Going Back to the Basics to Stop Accidents and Other Unwanted Behaviors

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 10, 2015

Roxy and Bear

I was called in to work with a couple of Yorkie Poo’s; Roxy (left) and Bear. According to their owner, Bear was the dog most in need of help as he hadn’t yet mastered his potty training.

When I arrived for the session, both dogs were excited, but Bear was a little more reserved. I started out by asking their owner to tell me a little bit about their day to day life; exercise, rules, boundaries and limits. When I learned that the dogs didn’t have any rules in place and witnessed them barking, prodding or pawing at their owners for attention I knew some structure was desperately needed. While their owner was primarily looking for help with Bear’s potty training, it quickly become apparent that both dogs had issues.

I started out by diving into the potty issues with Bear. After discussing the situation a bit I learned that their owner hadn’t introduced the command word to the dog. Instead she just told the dog to “go potty.” But until someone teaches the dog what the command word of “potty” means, its impossible for the dog to know what its owners want.

The first step is to link the action of elimination with the command word. To do this I advised their owners to follow Bear outside every time he went out for a week. I told them to start repeating he one word command of “potty” as soon as they see him eliminating. By repeating the command word while he is going potty, we can help tie the word with the action.

The next step is to communicate that going outside made his owner very happy. To do this I suggested that she bring a high value meat treat outside and once the dog finishes, to drop to a knee and extend her arms out to the side which is an inviting position for a dog. When Bear comes over, I told her to give him the treat while simultaneously repeating the command word “potty” and to keep repeating he word while the dog chewed the treat. If they follow this procedure for a week, Bear should have the command and action and reward all linked together.

I had suggested that they put Bear into a sit before giving him the reward for going potty and that’s when I learned about a big problem. Neither dog knew any commands. Not even sit, come or lay down. When I summarized the situation to their owners (no rules, no expectations for even the simplest of commands, petting on demand) and asked them why the dogs should listen, it was as if a light bulb went on over their heads.

While this discussion was going on, Roxy was incessantly licking the feet of anyone she could get her tongue on. Hew owner’s mother was the most frequent target and it didn’t take long to see she was annoyed by the licking. I used a sound to disagree the next time Roxy started in on her foot. While she stopped for a second, she kept coming back and licking again. After the third correction I pulled out a leash, attached it to her collar and then tethered her to the entertainment unit across the room.

Roxy did not like being away from her pack and spent the next 5 minutes pulling against the leash in an attempt to get free. I had everyone ignore her and a few minutes later she was laying down watching us from across the room.

I took the opportunity to work with Bear one on one. I started out by teaching him to sit, then lay down and them we all took turned calling him over to work on his recall. It took about 15 minutes, but after that time the dog was responding and executing these basic commands for everyone.

I had one of their owners pick up Bear and I let Roxy off the leash to teach her the same commands. Roxy picked them up in a similar fashion but kept trying to go back to licking. After letting the dogs out to go potty (and repeating he potty command word) I noticed that Roxy was trying to insert herself between anyone who was petting Bear or giving him their attention. I suggested that when she did this that they ignored her or move her away and continue to pet Bear. Its important to not let one dog stop or take attention away from their room mate dogs. This is an attempt to control the situation and usually is indicative of dogs with other behavior issues.

For the next hour or so I disagreed with Roxy any time she tried to control Bear, lick a human or get up on the couch. While their owners did not call me for help with Roxy, it was clear that she was attempting to control anything she could. When I disagreed with her she barked or moved in disagreement so I kept my focus on her and corrected her any time she got out of line.

Their owners noticed that as I corrected Roxy, Bear started to show a more confident body position and movement. I have worked with a number of clients who had one dog controlling or dominating the other dog. Its always rewarding when I can help an owner see this in action and help them put an end to it. Not only will this help Bear, it will reduce Roxy’s defiance and make it easier for her owners to disagree with unwanted actions and behaviors.

By the end of the session, the dogs were much calmer, were responding to the new commands their owners were giving and Bear was walking tall. Well, as tall as a 10 inch dog can walk! Consistently practicing the new commands and branding the potty action with the command word will make short work of the accidents and result in much better communication and interaction between dogs and humans.

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