As the holidays approached, I was getting nervous. Parker, the puppy, had one very bad habit. When people came to the house, she would jump and nip. I knew she wasn’t truly aggressive, but 40 pounds of excited muscle giving love bites was a lot to handle and people were scared. We tried everything. Instead of improving, her behavior was actually getting worse. I was afraid one of my grandkids would get hurt. I was afraid no one would ever come visit. Nothing I could do seemed to be making any difference.
We took Parker to puppy school when she was little. I asked about the behavior then—back when she was little and cute. In class, she was perfect. The instructor wasn’t worried and said to spray her in the face with a water bottle: I didn’t like the idea, after all, we wanted to teach her to swim. The instructor told the class to fill a soda bottle with coins and throw it at the puppies when they were bad: I didn’t like that idea either.
Parker was so good at everything else. She was house broken within days. She learned to sit, lie down, walk on a leash, and come—mostly. She was affectionate and, when I finally convinced the family she didn’t belong on the couch, Parker got the message immediately. So what was the deal with the jumping?
I tried to contact a dog trainer in September. Everyone I called was really busy. I put Parker on several waiting lists. The behavior kept getting worse. As she got stronger people got more nervous around her and we got more frustrated trying to control her. Yes, I yelled— more than once.
Finally, a few weeks ago, Rob, the trainer, called. He had time to come by the house for an evaluation. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Should I put Parker in her crate? Should I try to control her by holding her collar and saying,“down and no bite”? I decided to just open the door and let Rob in. After all, he was the trainer and this was the behavior he needed to see.
Five minutes and a little device called an air gun that cyclists use to do emergency tire refills (a five-second squirt of air not in her face just hidden in a pocket) and Parker was a perfect puppy.
“All she needed is an interrupter,” Rob said, “something that will stop her in her tracks so she can listen to what you are telling her.”
I didn’t believe it, but it worked—immediately. Within days the behavior was gone. Thanksgiving Day we had a house full— including my 97-year-old dad and five kids under the age of seven. I didn’t have to give the warning spray even once.
I started thinking about the value of an interrupter. What if every time someone was behaving badly, we could give a short startling burst of air that would cause them to stop and actually hear what others were saying. Don’t you believe such a device could change the world?