Teaching a Pair of Los Angeles Dogs to Respect their Family Members

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 2, 2015

Jade and Pikachu 1

For my first LA session this trip, I worked with adult Pikachu (left) and Jade, a eight-month-old Border Collie Lab mix. Their guardian asked me to help teach the dogs to listen to the commands and corrections of the members of the family.

I started out by discussing the rules and structure the dogs were expected to follow. Usually I get a puzzled look from my clients when I ask what rules the dogs have, but in this case, the dogs did have some rules and limits.

However, I did notice that the dogs were not showing much respect for the human’s personal space. This is usually a solid indicator of dogs who lack the proper respect for the authority of their humans. Those of you who read my posts frequently know Im not a fan of dominance theory. I prefer to incorporate some structure that helps the dogs see themselves as in a follower position much like a child views a parent.

I pulled out a few hight value meat treats with a strong scent and went over a leadership exercise I like to use. This exercise asks the dog to ignore a treat left in the middle of the floor after the human first claims it, then walks away in a measured way. Only after the dog lays down and communicates that it understands its to leave the treat alone do I let the dog have it.

It only took Jade two repetitions of practice with me before she got it. I repeated the exercise a few more times to be sure, then coached the members of the family though the exercise until they got the same results. It was great seeing the expression on the faces of the members of the family when they saw the dog keep a respectful ten feet of distance form the treat lying on the floor.

Jade and Pica 2.1

After going over how they can make the exercise more difficult and challenging, we went over some new, non-verbal communication methods to use. Dogs communicate by body language, movement and eye contact, rarely through auditory means. I find that often the humans make the situation more stressful or excited by the way they speak to the dogs. By communicating in the dog’s native language, they can understand what we are trying to say much easier.

Next we fitted the dogs up with Martingale collars and headed out for a walk. I had the dog’s handlers stop and pause any time the dogs started to get excited or assume a leadership role. By communicating that the dog needs to watch and match its pace to the handler’s we can help reinforce the leader follower dynamic the family wants.

We ran across a few dogs on our walk and their handlers were kind enough to help us practice walking by them. This sort of activity and practice will be particularly important for the next four month’s of Jades life as the first year of socialization is extremely important to any dog. The more exposure to different dogs, situations, etc leads to confidence which better prepares the dog to deal with unknown dogs and situations over the course of their life.

Jade and Pica 3

By the time we wrapped up the session, both dogs were spent energy wise. But they were also showing their family more respect; they kept a reasonable distance rather than jumping up on them or leaning on them. They were responding to commands and corrections equally well and respecting the new rules and boundaries on their own.

Practice at the leadership exercises and use of the new non verbal communication methods will go a long way, but its the leadership their guardian shows over the next few months when Jade is exposed to various dogs, people and situations that will set her up for the rest of her life. Based on how quickly she picked up the activities and exercises in the session, I expect to hear great strides from their guardians over the next few months.

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