly. He gets very excited whenever someone comes around. He barks non-stop and he likes to jump on people. He barks so long until his heart is pounding. We enrolled him in a beginning obedience class for 6 weeks when he was 10 weeks old. Please give us some advice. – Heart-Pounding Pup

Dear Heart-Pounding: I can’t tell you how many people say to me, “I took him to one obedience session but he doesn’t seem to “get it” or “learn” or “remember anything” or [add an appropriate excuse here]. Dogs, just like people, need consistent, focused, training if they are ever going to get good at anything. You know the old saying, “practice makes perfect”? Well, it couldn’t apply more to puppies. I’m really glad you did take him to class during that critical time between 10-16 weeks when learning is easy and seems to “stick” with the pup for life. Fortunately, you can build on that early exposure and cure your pup of the behavior that ails you!

Start Over!
There are several issues going on with your puppy, excitable temperament, barking and jumping, First, plan to start over with your training as if he was still that 10-week-old pup. Enroll him in an obedience class and plan to attend several 8-week sessions (yes, this could last from months to years) until you can get his manners and behavior to the point where you are happy and he is a joy to live with.

In the meantime, I would put a leash on him when you are expecting company so you can control his reactions better. The leash will keep him from jumping on people and you will be better able to ask him to sit and stay quietly when guests come to the door. Practice the sit and stay on leash when there is no company around. Praise and reward him when he is quiet and not barking. When company comes over have him repeat this sit and stay quietly. Then as a reward have the guest give him the treat for being quiet and polite. Then get to class and work on building solid solutions to his bad behaviors. You’ll be surprised at how a little bit of obedience training can go a long way to having a great dog!


Dear Lisa: I have a 5-month-old Vizsla and the biggest problem we have with her is leaving her in the crate when the family has to go out. The longest we leave her is 3-4 hours and when we get home and let her out, she runs around us in circles crying, whining and barking.This will usually last about 15-20 minutes. Does it get better? Or is there something we aren't doing correctly? Vivacious Vizsla

Dear Vivacious: I’m curious, does your pup do this before she goes outside to go potty? If so, the most important thing you aren’t doing correctly is letting this annoying behavior last for 15-20 minutes! As soon as my dogs do something that I’m not happy with or that is loud or disruptive to the household I stop it immediately. Remember your dog looks to you to set the rules. By allowing this to go on and on and on, you are in essence telling her that it’s okay to carry on like this. You might even be encouraging it and not even know it.

New Routines for Success!
You are doing several things right for this young puppy. You are right not to leave her in the crate for more than 3-4 hours at this age. She is still learning housebreaking techniques and how to hold it. I also understand that she is happy to see you, so why not create a better bonding experience than just watching her bark circles around you. Here’s what will help you in the short term. When you come home and take her out of her crate, immediately put a leash on her and take her outside to do her business. This is the best method of housebreaking also. Once she has gone potty, then engage in some fun activity like ball fetch or a nice active walk around the neighborhood to visit new people and friendly dogs. As a young puppy she will naturally have a lot of energy and she needs an outlet to expend it. By creating a new routine that doesn’t include mayhem around the house, you will encourage her to be rambunctious outdoors. Soon she will begin to look forward to your return home in a good way!


Bark Back ~

Reader comments to that scratching nesting behavior discussed in last month’s column:

Dear Lisa:I have 4 male miniature Dachshunds and one female Golden Retriever who do the scratch thing and 1 female Dachshund who does not. Putting a blanket on the couch for the Dachshunds and one on the big dog bed for the Golden has solved the problem. They can scratch all they want and not hurt anything and the Dachshunds even grab the blanket with their mouths and move it around that way to help them get the blanket just right! - C.L.

Dear Lisa: I have dogs, Brittanys by the way, that love to nest, always. I learned to have some big sweat shirt, fluffy towel or even an extra blanket on top of the bed/couch/chair. They dig that up into a nest and leave the furniture in tact. I just push the "nest" aside when I sit or go to bed.– L.S.


Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at askakc@akc.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses. Read previous columns here.