Building Up Beau’s Confidence While Reinforcing His Family’s Leadership

By: David Codr

Published Date: December 4, 2013


Beau a one-year-old yellow lab male mix. His owner contacted me for help concerned after seeing a few minor cases of aggression, mouthing and play biting.

When I arrived for the appointment, his personality seemed a bit standoffish, not at all territorial or dominant. When we sat down to discuss his situation in more detail he sniffed me from a distance at first so I ignored him until he came over to me on his own accord.

Oftentimes people like to grab a dg by its collar and tug or pull a dog closer when it keeps a distance. While this is natural, its not usually the best douse of action as it can communicate to the dog that it was correct in attempting to keep a distance. I took out a few of the high value treats I like to use and rewarded him when he did come close enough to touch.

It turns out the aggression his owner had witnessed had occurred when they family’s children were outside playing with vigor. And it was more of a physical play than outright aggression. The mother did mention that sometimes Beau had jumped up other and shown teeth after she returned from taking one of the kids outside to get a ride to school or some other out-of-house activity.

Without seeing the situation in person, i can only assume that the dog felt as if she was taking the child away from him and his protection. Dogs that see themselves as the leader or protector over humans can lead to serious problems. I have a leadership exercise that helps change this perception but before engaging in it, I took the family into the living room to work on Beau’s recall.

I had all the members of the family sit around the room, spaced evenly apart. I gave everyone a few high value treats and then showed them my preferred way to call the dog over and reward him when he did.

At first Beau was somewhat hesitant but after a little coaxing and receiving some of the treats, his hesitation diminished. I suggested the family practice this exercise daily for the next week or two to help Beau understand that coming on command is a good thing.

Next I demonstrated the leadership exercise I mentioned earlier. I only did the exercise once as I noticed Beau starting to get hesitant again. Sometimes sensitive dogs or those who lack confidence can misinterpret the exercise when done with a stranger so I coached the members of the family through the exercise. Once the family members took over, Beau opened up again and after a few repetitions, completely understood what we were asking.

I suggested the family practice this exercise over the next week or two to help build up Beau’s confidence and most importantly, understand that he does not have authority over any of the members of the family.

Usually I end my sessions by taking photos of the dog to post here, but as soon as I pulled out my phone I learned that Beau had a fear of the camera. As soon as I held it up, he would turn or walk away. After several attempts I found myself doing what I advise my client avoid doing, pulling the dog into position.

To help him learn that the camera is nothing to fear I placed it on the floor at his feet. He sniffed it once, then continued to avoid looking at it or being near it. To help encourage him I placed a few treats in a line to it almost bread crumbing him to the phone. It took little coaxing, but eventually he walked over the the treats and then to the phone.

I suggested his family repeat this exercise as well as practice showing him phones and then rewarding him with additional treats each time. This will help change his perception of the camera. It will take some practice, but within a week or so, he should learn that the camera equals treats, something almost every dog loves. Even Beau.

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This post was written by: David Codr