Training a Pair of Dogs to Focus to Stop Unwanted Behaviors

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 18, 2018

For this Omaha dog training session, we taught 7 year-old German Shepherd Darras and 7 year-old Siberian Husky Chilly to focus to help their guardians redirect their attention and stop acting aggressive to other dogs.

Neither dog was at the door when we stepped arrived for this in home dog training session which is pretty unusual. It turned out that Darras was having an off day or had over exercised himself running around on the dogs impressively sized and decorated yard.

I sat down with the guardians to discuss the dog behavior problems they wanted help with as well as the dog’s day-to-day lives. I have found that scratching below the surface can reveal a number of contributing factors. You don’t have to be a German Shepherd or Siberian Husky trainer to know that many factors can impact dog behavior.

I learned that the dogs didn’t have very many rules, had dog aggression problems and that de did quite a bit of bullying when he and Chillie are out in the yard.

As a result of the bullying behavior, Chilly had gotten into a habit of being a homebody. Where she used to enjoy walks and frolicking around in the ample playgrounds, she now stayed inside near her guardian.

I spent quite a bit of time discussing the importance of rules and how to establish a healthy leader follower dynamic. It’s quite possible that Darras’s behavior is a result of thinking that he is in charge of the house or the pack of dogs due to the lack of rules.

This can also be a contributing factor to the dog’s marking in the house. I was assuming that this pair of dogs were ok with the guardian’s children dogs who sometimes come to visit, but once I learned they were behaving aggressive to them as well, its not surprising the dogs were marking in the house. In order to stop the marking, we will need to flip the leader follower dynamic as well as help the dogs learn new, non aggressive behavior around other dogs. I suggested we set up a follow up date in a few weeks to address the dog aggression via some BAT training so we could focus on the inside the home issues first.

After discussing rules and how to enforce them, I turned my attention towards structure. Chilly demonstrated some needy behaviors, nudging her guardian for attention or laying down literally on her feet. She also followed the guardian around the home quite a bit. This indicates we may need to teach her to stay in a future dog behavior session so she can practice staying behind and being alone.

Making the dogs earn attention and affection through Petting with a purpose will go along ways towards redefining a healthy leader follower dynamic. Rewarding the dogs when they voluntarily offered desired behaviors through passive training will complete the circle.

If the guardians get into a habit of Petting with a purpose, rewarding good behavior via Passive training and enforcing rules consistently, the dogs should start to identify as being in a follower position. This will make it easier to disagree with unwanted behaviors and should also help Darras stop bullying Chilly when they’re outside. However we may have to address that bullying behavior at a future sessions since Darius did nothing but lay on the floor during this in home dog training session.

I wanted to give the guardians a good way of redirecting the dog’s attention away from things that would get them into trouble. I would have preferred to do this exercise with Darras as the dog aggression started after he arrived in the home. But due to his “off” day, I elected to demonstrate with Chilly.

I pulled out some high-value chicken liver training treats and showed the guardian how she could train her dog to focus on command.

If the guardians practice this focus exercise a few times a day for the next week, she shouldn’t have any trouble getting up to a 15 minute focus. I would recommend practicing this exercise with both dogs so that the Guardian can also use it to stop Darius from bullying Chilly when outside.

One of the reasons that Chilly had put on weight was a decrease in her exercise. Because of the dogs dog aggressive behavior, the guardian was not walking them as often as she would like and Chilly had also started to decline invitations to walk. The guardian struggled to motivate the Siberian husky to move forward so I suggested in the future that the other guardian drives Chilly and her handler a mile or two away from the home so that the walk itself provides motivation for Chilly to move forward.

I also recommended that the guardian move both dogs to a structured feeding scenario. Right now the guardian was leaving food out for Darras and pulling Chilly’s food but based on her weight, I’m betting that she sneaking in and stealing some of his food. Switching to a structured feeding format will make sure that is not the case as well as give the guardian a wonderful opportunity to help develop a healthy leader follower dynamic.

I want the guardian to focus on the dog behavior secrets that I shared with them during this in-home session for the next month to flip the leader follower dynamic.

Next month we will schedule a one hour follow-up session to focus exclusively on the dogs dog aggression problems (and maybe teach Chilly to stay). We may also use the BAT training to stop Darras from bullying Chilly when they play together too.

To help the guardian remember all the dog behavior advice I shared in the session, we shot a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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