Adding Some Rules and Structure to Improve the Confidence and Behavior of a Giant Pup

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 16, 2016


Kinnek a one-year-old Great Dane / Doberman mix who gets over excited when people come to the door, counter surfs, pulls on the leash and has some dog reactivity.

Although I would later learn that Kinnek was actually a little insecure, you would never know it by the way he almost busted down the door when I arrived for the session.

When I sat down with Kinnek and his guardians to discuss the situation, I chuckled to myself as I watched the dog jump up on the couch and his guardians as if he were a lapdog. It was comical to see this giant breed dog attempting to burrow into a way too small lap while acting as if he was a Yorky or something.

But this interaction gave me some insight as to why the dog was acting so rambunctious around humans. They had never communicated any real rules and structure to Kinnek in a way that the dog understood. He climbed up on the furniture and his humans as if they were his domain.

Many of Kinnek’s unwanted behaviors are result of a lack of self-control that stems from this lack of discipline and structure. To help start to change the leader follower dynamic in the house, I made a number of suggestions on various rules, boundaries and limits that they can incorporate. I also suggested they start using my Petting with a purpose strategy.

Petting with a purpose is one of the simplest, yet most impactful habits any dog guardian can adopt to develop a healthy leader follower relationship. After we wrapped up that exercise, I ran the dog and his family through a couple of simple exercises that will help the humans better communicate what they want from him while also helping the dog learn to control himself better.

Now that we had the basics in place, it was time to repeat the door answering ritual and see if we could get a better result.

His guardian will need to work on being a little bit more assertive and confident in her movements. Each time that she hesitated or moved parallel to him is when Kennick seemed to try to take advantage or move around her. As she continues to practice this exercise, her timing and technique should improve. But even with these limitations I was quite pleased at how quickly Kinnek adapted a new door answering behavior.

Shortly after we wrapped up the door exercise I showed Kinnek’s guardians how they could establish a boundary to the kitchen so that the children would be able to eat their food without the dog being underfoot or begging for food.

Again Kinnick impressed me with how quickly he absorbed what we taught him and applied it to the situation.

It’s always great when you work with a dog who takes what you teach it to heart so quickly. Not only does this help energize the dog’s guardians, it makes for a slightly easier session for myself, LOL.

One remaining problem that his guardians wanted to tackle was his behavior on the leash. Being a giant breed dog who was excitable and reactive to dogs, cats, rabbits and squirrels, I fitted him up with a Martingale collar and added the special twist to the lease to give his guardian more control.

The guardians noticed an immediate improvement and commented on how much more control they felt like they had over the dog. But the real proof that the session had had a positive impact on Kinnek arrived after we return from the walk and a squirrel scrambled up a tree near where we stood.

Although Kinnick is a large dog who can appear quite menacing when he is reactive, in reality he is still a pup and a bit of a sweetheart with a little insecurity. I strongly recommended that his guardians teach him a few new commands and tricks. These will help with the human dog relationship and also help him improve his self-esteem and confidence.

By the end of the session Kinnek had adopted a much more laid-back or follower mentality. He was no longer jumping up on the couch and keeping a respectable distance from the members of the family on his own. Once his guardians established a boundary, Kinnek quickly respected it.

This dog clearly wants to please his guardians. Now that they know how to communicate what they do and do not want from him in a way that he understands and respects, most of his unwanted behaviors should be easily put to rest.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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