A Rescued Yorkie Learns to Relax and Let Her Guardian Take the Lead

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 25, 2016


Gracie is a ten-year-old Yorkie who came from an abused background; doesn’t know any commands, gets over excited; barking like crazy when someone comes to the door or approaches her on walks.

Gracie was adopted through the Little White Dog Rescue which is one of my favorite groups in Omaha.

Once I got inside of the apartment, Gracie exhibited a combination of excitement and disagreement to my unexpected arrival.

When I sat down with Gracie’s guardian to discuss the situation, I spotted two potential problems immediately.

The first problem was Gracie’s guardian’s attempt to soothe her out of her excited state by petting her. Anytime that you pet a dog, you are agreeing with whatever state of mind it is in at the time. So while Gracie’s guardian was attempting to calm her dog down, she was actually nurturing and reinforcing this unbalanced state of mind.

To address this issue, I spent the next few minutes going over a technique that I have developed called Petting with a purpose.

As outlined in the above video, one problem with this technique was that Gracie did not know how to sit or lay down on command.

It’s always disheartening for me to see a rescue dog that is out of its puppy stage but still doesn’t know the simplest of commands. I spent the next few minutes teaching Gracie how to sit and lay down. She took to it like a duck in water.

The other issue I noticed when I first arrived for the session was Gracie’s jumping up on top of her guardian and the furniture when she was in this excited state.

To dogs, the higher you sit, the more rank or status you have amongst the members of their group. Additionally dogs that are attempting to dominate or control another dog will often put them a paw or other body part on top of the dog they mean to dominate.

For this reason I strongly recommended that the guardian not allow the dog to jump into her lap without her permission. Whenever she does, I suggested she simply stand up which will remove the lap’s accessibility.

To help the dog start to identify as being a follower and having less authority than the human, I suggested a number of simple rules to incorporate. By adding rules and then enforcing them immediately on a consistent basis, Gracie’s guardian will be able to help the dog start to see and identify in this following position.

One of the rules that I suggested was to have Gracie literally walk in a follower’s position. To a dog, whoever is in front is in charge. That’s why I suggested that Gracie’s guardian ask the dog to follow her out of the door, down stairs or through a hallway rather than walk in front.

We were able to put this new rule into action when we headed outside for a short walk.

I love taking every day activities and adding a small amount of structure to them to make them teaching exercises as it allows guardians to reinforce the leadership roles they want. By simply asking the dog to stay at the same step or slightly behind her guardian, or wait for her to pass through a doorway first, her guardian will gradually build up this healthy leader follower dynamic in Gracie.

One of the issues Gracie’s guardian wanted me to help with was her incessant barking whenever the UPS man arrived. To address this problem, I pulled out a high-value treat and showed her guardian how she can use it to counter condition her dog.

Basically the technique involves pulling out a high-value meat-based treat and letting the dog nibble on it whenever she hears the sound of the UPS truck in the parking lot. If the guardian is able to consistently offer this tasty morsel at the same time the UPS driver arrives, eventually the dog will start to associate a positive thought with the sound of the truck’s arrival and the UPS man.

We finished up the session by incorporating some structure to Gracies mealtime. Because dogs often eat in the order of their rank when they are members of a group, simply asking the dog to sit and wait while the human eats first will go a long ways towards helping Gracie adopt this followers mindset.

Because she is a bladder stone former, I also recommended that Gracie’s guardian add warm water to her dry dog food. When a dog has the capacity to form stones, you want to increase the dog’s water intake and take them out to urinate as often as possible so the stones pass when they are small.

By the end of the session, Gracie was able to sit and lay down on command, had stopped barking excitedly when I moved about the apartment and was no longer jumping up on the furniture or her guardian without an invitation.

This is one smart Yorkie it so it shouldn’t take long for her guardian to help the dog transition into this follower mindset. Once the dog identifies as her human being the authority figure, her nuisance barking and overexcited behavior when guest arrive should slow down eventually stop.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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