Training A Havanese to Respect His Guardians to Improve His Obedience

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 8, 2016

Charlie the Havanese

Charlie is a three-year-old Havanese who barks a lot when guests arrive, gets over excited, has nipped people’s ankles, doesn’t recall on command and doesn’t always listen to his guardians.

Charlie’s guardian elected to pick him up rather than risk him running out of the door. While this is a logical strategy, it actually gives the dog a temporary feeling of status or rank because the higher a dog stands, the more rank they have.

The greeting started out wonderfully with Charlie approaching me using his nose and giving me a quick scent investigation. But once Charlie had gotten a good sniff, he started backing away while growling and barking. It was clear that Charlie disagreed with my arrival or failure to lavish attention upon him.

I sat down with Charlie’s guardian to discuss the situation, what she wanted to accomplish in our session and find out what rules and structure the dog had in his life.

In the course of discussing Charlie’s day-to-day routine and how the humans in the house interacted with him, it quickly became apparent that their lack of structure have resulted in a dog that considered himself equal in authority to all the humans that he lived with.

If a dog considers a human it’s equal, then listening to the human becomes optional to the dog. I knew that in order to stop Charlie’s obstinance, we were going to have to incorporate some rules, boundaries and limits to help him start to identify as being in the follower position.

I have found a great way to start this transformation is to add structure to petting our dogs or providing them with attention. I like to call this Petting with a Purpose.

It will be important for Charlie’s guardians to consistently refrain from petting him until he has sat, come or laid down on command. It’s quite possible that Charlie will refuse to comply for the first few days following the session. This is one determined little dog.

It will be extremely important that Charlie’s guardians outlast him and that they do not blink first. If they give in and let Charlie get his way, they’re only communicating to him that the best way to get what he wants is to defy and ignore the humans.

I always look for ways to incorporate positive reinforcement into daily activities to help train a dog to be more obedient. To address Charlie’s failure to recall on command, I walked his guardians through a simple recall exercise.

If Charlie’s guardians practice the recall training exercise that I detailed in the above video every day for the next week or two, Charlie will quickly become accustomed to coming to whoever calls him immediately.

Next I went over a set of escalating consequences that I recommend my clients use. I extrapolated these based on how dogs interact with one another, so they are usually recognized and respected. immediately.

Now that Charlie’s guardians have the tools in place to reward him for desired behaviors as well as correct him from those they want to eliminate, we were ready to practice the door answering ritual.

As you can see in the above video, there were a number of small triggers that caused Charlie to respond or rush the door. By taking our time and practicing each trigger individually until the dog was able to respond with the behavior we wanted, we were able to quickly train Charlie to keep his distance when a human is answering the door.

Now obviously this is an exercise that is pretty easy for me to accomplish because I do this for a living. The real challenge was to make sure that Charlie’s guardian could achieve the same results.

We had the person step outside and wait a few minutes so that Charlie’s guardian could practice claiming the area around the door on her own.

Because Charlie’s guardian was a little bit hesitant in her steps and movement, the dog took advantage and initially tried to ignore her. However his guardian stuck with it and to her credit, ended up achieving the result that she wanted.

As the guardian practices this exercise, her timing and technique will improve dramatically. This is one of my favorite exercises to teach a client because it usually only takes the dog 10 or so times before they start keeping themselves behind the boundary on their own.

This was a classic example of a dog that felt that he did not have to listen to his guardians because they had given him the impression that he had the same rank or standing that they did. Combine that with his natural determined nature, and you have a recipe for a poorly behaved dog.

By the end of the session, Charlie was far less obstinate, had calmed down and retained a more relaxed energy> He was also looking towards his guardian for guidance and direction and had stopped protesting when corrected.

Because he is such a smart dog, it is going to be important for his guardians to be very strict in the application of the techniques and enforcement of the new rules. Charlie will absolutely test their resolve and make sure that they are backing up what they are communicating to him.

If the guardians stay the course and consistently correct him within 2 to 3 seconds, Charlie will quickly realize that he needs to embrace these new dog training methods. Once that transformation takes place, it will be a snap for Charlie’s guardians to put a stop to any unwanted behavior that he starts to engage in.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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