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Wound Up Pup
updated: Dec 15, 2012, 1:00 PM
Whenever we play Wii, our wire-haired Dachshund mix goes after the person holding the Wii remote!
Normally he's not aggressive, but he seems to get wound up and sometimes jumps and nips at whoever
has the remote. Recently, he went after my 8-year-old niece's ankles and landed a nip on one of them.
She wasn't hurt, but was definitely surprised. Also, when my husband and I dance around in the living
room, he gets all excited, as if he wants us to stop. Our vet thinks he's herding, but whatever it is, we
need help! What can we do about this Poncho?
Dear Miss. Kathleen,
Thank you for writing and for wanting to educate yourself on how best to work with your Wii-conflicted
Dachshund. I'm sorry to hear he redirected his energy toward your niece's ankle. Fortunately he was
able to show some restraint and avoid injuring her.
Whether it's that he just thinks you all are acting odd, or he's trying to tell you he likes Playstation
better, I'm sure it's annoying when he interrupts your family fun. I'm happy to offer up some dog
training tips that will help family fun night. Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal!
Speaking as a canine, I must say that you humans have some strange behaviors. Walking on two legs is
weird, but waving your arms while playing video games in front of a box, and flailing about and
touching each other when music is playing is, well, that's just bizarre. However, as an inquisitive canine
I learned a long time ago those things are considered normal. It could be your dachshund didn't get the
memo, and still is perplexed by what you're doing. His behavior could be "herding" or it could be that
the family's energetic movements are triggering some of his Dachshund hunting instincts.
Planning family game night should include what you're going to want from your dog. Do you want him
hanging out with the family? If so then you'll want to develop some game rules just for him. Prefer not
to deal with him? Design an activity to keep him out of your hair and off your ankles. Determine the goal
behaviors, then teach him what they are. Think of it as developing your own instruction booklet just for
Reward, Reward. Reward
Reward behaviors you like! This is one of the easiest ways to get more of the behaviors you want! In
your case, the simplest exercise would be to teach your dog to perform an alternate, more productive
behavior. For instance, a down-stay on his bed. If you want him to stay in one place for a longer period
of time, give him a chew bone or food toy to keep him occupied. If necessary, attach a leash to a piece
of furniture so he can't wander off-but only if you're there to monitor. Friends of mine have gotten
tangled up in furniture legs, and it's not a pretty sight. Make sure you reward him for being on his
special mat or bed, for chewing his bone or toy, and for being quiet.
Another type of reward for staying on his bed would be with a rousing game of fetch and tug. This will
allow him to channel his energy toward a more dog-like activity that requires him to expend as much
energy as he would with ankle pouncing.
Practice Environmental Management
In regards to management, it's all about setting your dog up for success. Management doesn't
necessarily change his behavior toward Wii and dancing, but it does help prevent him from practicing
behaviors you don't like. Whenever you break out the Wii or decide to "cut a rug" you can sequester your
dog in another area of the house. Just make sure you provide him with his own form of entertainment,
including food-stuffed toys. Off on his own, he can enjoy his meal and chew bones, and direct that
chewing energy on his toys, instead of on people's ankles. It would also be helpful to exercise him
enough that he'd prefer to take a nap while you have your playtime.
Paws and Reflect
Keep in mind that video gaming is something quite foreign to us inquisitive canines. If you want him to
participate, then determine what you want for yourselves and what you want from him. Then, take the
time to teach and motivate him to make better choices. And, when you're not teaching, manage his
environment to help discourage behaviors you don't want. Following these simple guidelines will help
set you all up for success, and possibly turn your pooch into the "ulti-mutt gamer."
Poncho Mayer is a 10-pound inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human and canine behavior.
He and his mom work together running the family business, providing dog-training services to other
inquisitive canines and their humans. For additional training and behavior tips, subscribe to their blog.
Got a question about behavior, training or daily pup life? Email Poncho directly at
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