Friday , 19 January 2018

Ask A Trainer: Dog Cries for Everything!

I have an 18-month-old Boston Terrier. Most of the time he’s a dream. He knows all his basic commands, sit, lie down, come here, stop and take it, leave it.He passed puppy kindergarten with flying colours. The problem is that he has started crying when he doesn’t get what he wants, whether it’s food, attention or play. He never barks, he just cries. We’ve tried ignoring him until he stops crying but it doesn’t seem to help.  A few weeks ago he cried until he made himself sick. We’re not too sure what to do.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Hi there! Thanks for writing in with a great question. I can see where a dog who cries for attention can get to be quite an issue, especially when they don’t stop! Firstly, I would make sure that he isn’t having any health issues. If you are sure he is in good health, and he is actually crying as a way to get what he wants, then that is another story.

I am also thrilled to hear that you’ve had him in puppy kindergarten, and that you’ve worked with him on his basic commands. This is a crucial step in dog ownership, and I’m so glad that you’ve done it!

The thing about dogs crying, or barking for attention to get what they want, is that it is a learned behavior. If it has worked for him in the past, then he will keep doing what he has learned gets him what he wants. It makes perfect sense for him to do that. If he had never learned this, he wouldn’t keep doing it. Please don’t feel guilty, I am sure that you didn’t do it intentionally, but dogs are amazing learners, and even when you don’t think you are, everything you do, or don’t do with your dog is actually a lesson, and is teaching him in some way.

Sometimes, especially when they are young puppies, we tend to want to love them all the time. They are just too cute not to! And all too often we want to soothe anyone, be it child or puppy when they are crying or unhappy. While this is a perfectly normal reaction from us, and is the expected way to react to a child, it is not the best way to handle a dog who is crying, or is upset. Doing so only teaches the dog that his whining or crying is a good thing, and is approved of by you. We can all relate to seeing an adorable pup whining, and wanting to pick it up and cuddle it all better, while cooing “Awwwwwww, poor puppy wuppy…”. I used to be guilty of this as well! But doing so does more damage to the dog than good.  Sadly, this ends up teaching the dog things that we’d rather he didn’t do.

The key here will be consistency in completely ignoring him whenever he cries for anything. This means not telling him to be quiet. Not saying shhh, or even a NO. You will have to remember to not say anything to him at all. This also means not looking at him. This means not giving him what he wants. This means not even talking to other people in the room about it. You will really have to try your hardest to completely and utterly ignore him. It will not happen over night, and he will continue to try to do what has worked for him in the past. He might also get confused as to why things aren’t happening the way they used to. And he might even escalate his crying before he ceases the behavior. But he will eventually learn that crying does not get him what he wants, when he wants. The key here is to make sure that your level of tolerance can outlast his. You will have to wait him out, and pay special attention to not letting yourself get frustrated with him, as this may cause you to give into him out of that frustration.

Coupled with ignoring his demands, improving your leadership skills with him will also be an important factor. With his crying, he is trying to control when he gets attention, play time, food, or whatever it is that he desires. These are resources that you should be in control of, and he shouldn’t be the one telling you when he should be getting something. This is where upping his basic commands come in very handy. You should be practicing his basic commands on a daily basis, and often. Ideally, you should try to incorporate it into your daily lives asking things of him many times during the day. Ask him to sit and wait before he gets his meals. Ask him to sit and wait while you are putting on his leash and going out the door. Ask him to lie at your feet while you are watching TV. Ask him to sit and wait, and then come while playing a game of hide and seek. Try to make it fun for him, as he’ll love to play. And he’ll be working while he’s playing, which would be wonderful for him, as it will give him a purpose. Too many dogs today are unemployed, and every dog needs a job to feel worthwhile!

Another important factor is exercise. Bostons can be high energy dogs, and they often require more exercise than we might have thought, especially when they are still in their adolescent years. So long energy draining walks, bike rides, games and play times should be added to his routine as well. I’m sure you’ve heard the motto ‘A tired dog is a happy dog!’ So many people say it because it’s true! Things will not change over night, but I can assure you that if you work hard and stay consistent, that things will change!

Good luck and happy training!

Meira Frankl

Perfect Pet Training


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