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Old 09-13-2015, 08:31 AM
Location: Florida
7,196 posts, read 5,208,362 times
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We have a one-year-old (just turned one last month) mixed breed puppy. I was told that his mother was a Belgian Malinois and no one knew who the father was. We got him when he was 3 months old. He's about 70 lbs now.

We have dealt with challenging behaviors from him, mostly regular puppy stuff. Mouthing, chewing, running around like a maniac, barking. No problem. We saw a trainer in January and he helped us a lot and got us to the point where he could walk nicely on a leash and act like a Good Boy much of the time.

Now in the past couple of months, his behavior has really deteriorated! He goes for a couple of one-mile walks per day (we live in Florida and it's still very hot here, so we can't be out running him.... he's already panting and sprawled out on the floor even after these walks), and he has a nice selection of toys to play with. There is almost always someone here to play tug or fetch with him, which he loves. But he has taken to trying to nip at my husband and daughter (I think in an effort to "herd" them, since he's generally biting at their shorts), he will steal napkins off the table or books out of the bookcase as soon as you turn your back, and he's insane when a car drives by while on a walk. He used to whine and bark at cars, but now he is completely flipping out.

Is this just an age thing? We're trying to react minimally to his bad behavior so as not to give him undue attention for this, mainly telling him no and making him sit and lay down. Sometimes he goes in his crate to calm down, but I try not to use it as punishment, because that's where he sleeps or goes when we are all out of the house. (I work from home, so most of the time I'm here.)

We can and will go back to the trainer, but we are trying not to spend extra money this month if possible. Any at-home suggestions that can get him through this bratty phase?
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Old 09-13-2015, 09:32 AM
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From what you've described, my best guess would be that it's a combination of not enough correction, and/or timing or type of correction used, with age-related pup misbehaviour tossed into the mix. It really is just a guess though. I'm wondering things such as, when he first began whining and barking at cars, how was this dealt with? Since he is now 'completely flipping out' it sounds as though the correction method - if one was applied when he first began this - was incorrect (or not the correct one for him), since the behaviour has escalated. How many people in the family apply corrections to misbehaviour, and are the corrections the same from every person? Are they applied every single time, or are there times when the dog's actions have been ignored?

"We react minimally to his bad behavior so as not to give him undue attention for this, mainly telling him no and making him sit and lay down" might be a clue that your correction method may not be the right approach. I do agree with you that a crate should never be used for discipline since the dog should see it as a safe place, and not associate it with a form of punishment. Another thing that might factor into all of this is exercise; for his particular breed(s), even though it seems like he might be getting enough exercise, his particular threshold may not be getting met; you might need to somehow push that up. He might also not be getting enough mental stimulation...some dogs have very active minds and need things to do in order to keep them satisfied.

All that said, I've found that dogs can also go through a rebellious period somewhere around the one-year mark, and may refuse to respond to commands that they usually do heed, or develop 'deaf ears'. So as I said, it could be a combination of some misplaced training/correction methods, as well as age and perhaps mental and physical exercise levels. Your best bet is as you said you are going to be doing...call in the trainer again, explaining all of the problems that have been taking place, as well as the methods you've been using to correct. The trainer will be able to assess any areas that need to be changed in terms of correction methods or other dog/human interaction with your family and your pup, and can also show you what to do when your pup ignores commands.
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:03 AM
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I'm not a dog trainer, so I can't offer good tips. I'll just say that in my experience, dogs display a sudden "devolution" in their behavior because something has upset their apple-cart.

Is your guy getting the same amount of one-on-one attention he was getting from you before? Is he getting the same amount of exercise? Has your schedule changed at all? (Are you working different hours, taking a class, out of the house more now than you were before, engaged in a new hobby on the weekends?) Is there a change in the residents of your household -- both in terms of number AND temperament, or how those residents are interacting with the dog?

My suggestion would be to make sure that his needs are being met with respect to quality food, exercise, attention, training re-freshers, and affection.

I'll also add that different dog breeds seem to mature (behaviorally) at different rates. I don't know anything about Belgian Malinois, but in our family, we used to joke that our Labrador Retriever suddenly turned into a human on the day he turned two. Maybe your dog is experiencing a phase that is typical for his breed(s).
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:19 AM
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A couple of thoughts:
A couple of one mile walks daily for a 1 year old mix simply isn't enough much less throw in the Malinois and it REALLY isn't enough exercise or intellectual stimulation.

Your pup is the equivalent of a 16 year old male teenager...... Similarly, he needs his energy directed in order to keep him out of trouble and on the right path.

I highly recommend "Control Unleashed" by Leslie McDevitt with particular attention paid to the Look at That game. She also has some video clips up on youtube if you search by her name or the name of the book. It sounds like for whatever reason your pup has become sensitized to certain things, e.g. cars going by. You will need to work on re-framing those stimuli for him so that he sees them not as something scary or unfamiliar but rather to connect these stimuli to positive things that he loves.

What is the context for the nipping? If he is trying to herd, then teaching him alternate behaviors will prevent that. As well, teaching him that he has his own "place" in a room will help so that when you or another family member can't pay attention to him you can send him to his place- whether that be a crate or a bed. Make it a game> treats for when he is on bed/in crate, no treats when he gets off of the bed/out of the crate. He will figure out pretty quickly that going to his bed will get him good stuff; you can gradually phase out the treats once he is spending time willingly in his bed.

Get your pup into classes with a trainer who uses positive rewards rather than force based methods. A reward based training program will help teach your pup what you expect in such a way that you build your bond with him. Obedience classes at the appropriate level, Rally-O, agility, and/or nose-work would all give your pup the intellectual stimulation he truly needs (in addition to the daily walks).

Using consistent training, setting realistic expectations based on the level of his understanding and ability, and finding ways to reward him for all the things he does well will help you and him get through these next few months until he matures a bit more.

Try to remember that he only knows what he knows; it is up to you to teach him the additional skills needed in order for him to mature into a well-rounded enthusiastic, willing partner.

Last edited by twelvepaw; 09-13-2015 at 10:30 AM..
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:29 AM
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What are you doing to engage his mind? The Belgian breeds are extremely smart working breeds. Family life and one mile walks are not going to be enough mental stimulation. The Belgian owners I know participate in dog sports (agility, obedience, freestyle, tracking). Less time consuming would be trick training. When I had a smart active dog in a tiny apartment I played a lot of "101 things to do with a box". Your current problems are probably a mix of adolescent learning plateaus and boredom.
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:44 AM
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Belgian Malinois and its mixes are not easy dogs to keep. It's commendable that you and your family has hung on and continue to try to correct his behaviours. Not many owners have that kind of will and patience to deal with a powerful, intelligent breed like this one.

Unfortunately, you will need a trainer to step in to help you on this one. These types of dogs need a strong, experienced hand to correct and maintain correction of their behavior. They are known for testing their own handlers if they see that you are not always on your toes.

And yes, dogs in general around that age can be very hyper and rambunctious. Due to the breed you have, it just makes it even more difficult to train.

Don't lose hope though. Keep trying. Look for a trainer who specializes in handling working breeds like malinois.

Lastly, if you haven't neutered him, you might want to consider that as it can help calm him down a little.
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Old 09-13-2015, 10:45 AM
Location: North Idaho
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This is a three way combination issues.

His breed. Malinois are very high energy. He'll always be high energy.

His age. One year old is exactly when people dump their dog at the shelter. Cute puppy stage is over and wild teenager stage intensifies. The pup is still imature and still exploring, but he is big and strong and feeling his hormones.

Main problem is lack of consistency in training. The dog has discovered that he can get away with behavior that he enjoys but you don't because you don't consistently correct.

High energy can be contained with proper training and lots of exercise

Age cures itself.

Train is up to you, but you will find that if the family will get together, decide what the rules are, and then everyone enforce the rules every single time, no fail, behavior will quickly improve.
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Old 09-13-2015, 11:01 AM
Location: North Idaho
30,273 posts, read 41,412,777 times
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Adding this. Shepherds need intellectual stimulation. When I had shepherds (German not Belgian ) we tough them English. They had a box of items and would fetch them by name. Bring me the ball, bring me the bear, bring me the shoe. They work, I sit and direct.

They also were taught to track, and that game can be played inside the house and turned into hide and seek. Where's daddy? Find daddy.

Obedience training happened with every walk. We'd alternate work and relaxing and the dogs wanted the work more than they wanted to goof off.

Shepherds respond much better to praise and approval than they do to punishment or even to treats. If they can make you happy, that makes them happy.

The smarter a dog is the more it gets tricky to train them. A smart dog can think of a hundred different ways to do something and will try them all to see which way is ok and which way earns disapproval. That means they have to be watched to head off bad behavior by giving disapproval the first time it is tried.

Honestly, OP, just keep insisting on good behavior, give exercise and mental stimulation and one day you will suddenly realize that your dog is always the best behaved dog there, no matter where you go.
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Old 09-13-2015, 11:14 AM
Location: Florida
7,196 posts, read 5,208,362 times
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Thank you for all of the answers!

We host exchange students, and we had one here during the summer and have another here now for the academic year. He's actually pretty good with the students. He will steal their pens if they leave them out, but won't nip or jump on them. It helps that the new one loves playing fetch with him!

I think the suggestions to keep him more active are good ones. I'm not sure how to do that with this weather we've been having. (It's rainy/humid/bug season here, and no one, including the dog, wants to be outside.) I do like the suggestion to do more tricks in the house. He's actually a couch potato... except for when he's not. He spend lots of time sleeping on a big chair in the living room, and isn't always eager to get up and go out or run around even when it's offered. But then his energy kicks in at certain points of the day and he acts like a lunatic.

He was neutered at five months, so that's not an issue.

We had good luck with an air spray called Pet Corrector (just sprayed in the air, not at the dog). We ran out of it and bought another brand, which seemed less effective. I was thinking the technique itself was just "old hat" to him, but now that I think about it, I wonder if it's that the noise of this new brand is different. I will try picking up a can of the Pet Corrector to see if that helps him get back on track. We used it if he jumped on people or to stop him from barking like crazy at a cat/butterfly/bird passing through our yard and it worked quite well.

Thanks again for the ideas... I'm hoping that with consistency and time (and more exercise), this will get better!
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Old 09-13-2015, 01:22 PM
658 posts, read 729,714 times
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Do you say just "no"! Dogs don't hear paragraphs...they hear "bla, bla, bla Barney", or what ever their name and then they hear their name and a sharp NO! Every single time he does something he should not.
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