Helping a Santa Monica Dog Get Over a Fear of Skateboards

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 14, 2018

For this Santa Monica dog training session we helped 2 year-old Cocker Spaniel mix Layla settle into her new home and stop getting into fights with Beau, a 7 year-old Rat Terrier mix who is afraid of skateboards.

Layla isn’t an aggressive dog, but during the session I saw her interact with Beau in a way that would be best described as light bullying. She would rush towards him, then turn away at the last second or after nipping his ear lightly.

Part of the problem is Beau is a laid back dog with a follower personality. I recommended the guardians teach him a new trick or command each week then practice it for the next 7 days. By instilling him with the ability to offer new tricks or commands, his guardians can help him feel more confident which should help Layla push him less.

I also made sure to mention that they cannot sit ideal by when she moves at Beau this way. I often remind my clients that anything a dog does in your presence, that you don’t disagree with, is looked at as giving it your approval.

I went over ways to disagree with Layla’s rushing action, but the auditory cue I recommended caused Beau to slink away so I changed my suggestion to the second or third escalating consequences. By observing closely and interpreting before Layla gets too close, the guardians can help Beau feel more confident as he seems them having his back.

One option they can use is to tether Layla to something on a leash which gives her some freedom of movement, but restricts her from going everywhere. This will allow the dogs to practice being in the same room while keeping things completely safe.

Now tethering a dog is illegal for longer periods as it can have a detrimental impact. But as long as its only done occasionally and under direct human supervision, this approach is fine.

As I was explaining this strategy tot he guardians, I noticed that anytime Beau was feeling anxious or uncomfortable, they wild pet him to sooth him. But anything a dog is doing when you pet it is what you are rewarding. So if you pet a scared or nervous dog, you are making it more scared or nervous.

To help the guardians start petting the dogs with more structure and better timing, I suggested they use my petting with a purpose method.

Because Layla was acting a little protective or possessively on the couch, I recommended no furniture for her for a minimum of 30 days or as long as the problems between the dogs continued. I also recommended a few additional rules to help the dogs start to see and identify the humans as being in a position of authority.

When I have two dogs that don’t get on, I like to have them practice being together doing something most dogs like, going for a walk. But because the dogs pulled on the leash and didn’t behave on walks as well as they humans would like, I shared some tips to help the walks go better.

We had so much to cover that I didn’t have a chance to go over the rules for a structured walk. This link will take you to a video I did with another client where I went over how to use a Martingale collar and the 5 rules I have for a structured walk.

Whenever possible, the guardians should take the dogs out for a structured walk after any fights or problematic interactions. Since dogs get over things by moving forward, a daily pack walk or two will really help this pair of dogs bond.

The humans should pay close attention to the dogs when there are any resources available (being on a heightened position, bones, chew toys, near the food, kitchen, with a human, etc) as these are areas that are most apt to spark a fight.

Another way to avoid dog fights or aggression is to redirect a dog if you recognize its giving off warning signs (getting stiff, holding its breath or breathing heavily, turning its head to the side, licking lips, hackles going up, freezing or moving slow, etc). Calling that dog away increases distance with whatever it was reacting or communicating towards. Teaching a dog to move away is an awesome way to stop dogs from having conflicts.

I spent a few minutes showing the humans how to teach a dog to focus on command. You can learn how to train a dog to focus using this link.

One of the things that got Beau anxious was skateboards. Although he pulled his guardian around on one, Beau was anxious around skateboards; barking, lunging and nipping towards them when they get close. To help Beau get over a fear of skateboards, I showed his guardians how to create a Conditioned Emotional Response or CER.

Teaching a dog to not be scared of skateboards is all about creating a safe situation where the dog can be exposed to a skateboard in low levels of intensity so it can practice. Once the dog is comfortable with that level, then bumping things up one notch before practicing again is a great way to help a dog get over a fear of skateboards.

Since Layla has only been in the house a few days, she is likely still trying to figure out her place in the group and establish herself. She will likely push the boundaries over the next few weeks to test her guardian’s new approach. Knowing this will be the case should make it easier for her humans. Modifying a dog’s behavior take time and practice.

Im hopeful that the dog behaviorist tips and suggestions I made in this in home dog training session help put a stop to dog problems for good. That said, we may need to schedule a one hour follow up session in a month to refine things or add in new exercises or techniques.

I told the guardians I wanted them to call or text with questions or if there are any additional fights so we can come up with solutions together. To help them remember all the positive dog training tips I shared with them in this session, we shot a roadmap to success video. You can check it out by watching the video below.

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