Helping Copper Understand the Rules and Limits of the House

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 7, 2015

Copper

Copper is a nine-month-old Lab Bloodhound Mix who jumps up, bites and is crazy in the house. The photo of Copper isn’t blurry for a lack of trying to take an in focus pic on my part, lol.

When I arrived for the session, Copper greeted me in a fairly calm way, but once I sat down in the living room his energy shot up and his manners went out the window. He jumped up on me, ran across the room and couch, jumped up on the kids and disregarded the corrections from his owner.

Now while Copper is a puppy and some of this excited behavior is fairly normal, his home has 4 preteen children, one of whom was particularly animated.  Dogs often copy or match the energy of the highest energy in the group and some of Coppers unwanted behaviors can be attributed to his living situation.

I started out by suggesting a few rules and boundaries to help the dog start to see a distinction between himself and the humans he lived with. Often I suggest no furniture because the dog is jumping up on it in an attempt to elevate its authority or rank amongst the members of the pack. While I’m sure Copper does this at times, in my presence he simply ran across the couch as he was running laps around the room.

I pulled out a leash and attached it to his collar, then stepped on it about a foot from Copper’s head. I left him just enough room to stand or sit next to me. I apply this technique when a dog gets over excited. Its the dog version of the time-out technique many parents employ with unruly children.

Copper pulled against the leash a few times then flopped down on the floor beside me. I waited a minute to be sure he wasn’t getting back up right away. Harley’s energy level dropped dramatically once he was laying down. I waited a movement to make sure he was completely calm, then slowly moved my foot off the leash. I did this discretely so that Copper didn’t know he was free. Copper remained on the floor next to me for the next ten minutes while I discussed some rules, boundaries and limits with his owner.

By the time Copper got up and walked away, he was completely calm. I suggested that his owner places Copper in this doggie time out any time that his energy gets too high.

To help the dog start to see all the members of the house as being authority figures, I went through a basic recall exercise. I had his owner and her children sit in a circle around the room and showed them how to use hand movement and positioning to communicate and reward Copper for following their lead.

Now while Copper isn’t what I would call a high energy dog, any puppy needs a good 30-45 minute walk a day. His owner hadn’t been walking him as much as she would like due to his pulling on the leash so I fitted him up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash. I showed his owner how to hold the leash and when and how to provide corrections when he got out of position.

When I handed the leash to his owner, Copper got a little ahead of her so I had her choke up on the leash a bit. At first she was keeping tension on the leash but as she continued her corrections and leash handling got much better. She commented that the Martingale collar and leash twist made a big difference as before he pulled her all over. While the leash and Martingale certainly helped, settling Copper down in the house before we left had an equally calming effect.

Because she had to physically place Copper into the kennel, I went over a technique that had the dog walking into the kennel on his own. Once he was comfortable enough to walk in the kennel on his own, I showed her an exercise that will help him learn to see her in a position of authority.

After tossing a treat inside the kennel, we left the door open but blocked the exit with our legs. Once Copper turned around and saw he couldn’t exit, he paused for a moment. As soon as he did I had his owner take a measured step backwards. Copper started to come forward to exit so I had his owner take a rapid step back towards the kennel to disagree with his attempt to exit. As soon as she moved forward, Copper stopped moving forward and then sat down. I had his owner take a big step backwards as soon as he sat, then pauses again. Copper stayed in place this time so I had her take another step back before pausing again. As soon as Cooper laid down in the kennel, I had his owner drop to a knee and call him out with a recall command.

I suggested that she continue to practice this exercise but start increasing the time before calling him out once he lays down. By gradually increasing this wait time, we can help the dog practice self restraint, a critical skill needed so that he stops reacting or snatching food and toys from the kids.

After the kennel exercise, one of the girls mentioned that Copper was much calmer. When a preteen notices the change in a dogs energy level and manners, I know we took a big step.

Copper isn’t a bad dog, just a puppy that wasn’t sure of the rules and limits his owners wanted out of him. It was clear that Copper wants to please his guardians. Now that she knows how to communicate with him in a way he understands, it shouldn’t take long to stop any lingering unwanted habits.

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