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Hi all,

This is my first post to this forum and I'm looking forward to receiving advice, support, information and probably a shoulder to cry on as me and my OH become accustomed to the little monkey who has just joined us. We have always adopted or long term fostered Labradors aged 8 and above. We lost our last one three months ago and he left a massive hole in our lives. We decided now would be a good time to take the plunge and get a pup who we can train from scratch and whose history we will know and be a part of (something which we've had limited knowledge of with our other Labs as they have been rescues).

We have had Twig for a week and a half and I have gone grey. He is a 9 week old black Lab from a litter of 12 (poor mum). He is running us ragged, and the cats (we have 4).

So, please can you tell me if this is normal/usual/natural (for us and Twig)


  • biting - particularly my arms
  • having a 'mad hour' prior to bedtime
  • launching himself onto the chairs/settee
  • looking at us with " what- I haven't done anything naughty, those cats are supposed to be chase right?
  • looking at the crate and deciding it doesn't look attractive
  • trying to chew slate in the garden
We have a doggy trainer coming round to see us on Thursday. We have a Kong, have ordered a Lickimat, distract him when he is doing something we don't want him to do and praise him for good behaviour. He's having four meals a day and we use some of the kibble for treats when training. We don't want to be too strict with him as he is a pup after all, that sad, we also don't want him running riot ether.

Oh, and he's humping. My arm and his bed. I don't think my husband's arm is quite as attractive as he doesn't seem to want to hump that, possibly too hairy . 😁

Thank you in advance (please don't be judgemental, we are trying our best) he is beautiful, especially when he's snoring.

Auntie Biz
 

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Not judgemental at all. Labrador puppies are not the easy ride some think, In fact I often wonder if some of the authors of books who say how easy they are have ever actually owned a Lab puppy!

Much of Labrador problems including humping, stem from being over tired. Just like a child they can go over the top when tired. I'm inclined to make regular sleep periods when I think my pup is starting to get silly. I pop them into the crate and turn a deaf ear to protestations. They soon get the message and fall asleep, which is exactly what I want. As to biting, have a read of this, it's something I wrote a while ago. It explains what and why pups bite:-

I think it’s important that you understand whats happening. What you describe is so normal for Labrador puppies! Part of the problem is that they are so much a social breed, they love everybody and want to be with them. They want to play, and they want to involve their “human” in their game. And of course dogs cant play cards or computer games. Puppies are pre-programmed at birth to play “War Games.” This is equipping them for their future in the wild, catching their food and defending themselves and their pack. Puppies, and many other creatures in the wild will practise and hone their skills on each other. I’m so lucky in that I have a private wood that I can walk in and often in spring I’ve stood and watched Fox cubs playing these war games. They have no intention of hurting each other, just have a lovely game.

But then onto domestic dogs, and thats where things all go wrong. We take our puppy out of the nest and away from his siblings at around 8 weeks old, just about the time when the pups are beginning to get active, starting to think about things other than eating and sleeping. So his natural actions now would be to play his war games, but he has no siblings to play those games with! So effectively you are the surrogate sibling! In the wild this is where he would start to learn bite inhibition. As a baby he would have no idea that biting hurts! How could he? So he nips his sibling a bit hard, brother says, “Oye! Pack it in! If you are going to play rough I’m off!” In other words he walks off and leaves his brother. Brother soon works out that biting too hard hurts and finishes the game. Particularly if it’s him that gets bitten too hard! So the pups start to learn to control their biting.

Why do they single out one particular person? Because they think that person is nice, so they want to play, and play in the only way they know. So really, much as you dont want it, it's really a compliment! Your puppy feels happy and confident with you.

This is where the theory of “Time out” came from. It’s us trying to replicate what would happen with puppies naturally in the wild. “That hurt! I’m not playing anymore!” So you stand up, turn your back on the pup, get your hands up high so there is nothing for the pup to take hold of. But you have probably noticed that things are worse in the evening. Just like children, they can lose a certain amount of self control when they get tired. All day you are busy so they spend a large part of the time sleeping, but in the evening, when you want to sit quiet, resting from the day they want to play. And as they get tired so the play gets rougher. I have always made a point of popping my pups into their crate at about 7pm for an hour, so they get use to having an hours sleep in the evening, and I get a chance to recharge my batteries. Interestingly this has built a habit which has continued for all of my dogs lives. Every evening they put themselves to bed and we all have a rest.

I know puppies are hard work, and the alligators can make your hands really sore, but believe me, it does get better. Yes my dogs still love to involve me in their games, but it’s now lovely. Amy takes hold of my wrist so gently and leads me to where she wants to go, or Chloe will take hold of one finger to involve me in her war games, but oh so gently. Somehow you never notice things getting better because it is a slow change in pressure. But one day you realise your hands are no longer sore and you cant remember the last time you told him to pack it in. Given time they become the most wonderful of creatures.
 

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Continuing on from the above post, another thought for you. No puppy is too young to start training. Make training fun and enjoyable for your pup and he will look upon it as a wonderful game the two of you play together. Walking to heel is so important and not something which comes naturally to a dog. A 4 month old baby pulling you along is not seen problem but they dont stay 4 months old and by 6 or 8 months old they are strong dogs! Another little piece I wrote a while back about teaching heelwork:-

First off, as in most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat. This is just my way.

Firstly, I never take a puppy for a walk. Every time we go out of the gate it’s training. But not too regimented, rather fun training. Think about this for a moment. You are going on the school run and take your pup with you, killing two birds with one stone. Kids to school and puppy walked! You are in a hurry as you always are at this time, trying to get the kids to school on time, and preferably with them not getting run over by a lorry on the way! You meet other mothers on the way and have a nice natter as you go. Once you have posted the kids in through the school gates you can relax and walk back home with the other mums. In all honesty pup did not get much of your attention for the whole of that time, you were too busy. Training the pup was the last thing on your mind! Yet your pup was learning. He was learning that there were exciting smells and sights just past the end of the lead, people to greet and to make a fuss of him, so he wanted to get there in a hurry. In other words, he was learning to pull you along!

Better to leave pup at home. A lesson learned by him that he cannot go everywhere you go! Take him out only when you can give him undivided attention. But I’m getting a bit in front of myself. Training starts the minute the pup arrives, well before it has had it’s vaccinations and able to go out.

The first part of training is to get the pup use to a collar, and this literally starts the day the pup arrives home. I always put the collar on immediately before feeding. That way the food takes the pup’s mind off the collar. I leave the collar on all the time unless pup is in her crate. (It has been known for collars to get caught up in the bars and strangle the pup, so don’t take chances!) I like the softest, lightest collar I can find.

My first actual heel training takes place off lead in the garden. Armed with a few treats I call the pup to my left side, waft the treat in front of his nose so that he is aware of it and with the command “Heel” walk forward 3 or 4 paces then stop, praise him and give him the treat, then give him my “End of training command.” In my case I use “OK” as the command. Basically it means “We’ve finished and you can do what you want now.” Talk to your pup while he’s walking at heel, tell him how wonderful he is, keep his attention on you.

After a few days of this, two or three times a day I’ll start using a lead. And for my first lead I use a piece of string! It’s lighter than any lead, which is ideal because I don’t want pup to really notice the “Lead.” We are starting to walk a little further now, so time to think about where to walk. Aim at 10 seconds of heelwork at first, keep it short and keep it fun. Walk pup on the left and If he tries to get in front turn in an anticlockwise direction across in front of him. If he lags behind turn clockwise away from him and encourage him up to heel. Never walk in a straight line for more than 5 paces, straight lines are boring! Squares, Triangles and circles are the order of the day. Add other exercises in to provide variation. Stays are so useful for when you need to clear something up on the floor, or even for taking photographs. Recalls are obviously useful. But don’t combine the exercises at this point. For example, if doing a sit stay then make sure you praise the sit stay before moving on to a recall. Make sure your pup KNOWS it’s finished it’s sit say!

There is a lot of talk about the relative merits of collars or harnesses. But in reality they only secure the dog from running off. Really they play very little part in the actual training. Because my pups are destine to be working gundogs I don’t want a collar on my dogs when working because of the risk of getting caught up and strangled. So I use a slip lead, so named because it is quick to slip on or off and does not need a collar! If you do your training right then you never have a tight lead so what you use is really unimportant.

So now the vaccinations have been given and your pup is able to go outside the gate. I slip my pup into my car and take her to the park where I can continue training along the route I’ve started. I don’t want to walk there because it’s too far to be able to keep my pup’s attention. Plenty of time for that when the habit of walking to heel is set. All the training in the park is the same as at home. Short pieces of work interspersed with games. Even sitting on a seat watching the world pass by is still training, it’s training patience! Work at your training and you will end up with a dog to be proud of. I don’t take my dogs for a walk. I go for a walk with my dogs, and thats a big difference.
 

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Hi John

Thank you so much for all of the incredibly useful advice and information, this is amazing and I appreciate the time you have spent posting this. The 'heel' suggestion is brilliant as of course we can't walk him at the moment as he hasn't had his second vaccination, but this is such a good way of engaging him ready to go out. We are taking him out in the car so that he becomes accustomed to this and he has been really good.
We have also taken him out with (hubby holding him) so that he can experience something a bit different to the house and garden.

Your info has been invaluable, thank you. No doubt I will be posting again. Soon. Very soon. :)
 

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Time will soon pass and you will then be ready to take him out. So a few thoughts on going out for walks and that much misunderstood word Socialising. Remember not to over exercise him, his bones are still soft and his joints not fully formed. A good plan is to work around the 5 minute rule, 5 minutes of exercise for every month of age. Again thats not as restrictive as it sounds, it's 5 minutes of your dog actually doing something. I often spend a few minutes sitting on a seat with my pup watching the world pass by. Because pup is not doing anything he is not tiring himself so it does not count as part of the 5 minutes! But pup is still learning, he's learning patience! An important lesson!
Again a little something I wrote a while back.

SOCIALISING:- That much misunderstood word!

What do people think of in human terms, when talking about socialising? Going out to the pub or clubbing, a wine or beer or two, dancing and chatting up the opposite sex!! So is it surprising that people, when talking of socialising a puppy think along the same lines? But really, that is not what canine socialising should be all about. Socialising is simply the wrong word for what we should be doing. Familiarising is a far better word, learning to meet and deal with all things the pup is going to come across in later life. Uncontrolled playing is not what should be happening, this is simply training your pup to be a hooligan! We want to be the centre of our dog’s life, not running off to play with every dog he sees, where the play becomes the focus and we become an afterthought.

Almost all people love to see a puppy, but few people like to see muddy paw prints on their nice clean clothes just as they are going out shopping. But they are their worst enemies, making a fuss of the puppy one day then complaining about muddy paws the next, and you go from, “That woman with the lovely Labrador puppy!” one day, to “That woman with the uncontrollable dog!” the next. Better for you to take control from the start, it’s your puppy and your responsibility. When people say to me, “Oh it’s all right, I don’t mind.” my answer is, but the next person might. Teach your pup to meet and greet with all four feet on the ground, then to sit quietly beside you while you chat about the weather or old Mrs so and so at number 46. Aim to be “The lady with that lovely calm Labrador!” That does not just happen, that comes with training. Exactly the same applies when meeting another dog. Dont stop all playing, but limit it and BE IN CHARGE! It finishes when you say. A minutes hoolie which finishes with you calling your dog too you, praising it for coming and then walking away together gives a wonderful feeling to both humans and dog. Remember what I’ve said so many times on these posts of mine, “Everything is a training opportunity!” Aim to be the place where your pup’s fun comes form, not other people and dogs.

Following on a little, I often talk about thinking about dogs in the wild. The nearest equivalent, behaviour wise, in the UK are fox cubs. I’ve often sat in my truck in the middle of the wood watching them play. But really. In this case there is no comparison between wild and domestic dogs. A wild pup will play, but really, only with it’s own littermates. Strangers would be chased off by the sire or dam. But the play period would not last long before leaving “home” and finding food becomes the priority. The pup would be forced to grow up and become an adult very quickly. Domestic dogs do not have the same priorities. Food is supplied without any work needed on the part of the dog. literally the dog does not need to even think! We do it for them. Domestic dogs have become the Peter Pan of the canine world, so don’t wait for them to become adult because in comparison with the wild canine, it aint gonna happen. Thats one reason why training is so important!

We all have different lives, do different things and want different things from our dogs. So even before we get our pup really we should be sitting down and thinking about what we want from our pup, and how best to get it. I work my dogs so they need to be familiar with livestock, sheep and cattle, birds, hare and deer. So I need to make a conscious effort to take my pup to places where she is going to meet them, so I’m able to teach her to leave them alone. Possibly if you love hiking then the same situation applies. Maybe if you live in a big city your pup might need to travel on buses and trains. As I said, think about your lifestyle and decide what your pup needs to know about. Maybe now you can see why I said that “Socialising” is the wrong word, and “Familiarising” is a so much better word. I saw a picture on here a while back, two dog walkers meeting, one says to the other, “You’re so lucky having such a well behaved dog!” and the other saying, “It’s strange, but the more I train the luckier I get.” You get out what you put in, and I don’t mean walking long distances, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
 

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I know you are trying hard. But this is normal behavior for labs. You know it is not easy to take care of them. They are like a little child. I am glad to hear that you are keeping patience. Start giving your dog training. Hopefully, he will be alright.
 

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Time will soon pass and you will then be ready to take him out. So a few thoughts on going out for walks and that much misunderstood word Socialising. Remember not to over exercise him, his bones are still soft and his joints not fully formed. A good plan is to work around the 5 minute rule, 5 minutes of exercise for every month of age. Again thats not as restrictive as it sounds, it's 5 minutes of your dog actually doing something. I often spend a few minutes sitting on a seat with my pup watching the world pass by. Because pup is not doing anything he is not tiring himself so it does not count as part of the 5 minutes! But pup is still learning, he's learning patience! An important lesson!
Again a little something I wrote a while back.

SOCIALISING:- That much misunderstood word!

What do people think of in human terms, when talking about socialising? Going out to the pub or clubbing, a wine or beer or two, dancing and chatting up the opposite sex!! So is it surprising that people, when talking of socialising a puppy think along the same lines? But really, that is not what canine socialising should be all about. Socialising is simply the wrong word for what we should be doing. Familiarising is a far better word, learning to meet and deal with all things the pup is going to come across in later life. Uncontrolled playing is not what should be happening, this is simply training your pup to be a hooligan! We want to be the centre of our dog’s life, not running off to play with every dog he sees, where the play becomes the focus and we become an afterthought.

Almost all people love to see a puppy, but few people like to see muddy paw prints on their nice clean clothes just as they are going out shopping. But they are their worst enemies, making a fuss of the puppy one day then complaining about muddy paws the next, and you go from, “That woman with the lovely Labrador puppy!” one day, to “That woman with the uncontrollable dog!” the next. Better for you to take control from the start, it’s your puppy and your responsibility. When people say to me, “Oh it’s all right, I don’t mind.” my answer is, but the next person might. Teach your pup to meet and greet with all four feet on the ground, then to sit quietly beside you while you chat about the weather or old Mrs so and so at number 46. Aim to be “The lady with that lovely calm Labrador!” That does not just happen, that comes with training. Exactly the same applies when meeting another dog. Dont stop all playing, but limit it and BE IN CHARGE! It finishes when you say. A minutes hoolie which finishes with you calling your dog too you, praising it for coming and then walking away together gives a wonderful feeling to both humans and dog. Remember what I’ve said so many times on these posts of mine, “Everything is a training opportunity!” Aim to be the place where your pup’s fun comes form, not other people and dogs.

Following on a little, I often talk about thinking about dogs in the wild. The nearest equivalent, behaviour wise, in the UK are fox cubs. I’ve often sat in my truck in the middle of the wood watching them play. But really. In this case there is no comparison between wild and domestic dogs. A wild pup will play, but really, only with it’s own littermates. Strangers would be chased off by the sire or dam. But the play period would not last long before leaving “home” and finding food becomes the priority. The pup would be forced to grow up and become an adult very quickly. Domestic dogs do not have the same priorities. Food is supplied without any work needed on the part of the dog. literally the dog does not need to even think! We do it for them. Domestic dogs have become the Peter Pan of the canine world, so don’t wait for them to become adult because in comparison with the wild canine, it aint gonna happen. Thats one reason why training is so important!

We all have different lives, do different things and want different things from our dogs. So even before we get our pup really we should be sitting down and thinking about what we want from our pup, and how best to get it. I work my dogs so they need to be familiar with livestock, sheep and cattle, birds, hare and deer. So I need to make a conscious effort to take my pup to places where she is going to meet them, so I’m able to teach her to leave them alone. Possibly if you love hiking then the same situation applies. Maybe if you live in a big city your pup might need to travel on buses and trains. As I said, think about your lifestyle and decide what your pup needs to know about. Maybe now you can see why I said that “Socialising” is the wrong word, and “Familiarising” is a so much better word. I saw a picture on here a while back, two dog walkers meeting, one says to the other, “You’re so lucky having such a well behaved dog!” and the other saying, “It’s strange, but the more I train the luckier I get.” You get out what you put in, and I don’t mean walking long distances, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

Again,. brilliant sage advice, thank you. Ideally, I would like Twig to be a therapy dog at some stage - hard to envisage this at the moment when he is launching himself at all and sundry. We have started putting him in his crate when he seems to be overcome with tiredness but is fighting it and that has worked well. However we are concerned that he will see going in his crate as a punishment and then not want to go in there. On a nighttime when we go to bed, we pop him in there with a Kong, during the day we may just pick him up and out him in there and close the door and he will whine a little, but then settles. Is he going to see this as a means of correction? We don't want him to become reluctant or scared to go into his crate.

Thank you
 

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I know you are trying hard. But this is normal behavior for labs. You know it is not easy to take care of them. They are like a little child. I am glad to hear that you are keeping patience. Start giving your dog training. Hopefully, he will be alright.
Thank you so much. Never been so tired and exhausted. We chose not to have kids so this is unchartered territory for us :) he is beautiful but it is difficult, and we are used to having dogs around the house- only they've been older :) we feel like we are constantly correcting him.
 

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I think just about everybody, at some time when puppy is playing up, has thought, "I've made the biggest mistake of my life!" But then puppy starts to grow into the most glorious creature and we forget about the hard work. Then we get another puppy and it all starts over again! We humans never learn! 🤣

However we are concerned that he will see going in his crate as a punishment and then not want to go in there.
It's all about how you put him in the crate. I talk in a happy voice as I'm putting mine in the crate, "There sweetheart, you go to bed for a few minutes and have a good sleep." And I find after a little while I only need to go to the crate door and say "Bye-byes baby!" and they go in on their own. Dogs like routines, knowing what happens and when, so this soon becomes another routine.
 
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