How to stop your Labrador pestering you

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how to stop dog pesteringIt is not uncommon for people to have their relaxation completely ruined by a Labrador which persistently pesters them.

Pestering takes many forms.

Some dogs poke and prod people with their noses,  others will persistently lick,  some will start barking.

Others will just keep taking things, cushions, shoes, coasters, anything they can pick up and carry.

I received an email recently from a reader with an eleven month old Lab that is ruining her evenings by nibbling at her fingers constantly and barking if she gets no attention.

Sometimes a dog will pester one individual whilst leaving others completely alone.  As was the case here.    Sometimes he will pester another dog and make them miserable too.

What we expect of dogs

When we first bring a dog into our lives,  most of us have a clear picture of how this is going to work out for us.

We imagine relaxing evenings at home with the dog stretched out on the hearth rug,  or with his head gently placed on our feet.

However,  the reality of life with a dog can be very different. 

Especially when that dog is young.

Dogs have different social standards from people and your dog’s idea of relaxation may not be appropriate for life in the house.    

He is a bit like one of those annoying guests that are always trying to organise everyone into some kind of game.

The fact is,  your dog may not want to relax at all in the evenings.  He might prefer you to play with him,  or entertain him instead.

The good news is,  you can have the dog you dreamed of.  The dog who lies quietly on your hearth rug or in his basket whilst you watch TV.   You will first need to make a few changes,  and I will explain these below.

Shared living space

Many people now treat their dog as a full member of the family,  with all the privileges that entails.  Including free access to all the rooms in the house.

When problem behaviours develop,  these privileges may need to be rescinded for a while.

Most dog owners inadvertently reward attention seeking behaviours so that pestering escalates over time.   Sometimes it seems that this happens quite suddenly,  but the seeds were being quietly sown over the last days or weeks.

People often don’t want to punish or frighten the dog and are at a loss to know how to stop this horrible pattern of behaviour.

Fortunately you can break this habit by retraining a new and nice behaviour in its place.

The key to success is a combination of

  • restricting access
  • training a down stay

Your rights

In their efforts to love and care for their dogs,  people sometimes forget they have rights too.  You have a right to relax in your sitting room.

Your dog on the other hand,  does not have a right to share your sitting room.  His presence there is a privilege.

People need to rest at the end of a long day.   Dogs need exercise,  food,  and company.   If your dog has been exercised and fed,  he needs to learn that sharing your company in the evenings comes with a proviso.  He must behave appropriately in human company, and allow you to relax.

Restricting access

It is perfectly acceptable for you to restrict your dog’s access into your sitting room until he has learned how to behave there.   The best and easiest way to do this is with a baby gate.    You can buy these fairly cheaply from Amazon.  This is the one I use for young dogs: Lindam Safety Gate
If your dog jumps over the baby gate you may need to crate him instead.  But this is pretty unusual.   Most Labradors do not attempt to get over this type of gate.

Entry into the sitting room should be on your terms.   If your dog won’t leave you alone,  then you need to teach him to lie down and stay there.   This is not a suitable exercise for young puppies,  but any dog over a year old should be able to lie down and relax for a good half hour or more.

Teaching the down stay

Training your dog to lie down and stay is not complicated.  You can follow the instructions in  how to teach down.

The Mat

It helps to provide your Labrador with a bed or mat to begin with.   If you don’t want a dog mat permanently in your sitting room you can make it smaller and smaller over time.  Eventually the dog will simply lie down anywhere you point and say ‘down’.

The trick is to start with a very short stay,  then reward the dog on his bed,  then release him and reward again,  then remove him from the room (use a collar and lead to avoid spoiling your recall)  and reward generously when you have removed him from the room so that he does not feel punished for being separated from you.

Avoiding ‘spin off’ problems

You can bring the dog back into the room and repeat the ‘down’ exercise as often as you like,  provided he is behaving appropriately.

Never let the dog into the sitting room when he is whining,  scratching at the door or attempting to persuade you to let him in,  in any way at all.  Or you will have another and equally annoying problem on your hands.

Wait until your dog is relaxing in his crate or in your kitchen.  And then bring him in to join you.

For the time being,  only allow the dog in the sitting room to lie on his mat.  Don’t be tempted to test him and let him loose in the room too quickly.   I would wait until the dog can lie on his bed for at least half an hour before you attempt to allow him into the room freely as you did before.   And if at any time he starts pestering you again,  you can simply send him ‘on his bed’.

He will soon learn that pestering you results in more ‘bed time’  and that will be the end of your problem.

Locating the bed

You may like the idea of having the dog lie right next to you,  so you can tickle his ears whilst you watch TV,  but initially this is a bad idea.  The dog will find it much easier to lie still if he cannot reach or touch you.

The beauty of this training is that everyone benefits.

You get to relax,  and the dog does too.  He will learn surprisingly quickly that there is no point in leaving his bed,  and eventually he will just stretch out on his side and sleep the evening away.    In time,  he will come to associate your sitting room,  as you do,  with rest and relaxation.

Your only problem then will be to hear the TV over his snoring.

More help and information

If you enjoy Pippa’s articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on October 16, 2012

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara October 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

Go to bed is probably our most successful command because it’s always enforced (and there’s a lesson I should heed). Dinner in front of the tv would be impossible otherwise and Riley loves lizzie and she plays on the floor which is best done at the moment without Labrador paws too close by.

None of this is a problem in the winter when the fire is lit although getting any warmth for ourselves is tricky. It’s impossible for riley to get any closer without climbing on top of the woodburner!

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Carole B October 18, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Good tips! I never had this problem with Barney but Rusty was determined pest from being tiny constantly wanting to be up and next to me/on my lap.

I found a dog bed was the answer to getting him to stay down for more than a minute as it was a nice place to be. I now have “posh” dog cushions in the living room near the sofa that are only for when they are allowed in with me and never unaccompanied. It’s now Barney’s favourite time of day – he can’t wait to be let onto his comfy bed!

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Pippa October 18, 2012 at 8:37 pm

I tend to avoid cushions because they dis-assemble them! But keeping one in the sitting room for a special treat is a lovely idea. :)

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Steve Wilson January 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

Hi, I have a 5 year old chocolate lab bitch. On New Year’s Eve, some guests set off party poppers in the living room of our house. This seemed to affect ‘milly’ and later when everyone left I found her shaking upstairs ( where she is not allowed). Since then (3 days ago) she has been very clingy, wanting to be by mine or my partners side constantly and running upstairs, lying next to my bed on several occasions. Have you experienced this before? Is it something that will just right itself or should I intervene with something?
I look forward to your reply.
Steve.

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Pippa January 4, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Hi Steve, it is not uncommon for dogs to develop a fear of loud bangs. You can gradually desensitise your dog using a CD of noises. There is an article [a href=”http://totallygundogs.com/gunshy-dog-can-it-ever-be-cured/”> here about my own ‘gunshy’ dog which might interest you. Pippa

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Dave C. January 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

My chocolate lab Hogaan is always to happy to see anyone. He just can’t let anyone pet him without bending his body while wagging his tail, lying down in submissive form,licking and is just to excited. I have a friend that has a lab that just accepts seeing anyone in a calm manner. How do I get my lab to act in a calm manner when seeing new people or greeting people.

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Pippa January 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi Dave, every labrador temperament is different. Some are more ‘switched on’ by people than others. Have a look at this article how to cope with an excitable labrador and this one how to train your labrador to relax If you make a habit of giving out treats to your labrador when people arrive, he will begin to transfer his focus from the visitors to you. Try and persuade visitors to ignore him. I know this is hard but you need to be firm. They are rewarding his behaviour with their attention. Pippa

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Frankie June 27, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I am picking up my golden Lab puppy Murphy on 13/7 and am so excited! I have been addicted to this site since we decided to get him! I was just wondering whether it is ok to cuddle him on the sofa when he is a little even though when he is older we don’t want him to be allowed on the furniture and want him to settle on his own bed? Or will that be too confusing for him? Im unsure as to when to start putting all the training things iv been reading into place? Thanks in advance.

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Pippa June 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Hi Frankie, we bring/carry our puppies on to the sofa for a cuddle when they are very small, but discontinue this before the puppy is big enough to climb up by himself. That way he never learns to get on the furniture uninvited. We don’t allow puppies to walk on the carpets until they are clean and dry on hard floors. That helps to prevent pups from learning to clamber about on the furniture too.
Good luck with your puppy. And have fun. Pippa

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Frankie June 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Thanks for your reply Pippa. Thanks also for such a great website and sharing all your knowledge! I will definitely be ordering your recall book.

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Pippa June 27, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Thanks Frankie, I hope you find it helpful. :) Pippa

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Karen May 19, 2014 at 2:57 am

My dog is a mix of Lab and Shepard. Just recently she is very clingy and won’t leave anyone alone. Follows us from room to room and wines all the time. She never did this before and don’t understand her behavior all the sudden.

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tracey August 8, 2014 at 8:01 pm

We have a six month choc lab and even though hes been walked and fed. At 8.30 he goes into devil mode by pinching any thing he can. When we ignore him then he tries to bite arms. Toes legs to get attention. How can we stop this as we dont want him to hurt anyone especially our small boys

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Robin August 30, 2014 at 4:08 am

I have the opposite problem… My year old lab has always been super affectionate and loved to sit on my lap. I also loved our time together! But after taking him to doggie day care for 2 nights, he will no longer sit on my lap, and or the couch. Most people would be happy, but I miss that! I can’t think of anything I did to make him stop…

Any ideas how to get my loving lap dog back?

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