Dear Lisa:I have a 9-month old Shih Tzu. She is a bundle of fun for my husband and I; However, we have nick-named her "Nosy Rosy". She looks and climbs into everything (even if she has to squirm to get in). She even digs in piles of wood (we're afraid a copperhead will bite her). From the time she gets up in the morning until bedtime at night, she never quits looking for something to get into.She's even tried opening my husband's peanut jar.I have to crate her during the day so she doesn't get hurt. I have had many puppies in my life, but never one that gets into as much as she does. Why is she so nosy and what can I do to curtail some of this for her own protection?-- Nosy Rosy Needs Protection
Dear Nosy: Shih Tzus are lively, alert and friendly so it doesn't surprise me that yours is a bundle of fun and extremely inquisitive. Dogs in general do most of their "intelligence gathering" with their noses so she may be just checking things out and there's not much you can do to stop her from that except limit her access to areas that might endanger her, like that woodpile.
Channel the Talent
According to the American Shih Tzu Club website, one breeder mentioned how she had a dog that loved "digging in weird places" and noticed that this was a trait carried on from that dog's ancestors. Perhaps that may be the case with your dog and it would be fun to research her "relatives" to see if this is so. But to make your day-to-day life more enjoyable try these few tips. Since it's easier to reinforce good behavior rather than break the bad, try training your puppy with new games such as hide-and-seek using favorite toys, or even pieces of kibble hidden around the house. This way you are making the rules as to what is acceptable and not. Adding more structured obedience classes, along with the training "homework" required before weekly classes is a great way to channel that inquisitive Shih Tzu mind and lively energy. You may even find Agility or Tracking a great way to bond based on her personality. Finally, it is a good idea to continue to keep her in the crate when no one is home so that she can't get into trouble.
Dear Lisa:I have a Golden Retriever that we got from our dog trainer. He is high energy! I have had Goldens for the past 15 years and my first one also had tons of energy, but not like this. This one barks all the time when people are around, he seems to think he does not get enough attention as he always tries to cut in front of the others when they are getting petted (we have 5 dogs). He is a good dog, but this activity is annoying as can be! He is about 2-3 years-old and was given up by his family when he was 1-year-old as they did not like how much time he required. What can I do for him so he does not drive us all nuts! It has been going on since we got him and we give him attention just like the others. -- Golden Opportunity
Dear Golden: Based on this dog's history it seems he has been moved around from his first owner, then to the trainer for a year, and now to your home. It's unfortunate that some dogs are relinquished by their owners because they couldn't "handle" the boundless energy of puppyhood and may not have taken the time to properly socialize and teach him good behavior to boot. Although, I'm perplexed, hasn't your trainer helped with this dog's transition to his new home?
Barking Must Stop
There are several issues going on here so let's address them individually. First, the barking must stop. If he barks all the time, perhaps you are letting him. You can either, take an immediate approach and get a humane citronella collar to interrupt this barking, or you can try the intervention method and grab him by the collar and say to him "No bark" or use a loud distracting command like "atch" and make him understand that barking is not acceptable to you. Praise him when he stops. Repeat as necessary!
You may also be inadvertently encouraging the "I want attention" issue by petting him when he butts into line. This can be a dominance ploy as he is trying to establish his place in a crowed home of dogs. When he does this, absolutely ignore him, don't start petting him, and don't give in to "his" demands. In a multiple dog household you have wonderful training resources at hand. When training your dogs, why not do two at a time and always make Mr. Energy the number two dog of the team. With four others, that would give him more exercise and training combined. Also, you could have each of your family members either take him for a separate walk and/or training session. This will not only help expend some of his energy but build his confidence so he doesn't have to bark for attention and barge into line for acceptance.
Bark Back ~ Reader's Response From a reader regarding last month's column about training a dog to go downstairs:
Dear Lisa:It may also be helpful for the owner to get down on the pup's level to see what it sees at the top of the stairs. My Papillon would also go up a series of 5 stairs, but not down. When I got down to his level, I could see that looking down from the top, a coat on a hook gave the appearance of obstructing his path. Once I removed the coat, the downward stair progress came easy!
Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at email@example.com 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.
(c) 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.