Monroe Learns Boundaries and His Family Learn How to Be Good Leaders

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 15, 2015


Monroe is a 13 month old male Yellow Lab male who pulls on the leash, jumps up on people and doesn’t listen as well as his owners would like.

When I arrived for the session Monroe was excited and showed no respect for anyone’s personal space. I started out by projecting a confident but assertive energy and kept him in front of me. The first two times he started to jump up or got too close, I gave him a verbal cue and hand motion. This stopped him in his tracks and immediately lowered his energy.

Not knowing how to react, he moved over to the members of his family. One by one, each of them instinctively stroked, hugged or petted Monroe each time he got close to them. As they started to pet him, his energy started to go back up.

I explained that providing attention or affection to a dog when it is over excited or in an unbalanced state of mind actually agrees with and reinforces the unwanted behavior. As the family has several pre teen children, it will be important that their owners start to offer attention and affection in conjunction with the dog following commands. By providing affection as soon as the dog engages in actions we want, this positive reinforcement also reinforces the leader follower dynamic.

When we entered the living room, Monroe was still off his game, keeping a distance from me and circling back to lean against the members of the family. I went over how they can claim their personal space and was pleased to see Monroe respond to these new communication methods so easily. Within a few moments, their son was disagreeing with the dog and claiming the personal space of himself as well as his mother and sister.

Because Monroe’s family had been showering him with affection for no reason at all, this sudden change was a little much for him and you could see it in his body language and movements. When I attempted to offer him a treat, he walked away and maintained avoidance with me. I used some high value treats to help change his energy as he was clearly uncertain. It only took about ten treats before he was relaxed again.

To help build up his confidence and add some structure to the relationship, I had all the members of the family form a circle around the room so that we could practice a simple recall exercise. It only took 3 – 4 repetitions before Monroe figured out he was supposed to come and sit in front of the person who called him. Once this was the case we expanded the circle until he was immediately recalling even for people out of the room.

Next we went over some rules, new communication methods and a leadership exercise to provide some mental stimulation while also help him practice how to self restrain and look to them family for guidance. The leadership exercise was a bit more challenging, but within minutes the children all had him following their commands and corrections.

Fortunately Monroe is a low to mid energy lab. He was extremely responsive and showed a high level of intelligence. By adding some simple boundaries and new communication methods, most of Monroe”s unwanted habits stopped. His family will need to enforce the new rules to help this new behavior become the new norm. But due to his desire to please them and his lower energy level, it shouldn’t take too long for these new behaviors to become permnament.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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