From Potter's family:
Just a quick e-mail to ask your advice regarding Potter. As I have said in my other e-mails, he is a dream of a dog, absolutely gorgeous. There is only one thing he is doing that I could do with some advice about. He is mouthing the kids arms and feet, and also mine. He has a fondness too for the cushions on the sofa which he picks up, carries around and with a playful look in his eye starts to chew. I have read on the internet that I should spray these things with something he doesn't like the taste of. Including toes and arms if necessary. Normally when I do the sharp "A" "A" he stops chewing us, but it doesn't work with the cushions as he thinks its a game.
Do you think he is doing this because of his lack of socialisation?
On all other counts he is wonderful. He has almost completely stopped jumping up now, and I can walk into to him in the morning and he is totally calm. He walks very well on the lead, and I tried recall with him today in a secure park in the pouring rain - obviously noone else was there!!! He came back to me every time, normally on the second call. After more practise, I will progress to trying it in the dog park next when he has other doggy distractions! As we intend to go for long walks in the bush with him and let him off the lead, could you give me an indication of when it becomes safe to do that? In other words, do I have to have him coming back to me immediately when I call when there are other distractions around?
He is such a wonderful dog, I want to try and get everything right so I hope you don't mind me asking you these questions.
As we speak, he is lying on the carpet about a metre from me, fast asleep after an hour long walk (or should I say wade) in torrential rain - its a good job I am english, I am used to the rain! Thanks again for choosing us to have him. I look forward to hearing from you.
From Lab Rescue volunteer:
I doubt if spraying will work.
Mouthing is not acceptable behaviour at any time. It is dominance behaviour and Potter needs to learn quickly that the humans in his pack are dominant over him!!! Whenever Potter mouths anyone, do not say anything to him or make eye contact (this would reinforce the behaviour). Move quietly and firmly to him and clip a lead on his collar, and lead him straight into the time-out room for 3 minutes. Either one of the adults can do this or one of your older children if they feel confident. The time out room can be your bathroom, laundry or loo or somewhere else boring when he can do no harm to himself or furniture. It is important to use a lead because otherwise he may turn his head sideways and continue the mouthing while he is being led away and it may escalate to stronger biting. I usually have several leads scattered around the house so I can grab one when I need it. If Potter makes a fuss in the time out room wait until he is quiet before letting him out. Otherwise let him out after 3 minutes. When you let him out don’t say anything and don’t make eye contact with him. Everyone should completely ignore him for several minutes and turn away if he approaches them. It is MOST IMPORTANT that you do the time out EVERY time Potter mouths someone – no matter how gently. Even if you have to do this 20 or 100 times, keep doing it and eventually Potter will learn there is a consequence for mouthing behaviour and stop doing it. But if he gets away with it even one time in ten that will be enough reward for him to continue doing it.
You can use the same time-out training for the cushions. Perhaps best to put the cushions out of reach for a week or so if this is feasible until you have the mouthing behaviour extinct and then do the cushion training. NEVER chase Potter when he has a cushion in his mouth – he will think it is a game and this will strongly reinforce the behaviour. Potter is grabbing the cushions because it is fun, he thinks it is a game, he gets attention when he does it, and he has never been trained not to do it. I didn’t have cushions here so he did not learn about them. You could try distracting him with alternative toys or even treats when he is interested in the cushions. And remember if he voluntarily lets the cushion go and comes to the alternative toy or treat, praise him big time and tell him how clever he is as soon as he lets go of the cushion. Potter will want to please you – it’s all about communicating clearly with him what you want and setting up scenarios so it’s rewarding for him to do what you want and he gets a clear message when you are pleased or displeased. Dogs love attention and food and hate being separated from their pack (time out room) so you can use this to train him.
I wouldn’t let Potter off lead in the bush until he is coming back to you immediately when you call even when there are other distractions around. Make sure you have a MIX of high quality treats with you – such as cheese, chicken, dried liver, cabanossi etc. Praise him as soon as he starts coming towards you and give him a treat when he arrives. Then let him run off again. If you put him on the lead – he will associate coming to you with going on the lead – and this will stop him from coming. If he never knows which type of treat he is going to get next, he will come back just in case it is his favourite one coming up. If he knows what treat he is going to get he is more likely to lose interest.
Hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you are still having problems.
From Potter's family:
Thanks for the advice M. I have read your e-mail to all the children, and we are putting into practice the technique you suggested. I have already removed all the cushions and blankets from the family room whilst we get the mouthing behaviour under control.
As to your other e-mail - yes, we are definitely keeping Potter. I will start to action some of the things you mentioned today.
He has definitely found his forever home, now he just needs to understand his position in the pack!! I am still training all my children in life skills, so another member of the pack (Potter) to teach doesn't make too much difference :o)
An update on progress from Potter's family:
Just thought I'd give you another update on Potter. He has settled in beautifully, and I have now successfully managed to reintroduce 5 cushions to our lounge (quite an achievement!!)
I have started taking him to obedience classes and he graduated through the first 2 classes with ease. The dog trainers loved him (there was never any doubt they would!)
I got a tip from one of the experienced trainers to feed him by hand for a while at dinner time as it apparently really helps a rescue dog to bond. We did this for about ten days, and he has truly become our dog now. He continues to get complimented everywhere he goes with me, on his manners and gentle nature. He also gets complimented all the time on his good looks. I may be a little biased, but he is the cutest labrador by far. We have been very careful to keep him nice and slim by making sure he only eats his food, with the occasional addition of vegetables, and fish or chicken.
He has a couple of favourite toys, but really, what he loves the most, is our company. He sleeps brilliantly at night in the laundry room, and after two initial accidents on the tiles, is now completely house trained. He walks superbly on the lead, with his only dalliance when he sees another dog. I have trained him to come back when he is off the lead (using food of course), and he obeys immediately when I call his name. He is walked for at least 1.5 hours a day, sometimes 2.5 hours. We often meet up with my new friend Jane and her lab, Holly. Potter and she have become the best of friends and have great chasing games and rumbles where they really have no sense of where us owners are and Jane and I have to play dodge!! He stops at the edge of every pavement and waits for the walk on command before we cross. I can't speak highly enough of this intelligent, adorable dog, and will never understand how he could have been left on his own for so long!
He has learned not to jump up at the children, and he is more likely to lay down and roll over for a belly rub. My children adore him, and he is given many cuddles, kisses and patting.
He still goes to school with me every day to meet the children and half the school kids know his name now. Many of them say they have their own dogs and wish they behaved like Potter!! Lots of them stop to pat him, even the very young toddlers, and he happily indulges them.
I feel a huge sense of achievement and lots of love for this beautiful boy who has given us his loyalty. I just wanted to let you know how happy he is, and how happy he has made all of us.
As we speak, he is sleeping in his bed next to me in the lounge, snoring!! Although we are all looking forward to our holiday in Fiji, we are really going to miss him! I hope he enjoys the kennels and has some fun whilst he is there.
We will be posting a success story off to the website soon, together with a picture of him with all of the children.
Thanks again M.
AWESOME!!! Thanks for giving Potter a wonderful new life!!!