Calming Down an Excited Wheaton Terrier to Stop His Nipping

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 20, 2016

Henry GoldenDoodle

Henry is a one-year-old Soft Coated Weaton Terrier who charges the door, gets over excited and sometimes nips small children and guests.

A few seconds after I stepped inside, it quickly became apparent why Henry’s guardians had reached out to me for help.

While the bite that tore my shirt was more the result of his excitement, there was some territorial aggression involved. Wheaton are a herding breed which means the dog is more of a problem solving free thinker than other non hearing breeds.

Many herding breeds nip when they want to disagree, correct or redirect their charges. When the dog is in a working capacity and trained with a specific purpose, this is a valuable trait. But in a house with small children who’s friends come for visits, this behavior can become dangerous very quickly.

After chatting with the guardians for a while, it became clear that two main issues were heavy contributors to Henry’s nipping and excited behavior. First off was his daily activity. Although his guardians were exercising him regularly, once the nasty weather and icy roads arrived with old man winter, their walks stopped being an every day occurrence.

Puppies and dogs that are on the higher energy side of the street need a good 45 minutes of exercise every day; in some cases, even more exercise is needed. If you don’t give your dog an appropriate way to release this energy, its going to come out in places and activities you would prefer it didn’t.

I suggested a number of activities that the family can incorporate to help Henry get the physical release he needs so that he isn’t so over excited when guests arrive. Simple games of fetch, hide and seek or scent games are great ways for a dog to release their pent up energy while also deepening the leader follower dynamic between human and dog.

I also advised the guardians to introduce some rules and boundaries to help the dog see a distinction between his authority and theirs. The lack of this structure was a big part of why Henry acted the way he did. He thought he was doing his family a favor by “helping” with door answering duties.

But because the guest arrival was one of the times Henry was the most excited, I knew we needed to focus on that activity.  I showed the guardians how to claim the area around the entrance to the house and communicate that he was to stay behind the edge of the carpet when they answered the door.

After demonstrating this process to the guardians, we reset the exercise so that they could practice it themselves. The mother of the family went first.

While the mother was able to eventually claim the area and answer the door with the dog behind the boundary, improving her timing and technique will help her achieve faster results in the future. She consistently stopped short of where the dog was rather than walking through him. Once a dog feels that the human isn’t going to stop, they start moving out of the way on their own.

Also a well timed hiss can stop a dog from crossing the boundary. This is what its so important to keep your eyes on the dog when using they technique.

If the mother can start using more deliberate movements, walk through the dog and disagree before it breaks the rules, Henry will quickly understand she has the situation under control and stay back behind the line with minimal corrections.

We had the mother step outside to play the part of an arriving guest so that the father could have a chance to practice this technique himself.

While his first instinct was the rush the door, Henry stopped for a second at the boundary. Even though he didn’t stay behind it for long, it was great to see Henry already starting to recognize this new boundary. You can also see that Henry was far less excited this time; barking less and watching more. This is the follower behavior I wanted to achieve.

Henry is not an aggressive dog, he was simply excited and confused about his role when guests arrived. This is often the case when a dog’s guardians fail to communicate or teach a dog what they expect from him during this activity.  Now that Henry’s guardians are aware of this need and how to communicate the behavior they want, all that remains is some practice.

By introducing and enforcing some rules and boundaries, Henry’s guardians will help the dog see a distinction between his authority and theirs. Once the dog sees them as his authority figure, it will be much easier for them to stop or disagree with unwanted behaviors. Combined with practice at the door answering ritual and an increase in his daily exercise, Henry’s days of nipping or being territorial at the door should come to an end.

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