Helping Three Dogs Develop Respect for their Guardians

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 19, 2015

Cody, Patches and Maggie

For this session I worked with Cody, Patches and Maggie; a trio of big dogs who get way too excited when guests arrive, don’t always listen and like to bark, a lot.

The dogs mobbed me at the door but I was able to distract them and prevent most of the jumping up. They had a curious, excited energy and didn’t have any problems getting right up in my business. I let them give me a good sniff before I asked for some space.

Once I sat down, the dogs focused another wave of getting into my personal space. I had to coronet them several time (more for Maggie) until they finally moved away. The problem was the dogs immediately moved into the personal space of the humans.

After discussing some new ways of communication, I showed the guardians how to claim their personal space and disagree with the dogs when they got too close.

Next I showed the family how they can use a simple recall exercise in a way that motivates the dog by incorporating a little competition. The family had gotten into the habit of giving all three dogs a treat any time they gave treats. But if a dog knows he is going to get the treat no matter what, its not very motivating.

We practiced the recall, but only giving one treat to the first dog to recall and sit in front of the person who called them. When the other two dogs see that the first dog there is the only one who gets a reward, the dogs started to recall faster.

We went through a few other issues the dogs had like getting over excited on the leash and a few other exercises before tackling the dog’s reaction to people knocking at the door.

I had a member of the family go outside and play the part of a guest. As soon as the dogs heard the bell, they rushed ahead of their guardian to the door. I had instructed the “guest” to knock as much as possible to get the strongest response from the dogs.

I got up and casually approached the door. Once I passed the dogs I turned around and claimed the space, moving the dogs back about 10 feet from the door. Because there were three of them, it was challenging but I was eventually able to get them to back up and stay behind a 10 foot boundary as I opened the door.

I had the guest repeat the exercise, but this time I walked the guardian through it. He started out with slower smaller movements which the dog didn’t pay much attention to. When claiming space this way, bigger, bolder movements are more effective. Because he was moving slow and late, I ended up stopping the exercise after a few moments.

Having three dogs to deal with and an open doorway is one of the most challenging scenarios you can have. To make things a little easier, we changed the environment a bit, adding three chairs to the side of the door. By reducing the area the dogs can use to get around the human, I was trying to even out the odds a bit for the guardian.

I also gave him some tips on his movement, timing and assertiveness. You really have to move in a confident way with precise timing to make three dogs listen and respect you.

Well in this case, the second time was a charm. The guardian moved much more confidently and by cutting the doorway area in half, he easily moved the dogs back.

The dogs did take advantage and move in on the guest when the guardian turned his attention to the guest so more practice will be needed. But by the end of the session, the dogs had a new respect for their guardians. They were respecting their personal space, responding to commands and corrections and keeping themselves calm.

It will be important for the guardians to continue to enforce the new rules and boundaries, practice answering the door and define their personal space for the next week or two. If they are consistent with their corrections, the dogs will start assuming more of a follower mindset. Once this is the case, most of the unwanted behaviors will stop on their own.

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