Cooling Down Arson’s Out of Control Behavior

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 6, 2014

ArsonArson a 15 month-old Australian Shepherd. His owner contacted me at the end of her rope and said she was getting ready to rehome him when she came across my ad. Arson had a multitude of issues including over excitement / anxiety, marking in the house and jumping up on or grabbing people with his paws.

When I arrived for the session, they had Aron in the back yard as they said it was nearly impossible to control him whenever anyone arrived.

When they let him in, I immediately saw he needed help. He was a terror, whirling, jumping up, dashing back and forth and basically spazzing out of control.

He was so crazy that instead of starting off with a pre-session talk, I was forced to jump right in. I used my own method to communicate that I disagreed with his jumping on me to claim me as his property. He protested immediately but after the single correction, he did not jump up on me for the rest of the session.

Because he was so over excited, I went over my preferred technique to disagree with that particular behavior. I put Arson on the leash and gave him a doggie time out. At first he tried to roll away, but I ignored his efforts and whining and waited for him to settle down. Because Arson had learned to roll over to wiggle his way off the leash, I simply stepped on the leash close to him to eliminate the slack that he had learned to take advantage of. It took a minute or two, but finally he let out a big exhale and his energy level dropped.

Whenever you have a dog that gets so excited they can’t control themselves, I recommend putting the dog in a time-out like this. When in the time out, no-one can pet or interact with the dog. The time out lasts as long as it takes for the dog’s energy level to come down enough so it can control itself.

Often times, humans live such a busy life that they think they don’t have the time to stop and wait for the dog to calm down. But if you fail to do so, the dog will continue to get over excited again and again. But if you make a commitment and repeat the procedure every time the dog gets too excited for a week or two, the dog learns that out of control energy results in the leash and calm balanced behavior results in freedom.

All of Arson’s other problems were a result of this out of control energy and behavior. In the wild, a pack will not tolerate this kind of behavior and they deal with it immediately. But because Arson had been this way for over a year, the problem had progressively gotten worse.

In addition to helping Arson learn to calm down, he needs to see and identify the members of the home as authority figures. To help him see his owners this way, I showed them an exercise which reaches the dog to focus, learn to calm and restrain itself and look to him humans as authority figures.

It took a few repetitions before Arson understood what I wanted. Once I thought he “got it,” I had his 13 year old owner repeat the exercise. But it was clear that Arson did not see her as an authority figure. He repeatedly went through or around her and ignored her commands. We continued to practice the exercise for 20 minutes with varying results. Because Arson was using his athletic ability to defeat the exercise, I had her take him to a long hallway and repeat it there.

As soon as we changed the location to a more confined space that negated Arson’s athletic ability, his owner was able to successfully repeat the exercise over and over. I suggested that she practice the exercise daily until Arson no longer challenged her, then move back to the large room and repeat it there.

It is extremely important that his 13 year old owner master this exercise so that he stops challenging her and starts to respect and respond to her authority.

By the end of the session, Arson was lying on the floor next to me. His owner’s mother told me that was one of the first times she had seen him lay down on his own aside from sleeping.

Arson’s over excited state was not only driving his owners crazy, its not a healthy way for a dog to live. By repeatedly giving him the time out when he gets too excited, and mastering the leadership exercise, he will learn to adopt a calmer, more balanced demeanor all the time.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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