Helping a Yorkie Learn to Calm Down to Save His Life

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 4, 2015

Bentley

Bentley is a nine-year-old Yorkie who’s excitement has become increasingly troublesome. He gets so excited and worked up that he was giving himself seizures and damaged his trachea pulling on the leash.

When I arrived he was pretty excited but also barking at me in a territorially alerting sort of way. I could see he was a little insecure by the way he barked; stepping back after each one. I ignored him as I discussed the situation with his guardian, then tossed a high value treat on the floor between us.

I wanted to get the dog walking towards me on his own power. Although he was cautious at first, he gingerly walked over to pick up the treat on the floor. I made sure to stay completely still until after he had taken the treat and walked away.

Bentley’s guardian and family had inadvertently done some things to give the dog the wrong idea about its job. Basically they had put him into a leadership position, but then they didn’t act as followers. I wanted to start to change Bentley’s perception of his place in the family so I showed them how to practice a simple recall exercise.

Another great way to get a dog to see itself as a follower is to not take orders from it. Bentley had gotten into a habit of jumping up on whoever he wanted attention from. Because they obliged, he kept jumping up on them to tell them to pet him. The real problem is this gives the dog the impression he can tell the humans what to do. This further strengthens his perception that he is in charge.

I suggested an alternative to petting the dog when it jumps up; giving the dog a counter command to sit or lay down. By petting the dog for doing something the human requested, the dog is rewarded for being a follower. This is a greta habit to get into as it continually reinforces a follower mindset through positive reinforcement.

Now that the dog was starting to take a follower position, I wanted to use that experience to change how he reacted when anyone knocked on the door. Bentley’s guardian told me he barked at everything. Bentley felt as if they were doing things without his permission and he barked to disagree with the sounds.

Since the door was such a strong trigger for Bentley, I wanted to address how he reacted to a knock at the door. We had a family member step outside and play the part of a gust ringing the doorbell.

After discussing the technique of claiming the space around the door and using her movement to communicate the dog needed to give her space, his guardian ran through the exercise again.

Another activity that got Bentley all rilled up was going for a walk. I had his guardian show me how she got him ready for a walk.

I had her repeat the exercise a few times, but stop the second the dog started to show any excitement. By starting and stopping this way, we gradually progressed through the entire  process until she was able to get the dog leashed up while remaining completely calm.

By the end of the session, Bentley was carrying his head higher, had a little bounce to his step and was already obeying some of the new rules his guardian had introduced. He was heeding their commands and more importantly their corrections. His barking had gone way down and he was looking to the guardians for guidance and to handle things that used to freak out at. The more they stop and pause when he shows over excitement, the better able Bentley will be prepared to control himself and avoid getting so worked up or injuring himself any further.

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