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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Son Brings Out the Worst in Beagle

I have a 6 month old Beagle puppy named Buddy who is ruining my life! He’s a dream dog when my 7-year-old son isn’t around, but when my son is around, Buddy bites his feet and knocks my son over. He steals things like shoes, and then my son chases him and encourages that behavior. He also pees wherever my son is even though he’s perfectly potty trained when my son isn’t around.

It seems Buddy sees my son as a litter mate, but my son will not listen to me when I’ve told him not to play tug or to stop playing with him immediately and ignore the dog when he nips at him. My son has stopped playing tug with him, but it has gotten to the point that even if he tries to walk away when Buddy bites at his feet, Buddy keeps at it, pulls his socks off, and knocks him over. My son is actually getting hurt—bruised, scratched, bitten…..

I’ve had my son take over the feeding/watering of the dog. I’ve also made sure that when we go on walks, my son is first to go out the door and is leading the way. If Buddy tries to run out ahead of him, I correct him with a tug (wearing a training collar). That isn’t helping. Then I tried to make a really high pitched noise when Buddy does that to stop him and distract him, but that hasn’t worked either. I’ve also tried telling him no and grabbing his collar—that hasn’t stopped the behavior.

It’s crazy how night and day the difference is. My mom was home alone with Buddy one day, and she said Buddy was amazingly behaved for such a young pup. The next day, it was her, my son, and the dog, and she said it was a total nightmare.

What can I do? I need to do something fast! I don’t want to find a new home for him because I got this dog for my son to have a companion—someone to hug and laugh and cry with and tell his secrets to. If we get rid of this dog, my son will feel like it was all his fault and I fear that would scar him forever. There HAS to be something I can do, but I just don’t know what that is! We are miserable here!

Thank you!

You've presented your situation very clearly and I can understand your frustration. You obviously know something about the rules of leadership in the pack, and that's good too. You also know the problem is the relationship between Buddy and your son.

It might help if your son can observe a bunch of puppies playing together(without humans) so he can see how rough they are with each other. Encourage him to point out the one he thinks is the "toughest," and remind him that that one will be the pack leader, bossing everyone else around. Find parallels between that dog's action (nipping, mauling, scratching, growling) and the actions of Buddy when he's playing with your son. Ideally, that litter of puppies will also have a mother dog present. Your son needs to see how unemotional and uninvolved Mother Dog is until a puppy gets too rough with her and crosses the line. Explain to him that Mother Dog is the leader of ALL the puppies, just as you are to your son. And when your son is playing with the dog, he has to act more like a grownup to Buddy. Draw other comparisons he can relate to: his teacher and him, his coach and him, his older relatives and him. Impress upon him that his role is to be the teacher/coach to the puppy, not to be his best buddy.

Let Buddy wear his training collar in the house, attached to a four-foot lightweight leash. This is a handle for YOU to pick up and jerk correctively with a loud "AGH!" when Buddy starts acting out toward your son. YOU are also permitted to give strong, quick, decisive physical corrections to Buddy when he crosses the line with your son or whomever. Get the point across in half a second and then it's over. Do NOT allow or encourage your son to give physical corrections of ANY kind to Buddy because Buddy will interpret that only as rough play and things will escalate! YOU will be the physical intermediary between Buddy and your son until things straighten out.

Give your son this advice for times when Buddy starts playing too rough: STAND UP, FOLD YOUR ARMS OVER YOUR CHEST, SAY NOTHING, DON't LOOK AT BUDDY, STAND STILL AND SLOWLY, SILENTLY COUNT TO TEN. When your son does this, Buddy will get bored with him and go find something else to bother. It's important also to demonstrate to your son the actions that aggravate Buddy's behavior: running, jumping, squealing, screaming, waving hands in his face, even swinging legs around under a chair. These are activities to be avoided in Buddy's presence.

Teach Buddy to "Curb," and then have your son practice curbing him. This is one command that's easy for anyone and any dog to do, and there's great power in it.

Is Buddy neutered yet? If not, get that done right away. Either way, I'm assuming Buddy is "marking" in your son's presence, and that has nothing to do with having to urinate and everything to do with territoriality and one-upsmanship. If he is neutered, you may still see a bit of this behavior, although Buddy is still awfully young to be marking anywhere. Six months is always a good time to have a puppy neutered.

I'm guessing Buddy's probably a handful to walk on a leash, that he pulls and that his nose is always on the ground. I strongly recommend a device called a Gentle Leader head halter. With the Gentle Leader, your son can walk Buddy himself and be the one in charge. You, however, will have to show Buddy (and your son) how to use it. Buddy won't like it AT ALL (too bad, it doesn't hurt him in any way so he'll just have to get used to it) and will struggle against it. I'd find a trainer who can give you a 30-minute lesson in how to get Buddy started with it. It will be money well spent. It will make a huge impression on Buddy when your son can walk him AND keep his nose off the ground at the same time.
Good luck!

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