A Pair of Dogs in Playa Vista Learn to Respect Their Guardian

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 25, 2016

Boe and Zoey

Boe (Left) is a three-year-old Terrier Cocker Spaniel mix who was recently adopted into a home with Zoey, a two-year-old Red Heeler mix. The guardians of these Playa Vista dogs reached out for help with Boe’s anxiety when being placed in the kennel or left alone and Zoey’s habit of pulling the leash and getting excited at the door.

After sitting down with one of their guardians to discuss the dogs and their issues, it quickly became apparent that a lack of rules and structure had resulted in a pair of dogs who felt like they had the same authority as their guardians.

Because the dog’s did not see a distinction between their status and that of their guardians, the dogs thought that they could do pretty much as they pleased.

To help change this dynamic I suggested some simple rules, boundaries and limits.

By incorporating and enforcing some rules for the dogs, the guardians can help them identify as being in the follower position. Additionally each time the guardians reward the dog for following, or correcting when they break the rules, they deepen the leader follower dynamic they want.

I went over some different ways to encourage and disagree with the dogs so that the humans can help lead the dogs into the actions and behaviors they want. After I finished running these down, I walked the guardian through a Leadership exercise that will help the dog’s practice self control and the human practice using the new communication methods.

Now we were ready to tackle one of the things that caused the dogs to overwork and get excited, visitors at the door. Because there were only two of us there for the session, I had to set up my camera on the counter and film it while I stepped outside to play the part of a guest.

The dogs didn’t really respond to the guardian because she stopped before getting in-between the door and the dogs. Additionally she motioned to them with her hands. Hand motions are hard for dogs to interpret and its clear that the dogs didn’t know what the guardian wanted her to do.

After reviewing the footage I gave the guardian some tips then we reset the exercise for another practice round. This time the guardian did much better.

The guardian moved to the door a little quicker that I would like to see. When a human rushes after something new happens, it can cause the dogs to think the new thing is stressing out the human. But once she got to the door, her assertive and confident movements were instantly recognized and respected by the dogs.

I suggested the guardians call or text one another when heading home so that they can practice this exercise amongst themselves. Usually a dog only needs 10-20 practices before it starts to stay behind the door and stop barking where guests arrive.

Next I showed the guardian how to claim her personal space as dogs who climb up on humans are displaying a lack of respect for them as authority figures.

There is nothing wrong with a dog being close, but if its all the time it can lead to insecurities. By making that close proximity something they need to get permission for, we can deepen the leader follower dynamic.

Because Zoey likes to pull on the leash, I showed the guardian how to use a Martingale collar and apply the special twist of the leash before we headed out on a walk. I apologize for the low light in the next video.

Its not unusual for a newly adopted dog to show some signs of anxiety when they are first introduced to a new home. But as Boe gets comfortable with his new family, they should start to see more personality out of him. Thats why it was great that they scheduled this session with me. Its always best to start off right on the right foot rather than having to stop and fix problem behaviors after they get established.

By the end of the session, both dogs seem to be checking in with their guardian, were showing respect for her authority and personal space and already following the new rules. With some constant observation combined with corrections and reward with good timing, this par of dogs will start to see and identify as followers. Once that happens, disagreeing with any left over unwanted behaviors should be a snap.


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This post was written by: David Codr

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