Helping Thor Learn to Listen to and Respect His Owners

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 7, 2014

ThorThis is the apply named Thor, a four-month-old black Lab who’s rambunctiousness had reached the boiling point with his owners.

While labs are great dogs, in my experience they can be one of the most frustrating puppies to deal with due to their endless supply of energy. Without establishing clear rules, boundaries and limitations, they often push the boundaries and limits of authority as they age.

When I first met Thor I could instantly tell that he lacked for confidence a bit; staying at arms length or farther away, barking then dashing away, over barking and showing absolutely no respect for his owner’s personal space.

As we discussed what they wanted to work on, Thor bounded around the room barking and moving in a bit of a disrespectful way. I had his owner place him on the leash and then hand it to me. Thor didn’t like that and attempted to pull away. I ignored his pulling and secured the leash under my foot so that he was sitting beside me. As soon as I did this, his energy level dropped considerably.

I suggested that his owners repeat this anytime that Thor passed what they considered an acceptable level of energy. By introducing a limit and following through with this same consequence AS SOON as he gets over-excited, we can help Thor learn that too much excitement results in a time out.

Once Thor was completely calm, I lifted up my foot so that it no longer help him in position. As soon as I did this, he got up and walked away calmly. It will be a procedure that his owners will need to repeat quite a bit at first. But if they are consistent, he will quickly learn that remaining calm equates to free reign.

Next I showed his owners a leadership exercise to help him calm down, while communicating that the human is in a leadership position. At first Thor was defiant, barking at me in disagreement when I blocked him from doing as he wanted. But within two minutes, he surrendered to the exercise and laid down. As soon as he did I rewarded him and then repeated the exercise.

Next I walked his owner through the exercise as it will be important that they practice it over and over for the next week or two. But Thor instantly recognized that his owner wasn’t as firm as I was. As a result, he ignored his owner’s commands and continued to go around him rather than respect his authority. For dogs, hesitation or softness can be interpreted as weakness and this was certainly the case here. But we stuck with it and after about 10 minutes, Thor was surrendering to his owner the same way he did for me.

Because labs have so much energy as puppies, it will be important his owners take him out for regular structured walks daily. By channeling the dog’s unused energy in a controlled way, we can help keep it in line inside and reinforce the leader follower dynamic.

Thor’s owner had told me that he pulled on the leash so I fitted him up with a Martingale collar then added my own special twist to the leash. I walked him around the living room offering pointers as to when and how to correct him when he got out of position. Because a dog’s nose controls 60% of its brain, I don’t allow a dog to sniff while on a structured walk and suggested they adopt the same.

After heading outside, I had his owner wait by the house while I walked Thor on the sidewalk. It only took a few corrections as the Martingale stopped Thor’s pulling almost immediately. I handed the leash to his owner and followed a few steps behind as he did the same. His owner told me it was a noticeable improvement and that the collar gave him quite a bit more control.

Once he was comfortable with the walk, we went back inside so I could suggest an alternate way of feeding the dog. Because Thor was so interested in everyone else’s food and didn’t show the level of respect he needed to, I suggested that his owners make the dog wait until they finished eating before giving him permission to eat his food. This gives the dog something to focus on and offers the ability to practice self restraint, a quality Thor will need as he matures.

By the end of the session, Thor was crashed on the floor which was a welcome sight for his owners. By practicing the leadership exercises, taking him for daily walks and giving him a time out when he gets over excited or breaks the rules, Thor will learn the rules and boundaries his owners want him to respect.

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