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Wife too indulgent towards naughty labradoodle puppy! Help please!!


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My wife bought a family dog during lockdown. Our puppy is now six months old and rather large! It's my wife's dog, as I was clear I didn't want the responsibility of having a dog. My wife has shown herself to be an amazingly loving, dedicated and responsible dog owner, and the dog is sweet-natured and smart. But I feel my wife is too soft on the dog, and letting the dog off-the-hook for some bad behaviours that are causing me to resent the dog. For example:


I didn’t want the dog on any sofa, but compromised, and agreed she could lie on the older sofa (if her blanket was on it first). But the dog likes to get up on the sofas, so she now has free reign on all sofas, including the posh one, without a blanket. When she gets excited, she will charge around the room and bounce off the sofas, as though they were her springboard! And because she's a pest when we have a TV dinner, everybody is now expected to have the dog on the sofa, behind our backs, as we eat, which I find very unrelaxing. Can someone on this forum offer their views on dogs on sofas and how to train them out of it, now that bad habits have been allowed to develop.


But, the Number One Annoying Behaviour, is stealing food from the table. Yesterday, I spent hours making Mexican Dinner, only to walk into the kitchen to find that the dog had stolen and eaten the entire tub of sour cream from the middle of the table. My wife said I was not allowed to chastise the dog, because I had not "seen it happen" and the dog would "not understand" what she was being told off for, and it would be "cruel". This is just one example. My wife thinks it's always my fault (or the kids’ fault) when the dog steals food, as we "left it within reach". But I know that when I was growing up, our dog would not have taken food from the table, and it's too stressful (in a household with hungry teenagers on lockdown) to be constantly vigilant.... "oh my God, where's the dog?!..., etc." Meanwhile, the dog, well-trained in many respects, gets away with hoovering anything she can get her jaw to, when our backs are turned. Again, I would appreciate the advice of other dog owners, on how to deal with this.

Generally, my wife read somewhere that, in these p.c. times, you are never supposed to punish your dog, only to reward it, and I feel she has taken that message far too much by heart! So much so, that (despite the fact that I spend a fraction of the amount of time with the dog), it obeys me better than my wife (e.g. coming when I call, without expecting a dog treat every time!), and walking properly for me on the lead, rather than pulling me off my feet, as she lunges left and right, as she does with my wife.

I feel I need some help with this, and am confident that my wife too, would appreciate and respond positively to good advice on this forum.
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Welcome to the forum - I can feel your pain, as having a whirlwind of a pup is pretty overwhelming, particularly if you feel you didn't sign up for this in the first place!

Your wife is right in that disciplining and punishments don't work well, and that positive methods are far kinder and more effective. However, a dog does need boundaries, and this is where management and training come in.

First, sofas...

It's up to you and your wife to decide what the rules are and to be consistent on this. It's not fair on the dog if one day he gets told off or prevented from doing what he did yesterday. Having said that, I found it much easier to teach 'sofa etiquette' when my pup had gone through the evening zoomies stage where he would throw himself at the sofa and onto your lap from the other side of the room. Things to train here are a good 'off' (i.e. off the sofa - don't use the same word for if, say, he jumps up at you), and a good 'settle down on your bed' (again, this may be impossible when your dog is at the overexcitable stage, like asking a toddler to behave when they're overexcited). You might also want to train by redirecting him to the older sofa.

Having said that you need to be consistent, a dog can learn rules like 'You can only go on the sofa if Dad's not on it' or similar - again, do this by teaching a good 'off' and 'settle on your bed/the old sofa'.

As for stealing food - some dogs, it's true, don't, but this isn't so much because they're 'good', just that that is their nature. Dogs have evolved as scavengers, and a 'wild' dog wouldn't survive if it didn't take every opportunity to grab food. Some dogs have been bred to be thieves, i.e. lurchers, as they were used as poachers' dogs. I'm afraid by far the most effective way to deal with this is by management - keep food out of reach, and keep the dog out of the kitchen when there is food within reach. Every single time the dog does manage to nick some food, the behaviour is strongly rewarded (sour cream would be the BEST TREAT EVER for my dog!). Trust me, it does become second nature, like not leaving hot drinks or sharp knives within reach when you have a toddler.

In time, if you do this well, it becomes easier as your dog will no longer expect to find food available so will spend less time checking out every likely surface. And you can also train a good 'leave' so if you spot him eyeing up a sandwich you can tell him not to grab it and get to it before he does.

I need to get on with the day job now, but do ask if you have more questions or want to ask about training individual skills.
Hi Judy. Thanks for your quick and detailed reply. You have really read and thought about our problem. I particularly appreciated your advice with regard to sofa etiquette. As a 'newbie' to this site, I feel it feels risky questioning anything in your reply, especially as you are a moderator and clearly very experienced. But I do wonder if your reply was too 'dog centred' for me. You don't need to worry about our puppy which gets endless walks, cuddles and treats. The aspect of my post that I feel you have missed, is that it's not the dog that is getting lost in all this, it's me! I really did not want a dog, and have been working really hard to find room in my heart for this new member of the family. But I did not sign up for a dog that can sit on the sofa behind me when I'm trying to eat, or steal food from the table that I've spent ages preparing. At the moment, I have a surprisingly good relationship with our puppy, but I feel that unless we can train her to stop doing what I find stressful and annoying, resentments will grow. It's not enough for me to know that it is in their nature. That may well be so, but it is in my nature, not to want to own a dog. So (even with the dog's interests in mind) a compromise must be found that everybody is happy with, including me. Because I am not happy at the moment. I hope you can understand.
There’s always Relate although I’m not au fait with their canine prowess.
Yes I do understand, honestly. As for experience - not really, I have only had one dog, but he did have almost every issue in the book so I spent a lot of time on forums and elsewhere asking for advice. And possibly the reason I'm moderator is that I won't take it personally if anyone disagrees with me!

I'm not saying that you should put up with a dog drooling in your lap while you eat or crash-lands into your lap when you're on the sofa - I'm saying that by training him to (say) go to bed and settle down by using rewards is more effective, and therefore better for you, than 'ordering' him off the sofa. And that any form of punishment for stealing is unlikely to be effective, whereas a simple stairgate across the kitchen door most certainly is. This isn't really dog centred - it's the most effective way of achieving what you want (within reason - we all need to adjust).

It may be possible that you can teach him not to steal food in the long term (I have a lurcher so I've just accepted that it's part of his nature, which works for us). This could look something like having some boring food on the worktop (OK, no food is boring to a young pup!), and rewarding them with something better when they look away from it and focus on your instead. But it really has to start from a point where the dog doesn't expect there to be a delicious reward up there, hence the need for management as the first step.

Have a look at Kikopup's video on teaching a good settle:
Any vid by Kikopup is worth watching, in fact.

And good luck - nothing can prepare even a dog lover for the impact a puppy can have on their lives, and it's so much harder if you're not a 'dog' person in the first place and it's not what you wanted. Hopefully, if you/your wife manage to teach a few useful skills, you'll see how rewarding a dog can be in the long run.
Thanks. That's very helpful. Let's see how we get on! Simon
Do let us know how you get on! And of course ask if you think we can help more :)
I tried logging on to this 2 hours ago and had WiFi problems I just spent 2 hours trying to get fixed. Judy has already given you loads of good stuff.

What I'd add about reward and punishment is that essentially your wife is right. Rewarding behaviours we want is far more effective than addressing the behaviours we want to stop. If you want to look at the psychology behind it, read up on Brian Iwata's work on problem behaviour in children. It basically works on the premise that any attention is, well, attention and ignoring ”bad” behaviours stop them far faster.

And it's the same in dogs.

But, as Judy says, dogs don't think good/bad. They think opportunity, safety, and what's in it for them - hence, the benefit of simply removing the access to stuff like food.

That brings us nicely to the fact that some behaviours are self-rewarding. So, you ignoring them is not enough to stop them as the reward for the dog of doing it is an inherent part of the behaviour. So, you manage it (blocking access to food) and you reward alternative and preferred behaviours. And, it is very hard to train a ”don't ”. If I said to you, don't think of a fire engine, what's the first thing that comes to mind? So rather than teaching ”don't eat from the table” or ”don't come on the sofa”, we train - and reward heavily, to make it a better choice - ”do sit on your bed”.

Does that make sense?

You might also find it helps to teach some impulse control. This video will help.

My earlier reply was purely dry humour. I do empathise with you. The rewards are there with a multilateral approach. Bonne chance.
I sympathize with you my brother was in the same situation his partner brought a puppy he did not want and he tried his best to make it work but in the end even with training it just didn't work because he really didn't want a dog and so no amount of training would help him bond with the dog. He learned he really isn't a dog person and unfortunately they rehomed the dog.

I wish you luck and hope you can make it work
A warm, soft, hairy, big, hugging puppy, sharing a sofa - this would be a dream! This would be incredible therapy in our stressful life! I would love this! Unfortunately, my own dog seems to be growing out of it, and our hugging moments on the sofa are less frequent than they used to be (and more precious)... but that’s me.

The issues you mentioned (sofa, stealing food) are easily handled by training and management. Just a little bit of commitment and consistency from both of you is all it’ll take.

But if you are not in love with her (the dog) - well, that’s just what it is, and I fear that she may continue to be a source of annoyance and aggravation for you, even if she stays away when you are on the sofa, and stays away from your meals.

I am sorry, you seem to have gotten the short end of the stick here, and I have no advice at this point beyond what was already said. If we could go back in time, I would have advised your wife to not get the dog, but too late for that.
I hope that the dog grows on you, and you start feeling her love, start enjoying her being there with you, and then perhaps little quirks like sofa and food will not bother you as much.
I just looked and saw the new posts. Thanks very much. I do realise that it is a brave person who posts anything confessing to, well, not exactly negative, but certainly ambiguous feelings on a dog forum website. Because one of the inescapable truths about dog owners, is that they REALLY LOVE their dogs, and consequently cannot understand (and are possibly even slightly offended by the notion of) anybody having ambiguous feeling about the little darlings, It's the same with parents with small children. So I feel I need to put the record straight. I do really like our dog. It's about as perfect as a dog could be: very loving, eager to please, clever, pretty. I'm just not gaga about my dog the way my wife is, and (given how supremely clever our dog is, as a breed and as an individual) I am looking to train the dog as much as possible out of the things that bother me. I will happily report back on progress, and thanks to those who offered tips and video clips. We have already trained her out of lots of bad habits (including digging up the lawn!) so I am sure we can make improvements on the food front (even if we cannot entirely iron out in-bred scavenger tendencies!). And I was not offended by the go to Relate remark. The first draft of my post included the words ("leaving aside the marriage guidance aspects, ha, ha...") but I edited it out. Thanks again!
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Hey, I REALLY LOVE my dog, but there were times when he was a pup I could have wrung the little blighter's neck! (Joking, obviously, but there were times I really didn't like him very much and wondering what on earth I had done.)

And it says a lot about you that despite not being a dog person and not particularly wanting a dog, you've come on here to try to find the best way of making it work.

Just being nosy, what breed is your dog?
Hi Judy. Your reply is much appreciated. Nice to know I'm not the only one who has had the odd murderous (joke) thought cross their minds! To answer your question, the dog is a Labradoodle, age 6 months. There is a drawing of him as my icon. That's exactly what he looks like! Thanks Simon
I'm an idiot, you said what he was in your topic title!:emoji_face_palm: Yes, a 6-month-old labradoodle is bound to test anyone's patience at times.
It's probably worth adding that the first year is by far the hardest.

To begin with, the dog doesn't know the rules of the game, doesn't speak the language and is a giddy youngster.

Then they hit adolescence. And all they learned gets forgotten. But once you hit a certain age it all falls into place and you find the dog starts listening.

It will get better.
The fact your willing to do the training , your doing better already than some i know who cant be bothered but then complain about there dogs behavior.

Labs are my favorite breed i am absolutely crackers about them i adore them and you can train a lab anything so thats a good start as both breeds are really intelligent and quick to learn.

6 months is also in the teenage zone , mom calls the teenage stage the raptor stage as they becone wild and just pretend thet have forgotton everything and it definitely is VERY stressful with all puppys.

Moms last dog she had was a Golden retriever cross flat coated Retriever and he was her 5th dog and yet she still had moments in the first year or so when she wanted to scream or pull her hair out and even had moments of doubt "what have i Done" but somewere after his second birthday it all just became worth it once he matured and settled down.

Also your not on your own about not being in love with your dog dad never was with any of ours , i have always been like mom dog mad but its because I've never got on with people , i always felt less judged and safe with dogs then people. But dad he never wanted our first but did help raise and train and learnt to co exists with our first , our second stole dads heart and was the only dog that he ever really fell for. So your not on your own.

I have faith in you that you'll make it work and find a way and i think you will be fine.

Good luck
All of my dogs have been called every name under the sun in the past,not that it makes anything difference to the dogs. It certainly made me feel better though at the time.
Your dog at 6 months old is in what I call the fruitloop stage, not a pup but not a adult... just a fruitloop....the good news gets better.

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