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Hi all,

I'm having a problem with my 7 month old American Eskimo rescue pup and would like your expert advice. :) I grew up with Eskimo dogs only but haven't had one for about ten years so I'm rusty.

Dexter is for the most part a sweet, affectionate and laid back boy. He doesn't chew, has very few accidents, he comes when called with a humorous exuberance, and is trustworthy enough that he sleeps in the bedroom free (no crate) at night with us.

The problem is that he gets really frustrated whenever I am doing anything but looking at him. I have a full time job, run a business in my spare time and exercise/train him for 2-2.5 hours a day (20 min walk in the morning, 40 minute walk at night, then an hour or more of play and training).

Here's a good example of the pattern: This morning I was on a video call in the kitchen. I was sitting down at the table and talking to my coworkers. Dexter wanted attention so he nipped my leg (hard - he leaves bruises). I muted and said NO! He immediately began barking (a high pitched YAP YAP) and jumping around. I ignored him to get him to stop and he began whining and pulling on my pant leg and nipping some more (again very hard). I put him in his crate for the rest of the 15 minute call.

He's done this for the last three weeks whenever I am busy paying attention to something else. Cleaning the kitchen, typing up an email, eating dinner, etc. He feels that he needs to bite me to get my attention. I work hard to only pay attention and praise him when he politely asks for attention and not when he demands it but the demands are escalating to 8-10 times a day. I work 8 hours a day so I don't want him to spend the rest of the night in the crate because he is acting up. Its also next to impossible to ignore the biting and yapping because it really hurts. I have scratches and bruises all over my legs and hands from him.

Have any of you experienced this "talking back" behavior with an adolescent pup? Has anything in particular helped? I feel like I can't even eat because he demands 100% of my attention...

Thanks and sorry for the long post! :)
 

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That must be so frustrating for you. I'm sure others will have great advice. Here are my initial thoughts:

He's young and has a ton of energy even though it sounds as though he's getting ample physical and mental workouts. He may just need to mature a little.

You might try working on some impulse control exercises (like It's Yer Choice and Crate Games - I think there are explanations and/or links in the stickies) and train him settle and calm (Kikopup and Tab289 have youtube videos).

Teach him to go to his mat and stay. This is part of learning to settle and be calm.

Until he learns to settle / be calm, manage his behavior. Give him a stuffed Kong or chew toy (antlers, Himalayan chews, and bully sticks are good) or food dispensing toy (the Omega tricky treat ball is good because it takes time to get all the food and is one of the quieter toys) and place him on the far side of a baby gate or inside an expen. He'll have more room than in his crate, but won't be able to bite you and the toy should keep him occupied enough that he will be less likely to bark.

Try really hard not to pay attention to him when he barks. Don't say "no" or "ah ah" or acknowledge him in any way. Any attention you give - even if to scold - can be reinforcing for him.

There are many people here with oodles of dog knowledge, so I'm sure they will have great advice. :)

Good luck! Do you have pictures of Dexter to share?
 

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Another thought - do you ever reinforce when he's quiet? Like if he's sitting quietly or playing on his own, do you give a reward or initiate play at those times?

I haven't watched / read these, but Ian Dunbar is a fabulous trainer and has some information about adolescent changes that may give you some ideas. His training textbook is excellent. (You might need to register on the site, but it's free and very much worthwhile.)
 

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The stuffed kong is great for moments like this, as well as treat dispensing puzzle toys. I had this issue with my puppy as well, and the food dispensing toy has been wonderful. It can keep my puppy busy for 20-30 minutes!
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Discussion Starter #5
Update on Dexter

Hi all and thank you for the responses! Dexter does seem to respond well to the "calm" technique that kikopup uses. He's so full of energy that it takes him a while to calm down enough to lay or sit, but when he does he gets a reward and then continues in the lay/sit staring at me trying to get another!

He is a very manipulative guy and will often ask to go out every 5 minutes because he thinks it will get our attention, so we've begun only responding to his request every hour or so. We're hoping to build up to 2 hours. We have an expen that we use parts of to keep him in the kitchen, so when he begins to bite now I just don't say a word get up and leave for 30 seconds to a minute. we're going to try a week with no "Nos" and see how he responds. I'm guessing it will be positive.

In the meantime here are some pics:


 

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He's a cutie! Thanks for the update and glad to hear things are going well. Keep in mind that it may take some time for things to really sink in and it may seem as though you're heading backwards, but stick with it. :)
 
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