Some Obedience and Leash Training for an Excited Boxer Named Bleu

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 2, 2016

Bleu

Bleu is a two-year-old Boxer who lives in Omaha. His guardians set up a dog obedience training appointment with me to stop him from jumping up on people, countersurfing, stop dog barking and pulling on the leash when he sees another dog or people on walks.

Bleu was excited when we arrived for the session and he did some jumping up. Curiously though, the jumping up was restricted to his guardians.

Often dogs will jump up on guests as their way of either claiming them were letting the guest know that they run the show. The fact that Bleu only jumped up on his guardians tells me that he does not see them with the proper level of authority.

I showed Bleu’s guardians a technique that I developed that will help stop jumping up. It usually only takes a couple of applications before it stops dog jumping up for good.

During my evaluation period, I learned that Bleu only had a couple of rules that he was expected to follow. I suggested the guardians start to incorporate some simple rules and boundaries. Introducing rules and enforcing them with good timing consistently can go a long ways towards helping a dog transition into a follower’s mindset.

I suggested that the guardians start to add a little bit of structure whenever they pet or provide Bleu with affection or attention. Asking the dog to earn these rewards can go a long ways towards helping with the leadership transition I was forging.

I also shared a set of escalating consequences that I like to apply anytime a dog is breaking the rules. By communicating with Bleu in ways that he understands and respects, his guardians should notice an improvement in his reaction time and overall obedience.

We were able to put these escalating consequences to use when Bleu repeatedly tried to invade his guardian’s personal space. I handed each one of them a small bundle of high-value treats to make it more challenging then coached them through using the escalating consequences to claim their space.

During the initial evaluation, I learned that Bleu did not really know very many commands. I spent a couple of minutes explaining how we can build up his obedience and confidence through some continuing education.

Not only will teaching Bleu new tricks and commands help boost his self-esteem and confidence, it will also give his guardians number of ways to distract or redirect him when he starts to get into trouble. Asking a dog to practice a command is a great way to snap them out of doing the wrong thing.

I also went over a Watch exercise that the guardians can use. This is different then a command as the sole focus of the Watch exercise is to get the dog to look up at the human and maintain a visual connection with their face. This is a great way to redirect or stop a dog from reacting to other dogs or people on walks.

One of Bleu’s guardian’s primary tasks for this session was his behavior on walks. They wanted him to pay closer attention to them and stop pulling on the leash. We headed outside so we could do a little leash training.

Many trainers in Omaha like to correct dogs from pulling on the leash by incorporating prong or choke chains. This really gets me fired up because adding the harshest tools around is hardly training and the tools only partially fix the problem.

I spent the next few minutes demonstrating how we could get Bleu to walk in the heel position without even using a leash.

It only took a minute and a half before Bleu was walking in the heel position on his own. I love how quickly dogs respond once they understand what you want from them.

Next I had Bleu’s guardians take their turns as the important thing will be for them to get him to heel for them when I am not there.

Despite the fact that the neighbor’s dogs were out and barking, Bleu’s guardians were able to get him to follow along as they walked around his backyard.

I suggested that Bleu’s guardians practice this heel technique multiple times a day in short, 2 to 3 minutes practice sessions. Dogs usually will have a higher success rate when they start and more failures the longer you practice. So short practice sessions are most productive and efficient.

At first the guardians should just simply walk around in circles, but eventually they will need to walk in straight lines and ask for more steps in between delivering a treat. Then they can transition into more steps between treats, introduce turns, stop short, reverse direction and practice amongst increasing distractions so that Bleu is able to walk in a heel with the loose leash no matter what the scenario.

The guardians can use the same reward delivery technique when walking Bleu while using a leash. In fact, practicing the same delivery while on walks will be an important part of Bleu’s leash training education.

After we finished practicing the heel, we headed inside. As we were chatting about Bleu’s progress, one of his guardians mentioned that he got very excited and sometimes attacked the vacuum cleaner.

I had her get out the vacuum cleaner so that I could show her how to utilize counterconditioning to help the dog stop responding or reacting to the vacuum cleaner.

I was kicking myself for not filming the before reaction. Bleu’s guardian said he normally barks and lunges at the vacuum. It would’ve been nice to see footage of Blue going crazy and then see the video above.

But the important thing was the end result was the dog not reacting at all to the vacuum cleaner.

The guardians will need to practice this counterconditioning technique multiple times before the dog is ready for the next step, walking with his guardian on a leash as they vacuum. With enough practice, Bleu should be able to remain totally calm when the vacuum is on duty.

By the end of the session, Bleu was respecting people’s personal space, walking in a heel position without even needing a leash and listening to his guardians commands and corrections right away.

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