Bailey Learns to Play by the Rules

Bailey

Bailey is a 2 year old chihuahua mix. His owner called me in to help stop his aggressive to other animals and “barking to no end.”

When I arrived for the appointment, Bailey barked at me as I walked up the path to the door, when i was in the entry way, in the kitchen, the stairs leading to the basement and finally stopped when we sat down on the couch. He barked at a distance or would bark and retreat right after which told me he was insecure and didn’t approve of my arrival.

When his owner sat down, Bailey jumped into the chair at the same time. I explained that to dogs, the height at which they sit impacts how they see themselves in comparison to the other members of the pack. By letting Bailey sit at the same or at a higher level as his human owners, they were unintentionally telling him he outranked them.

Anytime a dog thinks its in a leadership position over their humans, its difficult or impossible for their owners to effectively disagree or correct the dog which is why Bailey ignored his owner’s attempts to correct him. To change that dynamic, I walked his owners through a leadership exercise that required Bailey to look to them for permission while restraining himself.

It took Bailey a good fifteen minutes before he caught on to what we were asking from him. Without saying a word, his owner was able to communicate that she was in the leadership position and that Bailey needed to wait for her permission to take his reward.

By practicing this leadership exercise daily for the next few weeks, Bailey will learn to see his owner as his pack leader. It was clear that Bailey trusted her, but the missing ingredient was respect. Once that is built up, she will be able to effectively disagree with any unwanted behavior.

Next we discussed using a series of escalating consequences to disagree with Bailey when he engaged in unwanted behavior. I like to use a distinct sound as my way of disagreeing. If that warning isn’t heeded, I stand up. To a dog, a standing position is more authoritative, as to say “I mean business.”

If standing doesn’t stop the behavior, I instructed them to walk over and through where Bailey was so that Bailey is forced to move away. By claiming or taking territory away from him when he starts to bark, we can communicate that the behavior is unwanted.

By the end of the session Bailey was sitting close enough for me to snap the above image. Clearly the leadership exercise combined with the new consequences and new no furniture rule had made an impact on Bailey. With another week or two of practice, this new behavior will become permanent.

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