Helping Harlee the Great Dane Learn to Respect and Listen to her Owners

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 26, 2013

Cooper n Harlee

Harlee is a 2 year old Great Dane, pictured here after our session with her room mate Cooper.

Her owner called me to help me put an end to Harlee’s jumping up on people and barking / lunging at other dogs she saw.

When I arrived, both dogs met me at a the door very curious as to who I was and what I had in my satchel. After I sat down with their owners, I couldn’t help but chuckle. Harlee jumped up on the couch and positioned herself literally over one of her owners, towering over her as she stood on the couch.

When I am called in to work with dogs who ignore their owners under certain conditions, I find that the dog usually does not respect their human’s as authority figures. It was clear that Harlee loved her human’s, but she showed absolutely no respect for their personal space, on or off the couch.

Each time Harlee approached me and got too close, i immediately stood up. Each time I did, Harlee would walk away, but then cycle back around as soon as I sat back down. I repeated the correction four times before Harlee started to respect a two foot boundary around my body.

I explained to her owner that they needed to repeat the stand up correction whenever she invaded their personal space. It took more repetitions for her owners to get the same boundary respect as she has been leaning on them for some time. But after repeatedly standing up each time she rubbed against them, she started to respect their personal space.

Next I suggested a few rules to incorporate in her daily life. Dogs respect clear confident leadership and often interpret unconditional love as weakness. It was clear that they was the case with Harlee as she stuck her nose under her owners hands whenever she wanted to be petted.

In addition to making the couch off limit for a month, I suggested that her owners not pet her when she “demanded” attention and instead ask her to do something to earn the praise or reward. It can be as simple as asking the dog to sit, but by only offering affection as a reward, the dog will learn to respect their human as an authority figure.

Next I demonstrated a leadership exercise to help accelerate the rehabilitation. The exercise helps the dog look to her human’s for permission before continuing and helps the dog learn impulse control. It took only a moment before Harlee understood what i was asking and surrendered to the exercise. But when i motioned for her to take the reward, she walked over to her humans instead. After a little coaxing, I was able to get her to take the treat, but I explained that her reluctance was indicative of a dog that was somewhat insecure or lacked confidence.

I suggested some basic training work such as practicing sitting outside or her recall. When a dog lacks confidence, one of the best treatments is to help the dog master new commands or skills so that they can start to develop more pride in themselves.

Next we went outside so that I could see her reaction to dogs or passers by. As soon as she saw a neighbor walking near her fence, she let out a few loud barks and then jumped up on the fence. At 160 lbs and over 7 feet in length, Harlee can be an intimidating presence. Because dogs often get more aggressive when they see or sense weakness / fear, I explained to her owners that its important to disagree with this behavior as soon as it starts.

I walked over to the fence which caused her to get down off of it, but she continued to bark. I got between her and the fence then marched towards her claiming the fence and the space behind me as my property or territory. She attempted to go around me but once she realized i wasn’t going to give up, she stopped barking and walked away.

Her owners were amazed, telling me that they couldn’t get her to stop barking once she got started. I explained that was because she didn’t respect their authority before. The next time a neighbor came outside and Harlee started to bark and charge the fence, her owner walked over and corrected her. Harlee got down off the fence, stopped barking and looked at her owner almost to say “ok, what now?”

By adding clear rules and boundaries to Harlee’s daily life and practicing the leadership exercises, her owners will be able to communicate and disagree with her in a way she understands and responds to. It may take a few days or possible weeks, but soon Harlee’s days of over barking and jumping up at the dogs will soon be a thing of the past.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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