The uncontrollable patient presents a problem for me as a veterinarian. To examine, much less diagnose, a dog that’s bouncing around like a Mexican Jumping Bean or, worse, trying to snap at me, can be challenging, to say the least.

To raise an obedient dog, you must begin when the dog is still a puppy. If you own or are considering a puppy, take this advice to heart.

Dogs are pack animals by nature – they look to an alpha, or leader. Remember those National Geographic specials? Nature intended a ranking among pack members. To the dog, you and your family are members of this pack.

If the dog doesn’t see you as the alpha, then he or she naturally assumes the role themselves. Eventually, these dominant dogs will growl at you, bite the vet and misbehave in other ways.

The following exercises can help socialize a pup and mold his personality. These exercises will help you enforce your alpha position over your dog.

Hold the pup over your head, firmly supporting him with both hands, and stare into his eyes (staring is a dominant behavior to the dog). Maintain this position until the pup has been still for 10 seconds. He must be still for that length of time, or he has not submitted to you.

Another exercise requires that you cuddle the pup on his back, in your arms against your body, firmly supported as you would hold an infant. Lying on his back is a submissive posture for the pup. Maintain this position until the pup has been quiet for 10 seconds.

A third position involves holding the pup firmly by the scruff of the neck with all four feet off the ground no more than a few inches. In larger pups, your free hand can support that pup’s chest. This position should be maintained until the pup is quiet for 10 seconds.

A sharp “No!” and a firm shake should be used to suppress struggling pups during these exercises. Gently talk to and stroke the pup only when it is accepting the postures without struggle. You must get the pup to cease struggling for at least 10 seconds or you will be reinforcing his disobedient behavior.

It is important to repeat these exercises frequently. Behavior modifying exercises must be repeated hundreds of times to convince the pup of your leadership. You should try to spend about 20 minutes twice a day doing these exercises with your pup.

A more aggressive pup requires more attention, and possibly professional consultation.


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