Structure and Leash Training Help a Dog Stop Acting Out and Having Accidents in the Home

aspen-and-tiger

Aspen (left) is a five-year-old Pit Bull mix who lives with thirteen-year-old Tiger, also a Pit Bull mix. The guardians set up this dog obedience training session with me to do some leash training, put a stop to Aspen’s dog aggression, excitement and stop accidents in the house.

The dogs showed good curiosity when I arrived for the session. Aspen was a little bit cautious, but not overly so.

I always sit down with my clients at the start of the session to get a little bit more information about the dog as well as ascertain their expectations or goals. This is something many dog trainers fail to do. I never skip this part of the session as it gives me an opportunity to see how the dog interacts with the humans and vice versa.

I learned that the dogs did not have very many rules or structure. I have found that when a dog lives with other dogs, and does not have much structure, they can compete for the top dog spot or get the impression that they have the same authority as their humans. This often causes the dog to not respect its owner as an authority figure.

When I mentioned this to one of the guardians, she was skeptical. The other guardian however thought I was on the right track. It’s important to remember that a dog can still love and trust you without respecting you as an authority figure.

I recommended some rules and boundaries and showed the guardians how they can enforce them with good timing. By consistently correcting the dogs whenever they break any of the new rules or boundaries, the guardians can start acting as a leader in their dog’s eyes.

If a dog is marking in the house or pooping on someone’s items, this is often a result of the dog trying to assert itself and or sending a message about challenging the humans. I have worked with many dogs with this problem and adding rules and structure and counseling the humans on how they can act as a leader (The way the dogs perceive leadership) usually does the trick.

Ironically, spen gave a good indication about responding to clear leadership as I was wrapping up this discussion so I pulled out my camera to highlight what was going on.

As we were wrapping up that conversation, I noticed that anytime the dogs got near the humans, the human would reach over and almost immediately start petting that dog. Now I never want to say that petting a dog is bad. But if we pet our dogs at times they are anxious, nervous, overexcited or in any other unbalanced state of mind, we are actually nurturing the thing we are trying to eliminate.

I suggested that the guardian start practicing my petting with a purpose philosophy of asking the dog to do something before petting it. This is going to be a challenge for the guardians, but if they can consistently ask their dogs to earn their praise and attention, it will go a long ways towards helping the dogs see and respect them as authority figures.

Next I turn my attention towards Aspen’s proclivity to act aggressively when encountering new dogs.

It will be important that the guardians have enough distance between Aspen and any other dogs in order for this technique to work. If the dog is fearful or concerned that the other dog is too close, counterconditioning will not work. However, if the guardians can ensure that there is enough distance between Aspen and the other dog and provide a high-value treats while it sees the other dog, over time Aspen will start to associate the presence of other dogs with receiving a reward.

As I was going through the counter conditioning exercise, I noticed the Aspen responded to just gestural commands but not verbal-only direction. I explained what was going on to his guardian and then showed her how she can train the dog to lay down with a verbal command only.

The guardian will need to practice this exercise at least once a day (More practice is better and will accelerate the process) for the next week or so before it really takes hold.

I have found that many dogs that are unruly on a walk or dog reactive start the walk in and over excited and unbalanced state of mind. I asked the guardian to demonstrate how she attaches the leash to Aspen so that I could get a feel for the dog’s energy and mindset prior to a walk.

Although Aspen was not the most excited dog I have ever seen going through the leashing process, Aspen was not what I would refer to as calm. I knew that we needed to do a little bit of leash training in order to solve this problem of the dog pulling on the leash.

Taking the time to help a dog adopt a calm and balanced mindset and energy level before leaving for a walk can be the difference between an enjoyable stroll or one where the dog tries to pull your album out of its socket the whole time.

I had the guardian repeat the steps of adding the leash to the dog’s collar multiple times; but every time the Aspen moved in front of the guardian or got over excited, I had her stop and sit down on the couch until the dog had returned to a completely calm state of mind.

It took about 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually the guardian was able to attach the leash to Aspen’s collar while the dog remained calm.

By the time that we headed outside for the walk itself, Aspen had burned up a lot of energy. But more importantly, we had communicated to the dog that the only way that we were going to move forward is if it remained completely calm.

As a result, the walk went much better than it ever had before. Now I also incorporated a Martingale collar and added the special twist of the leash to give the guardian more control. But it was taking the time and waiting for the dog to return to a calm state that was most responsible for the enjoyable walking experience.

By the end of the session, the dogs were showing respect for the human’s personal space, listening better, not getting overexcited and due to the leash training, Aspen was no longer pulling on the leash.

It’s going to be important for the humans to enforce rules and boundaries and provide the dog’s with consistent structure so that they start to gravitate into a follower’s mindset. Combined with regular practice at the counter conditioning exercise, Aspen should learn to give up her dog aggression on walks and stop urinating and defecating inside the home.

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