Diego and Weenie Learn to Control Themselves

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 7, 2013

Diego and WeenieDiego is a three-year-old Chihuahua pictured here on the left, with Weenie an eight-month-old Daschund.

Their owner had contacted me to curb several unwanted behaviors; submissive urination, excessive barking, tearing / destroying things in the home, failure to listen or respond to their owner’s commands and generally being out of control.

When I arrived, both dogs greeted me enthusiastically jumping up on me with Diego doing his in more of a hit-and-run fashion making it clear that he was an insecure dog.

I sat down with their owners to discuss what they wanted to get out of the session. As I frequently do, I asked them what rules the dogs had to live by. As it turns out, the dogs had no rules in their life whatsoever.

Since dogs thrive on having clear rules and boundaries in their day-to-day lives and it was obvious that these dogs had zero respect for their owners, I suggested a few rules that will help with their situation. First off I advised them to not allow the dogs on the furniture for at least a month.

Dog’s equate the height at which they sit to their status in the pack. In Diego’s case, he wasn’t just sitting on the couch, he was sitting on the headrest of the couch – trying to literally sit at a higher position than his human owners.

Next, I had their owners hold Diego so that I could demonstrate a leadership exercise with Weenie. I placed a tasty treat on the floor and then stood over it in a ownership position. Whenever weenie approached, I would walk towards him putting the treat behind me.

Every time Weenie stopped moving towards the treat, I would stop moving towards him. Once he stopped moving towards the treat, I slowly took several single steps away from him, one at a time. Anytime that Weenie would take a step towards the treats, I would immediately take a step towards him to communicate that his moving closer to my treat was unacceptable. As soon as Weenie laid down, I immediately knelt down next to the treat and tapped on the floor to give him permission to have it.

After repeating the exercise a few times, I coached his owners through it as well. Weenie is a pretty intelligent dog and he got what i was asking from him right away.

Because Diego was so insecure and fearful of people he didn’t know, I knew that there was no way I could demonstrate the exercise with him, so I coached his owners through the exercise.

It was a little bit harder with Diego as he continually tried to sneak his way around them to get close to the treat to snatch it as that’s what he has been doing for years.  However, his owner remained calm and consistently corrected him until Diego finally gave up and laid down on the floor by himself. At that point, I told Diego’s owner to immediately kneel down next to the treat and give him permission to eat the treat.

I advised them to repeat this exercise daily and start increasing amount of time that they make the dog wait before giving it permission to have the treat. The idea is to communicate to the dog that it only gets what it wants when it’s asks its owners from a subordinate position, i.e. lying down.

I had advise the owners not to feed the dogs prior to our session so I could show them the proper way to feed them. Its important that the dog’s owners always eat prior to feeding the dogs. For dogs, the order in which they eat in the pack has a direct corolation to their the rank in the pack. By feeding the dogs before they fed themselves, their owners were unintentionally telling the dogs that they had more status /importance than the dogs did themselves.

I had their owners place food into separate bowls and place the bowls on the floor several feet apart from one another. Because Weenie had a better disposition, we invited him into the kitchen to eat first. While Weenie was eating, his owners kept Diego out of the kitchen and corrected him by stepping towards him anytime he took a step towards the kitchen doorway.

By keeping Diego away from the feeding area, we are able to help Weenie learn to relax and eat his food in peace knowing that his owners have the situation under control. As soon as Weenie finished eating, his owners asked him to leave the kitchen and then invited Diego in to repeat the process.

By controlling the order and structure of mealtime, their owners will be able to help further elevate their position or rank over their dogs.

When we returned to the living room both dogs were in a much calmer state of mind, laying on the floor peacefully. It will take a little bit of time and practice, but the strides that were made in our two hour session can become easily permanent if their owners continue the leadership exercises and structure in the dogs day-to-day lives.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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