Training a Territorial Dog in the Pacific Palisades to Behave at the Door

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 27, 2017

Cyrus is a seven-year-old Flat coat retriever / Spitz mix who lives in the Pacific Palisades and Silverlake, Los Angeles. His guardians set up this dog behavior training session to get him to stop acting aggressive to guests knocking at the door and train him to stop howling when left alone.

Sitting down with his guardians for this at home dog training session, I noticed Cyrus doing his own thing in a sort of aloof way. I noted that he also tended to fixate on items at times and while doing so, avoided looking up to the human’s face.

To help him start engaging with his humans more personally, I walked them through a Focus exercise. Dogs are the only animal that can interpret human facial expressions. This is a powerful tool that allows dog to have such a special relationship with humans. The more Cyrus looks to his guardian’s faces, the better their communication will be.

I also suggested ways to add structure to his daily life. Petting with a purpose, passive training and consistent enforcement of rules and boundaries will help adjust the leader follower dynamic, helping Cyrus practice following and his guardians leading. These forms of positive dog training will help motivate Cyrus to do the things his guardians want instead of those they dislike.

As a dog behaviorist, I have found that while rules and structure are critical to stopping unwanted dog behaviors, addressing the root cause is equally important. In this case, Cyrus thought it was his sworn duty to guard the house. There were a number of confusing things that happened to give him this perception such as positioning a dog bed feet from the front door (An almost literal sentry post), letting the dog literally take the front (leadership) position, misinterpretation of what he thinks his barking at the door achieves (defending the perimeter).

To help Cyrus adopt better door manners, I went over a series of Escalating Consequences to disagree with unwanted behaviors. I modeled these after observing how dogs interact and disagree with one another so Cyrus understood them right away. I wanted to instill these consequences before we started doing actual dog training.

To help the humans practice using the Escalating Consequences, I ran them through a Leadership Exercise I developed a few years ago. The exercise asks the dog to leave alone a high value treat laying in the middle of the floor. It will be important for all the family members to practice this exercise with him and build up to the point where he can leave the treat alone for 15 or more minutes.

Now that we had practiced the various techniques needed to address Cyrus’s door manners, I showed his guardians how to claim the area around the door before opening it. You can get a few free dog training secrets by watching the video below.

By demonstrating that they have sentry duties handled without the dog’s help, Cyrus’s guardians will be able to help him relax and go back to being a dog instead of stressed out that the house wasn’t being defended.

We wrapped things up by going for a short walk to do some loose leash training. I made sure to pint out how important it was for the dog to be in a calm and balanced frame of mind before leaving for a walk as well as some dog training tips to stop him from pulling on the leash.

By the end of the session, Cyrus was looking put o his humans much better, was respecting the new rules like staying away from the door when a guest knocks, and his humans were better communicating what they did and did not want from him.

Before I left, we shot a roadmap to success video going over the highlights of the session and the dog behavior tips I shared with them. You can check out these positive dog training tips in the video below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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