Does YOUR Dog have PDS?

Friends, today I’d like to talk to you about a serious condition that affects millions of dogs all over the world. It is seen in puppies, adult dogs, and, perhaps most often, adolescents. It does not discriminate between pups purchased from breeders and dogs rescued from shelters. Many owners—often those with Labrador Retrievers and bully breeds—swear the affliction has a genetic component. Others believe the nefarious condition lies dormant until adolescence, when it bursts forth full-blown. Symptoms include sore throat (the owner’s, from shouting), loss of hair (again, the owner’s, from tearing it out), and a belief on the part of the dog that his name is “No, no, bad dog!” This condition is so widespread that, I dare say, it is a syndrome. Its name? PDS: Pushy Dog Syndrome.

Bodhi, who we adopted from a shelter at the estimated age of a year-and-a-half—prime time for PDS to manifest—came to us with a severe case. No, the treatment wasn’t antibiotics or bed rest; it was training, and a mega-dose of patience. The shelter had told us Bodhi had been turned in by a college kid who could no longer afford his upkeep. Judging from Bodhi’s behavior, it was easy to believe he’d been raised in a frat house. Hell, he probably hogged the remote and used beer kegs as Kongs. That first week, I couldn’t walk across a room without him blocking my path, jumping on me frantically, and repeatedly clamping his jaws around an arm or nipping at my legs. This wasn’t soft mouthing, either; it left bruises.

Another way Bodhi’s PDS manifested was that whenever I’d go to pet Sierra, he’d thrust himself bodily between us in an attempt to keep all the attention for himself. Yep, he had it bad. So what’s a dog-Mom to do? First, instead of allowing him to block me, I body blocked him. I certainly never kicked him (no, not even the “Cesar kick”), but instead shuffled forward as though my feet were glued to the floor. Bodhi quickly learned that trying to impede my progress just wasn’t going to work. As I claimed the space, he surrendered it by moving away. As for the charming jumping/mouthing combo, I leaned slightly forward while giving him a hard stare and uttering a low, guttural, “Eh-eh!” That might sound harsh to some, but something had to be done. It certainly didn’t traumatize him, but it was an effective punishment, as it quickly decreased the occurrence of the behavior.

As for his pushiness when I would pet Sierra, I decided on an acceptable alternative way for him to solicit my attention; to lie down. Of course, I didn’t expect Bodhi, in a flash of doggy genius, to come up with the idea on his own, so I showed him what I wanted. I taught him a down. Then, any time he approached while I was petting Sierra, I immediately cued him to down. He was then rewarded him with a most spectacular tummy rub. The result is that now, many times when I’m on the floor petting Sierra, I’ll hear a thud behind me. It’s Bodhi, flinging himself to the floor and rolling onto his back, waiting for attention. It’s pretty funny, but it’s also a beautiful thing.

As for Bodhi’s PDS, we still have a ways to go, and he may always have a trace of it. But we’re working on it. So take heart, friends, if your dog has PDS, patience and training is just what the dawgter ordered.

6 Responses to Does YOUR Dog have PDS?

  1. And…the good news is that while some dogs may have PDS, it doesn’t mean they are trying to take over the universe with “dominance” – it just means they want what they want. As Nicole points out, the best way to handle it is with positive training, so that the dog knows what you prefer instead of the behavior that’s driving you crazy.

  2. kate skinner says:

    I have a red heeler and she definitely has this syndrome….but less so with me and more toward other people. I have to go through it with each person, and the challenge here is getting oter people to follow through. They excuse her behaviour as part of her breed. I know a different dog.

  3. Lise Lausiva says:

    I’ve worked with dogs at a doggy daycare/boarding facility and these teenage pups are a handful! From the way they act, a casual onlooker would think they had received no socialization (they have), no puppy training (they did) and had a bad case of play skill deficit (they didn’t)! They try the patience of all the other dogs by their rude approaches, barking, rough play and plenty of other bad manners. Sure enough, they have PDS in the worst way! The great thing is the other dogs and I don’t tolarate it and quickly put them in their place. Lots of timeouts and not letting them getting away with their bad manners by dealing with them with positive training helped them (and us) get through the “terrible teens”! Thank goodness they do grow out of it!

  4. Love this….great advice. I especially laughed about the “beer kegs for Kongs!” That would be perfect for our larger breeds 😉 Just kidding…

  5. diana says:

    how much do you think anxiety/stress might play a role in such behavior? especially in a newly re-homed dog (or a dog under similar stressors?).
    i’m sure learning and adolescence also play a role.
    i do agree that changing our own behavior (aka ‘training’) is important in managing any dog’s behavior.

    • wildewmn says:

      Diana, that’s a great point! Anxiety and stress definitely played a part in Bodhi’s behavior, and it was worst when he first came to us. The more a dog gets consistent feedback as to what is acceptable or not, gets regular training, and has outlets for any anxiety/excess energy, the better. It’s really a mutli-pronged solution. And although a lot of dogs grown out of the pushy stage, some dogs just seem to have that type of personality.

%d bloggers like this: