Training a Portuguese Water Dog to Stop Guarding the Door

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: June 23, 2017

By: Sam Kanouse

Barkley is a three-year-old, male Portuguese Water Dog that lives in Omaha. His guardians called to set up a dog behavior training session with us to get Barkley to stop guarding the door and barking at the door.

Barkley ran to the door and started barking as soon as I arrived. His guardians attempted to redirect his attention by directing him to fetch his ball or tell him “off” to stop them dog from jumping up. I asked them to refrain from redirecting him so I could see how he would typically greet a guest.

Once I sat down with the guardians to discuss Barkley’s behavior issues, I noticed that he persistently tried to gain his guardians’ attention by bringing them toys or pawing at them. We discussed the common misconception about “alpha” roles in dog packs and that dogs are much more flexible with leadership positions. In fact, leadership positions can change based on different objects or rooms in the house.

Barkley is a very confident and attentive dog so he paid close attention to his guardians. He learned that the living room area is a room where he can try to assert himself as the leader and his guardians as the followers. In other rooms of the house Barkley did not attempt to demand attention from his guardians, but the living room was the primary room where they played ball with him. The living room was adjacent to the front door, so likely Barkley had made the association that since he was the leader in the living room, he was also the leader of the front door and needed to protect his guardians.

I decided to start with a leadership exercise in the living room to change the dynamics in the household, putting the guardians as the leaders and Barkley as the follower. Watch the video below to see how we changed the guardians into being in the leadership position.

The leadership exercise set the guardians up to be successful at also being in the leadership position at the front door. Barkley quickly understood this exercise and then started to test boundaries. He tested boundaries by trying to anticipate when his guardian’s would give him a treat reward. For example, when his guardians went to sit on the floor, he would pop-up from his down position to attempt to get the treat before they tapped the floor as an indicator that he could now have the treat. The guardians will have to practice this frequently to keep Barkley in the follower mindset.

Since Barkley tests boundaries it will be important for the guardians to be firm with some of the rules that we covered during the session. For example, Barkley must sit and wait for the guardians to go through a door before he can, no furniture for 30 days and then only furniture with permission.

In the next video I demonstrate how to keep Barkley away from the front door.

Barkley is a smart dog and quickly understood the invisible boundary that was set for him. The area around the front door was open, so I used a wooden bench to aid in establishing the boundary around the front door. This is a helpful trick when first teaching this exercise.

This was a “warm” example, meaning that the dog was warmed up due to repeated practice repetitions. In order for Barkley to continue this good behavior on his own, the guardians will need to practice this exercise over and over again. Often friends and family members are more than happy to participate in helping you practice this exercise if they know in advance that you are working on this with your dog. So let your guests know ahead of time that you are working on door manners with your dog before they arrive.

Portuguese Water Dogs are very active, friendly and intelligent dogs. Barkley was no exception to the rule. His guardians expressed interest in training him to be a therapy dog. One of the requirements is to have your dog stay in the same position for two minutes. Teaching a dog to stay requires incremental increases in duration after several repetitions of success. Meaning the dog should be able to stay for five-seconds, 5 times in a row, across 5 different training sessions; (5-for-5) before increasing the duration of the stay.

The exercises that I introduced during this session, combined with plenty of exercise, rules and structure should allow Barkley to adopt a follower’s mindset, which will help him stop barking at the door and guarding the door.

We wrapped up this session with their Road Map to Success, which you can watch below.

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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse

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