Helping a Wheaten Terrier Learn to Listen to His Owners

SullySully is a very excitable one and a half year old Wheaten Terrier. His owner called me concerned about Sully’s nipping when over excited, counter surfing, door dashing and fence fighting with the neighbor’s dogs.

When I arrived for the session, Sully was lunging at the glass door and barking with intent. It wasn’t aggression, but it was more than an alert.  The other dog who lives with Sully was also barking at the door, but in more of an alerting way.

His owner started to call Sully away fem the door, but he was far too excited to listen. In addition to his barking and pacing in circles, he lunged and nipped at the other dog. This is called redirected aggression. Because Sully was unable to interact with me, he was starting to take out his aggression on his room mate.

I became more concerned when his owners told me that the dog had nipped and bitten them both when attempting to correct or disagree with Sully when he got in this over excited state. Situations like that can very easily turn to aggression.

Luckily in Sully’s case, this behavior hadn’t really turned aggressive yet. What we needed to do was help Sully learn to respect the authority of his owners while showing his owners how to better communicate with the dog and keep him from getting over excited.

I went over some basic communication methods as well as a better way to disagree with unwanted behavior or actions. I also showed them how to enforce boundaries such as not being allowed on the furniture or in specific parts of the house and how to get him to calm down when he starts to get excited.

To deal with the lack of respect for their authority, I went over a leadership exercise that everyone in the family participated in. The exercise lets the dog practice self restraint and see the human in a leadership position. By the time the last family member completed the exercise with him, Sully had it down cold. I suggested they continue practicing this exercise over the next two weeks to help Sully learn to respect and respond to his owners.

Sully isn’t an aggressive dog, he just got too excited and didn’t completely understand what his owners wanted. By the end of the session, Sully was fully responding to all the commands and corrections of his family.  His energy level was low and when we practiced some knocking at the front door, it only took three tries before he learned to sit quietly 20 feet away.

Watching how quickly Sully transformed was a great way to end the day. It will take a week or two of practice before these new behaviors become the norm, but Sully’s days of redirected aggression and unruly behavior are done.

 

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