A Pair of Pacific Palisades Dogs Learn to Behave

By: David Codr

Published Date: December 15, 2015

Maddie and Louie

Maddie (left)  is one year old Cavapoo who lives in Pacific Palisades with Louie (right) and a French Bulldog puppy named Chaser (Not pictured). I was originally scheduled for some dog training work with all three dogs, but due to Chaser eating something he shouldn’t have, he was spending the night at the vet.

Their guardian wanted me to help get Maddie to listen better, put an end to her accidents in the house and stop all the dogs from rushing the door and getting over excited when guests arrive.

Maddie and Louis were excited, but not overly so when I arrived for the session. They showed a good curiosity along with some respect for personal space, only needing a minor correction to stop from jumping up. It’s unfortunate that Chaser was not here for the session as his guardian mentioned that he was the ringleader when it came to unruly behavior at the door.

After sitting down with their guardian and discussing the situation, I decided to start out by going over some tips and suggestions to help with Maddy’s potty training.

After talking for a few moments, it sounds like the main issue was the guardian’s didn’t actually connect the potty word with the act. They told the dog to “go potty” and because it did so outside on occasion, they thought that the dog understood what they meant.

But to really condition a dog to understand that they are to eliminate on command, we have to link the command word with the action.

After wrapping up the potty talk, I went over a few different ways that their guardian can interact with the dogs that will increase the dog’s respect for their authority.

One of the ways that I like to do this is by practicing a simple recall exercise. When done correctly, this exercise can be extremely beneficial for homes with multiple dogs in them.

Most people that have multiple dogs end up with a situation where the dogs are competing for what they want. This can be a treat, attention from the owner or any other object or reward. But this sort of competition only reinforces that the dog should do what it wants to do, not what the human wants it to do.

To change this dynamic, I like to practice the recall exercise, but only reward the first dog to comply. Once the other dogs realize that there is no prize for second place, they start trying to obey before the other dogs do so they can claim the reward. Essentially I repurpose the exercise to cause the dogs to compete to be obedient.

Each time that the guardian practices this simple recall exercise, they are reinforcing the leader follower dynamic they are looking for. Additionally, getting dogs to compete for obedience is always a good thing. Once all three dogs start obeying with the same response, then their guardian can go back to giving each dog a reward.

Next I turned my attention to the dog’s seeming lack of respect for their guardian’s personal space. In the first several minutes of our session I witnessed both dogs jumping up on top of their guardian or furniture that was nearby without any hesitation whatsoever. It didn’t take long to determine why this was the case; every time the dogs did this their owner immediately started to pet and reward them for what they had just done.

Many of my clients unintentionally reinforce the exact behavior that they want to stop by petting the dog at the wrong time. Whenever you pet a dog when its in an unbalanced state, you are reinforcing whatever it is the dog is doing at the moment you pet them.

It will be important for the guardians to stop providing the dogs attention this way so that they are not reinforcing unwanted behaviors.

To help them learn a new way of interacting with their dogs that is more beneficial, I went over a technique I developed that I call Petting with a purpose.

Once the members of the family get into a habit of asking the dog to sit, come or lay down before they provide it with attention or affection, they will be repeatedly and unconsciously training the dog to ask for attention through desired actions and behaviors.

While Petting with a purpose will help the dogs start to do the things their guardian wants, there will still be times where the dogs engage in unwanted actions or behaviors. To better equip their guardian to disagree and curb these unwanted actions, I went over some nonverbal communication cues and a series of escalating consequences they can use.

These escalating consequences are extremely effective if used with the proper timing and technique. Timing is everything when it comes to rebuking or correcting a dog. To that end I suggested that the guardians start immediately disagreeing with the dogs the instant they start to engage in any unwanted action or behavior.

Next I showed their guardian how she can use these new techniques to disagree with the dog’s behavior at the door and proclivity for attempted escape when guests arrived.

Both dogs responded extremely well for me, but the real test is how they act when it’s their guardian who is answering the door.

I asked the guardian’s gardener if he could go back outside and repeat his doorknocking a second time so that I could coach the guardian through the exercise.

Maddie and Louie made it as clear as possible that they understood what the guardian was asking from them. In fact I can’t recall a time where the dogs moved so far away from the door the first time the guardian practiced the exercise.

Of course this will be a completely different matter once Chaser is added to the mix. But the bright side is the more that their guardian practices this exercise without Chaser present, the better Maddie and Louie’s  response will be when Chaser is added back into the situation.

By the end of the session it was great to see the dog’s guardian already adopting the new nonverbal communication cues and escalating consequences. It should only take her a week or so before these new mannerisms and techniques become second nature.

If all of the members of the family practice Petting with a purpose, establish and enforce the new rules and boundaries, it shouldn’t take long for Maddie and Louie to become model citizens.

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This post was written by: David Codr