Chloe and Summer Learn to Calm Down To Build Up Respect for Their Owners

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 28, 2015

Chloe and Summer

For this session I traveled to Brea California to work with Chloe (left) a five year old mixed breed, and Summer a one year old Lab mix. Their owner called me to help put an end to Chloe’s excitement and over barking when guests arrived as Summer was starting to adopt the same unwanted behaviors. They also wanted to stop Summer’s pulling on the leash and demand barking.

When I arrived for the session, both dogs were excited, but Chloe had a territorial twang to her bark. I wanted to give the dogs a movement to meet me and settle down, but Chloe jumped up in an attempt to “claim me.” When I disagreed with her action, she started barking her protest to my rebuttal which fed over to Summer who echoed her room mate’s alarm.

After it was clear that the barking wasn’t going to stop any time soon, I pulled out a leash and attached it to Chloe. As soon as the leash went on, the barking from Chloe stopped. And now that Chloe wasn’t barking any longer, Summer stopped too. I pointed this silence out to their owners and suggested that they apply the same technique when the dog started to over-bark in the future.

After addressing the barking, I was able to sit down with the owners and discuss what their owners wanted out of the session. As we had this conversation, the dogs jumped up on the couch, sitting next to their owners. The owners said that the jumping on the couch didn’t bother them, but the barking did.

When I work with reactive dogs who are engaging in an unwanted behavior, I always look for the “why” and deal with that rather than chafing and reacting to symptoms like over-barking. In this case, letting the dogs sit at the same level as the humans was giving them the impression that they were equals. This had led the dogs to believe that they were in charge of home security. While its always nice to have a dog alert you to a guest arriving or unwelcome visitor, after three barks the dog is over indulging.

I suggested that their owners adopt some structural rules so that they can start to define the differences between human and dog. The first and easiest one is usually to make the furniture off limits. Because dogs infer some of their rank by how high they sit, temporarily eliminating the couch perch is a great way to help start the change. After a month or so, if the owners decide to invite one or both dogs up, its a decision the human makes, not the dog.

Next I went over some non verbal communication methods, ways to disagree with unwanted behaviors and a few leadership exercises that the owners can practice with their dogs. Neither dog is aggressive, but they both showed some signs of insecurity; Chloe tucked her tail far between her legs when corrected or reprimanded and Summer left the room any time she suspected that her owners disagreed with anything she did.

While these are not behaviors the dog’s owners called me to help with, I made sure to mention that it was a concern. I want my client’s dogs to be calm and confident. A confident dog is much better equipped to deal with stress and unknown situations than one with lower self esteem. To help build up this confidence, I suggested that their owners teach their dogs some new tricks and work on basic obedience.

The dogs knew some basic commands, but their response depended on whether or not the dog wanted to comply. To help communicate that following these basic commands made their owners happy, I showed them how to reward the dogs for engaging in these activities on their own. By parsing and rewarding the dogs for engaging in these actions and behaviors, we can help the dogs better understand what their owners want from them.

Next I asked their owners to show me how they prepare to go out for a walk. “Ready to go for a walk,” one of their owners asked in an excited voice as he walked over to get their leashes down from the coat hook by the door. As soon as he had headed in that direction, the dogs had started to get a little excited, but once he asked the question, their energy level’s shot way up.

I had the owner stop and replace the leashes then explained how the energy level the dogs have inside the house before the walk is the same energy level the dogs will have when out for the jaunt. I suggested that he repeat the exercise but this time do so without announcing his intentions to the dog.

The second attempt to retrieve the leashes went better, but the dogs were still a little excited so I had him place the leashes back and repeat the process again. This time the dogs energy level was far more manageable so he continued instead of pausing again. Because Summer pulled so strongly, I pulled out a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash.

Before we headed outside, we went over how to slow down the exiting process and pause whenever the dogs started to get over excited. We had to stop and start the departure ritual a few times as well. I took the leash and showed them how to place Summer into a sit before swinging the front door open. As soon as the door opened, Summer got out of her sit and started to move forward. I gave her a quick correction of the leash and returned her into a sit, closed the door and tried again. This time Summer remained in a sitting position which is what I wanted.

I suggested that their owners practice this same exit ritual a few times a day for the next week or two. This will help Summer understand that an open door does not mean permission to exit. One of her owners said that she was glad I went over this exercise as the dogs rushing past them to get out the door first was a problem they wanted to stop.

By the time we got to the street, the dogs were calm and the pulling wasn’t as intense as usual. While I will credit the Martingale collar for some of this, taking he time to pause and wait for the dogs to return to a calm, balanced state of mind before continuing was the real factor. I suggested that their owners practice pausing or stopping whenever they noticed the dogs started to get over excited, in any activity. Doing so will help the dogs understand that the only way to move forward or continue activities they enjoy is by remaining completely calm.

By the end of the session, the dogs were laying on the floor (not on the couch) at their owner’s feet. Their energy level had stayed lower, they were more responsive to their owners commands and didn’t protest when they were corrected. You could also see that their level of respect for their owners had changed. They looked up to them for guidance when uncertain and they started to restrain themselves where the new rules were involved.

Its going to take time and practice at the new communication methods and leadership exercises before all of the unwanted behaviors are gone for good. But based on how much progress the dogs made in the course of the three hour session, Im confident that their owners will be able to put a stop to any unwanted behaviors in short order.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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