Helping a Puggle Puppy Learn to Respect and Listen to His Guardian

Brix

Brix is a one-year-old Puggle who lives near Larchmont in Los Angeles. His guardian reached out to me for assistance with basic obedience, listening better and his aggressive reaction and behavior over trash and food he finds when on walks.

After sitting down with his guardian and her room mate to discuss the situation, I noticed that the dog demanded their attention often and each time he did, the humans happily complied. This almost certainly communicated to the dog that he was of equal status with the humans he lived with. It quite possible he even felt as if he was the authority figure over them!

When I asked the guardian what rules and structure the dog had in his life, I discovered what may be the root of some of his problems.

One of the ways dogs learn is called Operant Conditioning which means that the dog’s future interactions and behavior are influenced by things that happen after they do something. Because the dog didnt have any rules in place, his guardians were not leading or guiding him from his perspective. This lack of structure was most certainly the reason he felt it was ok to disagree with his humans on the few occasions they challenged or corrected him.

I made a number of suggestions to the guardians so that they can start building in some rules, boundaries and limits. Adding these and enforcing the rules with good timing will go a long ways towards getting their dog to listen to and respect them.

I also went over some non verbal communication methods to help them more effectively communicate with their dog. To help them practice putting them into place, I showed them an exercise they can use with Brix’s kennel.

Brix’s guardian has a nice laid back energy and disposition that is wonderful for humans but was a little bit of an issue when completing the exercise. Dogs respond much better to deliberate, bold movements with good timing. But the guardian was so slow in many of her reactions that the dog simply ignored her.

The guardian will need to practice moving with more confidence and suddenness and avoid stopping short when moving at her dog when she needs to. Once she starts moving with bigger, bolder steps, she will get a much better response from the dog.

To address his behavior when out on walks, I fitted Brix up with a Martingale collar and showed his guardian how to add a special twist to the leash to stop his pulling. Then I went over the rules and techniques I use on a structured walk before we headed outside.

After demonstrating the techniques and leash movements, I handed the leash to his guardian and off they went.

The guardian’s speed of leash corrections was also slow. Its important to pull directly up on the leash in a quick jerking movement followed by immediately relaxing the leash. But the guardian continually pulled back on the leash which only causes the dog to pull forward. This interaction almost always results in a tug of war between dog and handler.

If the guardian can start pulling the leash up in a much quicker motion BEFORE Brix moves too far forward, she will eventually get him to start walking next to her in a heel position.

The guardian’s room mate took the leash so I could see how she did on the walk.

At first she was pulling rather than jerking or snapping the leash up. I had her start to stop and put the dog into sit every few steps before proving him with a treat. Sometimes I use this approach for a few walks to help the dog start paying closer attention to the human.

As we continued, the room mate’s timing and technique got much better. But for both humans, practice will make all the difference.

Being able to meet and have a positive interaction with the guardian’s mailman was great. These sort of interactions will go a long ways towards the dog learning that unknown humans are OK.

Brix is a great little dog who was just a little confused as to his place in the group. But once his guardian and her room mate started using the new techniques, we could see an immediate impact. He was following the rules on his own, looking up or checking in with them for guidance and responding to their commands right away.

If the guardian adopts the new communication methods, practices the exercises and consistently enforces the new rules with good timing for a week or two, Brix’s new behavior will become permanent.

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