Rules and Structure Help a With This Pair of Dog’s Obedience Training

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 16, 2016

CSI and Raj

CSI (Pronounced Cece) is an eight-year-old German Shepherd who is anxious and insecure, especially around people she doesn’t know. Her new room mate Raj is a five-month-old English Bulldog who LOVES to mouth people, gets over excited, doesn’t listen to his guardians and needs help with potty training.

Both dogs were excited when I arrived for the session, but I could immediately tell that CSI had some insecurity issues.

Where Raj was more curious, CSI’s barking was more of an alarming type. Her reaction was likely intensified by one of her guardians in two ways; holding her back and petting her.

Anytime you have a dog that is reacting strongly to something or someone and you restrain them by holding them back, the energy that they expend trying to break loose increases the intensity of their reaction to the person. So while our intention is to keep the dog away, the action of pulling or restraining it actually intensifies the dog’s desire to move forward towards the stimulus, in this case me.

The other contributing factor, petting, was actually telling CSI that the guardian approved and was rewarding her for her reaction to my arrival. Anytime that you pet a dog, you are reinforcing whatever the dog is doing at the time.

When I sat down with the dog’s guardians I made sure to point this out while going over some alternative techniques that they can use instead.

While we were having this discussion, the dog’s guardians mentioned that CSI was not a big fan of physical contact and petting. They mentioned that when they tried to pet her she would often move away.

Because some of the affection that the guardians were lavishing on the dog were done when the dog was reacting in with an unbalanced state of mind, there’s a good chance that the dog shied away from their touch because it was relating it to that unbalanced state.

To help the guardians and dog feel better about providing positive reinforcement, I went over my Manding technique, Petting with a purpose. This involves asking the dog to do something before the human provides it with attention or affection. Over time this helps the dog adopt more of a followers mindset and introduces the concept of having to earn the reward. Just like humans, dogs feel a sense of pride. So if the guardians start petting the dog after doing something specific, the dog will start to feel better about herself while simultaneously building up more respect for her her humans as authority figures.

Next we went over some of Raj’s issues. As soon as we started talking about it, his guardian mentioned that she was a little frustrated that we he was acting so much better since my arrival than he normally does. I spent the next few minutes explaining why that was the case.

Dogs and puppies in particular, probe to determine where boundaries and limits are. Because the guardians did not have any rules in place for the dogs, they were under the impression that they had the same authority as the humans. But if a dog thinks it has the same authority that you do, then listening to becomes optional.

I suggested some rules and structure that the guardians can adopt that will help the dog star to identify as being in a follower position. These rules are related to actions or positions that help the dog identify as having less authority than the human; sitting to ask to go out, not being able to sit at the same level as the humans, etc.

I also went over a series of escalating consequences that I like to use to disagree with a dog anytime that is breaking the rules or doing something that I disagree with.

Once the guardians start enforcing these new rules and correcting or rewarding their dogs with good timing, Raj and CSI will start to gravitate towards more of a followers mindset and stop challenging or failing to listen to the humans.

Next up we went over Raj’s problems with having accidents in the house.

Many people leave out important parts of the potty training process which causes their dog to become confused or not associate the reward with the specific behavior. That was certainly the case here.

By simply introducing a new command word and then linking it properly to the act, the dog and human should be able to or effectively communicate with one another on this topic. Once this is the case, then the dog understands what it is the human does or does not want from it.

Next I went over the times that the puppy is most apt to need to go potty. By making sure that the dog is outside at these times, we dramatically increase our dos of having a successful elimination.

Half of the battle with potty training a dog is simply eliminating its ability to have accidents. So taking it outside on a regular basis and then keeping it inside under strict observation when it needs to go will be important parts of Raj’s rehabilitation.

Although she was not the primary reason for the session, I wanted to address a few additional problem behaviors from CSI.

I went over a counterconditioning exercise that will help her stop reacting so strongly when she hears the doorbell. This exercise will take time and practice but if done properly should stop her from reacting or getting excited when she hears the doorbell ring.

I also wanted to go over a few techniques that they can employ when they have house guests over to help the dog start to build up a positive association of the guest. But in the course of this exercise I noticed that anytime I asked CSI to do something, she would protest; usually by barking. This is likely a result of her thinking that she is in a position of authority and that I was a challenge to it since I was not responding to her the way her guardians do; giving in.

I always look for ways to incorporate positive reinforcement, but because of her desire to bark at me anytime I offered her a treat, I had to get a little creative.

It took a little bit of time and coaxing, and it didn’t work every time, but I was able to get CSI to start taking treats directly out of my hand.

Following the treat exercise, CSI seemed much more relaxed. Her body was not tense, her ears were up, she was carrying her head high and she was able to be near me without being barking or being anxious and jittery.

By the end of the session, both dogs had come a long way. Raj was calmer and seemed to be responding to the petting with a purpose Manding technique very well.

CSI is likely going to take a little bit more work because she’s been practicing these unwanted behaviors for multiple years. But if her guardians can work on counterconditioning her to the sound of the doorbell, claim in the area around the door before opening it, stop petting her when she does things they do not like and enforcing rules with good timing, she should be able to relax and defer to her humans rather than being stressed out thinking that she needs to handle everything herself.

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