Building Up Little Bubs Confidence Through Rules and Structure

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 2, 2016


Bubs is a one-year-old Shih Tzu Terrier mix who has started to get more aggressive to guests after being neutered.

Bubs took turns jumping up on his guardian and my shins when I arrived for the session.

Frequently people who have smaller dogs neglect to disagree with their pet when it jumps up on them as they think its a funny or cute way for the dog to interact with them. Sometimes this behavior is only directed at guests or people outside of the family unit. But in this case, Bubs had no problem jumping on myself and his guardian with equal vigor.

When a dog jumps up on a human who has just arrived, it’s usually an attempt to either claim ownership of the person or to let them know that the dog is the authority figure or is watching them. When a dog jumps up on its guardians this way, it is usually indicative of a lack of respect for authority and or boundaries.

Disagreeing with this jumping up behavior is one of the first things that I suggested that the guardian address. When a dog is doing something and you don’t disagree, the dog takes that as your way of saying that you agree with their action or behavior.

Setting clear boundaries and limits are important parts of developing a healthy leader follower dynamic. Many people think that incorporating rules or structure is being mean to the dog. Dogs go through life probing to test for boundaries and limits. In fact, half of human canine inter-social communication involves disagreeing with the dog when it passes a boundary or breaks a rule. Because dogs learn through association, it’s extremely important that we disagree with any unwanted behaviors the very second that they start.

If you correct the dog after it has been engaging in an unwanted behavior for some time, the dog has no idea why you are suddenly now disagreeing with it. But if we consistently disagree with the dog the instant it starts to do something we don’t like, it quickly becomes clear to the dog that we disagree with that specific behavior.

Because Bubs’s guardian had not incorporated many rules into the dog’s life, my disagreeing with his jumping up resulted in a slight growling and barking outburst from him. After Bubs got the barking out of his system, I sat down with the guardian to discuss how beneficial adding rules and structure to his day-to-day life will be.

I pulled out my camera to document the discussion for the write up and Bubs made it clear he didn’t like my holding up the phone to video record things..

Because Bub’s guardians had not spent a lot of time correcting him or providing him with structure, he became quite unhinged when someone challenged him, then disagreed with his outburst.

It’s important to remember that it’s not personal and stay dispassionate when you are working with the dog who is acting this way. My goal is to convey the message that the behavior will not be tolerated but that I am not going to respond in kind. I will however be methodical in my pursuit of obedience.

One of the dirty secrets with dog behavior is to always outlast your dog. If you tell it to sit and it walks into another room, follow it and don’t stop until the dog gives you what you ask. Now it’s important when you do this that you remain completely calm. Thank zombie or money. Not fast movement or excited chasing / chastising, rather methodical and never-ending until the dog gives you what you are asking for.

The other dirty secret with dog behavior is to disagree with the dog before it engages in the unwanted action or behavior. Just like parents can recognize when a child is about to do something wrong, an observant dog guardian should be able to do the same thing with their pet.

If you disagree with the dog with good timing (when the dog starts or right before), you can neutralize and stop the vast majority of unwanted behaviors. In fact I would say tarty responses from humans is one of the biggest problems that I correct for my clients.

To help Bubs guardian better communicate that she disagrees with his unwanted actions or behaviors, I spent the next few minutes going over a set of escalating consequences that I like to use.

Because these escalating consequences were derived from behaviors that dogs engage in on their own, most dogs recognize and respond to them immediately. If all the members of the household use them with good timing when Bubs breaks the rules or gets out of line, it shouldn’t take long for the dog to get the picture.

By the end of the session, Bubs seemed more relaxed and comfortable. He spend quite a bit of the middle of the session hiding under the couch. But once he came to terms with the new rules and structure, his self esteem seemed to rise a bit.

His guardians will need to be observant and quickly disagree when he starts to engage in unwanted actions or behaviors. If they use the escalating consequences with good timing consistently, he should quickly give up these nuisance behaviors in favor of those that get him rewards and the attention of his guardians.


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This post was written by: David Codr

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