Adding Rules and Structure to a Bulldog Mix to Stop Dog Barking

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 24, 2016


Bryan is an Olde English Bulldog / American Bulldog mix who gets over exicted, jumps up on people, pulls on the leash, charges the door and has nipped the family’s two-year-old when the child reached out and grabbed the dog unexpectedly.

With two young children in the home, interrupting their sleep is about the worst thing that a dog can do, so putting stop to Bryan’s dog barking was a high priority for this session.

To address this issue during the arrival, one of the guardians was very assertive and confrontational trying to head off Bryan’s barking grabbing him by the collar with a little bit of force. He didn’t do anything to hurt the dog, but the energy was clearly coming from a place of frustration and this caused the dog to recoil at the interaction.

I knew that I needed to show them a way to get their dog to stop barking to prevent this sort of interaction from repeating itself in the future. But before we could get to the dog barking and new ways of stopping it, I sat down with Bryan’s guardians to discuss his daily routine and get a feel for the discipline and structure he was expected to follow.

When I found out that Brian really didn’t have many rules and that he was able to tell at least some of his guardians when it was time to pet him, it wasn’t surprising to me that the dog and humans were on different pages

Dogs go through life probing to find out where boundaries and limits exist. If we don’t have any rules for our dogs we don’t do much in terms of correcting which can easily give a dog the wrong impression.

If the dog doesn’t have any rules and can tell it’s guardians went to pet him, it often results in a dog who considers himself to be of the same authority and rank as the humans. When this is the case in the dog’s mind, then listening to the humans is optional.

Fortunately Bryan is not at all a bad dog. At this point I have rehabilitated close to 2,000 dogs and I would put Bryan in the top 50 in terms of good behavior. He generally wanted to make people happy, I just think in this case he was a little bit confused as to where his position was and what he could do to make his guardians happy.

To help with this perception, I spent the next few minutes going over a technique that I have developed called Petting with a purpose.

Usually I have to tell everyone in the family to practice this petting technique because they are giving affection too often or without any conditions. But in this case, the family’s mother was very frustrated with the dog waking the children up as well as nipping one of their children when it reached out for him. As a result the bond between them, which used to be strong pre-children, had dissipated.

If a dog has a real intrenched nipping problem, it’s going to be something that happens repeatedly. In Bryan’s case, I would chalk up this one nip to his thinking that he had the same authority as the adults in the house. It’s most likely the Bryan was attempting to parent the dog by correcting him with a nip.

Petting with a purpose will go a long ways towards helping Bryan start to identify as being a follower position.

It will be very important for the mother to engage in this structured petting with Bryan even if it’s only to ask him to come to her, sit or lay down so that she can pet him for his compliance. All this seems overly simple, but it will deepen the bond between human and dog as well as generate a stronger desire from Bryan to please the family’s mother.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things I wanted to accomplished during this dog behavior training session was to put a stop to Brian’s barking whenever anyone knocked at the door or rang the doorbell.

I pulled out a handful of high-value treats and then had the family’s father step outside the door so that I could demonstrate how they could use this dog training technique.

This is a technique that most dog trainers are unaware of, but is one of the most effective things that you can do to stop a dog from reacting to something that it is alerting or alarming of.

It was great to see how quickly Bryan adapted to this technique. However in order for it to become permanent, it will be necessary for his guardians to practice this exercise a few times a day every day for the next week or so. Occasional brush up sessions may be needed if he regresses in the future.

Because sleeping babies is such a high priority to the family, I suspect that Bryan’s counterconditioning training will be completed in short order.

Another great way to help the dog properly fit into this family’s life is to develop more self-control. To this end I went over a brief exercise to show them how to train the dog to stay.

For anyone who is interested in practicing the same exercise, I strongly recommend checking out this great YouTube video.

Earlier in the session I had learned that Bryan didn’t get a whole heck of a lot of exercise. For many dogs, a lack of exercise is in direct relation to many of their unwanted actions and behaviors.

I strongly suggested that the guardians look for ways to increase Bryan’s daily exercise. If possible, taking him to doggy day care would be a great option as it will provide social interaction as well as a positive way to drain his energy.

The family was interested in getting Bryan out on walks, but said that his pulling on the leash was a deterrent. I pulled out a Martingale collar and attached it to Bryan with the special twist of the leash then headed outside for a little leash training.

After going through some simple walking rules and demonstrating how to use the new leash setup properly, the family’s mother and father both took turns walking Bryan.

I recommended that they practice walking Bryan individually for a couple of days so that he gets used to the new position and rules, then to start practicing walking him while they are pushing an empty stroller. This will give them the opportunity to give the dog their full attention and have him get used to following behind the stroller. Being able to monitor him closely will be important as correcting him with good timing will be paramount in rehabilitating his pulling leash behavior.

Now that leash training dog school was over, we headed back inside so that I could show the family a more structured way of feeding their dog.

By the end of the session, Bryan was no longer barking when he heard the doorbell, was already sitting in front of humans to ask for attention and seemed to be checking in with them; looking for guidance and leadership.

This was really enjoyable session for me. Bryan really is a wonderful dog with a great personality. I know that he will be a great dog to this family if they can spend the next 2 to 3 weeks going over and mastering the techniques and exercises introduced during this session so he knows what they do and don’t want from him.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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