A Couple Feisty Papillions Learn to Respect Their Owner

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 5, 2015

Zoey and Bella

Zoey (left) and Bella are a pair of Papillions who get over excited, jump up on guests and don’t listen to their owner unless they feel like it.

When I arrived for the session the dogs were all over me at the door; jumping up, circling around and barking excitedly. I projected a calm assertive energy and body language which settled them down a bit.

Once I sat down with their owner, I could see a big part of the problem. Any time either of them came within an arms length, she instinctively reached out and started to pet them. While petting and loving your dogs is usually a good thing, providing attention or affection when the dog is engaging in an unwanted behavior or in an unbalanced state of mind, you are agreeing with it.

When I asked what rules or boundaries the dogs had in place, their owner couldn’t come up with any. When a dog has no rules and is given affection and attention for no reason, it causes them to think of the human as being a weak leader or not a leader at all.

I suggested that their owner start to only provide attention and affection to the dogs after they did something for her. So they next time the dog scratches, barks or uses its nose to nudge for attention, I suggested that she give the dog a command then pet the dog while repeating the command word after the dog complies. This is a great way to redefine the leader follower relationship using positive reinforcement.

Next we went over some non verbal forms of communication to use with her dogs. Once she adopted non verbal communication methods using body language and movement to “talk” with the dogs, they started to react better and with less effort.

Their owner mentioned that her dogs only followed her commands when they felt like it. Usually this happens when dogs do not identify their owner as being in a position of authority / leadership. To change this perception I went over a leadership exercise that helps the dogs learn to focus, restrain themselves and see their owner as being in a leadership position.

I went through the exercise with Bella who understood what i was asking the second time we went through it. Her owner was amazed at how quickly she figured it out so I walked her through the exercise. After a few repetitions, she was getting the same results so I had her practice with Zoey. Zoey was a bit more challenging, but within a few minutes she had mastered it as well.

Next we enlisted the help of a neighbor to knock on the door. As soon as they heard the knock, they ran over t the door barking excitedly. I showed her owner how to claim the doorway and disagree with the excited behavior. We had to practice a bit but after a few minutes we could knock on the door without the dogs barking at all. With a little practice, this will become the new norm for these Papillions.

Zoey and Bella aren’t bad dogs, their owner had just failed to provide the structure that the dogs needed. During the session their owner witnessed a change in their energy level, responsiveness and respect for her. Things that used to set them off they now ignored when instructed to do so by their owner.

Now that the leadership dynamic has changed and their owner is communicating with them in a way they understand and respect, this new more respectful and responsive behavior will become permanent.

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This post was written by: David Codr