As I write this Ben is laying down chewing a raw hide bone, the reason he is doing this, is every night at around dusk, Ben has a bit of a crazy stage. He races around the house, picks up anything he can find, jumps all over us and barks for attention. He needs something to get him through this stage, so each night at around this time I give him a long lasting chew.
This behaviour is very typical of all young dogs and it usually occurs at dawn (although I am never around to witness this) and dusk. The best thing you can do for your dog during this time is to play with them, or give them something to do alone. Long lasting chews work for us, when Ben is done chewing he settles down for the night quite nicely. I should mention that he also gets two one-hour-long off lead walks each day, it would be a mistake to assume that you can get through this time with your dog with a chew alone.
Ben is seven months old now starting to be quite reactive to his environment. He is always on the look out for interesting things to explore. This reactivity is a normal part of puppy development and is the reason trying to teach a recall from scratch at this time can be more difficult. If you have never had your dog off lead they will have no idea of what a recall is, and will be darting off all over the place in reaction to whatever is in the environment. Read some of my recall articles and start in an enclosed space with your dog off lead. All is not lost, it might just take a little longer for the older dog.
On the other hand, it is at this stage where all of that hard work in teaching the recall, when your puppy was a baby, pays off. Ben has had five months of training off lead now and his recall is reliable. This is why any dog trainer or club you go to should have off lead training for puppies from eight weeks of age.
In the last few weeks I have also noticed that there are some things that have spooked Ben, when in the past, he would not have reacted at all. This time in Ben’s life is where he may develop fears of objects, people, dogs or sounds. This is why continued socialisation is so important.
Your dogs’ socialisation does not stop at the end of puppy school, or even at six months. I would argue that you need to continue exposing your dog to unfamiliar scenarios for their first three years. Dogs go though many developmental stages in their first three years and it could be they develop some worrisome habits during this time, unless they are regularly exposed to strange situations.
I took Ben to the local shopping strip a couple of weeks ago for this very reason. Along the way we passed prams, shopping trollies, wheelchairs and walking sticks, along with lots and lots of people that wanted to say hello. Take advantage of your puppy’s cuteness and take them to busy areas where people will want to pat them.
Ben is still hard work to manage in the house, he demands attention often, and I joke that he seems to walk around the house with his mouth open just waiting for something to bite down on. I still have to remain vigilant to his every move when he is loose in the house.
All of this is normal, especially for an Irish Setter, I did not expect anything other than the behaviour I am getting from Ben. So how do I deal with this? I use my confinement area (laundry) several times each day where Ben also has access to outside through a dog door. When I travel with him to the beach house I take my soft crate, and he stays in the crate when I can’t watch him.
Ben is also getting bigger, he now weighs more than 25kg and when he stands on his hind legs his front paws can rest on my shoulders (and I’m not short). Controlling his jumping is at the forefront of my mind at this point in his training. Given the opportunity he would jump all over my house guests, so I prepare for this before anyone comes to my home.
I always take Ben for a walk before my guests arrive, then I put him in his laundry area, which is just off the kitchen where he has a good view of most of the house. I greet my guests at the door without Ben, and hand them all some liver treats. All of my guests are dog lovers, so they feel comfortable feeding Ben. I only bring Ben in once I am ready to do so, there is no rush, I offer my guests a drink, and I sit with them for a little while before releasing the hound.
When I let Ben in I ask him to sit and focus on me for a little while. This settles him down, and then I release him from this to go and say hello to my guests. My guests also ask him to sit and reward him with some liver treats. I set Ben’s bed up near the table and I continue to feed him treats for calm behaviour. Never forget about a quiet dog- that’s the behaviour you want, so reinforce it.
Over the past month I have also been teaching Ben to fetch me the newspaper from my front yard. It’s working so well, that he has taken it upon himself to pick up everyone else’s newspapers while we are walking. Oh well, this one’s a work in progress.
I always have to remind myself that Ben has only been alive for seven months, he’s still a baby, and it is my job never to ask too much of him. This means that I never ask him to do something for me without thinking about it first- can he do what I am about to ask of him? I know what he is capable of, and I work within this knowledge to create lots and lots of success to build strong, reliable behaviour.