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Solo glaring
"I'm not gonna do it,
an yew kan't make me,
so phooey!!" said Solo
at 7-wks old

" No More Rude German Pinschers "

An interview between a canine behavioral consultant and a harried owner who has come seeking help:

OWNER: My German Pinscher is being difficult. I can't make her do anything.
She only listens to me when she's in the mood.

CONSULTANT: In general, would you say your German Pinscher is behaving rudely?

OWNER: Rudely? How could a dog be rude?

CONSULTANT: Does she sometimes sass you back when you tell her to do something? Bark back at you?

OWNER: Well, yes, if it's something she doesn't want to do...

CONSULTANT: Does she sometimes dance just out of reach when you stretch your hand toward her, or when you try to attach her collar or leash?

OWNER: Well, if she doesn't want to be caught...

CONSULTANT: Does she often nudge and pester you for petting when you're trying to read the paper, or talk on the phone, or visit with guests?

OWNER: Yes, but that's because I'm ignoring her and she wants attention...

CONSULTANT: Does she sometimes bark at you to tell you she wants a treat?

OWNER: Only if I haven't given her enough of them...

CONSULTANT: Does she hang on for dear life when you try to take something away from her?

OWNER: If it's something she wants to keep...

CONSULTANT: Does *she* decide who is welcome in your home and who is not?
Does she often "tell off" visitors even after you've let them in?

OWNER: Only if she doesn't like them...

CONSULTANT: Does she ever growl or mutter at you when you wake her up? Or when you move her from her favorite chair? Or when you reach toward her food bowl or bone? Or when you touch some "sensitive" part of her body: her ears or teeth or tail?

OWNER: Well, she's just telling me not to bother her...

CONSULTANT: Does she run away from you when you've caught her doing something wrong? Does she lead you on a merry chase around the house or yard?

OWNER: Sure, but that's so I can't scold her...

CONSULTANT: Does she pitch a fit when you try to clip her nails?

OWNER: Yes, because she doesn't like it...

CONSULTANT: Does she struggle when you try to open her mouth or look inside her ears?

OWNER: She doesn't like me doing that...

CONSULTANT: When she doesn't get her own way or when she's upset with you, does she sometimes scream bloody murder, or tear something up, or pee on your belongings?

OWNER: Well, if she thinks I'm not being fair...

CONSULTANT: And you said she only obeys you when she's "in the mood".

OWNER: Yes, but...but...well, she does do a lot of those things you mentioned. But really, some of them are kind of cute! Isn't she just asserting herself?

CONSULTANT: She is not "just" asserting herself. She is being dominant and disrespectful. Dominance means your German Pinscher is deciding the rules of your household because she doesn't believe you are capable of doing it yourself. And it is a given that any dog who believes this will not listen to you. Your German Pinscher will only listen to you if she respects you.

OWNER: But I got a dog for *friendship* - not for respect!

CONSULTANT: Your German Pinscher can never be just your friend. She depends on you - entirely on you - for her health, her safety, her very life. There will be times when you'll have to do things she doesn't like: give her unpleasant medicines, take something out of her mouth, roll her over to remove a tick from her belly. You must know, with absolute certainty, that you can restrain and handle her in any way you see fit, at any time you see fit. She isn't capable of knowing what's best for her, so the choice can never be hers on when to acquiesce. She must always acquiesce. She must always trust that you know what is best. In short, she must believe in your abilities to decide *every* situation, and she will never do that if you allow her to get away with disrespectful little behaviors such as those I asked you about a few minutes ago.

OWNER: But if I take charge all the time, won't she resent me?

CONSULTANT: Not at all. Teaching your German Pinscher to respect you means teaching her the consequences of everything she does -- teaching her not only that doing X means she gets corrected, but also that doing Y means she gets praise or a treat. Dogs LOVE the security of knowing exactly what they can do to get praise and treats. They appreciate knowing exactly what they shouldn't do so they won't get corrected. This teaching and learning process forges such a close bond of understanding and security between the two of you that your love, and hers, will INCREASE beyond anything you might have thought possible. Once you have lived with a dog who both loves and respects you, you will never want to go back.

OWNER: But darn it, I know she loves me. Why doesn't respect just go along with that?

CONSULTANT: Dogs love blindly, unconditionally. They love you whether you deserve it or not. That's one reason we cherish them! Unfortunately, they add respect only if you earn it. Or to be more accurate, sometimes they start out giving you all the respect in the world, especially as puppies, but somewhere along the line you *lose* their respect by handling them, unintentionally, without meaning to, in ways that encourage them to become disrespectful. If your German Pinscher loves you, but considers you her equal or subordinate, she won't listen to you. If she loves you AND respects you as someone who is worth listening to, she will listen. So what you need to do now is to get back your German Pinscher's respect.

OWNER: Tell me how.

CONSULTANT: By setting simple rules of conduct, the good manners you will expect of her from now on. By enforcing them every time she goes against one of them. By praising her every time she follows one of them.

OWNER: What kinds of good manners are you talking about?

CONSULTANT: This is what I expect from a well-mannered German Pinscher:
  • 1. No sassing when I tell you to do something.
  • 2. I decide who is welcome in our home. Stop barking once I let a visitor in.
  • 3. If I touch you or move you while you're sleeping, you will not protest.
  • 4. No barking at neighbors in their own yard. You know perfectly well who they are. They have a right to
  • be there.
  • 5. You will not run away from me. When I tell you to stop, you will stop. I do not chase.
  • 6. You will never growl at me or any member of our family. For any reason. Ever.
  • 7. Don't chew up things that don't belong to you.
  • 8. Sit still while I clip your toenails. Don't jerk your foot away. Shrieking is absurd.
  • 9. Sit still while I clean your teeth.
  • 10. No mouthing on people's hands.
  • 11. Take treats politely. No grabbing.
  • 12. When told to, drop whatever is in your mouth. That includes toys and bones.
  • 13. No howling when left home alone.
  • 14. Ride quietly in the car. No bounding around the seats or bellowing threats through the windows.
  • 15. Walk politely on the leash. Don't lunge and gasp like the Hound of the Baskervilles.
  • 16. Grabbing treats or toys from another pet is not allowed.
  • 17. Stay out of the garbage.
  • 18. Don't steal food from plates balanced on the sofa arm.
  • 19. When you hear "No!", stop whatever you're doing.
  • 20. When I stop petting you for the time being, that's it. Find something else to do.
  • 21. My words count. When I say something, I mean it and I will back it up. Without exception.
  • 22. Look at my face when I speak to you.
  • 23. No begging at the table. Leave people alone when they're eating.
  • 24. Going for a walk means walking. It does not mean stopping at every telephone pole.
  • 25. Come when I call you. No matter what you're doing.

OWNER: Wow. How do I get my German Pinscher to understand that those things are the right things to do?

CONSULTANT: Your German Pinscher doesn't understand right and wrong. To her, there will never be anything "wrong" with grabbing a toy from another pet. You cannot teach her that "sharing is kind" or that "Princess will feel sad if you take her toy." Don't worry about right or wrong or rationalizing "whys" to your German Pinscher. Focus your teaching on which behaviors are ACCEPTABLE to you, and which behaviors are not. All acceptable behaviors should be praised with "Good dog!" All unacceptable behaviors should be corrected with: "No. Stop that."

OWNER: That's it? But what if she doesn't stop?

CONSULTANT: Oh, she almost certainly won't, the first time. Words are just meaningless sounds until you connect them with something. When your German Pinscher ignores your first stern "No!", repeat it, accompanied by:
  • * a squirt of water from a plastic spray bottle or squirt gun
  • * a vigorous rattling of a can filled with pennies
  • * a sharp clapping of your hands
  • * a thwack of a fly swatter against the wall or table * or a balled-up pair of socks or light magazine tossed at her hind end. If absolutely necessary, resort to:
  • * a firm grip under her collar as you lift her head up and look sternly into her eyes
  • * a shake of her collar
  • * or a swat on her hind end.

    Which one of these you choose depends on which fits the infraction best. For example, the balled-up socks could be flung when she is sniffing the garbage with her back to you. The spray bottle or squirt gun is a good choice for barking. Your choice also depends on her personality and on her reaction. A correction should be just enough to make her stop the misbehavior, just enough to make her drop her tail, widen her eyes, flatten her ears, and conclude, "Oops! Chasing the cat wasn't worth THAT." If your German Pinscher flings herself onto her back, dribbling urine, you came on too strong. If she keeps right on doing what she's doing, you need to "up" the level of your correction. Or combine two of them. In other words, let HER be the one to tell you - through her expression, body language, and results - which correction is appropriate for her.

    HINT: Whenever possible, choose a correction that is impersonal, i.e. one that doesn't involve eye contact or touching. Surprising as it sounds, some German Pinschers are happy to take your "correction" if it means personal attention, eye contact, and touching. Try to be completely impersonal when your German Pinscher acts up. Give her a short, sharp correction and go right back to what you were doing. She'll learn that only when she is behaving will she get personal attention.

    For chronic misbehavers, you can avoid touching by using a hand-hold. A hand-hold is a light line clipped or tied to your German Pinscher's collar. It should be just long enough so it doesn't touch the ground when she is standing up. The rationale is this: You can't stop bad behavior if your dog can dart away, dive under furniture, or lead you on merry chases around the house. Problem dogs should wear a hand-hold AT ALL TIMES WHEN YOU'RE SUPERVISING THEM. Whenever your German Pinscher acts up by stealing food, chewing your shoes, nipping the kids, etc., walk purposefully to her, take the hand-hold, lead her (sharply, not pleasantly) to the scene of the crime, snap the hand-hold once, and say sternly: "No!" Do not raise your voice. Do not use her name or say anything else. Then drop the hand-hold and go back to whatever you were doing.

    NO CALLING TO COME! NO CHASING! Every lap you run cheapens you in her eyes. If she runs when she sees you coming to correct her, simply track her down. Do not run. Walk firmly and deliberately, leaning forward with purposeful intent, glaring stony-faced at her. To a dog, there is something unnerving about this kind of persistent, methodical following. Eventually, most dogs will stop running, hunker down, and give up. Well-trained dogs actually freeze in position when they've done something wrong and been caught at it. They've learned through experience that their owner will track them down, to the ends of the earth if necessary, in order to give the deserved correction, so they figure they might as well stop and get it over with.

    Now be careful. You don't want to be in Correction Mode all day long, just waiting for your German Pinscher to make some little mistake. Watch for GOOD behavior, too. Praise her whenever she does something positive, even if it's just resting quietly or chewing on her bone. "Good girl, Buffy." Your German Pinscher will make the right choices - IF you show her the consequences (positive and negative) of everything she does.
OWNER: Do you recommend obedience training for gaining respect?

CONSULTANT: Not by itself. You can't gain respect by teaching a few isolated commands such as Sit-Stay. Obedience training is practiced for only about a half-hour each day. If you let your German Pinscher spend the rest of the day grabbing treats from your hand and clinging grimly to a toy that you're trying to take away, she will not respect you...not even if she does the finest Sit-Stay the world has ever seen.

Little things add up -- both good and bad. Simple little naughtiness that you let slip each day will gradually create a disrespectful German Pinscher who won't let you handle or restrain her unless she "in the mood." In the same way, simple little rules of good manners, enforced each day, will create a wonderful German Pinscher who both loves and respects you. Daily behavior is what counts. You may need to change lots of little daily behaviors. In fact, you'll probably find that most of the little behaviors that must be changed are YOURS! You need to change how you interact with your German Pinscher. You need to change how you react to her behaviors. Only then will she respond by changing HER behaviors.

OWNER: Could you recommend a good book that will teach me exactly what to do?

CONSULTANT: Yes. Canine behavioral consultant Job Michael Evans developed a program called the "RRRR: Radical Regimen for Recalcitrant Rovers." In his book, "People, Pooches, and Problems" (Howell House, 1991), he explains each rule of good behavior you should expect from your German Pinscher. In the most conversational way, step by step, he tells you exactly what to do and how to do it. This is my favorite book on respect training, the most practical book on problem-solving, and the most realistic (and humorous!) book on the human/dog dynamic that I've ever read. Give it a try.

To own it, click here: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0876057830/yourpurebredpupp or type that exact URL into your browser. Good luck!


I hope you've enjoyed this article and will visit us again at: Your Purebred Puppy: A Buyer's Guide

Copyright 2000 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without the permission of the author.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July, 2001