Heeler puppy

Punish? Set him up for Success

Question:
We bought a blue heeler puppy for my son for his 13th birthday. “Bucky” is deaf. He is spunky- too much so. We’re getting creative with training (lights, gestures) but he’s a monster. He’s destructive to no end and I’m not sure how to let him know when he’s been bad. I trained other puppies with loud noises (newspaper on the nose… “NO”.) What do you do for a deaf dog?

Dr. Nichol:
Bucky is missing-out on canine-specific opportunities to make friends and burn energy. He doesn’t have too much spunk nor is he a canine juvenile delinquent. He is a wild and crazy middle schooler who needs consistent leadership, not to mention wholesome after school activities.

A deaf puppy can learn to earn reinforcers but hitting and reprimands should be avoided. Intimidation and risking defensive aggression never brings out the best in anybody of any species. Your son’s new best friend needs a reward-based education. You’ll see better results while setting a good example for your children.

Animal Humane New Mexico has an excellent training staff. I recommend Trevor Driggs to help you teach hand signals to your son and his new sidekick. Bucky can board at AHNM for a week or two of Stay and Train, a service they’ll provide for any dog, not just those adopted from their shelter. Get more details at trainplaystay.org

I’ve toured AHNM’s new boarding and doggy daycare facility. Pets don’t stay in cages or chain link runs, but in rooms of their own. Dogs are rotated into the play yard several times daily. That’ll be especially helpful for Bucky, who desperately needs to rough-house and swap rude jokes with kids his own age. Puppies who miss-out can be prone to fear or reactive aggression toward other dogs later in their lives.

After Bucky’s training is moving in the right direction he can return for doggy daycare where he’ll mouth his friends, run hard, and investigate scents off-territory. After an honest day’s work he’ll be ready for dinner, a beer, and some mindless TV. (Heelers are particularly fond of “The Bachelor”.) A tired dog is a happy dog.

Dr. Jeff Nichol, a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist, provides consultations in-person and by telephone and Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post questions on pet behavioral or physical concerns on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.