Helping a Lab / Dane Mix Relax and Learn to Respect His Guardians

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 9, 2016

ChalmersChalmers is a five-year-old Lab Great Dane mix who is active and excited most of the time; counter surfing, jumping up on guests, invading personal space, running out the door, pulling on leash and even some Separation Anxiety.

The above picture doesn’t really tell the whole tale as Chalmers is a pretty large dog. When I arrived for the session, he got up right into my business showing no regard for my personal space and even jumped up a few times.

Shortly after sitting down with his guardians, Chalmers decided to show me exactly what the major problem was.

Because one of Chalmers guardians was petting him anytime he got into his personal area, the dog had gotten confused into thinking that this is the appropriate way to ask for attention from any human.

Shortly after I finished filming the above video, I asked the guardians how much exercise the dog was getting. Most dogs need a good 45 minutes of exercise a day. But for a higher energy dogs like charmer, even 45 minutes isn’t enough.

While the guardians were getting the dog some exercise, they were doing it late in the day and not consistently. Dogs that have high energy do best to win that energy is depleted early in the day. But as is the case with many of the guardians I work with, morning is a pretty rushed and busy time.

I decided to use this opportunity to show Chalmers guardians my preferred method for burning a dogs excess energy.

When we returned from our dog skiing adventure, Chalmers was clearly winded; panting heavily as he laid down next to me on the floor. However, this calm turned out to be short lived; Chalmers got up and resumed his pacing about the room.

Some dogs engage in compulsive or repetitive behavior so often that it becomes a part of their DNA. I think that was the case with Chalmers. His constant state of pent-up energy had resulted in a habit that was hard for break.

I pulled out a leash and showed a showed Chalmers’ guardians how they can use this tool to help their dog learn to relax and stop pacing about in a nervous fashion.

While this leash technique is effective, it only works when a dog’s guardians regularly deplete their excess energy. Applying this technique to a dog who has not been properly exercised can be cruel.

As we continued the session, I learned that Chalmers’ other guardian started out as a cat person. The combination of moving from cat to dog combined with Chalmers large size and insistence on invading personal space was clearly wearing on this guardian.

While Petting with a purpose and burning off excess energy will pay large dividends, I knew I needed to show the guardians how they can start to reclaim their personal space in order for this session to be a success.

Because one of Chalmers’ guardians had been rewarding the dog for invading his personal space for years, both guardians are going to need to react consistently and quickly anytime the dog starts to get too close. The key is to be consistent and react immediately for the next week or two. If both guardians can maintain this level of dedication for the next 14 days, Chalmers will learn that there is a new way of doing business in the house.

Because Chalmers was kenneled for part of the day, I inquired as to what his behavior was when they went to let him out of his kennel. Many people simply open the door and let the dog run out. But if the dog is in an unbalanced or excited state, this can lead to other problems.

I had Chalmers guardian place him in the kennel downstairs, then we waited for a few minutes before going back down so that I could show them how to let him out of the kennel in a controlled way that resulted in a calm, balanced dog.

By the end of the session, Chalmers behavior had improved significantly. He was starting to show respect for people’s personal space, was not pacing around the room so much and even looking to his guardians for leadership and direction.

I would estimate that at least half of Chalmers behavioral problems were the result of his having too much excess energy throughout the day. Dog skiing, or other strenuous exercise activities conducted early in the day will have a dramatic impact on the dogs behavior and interaction with his humans.

If the guardians can commit to depleting the dog’s excess energy early in the day and follow through with the enforcement of the new rules and boundaries, the new techniques that I showed them should help eliminate any remaining unwanted problems or behaviors.

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