Adding Rules and Structure to Help a Pair of Doodles Respect Their Guardian

Ally and Molly

Ally (Left) is a eleven-year-old Goldendoodle who is getting fed up with her new room mate Molly, a  six-month-old Labradoodle who doesn’t always listen and plays too rough.

After chatting with their guardian a bit, I learned that the dogs didn’t have much in terms of rules and structure. They competed for their guardian’s attention, didn’t show any respect for her personal space and would nudge or paw at her when they felt she needed to give them attention. Unfortunately the guardian would comply when they did this and pet them. To the dog’s that’s as good as the guardian saying “you can tell me what to do.”

As a result, these dogs thought that they had the same rank and authority as their guardian. This wasn’t ideal, but not as big a deal when there was only one dog in the house. But now that there were two, they were starting to jockey for the attention and affection of their guardian rather than obeying and respecting her.

To start building up the proper respect for the guardian, I started out by showing her how to claim her personal space.

By consistently disagreeing with the dogs when they get into her personal space, their guardian can start to redefine the leader follower roles in the home.

I shared some non verbal communication cues with the dog’s guardian to help her better interact with the dogs. Like many guardians, she was speaking to the dogs as if they understood English. By using the dog’s native language (Body language and movement), it will be easier for the dogs to understand what their guardian wants.

A big part of this were a set of escalating consequences to apply when the dogs got out of line or crossed a boundary:

  1. Disagree with a hissing sound.
  2. Stand up abruptly and turn to face the dog if it continues.
  3. March right at the dog until it turns away, sits or lays down.
  4. Place the dog on a leash and stand on it a foot away from its head. A doggy time-out.

To help the guardian practice applying these consequences, I went over a leadership exercise I developed a few years ago. I started out with Molly and practiced it with her a few times before I had her guardian take over.

At first the guardian was very slow in her movements which comes across as indecisive to a dog. It will be important that she practices this exercise daily for the next week or twos that her reaction time and technique get sharper. As she practices this exercise with the dogs, they will learn to start respecting her authority and space on their own.

Another great way for the dogs to learn to defer to their guardian is to tech them to literally assume a follower position. By asking the dog to wait or walk behind the yuma as it goes down a hallway, stairs or through a door, the dog literally sees itself as being in a follower position.

I showed their guardian how to claim the space around a doorway using the escalating consequences and non verbal cues we went over earlier in the session.

Just like with the Leadership exercise, the guardian’s movements and reactions were a little slow. As she practices this should improve as well as her assertive attitude and energy. The more confident and assertive the guardian is, the better the dogs response and respect for her will be.

Because these are a pair of high energy dogs, we talked a bit about ways to get the dogs exercise in constructive ways. The more exercise and constructive outlets the dogs have, the less trouble they will get into at home.

Their guardian had been walking them separately due to Molly’s pulling and lack of manners on the leash. To stop this I fitted her up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash. I also offered some tips on how to get the dogs to stay calm while being leashed up so that they start the walk the right way.

As usual, the Martingale worked wonders. Molly fell into a nice heel and only needed a few corrections to get her back into a heel.

Being a puppy Molly got distracted a few times on the walk, but that should improve as her guardian continues to practice with her.

After we finished the walk, I offered a few parting tips and suggestions. By adding rules, boundaries and structure to their day to day life, the dogs will learn to control themselves, understand what their guardian does and does not want from them and how they can make her happy.

By the end of the session, the dogs were much calmer. They were keeping a little distance from their guardian instead of constantly invading her personal space or pawing at her. It will be important that the guardian practices the techniques and exercises we went over so that her timing and technique get more developed. As she starts responding quicker and more deliberately, the dog’s response should improve as well.

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