Teaching a Traveling Terrier to Stop Getting Over Excited and Listen Better

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 12, 2016


Cassie is a one-year-old Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier who splits time between Nebraska and Arizona. Her guardian set up a dog training session to help put a stop to a few bad habits; chewing things up, barking, jumping up on people and getting really excited when guests arrive.

Because the interior door was open when we arrived for the session, Cassie watched me as I approached the door and got more animated the closer I got.

While it’s always a good idea to get your dog under control before you answer the door, the guardian would be better served to move the dog away from the door before opening it instead of asking the dog to sit so close to the new arrivals. When a dog is in front of us when we open the door, they look at the human as assisting them. When new people come over, its an exciting time so adding some distance can help the dog better control itself.

We arranged for one of the neighbors to come by and play the part of a guest at the door so I could demonstrate how a human can control the situation before actually opening the door.

I suggested that the guardian enlist the help of friends and neighbors to practice this door answering ritual. When we have a real guest knock at our door, we have tendency to rush and the dog can sense this which impact their behavior. Practicing with someone who isn’t a real guest allows us to remove this variable.

The guardian will need to move very confidently and assertively when she practices this in the future. She was too slow and soft in her movements when we first started. But as we continued she got faster and more decisive which is important. Bold and deliberate movements are interpreted by dogs as communicative where slow indecisive movements are seen as early meandering about.

Once we wrapped up the door exercise, I sat down with Cassie’s guardian to discuss her day-to-day routine. I wanted to get a feel for any rules or structure that the guardian had incorporated into her dog’s life.

As it turns out, Cassie didnt have too many rules which can lead a dog into thinking they have the same authority as their humans. When this is the case, then listening to the human becomes optional to the dog.

After suggesting a couple of additional rules, I showed Cassie’s guardian a few ways to add structure to her normal daily activities. A great example of this is adding a little bit of structure to petting her dog. I like to call it Petting with a purpose.

It will take the guardian a couple of days to a week or so before she can get into a habit of always asking the dog to do something before she pets it. But if she can get into this habit, every time she pets her dog she will be engaging in a mini dog obedience training session without even thinking about it.

Next I went over a set of escalating consequences that I have developed to disagree with a dog when it breaks a rule or does something we do not want.

It was great to see how quickly Cassie adapted to these new consequences. However I did warn the guardian to not overuse the hiss. It’s important to only hiss one time per incident with the appropriate intensity and correct timing. The best time is just before the dog breaks a rule.

I recommended that the guardian place a pillow or other object Cassie likes to chew on the floor in the middle of the living room when she has a few minutes to give the dog her full attention. By monitoring the dog near the object, she can disagree with a hiss the instant Cassie approaches or starts to show interest. By practicing having the object in the room and within the dog’s reach, Cassie’s guardian can communicate that the object is not the be chewed up. This is the best way to stop dog chewing the wrong things.

I also recommended that the guardian get a few appropriate chew toys like a rigid Nylabone, some antlers and real bones. Giving Cassie appropriate chew items will also help eliminate her chewing the wrong things.

Cassie had showed some insecurity a couple of times during the session. When you have a dog that is sensitive or has lower self-esteem, it’s important that we moderate the volume of our corrections and not get too stern with them as this can erode their confidence.

I have found that one of the best ways to build up a dog’s confidence is to teach them some new commands and tricks. Just like humans, dogs feel a sense of pride when they master a new skill.

I recommended that Cassie’s guardian go to YouTube and look for 8 to 12 commands or exercises to teach her dog. One of these most certainly should be the stay. The technique that I use can be found with this link.

Because Cassie is going to be frequently visiting a home with young children, I wanted to give her guardian a tool that she can use to redirect her dog’s attention and get her to focus. I have found the best exercise for this is the watch.

After demonstrating the Watch technique, I coached the dog’s guardian through it so that she can practice this a few times a day. The exercise is really easy, but needs a lot of short (1-2 minute) practice sessions a day for a few weeks before it becomes really effective at redirecting or refocusing your dog.

Initially, the guardian had some difficulty with the exercise. She was moving her arm directly towards the dog’s mouth rather than moving it up first so that it is positioned between her face and the dog’s. The ideal movement looks like the number 7 on its side (up so its about 4-6 inches in front of your nose, then directly to the dog’s mouth on the second move).

The whole point of the exercise is to get the dog to look at the humans face. That’s why we position and hold the treat in that line of sight. At first each movement is only 1 second. But after the dog starts to get it, then we increase the delay in the second move, the one toward’s a dog’s mouth.

The guardian stuck with it and by the end of the above video, her technique was much improved. She will improve her technique, timing and confidence as she continues to practice.

After practicing this exercise in short 1-2 minute sessions multiple times a day for a few weeks, she will noticed that she can get the dog’s focus and attention anytime she needs to.

Another great way you help a dog develop more discipline and self-control is to add a little bit of structure to mealtime. I spent the next few minutes going over this with her guardian.

Because eating is such a primally important activity for dogs, adding this sort of structure goes a long ways towards helping a dog adopt a follower’s mindset. It also helps the proactive self control.

By the end of the session, Cassie was already respecting the new rules and boundaries. She was also listening to her guardian right away and even starting to sit in front of her as a way of requesting affection or attention.

By teaching her a number of new commands or tricks and assuming the leadership position, Casey’s guardian will be able to eliminate most of the dogs unwanted behaviors. It will take a little practice, but because Cassie is so intelligent and her guardian so motivated to have a well mannered dog when visiting her beloved grandchildren and their parents, Im guessing it will happen pretty quickly.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categorized in:

This post was written by: David Codr

%d bloggers like this: