Q&A: My dog can’t take no for an answer


I am the lucky owner of a sweet, playful, energetic black lab mix named Charley (11 months old). We adopted him when he was 7 months old and put him immediately in basic training. He knows his commands, is not destructive, gets oodles of exercise and really is just a joyful, exuberant pup. He comes to work with me, so he is always being socialized with other people and dogs (and sometimes cats).

There’s this one thing, though….

At the dog park, he is super playful. When he finds a good match in another dog who has his same energy level, it’s fantastic. They run, tug, wrestle, etc. and it’s obvious that they’re having a great time. The problem happens when he decides he wants to play with a dog that clearly does NOT want to play with him. Here is what happens:

Charley (in a play bow): BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK (he has a loud bark)
Other dog: (ignores Charley):
Charley (still in a play bow): BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK
Other dog: (growls, bares teeth, nips, lunges)
Charley (still in a play bow): BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK

Sometimes (very rarely) Charley will get the message and back off. Most of the time, though, one of three things will happen:
1) The owner of the other dog will interfere and either think Charley is being aggressive and push Charley off or, if their dog is small, pick up their dog and make the situation worse
2) I will grab Charley and take him for a time out. These time outs work occasionally. When they don’t work, he just goes right back to that same dog. I have to grab him because I can call his name until I’m blue in the face and he still won’t listen. He’s fixated on the other dog. (For this reason, were are ramping up our recall practice.) Also, it’s next to impossible to grab him first try – usually I’m running around in circles like an idiot trying to grab him as he keeps barking and scampering away from me – he definitely thinks it’s a game.
3) Sometimes I will distract him with a tug toy, which acts as a doggie pacifier and shuts up the barking, but then he will just shove the toy in the other dog’s face to try to get them to play tug.

Anyway – how can I stop this rude, attention seeking behavior? Believe me when I say this dog does not have an aggressive bone in his body. I would love for him to be able to pick up on the energy of the other dog on his own and back off. What can I do? How can I teach him to be polite?



Hi Lauren.

Charley sounds like a great, fun, playful dog, but it seems as if he lacks some much needed social skills.

Most importantly, you do need to work on recall with him. In the park, you should be calling him frequently, have him sit at your feet, and give him a treat. Do not just call him when it is time to go home!

You then want to release him to begin playing again. At first you need to do this with little to no distraction around, and slowly build up to higher levels of distraction. It is a good idea to get a long recall lead (or you can even use a piece of rope), so that if he does not come the first time you can give him a ‘jerk and release’ correction to get him back on track.

I cannot stress how important it is to invest a lot of time into recall training, particularly with a lab that tends to be really independent. Having better recall training will then allow you to call him back if he is behaving inappropriately.

In the meantime, I suggest you make this type of behavior the end of playtime for him. If he continually tries to engage an unwilling dog to play, and will not back off, you put his lead on and leave the park. There is no second chance.

His behavior will annoy other dogs and dog owners, and could get him attacked if the other dog gets really annoyed. As far as actually getting ahold of him, again a strong recall will definitely help, but do not chase him.

Slowly and calmly approach him without even looking at him. You can try and lure him with a treat but if he is not coming, do not keep repeating ‘come’.

Remain as calm and disinterested as possible to ensure it is not fun for him. Once you do get him, remember to praise him no matter how annoyed you are. Your holding onto his collar should always be positive, you never want to scold him for this or you make him even less likely to want to come to you.


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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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