Using Games to Teach a Lab Mix to Listen and Respect Her Guardian

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 1, 2017

Daisy is a one-year-old Black Lab Mix who lives in Bellevue. Her guardian set up this dog behavior training session to train the dog to stop being an excited dog, demand barking and her reactivity to new people.

We first met Daisy shortly after she was adopted. Her guardian signed her up for our dog behavior class for aggressive or reactive dogs. She was making good progress, but after the class took a few weeks off due to weather and conflicts, Daisy started getting very reactive at the class so we set up this in home dog training session.

Knowing the Daisy was starting to get reactive to humans now, I had her guardian have her on the leash when I arrived for the session.

Daisy’s case is a common one, but one that is still surprising to the dog’s guardians. How did my dog go from being calm and nice to now barking, lunging, snapping and nipping at people and dogs?

Just like humans, dogs are modifying their behavior all the time. All the encounters, experiences and interactions we have impact us and how we see the world. In Daisy’s case, you have an adolescent pup who is testing the boundaries and taking a little bit of advantage of her guardian’s kindness.

After suggesting some additional rules and boundaries, I recommended the guardian start exclusively petting Daisy with a purpose (only petting after the dog does something to earn it like sit, lay down, etc), use passive training to reward desired behaviors (petting her within 3 seconds anytime she engages in desired action like sitting, laying down or coming on command) and my set of four escalating consequences to disagree with any unwanted behaviors.

It was great to see Daisy’s guardian using the first escalating consequence to great success; stopping Daisy from unwanted behaviors the instant she started or even beforehand. Disagreeing with a dog before they break the rules or get into trouble is one of the dog behavior secrets I have discovered working as a dog behavior expert.

My initial thought was that Daisy was eye contact reactive, but as the session progressed, I realized she was simply displaying some petulant behavior. Somewhere along the way she discovered her big bark could motivate people. This is likely combined with some insecurities as most reactive dogs are acting out due to some insecurity.

I recommended the guardian try o train the dog to do tricks and commands that require focus and discipline like the stay, balancing a treat on its nose, etc. I also suggested the guardian take advantage of any opportunity to delay gratification. A good example of this is training a dog to wait for permission to exit a kennel. You can get this kennel training tip for free by watching the video below.

This crate training exercise is a super easy to apply. And because the guardian lets Daisy out of her kennel a few times a day, this repeated exercise will have a cumulative impact on her other dog behavior problems.

Another great way to add a little delayed gratification presented itself when Daisy’s guardian asked me how to get her to drop the ball when playing fetch. After showing her a simple way to use positive dog training to get the dog to instantly drop the ball, I showed her how to add a little structure that will help Daisy develop more respect for the guardian as well as practice and increase her self control.

These repeated interactions that incorporate some structure and discipline will go a long ways towards eliminating her unwanted dog behaviors by increasing the dog’s respect for her guardian as an authority figure.

Towards the end of the session, I went over a scent training exercise I have used with some of my previous clients who’s dogs were reactive. Since Daisy and her guardian were planning on visiting some relatives this weekend, I recommended she use this technique to introduce the dog to her family.

I also recommended that she do the introductions outside of the home as this setting can help a dog feel more relaxed. After meeting, going for a short walk around the block can help the dog get to know the person in a neutral, non confrontational setting which can help facilitate a good introduction.

We wrapped up the session by filming a roadmap to success video highlighting all the positive dog training tips and dog behavior exercises we introduced in this session.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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