Teaching a Little Dog to Focus to Improve Her Behavior

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 4, 2018

For this Santa Monica dog training session we worked with 5 year-old Shih Tzu Chopsticks (left) and his 5 year-old Pomeranian room mate Janice who is possessive of her guardian; barking and nipping guests she doesn’t know.

Both dogs barked a lot when I arrived for the session. After the initial surge, Chopsticks settled down but Janice continued to move around the room barking in protest.

I used some dog behaviorist tricks and eventually got her to warm up to me but it took quite a bit of effort.

It wasn’t hard to see why she acted this way. She had no real rules, barked to demand attention (and usually got it) and was petted or picked up when she went on a barking spree.

But anything you do when you pet a dog is what you are rewarding and reinforcing. This can also apply to picking a dog up. This means that the guardians have reinforced the exact behaviors they were hoping to stop. These are some of the most common mistakes people make with dog behavior problems.

I made a number of suggestions to help Janice stop feeling entitled to anything she wants and also help her adopt more of a follower’s mindset. This change in self perception is crucial to stopping a dog from barking when anxious or fearful.

I also showed the guardian how to train a dog to focus on command. This is a simple thing to teach but hugely impactful as redirecting a dog before they respond is a very effective way to stop a dog from nuisance barking.

The above video isn’t my best work as I didn’t think to practice the focus exercise until after I showed the guardian how to do it. When I filmed teaching a dog to focus, Janice started to loose interest. This is a good illustration why you only want to train a dog in short 1-3 minute training sessions and always stop on a good one.

I also recommended the guardians teach Janice and Chopsticks (such a great little dog) some new tricks and commands. This will help the dogs develop more confidence and self control as well as see the humans in a more authoritative light. One of these should absolutely be the stay command.

Its going to be very important for the guardians to stop petting Janie for no reason and instead ask her to sit so they are petting her with a purpose. They can also use passive training to help her understand what actions and behaviors are rewardable from the humans.

To help the dogs guardians remember all the dog behavior secrets I shared with them in this in home dog training 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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