Adding Rules to Help Champ Develop Respect for His Family

champ

Champ is a five month old Goldendoodle who is mouthy, jumps up on the family’s youngest son, doesn’t always listen and only really respects the family’s father’s commands consistently. His guardians set up a dog behavior session with me to help fix those problems.

Champ was curious to meet us but showed a little bit of apprehension too.

I sat down with Champ’s guardians to discuss what they wanted to get out of the session. The guardians mentioned that the dog really seemed to only completely respect the family’s father and showed almost no respect for their youngest son; seeing him more as a play mate then an authority figure.

During the initial observation period I learned the Champ really didn’t have very many rules, or if there were rules, they were not consistently enforced.

If a dog does not have rules in place, it can easily get the impression that it has the same authority as the humans. And if the dog thinks it has the same authority as you, then listening to you is completely optional.

While the dog was inconsistent in minding the other members of the family aside from the father, we got a first hand demonstration of how little respect he had for the family’s youngest son when he arrived home from school.

By having the youngest child stand up immediately and turn to face the dog, he was able to get Champ to start showing some respect for his personal space.

I wanted to take advantage of this progress so I walked the son through a leadership exercise I developed a few years ago which will help Champ develop even more respect for him as a leader.

Champ and the family’s youngest son both did awesome on the leadership exercise. I always love seeing how quickly a dog can transform once he understands what the humans actually want from them.

Because Champ had a tendency to pull on the leash, I decided to walk the family through a little leash training nest. To be completely accurate, we did the training without using a leash, LOL. A leash should be a safeguard that you use in case of an emergency. It should not be the tool that you use to control your dog because all you’re doing is playing tug-of-war when you use this method.

Champ responded to the heel technique very well so I had the family’s youngest son take over.

I really like the dynamic that develops when dog guardians start teaching their dog new commands or tricks. It engenders a respect that is hard to create any other way. Combined with this kind of positive dog training, we can help a dog understand what we want instead of correcting or punishing them for things we don’t.

I suggested that the family’s two boys take turns teaching the dog one new trick or command each week for the next eight weeks. Not only will this help develop more respect for the humans as authority figures, the new skills will help Champ feel a little bit more confident and boost his self-esteem.

One of the rules that I had suggested was to make the furniture off-limits because dogs draw a correlation between their rank and the height at which they sit amongst their peers.

Anytime I suggest that we change a dog’s access to furniture, I always like to introduce a dog bed at the same time. This way we are giving them an acceptable alternative which increases the success rate dramatically.

To help Champ learn that he has to now use the dog bed, I spent a couple of minutes going over a way to use positive reinforcement to help Champ think the dog bed is a pretty great.

Champ is likely to test the resolve of his family by getting up on the couch on his own. It will be important that everyone in the family disagree with him before he makes it up on the couch, or immediately make him get down. If they are consistent in enforcing this no furniture rule for the next 1 to 2 weeks, Champ should get the message and stop trying. If some of the family members are inconsistent, Champ will keep trying with everyone else.

Another activity that can give the dog the impression that it is in a leadership position is how it behaves when we answer the door. Although Champ was not the most excited dog that I’ve ever worked with when arriving for a session, teaching his family members how to take control of this door answering ritual will go a long ways towards developing his respect for them.

I had the family’s father had outside to play the part of the guest so that my apprentice Brian could demonstrate the technique for the other members of the family.

Champ responded really well. Part of this is a result of his lower than average self esteem. Once someone really challenged him, he folded due to lack of confidence. While this makes this exercise easier, it underscores how important it will be to teach him new commands to boost his confidence.

After going over the steps to the door answering ritual, we reset the exercise so  the family’s mother could answer the door herself.

The guardian hissed more often that I would like and also stopped short of the dog multiple times. If the hiss doesn’t work the first time, its time to go to the next Escalating Consequence.

It’s also important that we march directly at the dog and do not slow down when we get close when using they technique. The dog needs to think that if it doesn’t move away on its own, the human is going to run them over.

I’m guessing it will only take the family 6 to 10 practice repetitions of the door answering exercise before Champ starts staying on the carpet when there is a knock at the door.

I recommended that the family use the same technique to keep Champ off of the hardwood floor whenever they are eating a meal at the kitchen table or bar. I also suggested that they always eat something prior to feeding Champ and whenever possible, the family’s youngest son should be the one who feeds the dog. This will help the dog get used to taking instruction from the youngest child which should mitigate some of his unwanted behaviors like chewing or jumping up on the child.

By the end of the session, Champ was listening to his guardian’s commands and corrections right away. We even tested things out by introducing one of his favorite things to chew on; toilet paper.

champ-w-tp

It only took a single correction from the family’s youngest son to get Champ to ignore the toilet paper that was strewn all around him.

I hope that the family takes my advice on teaching the dog new commands and exercises. Although Champ is not an overly insecure dog, he has room to grow in terms of confidence. If the boys alternate each week in teaching him a new command or trick, they should see a noticeable improvement in his disposition and confidence.

Combined with the techniques and exercises that we interest in the session, I’m guessing Champs days of challenging the members of the family and seeing the youngest son as his personal play toy will soon come to an end.

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