Dog Training Tips to Help My First Ever Dog Behavior Clients With a New Dog

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 12, 2017

Bruce is a three-year-old Husky / German Shepherd Mix who’s guardians have the distinction of being my first every dog behavior clients years ago for another dog named Frank. The guardians asked me to help them with their new dog Bruce who lives with them in Omaha. He has a territorial aggression problem; snapping and lunging at strangers who do things he dislikes.

Knowing that Bruce can sometimes be a territorial dog, I used several dog behavior tricks to make sure the greeting went well.

Bruce’s initial slow movements and distance from the door told me he wasn’t completely comfortable which is why I lingered outside a bit before coming inside. One thing I didn’t do was wait for him to walk away from the door before coming inside. This is a polite way of entering; letting a dog get done sniffing and move away before coming in.

Before we got to discussing Bruce’s dog behavior problems, I spent a few minutes chatting with his guardians about their previous dog Frank. They literally stumbled across Frank as a 6 week old puppy who was lost wandering around their neighborhood during a blizzard. Had they not brought puppy Frank home, he would have certainly perished from exposure.

Frank was such a beloved dog to the family that the guardians named their firstborn son after him! Talk about showing respect.

Not only did I do my first ever dog behavior sessions with this family, I watched Frank for them multiple times and he became good pals with my Dalmatian, Curious Farley the Destroyer. Here is a pic of the two goofballs during a rare lull in play time at my house.

Once I was able to brush back the nostalgia and stop reflecting on how far I have come as a dog behavior expert since that first session nearly a decade ago, I turned my attention to Bruce.

I asked the guardians if Bruce had any rules he was expected to follow or boundaries to respect. When the humans struggled to answer those questions, I think they began to see a connection. They mentioned that aside from his behavior towards some strangers, he was a really great well behaved dog. I hear this response from my clients often.

But if a dog doesn’t have a job or any rules, some breeds can get the idea that they need to contribute to the betterment of the pack. In this case, Bruce saw an opportunity to be in charge of security. His guardians said he would “patrol” the yard, going from one corner to the next and keeping a sharp eye out for any outsiders.

The guardians mentioned they liked Bruce’s protective instincts most of the time. I hear this from people often. But if you do not train your dog properly, this situation can easily backfire. The dog doesn’t know who is allowed or not and confusion can easily lead to a very bad situation.

To make sure Bruce didnt get into trouble, I went over ways to demote him from his guard dog role. It will require the humans taking over this position and demonstrating to Bruce through their actions that they have things covered quite well.

I spent nearly an hour going over things like a Focus exercise, some rules, how to enforce them as well as ways to add structure to recurring daily tasks like petting with a purpose, passive training and delaying gratification to help Bruce develop more self restraint and control.

Next I wanted to show the guardians how they can train a dog to have good door manners. The first step is to claim the area around the door before opening it. You accomplish this by moving the dog behind an invisible line before starting the process of opening the door. I had their son Frank head outside so I could have him play the part of an arriving guest.

Because this was one of the activities that Bruce was the most territorial about, I coached the guardian through it instead of demonstrating it myself. Any time you have a dog who has shown aggressive behaviors, you want to take care to not repeat things that will trigger a response.

We sometimes refer to this as the door exercise and its one of my favorites things to teach a client as it usually results in such a change in behavior. Bruce was no exception.

It will be important for the guardians to consistently enforce the rules and boundaries we introduced in the session, practice the focus exercise and practice the door answering technique for the next few weeks. Bruce is going to continue to act territorial until he sees his guardians doing that job well.

By the end of the session, Bruce was completely calm and relaxed, even rolling over onto his back as I filmed a Roadmap to Success video for his family. I wouldn’t classify him as an aggressive dog, just one who was confused as to what his role in the house was. Now that his guardians know how to provide him with the structure to allow him to go back to being a goofy dog, Bruce will be able to relax and go “off duty” for good.

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