Rules and Structure Help a Pug Mix Stop Chasing the Cats and Listen to Her Guardian

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 2, 2016


Maggie is a one-year-old Pug mix who lives in Hollywood, California. Her guardians set up a puppy training session with me to stop her from getting over excited, stop jumping up, stop pulling on the leash and most importantly, stop chasing cats.

When I arrived for the session, Maggie met me outside the door to her home. She was very excited and jumped up on me a few times. But the first time I disagreed with this behavior, she got the message right away. This didn’t stop her from jumping up, but it did stop her from jumping on me.

When I sat down with her guardian to discuss her issues, Maggie’s excitement and energy level went back up. She bounded up and down off the couch, jumped in her guardian’s lap and showed little to no respect for personal space. After a few minutes of this behavior, I asked her to get off the couch and blocked her when she tried to get back up.

Usually this is not a big deal, but it had a profound effect on Maggie’s behavior as you can see in this video.

Its not uncommon for people to treat mature puppies the same way they do adult dogs who have learned good manners and what the human wants out of them. But just like human children, puppies need clear rules, boundaries and limits to help them learn the right behaviors and respect for their humans.

I suggested some rules that will help Maggie develop some self control and also build up her respect for her human as the authority figure. If the guardian can consistently enforce these new rules within 1-3 seconds, Maggie should start to get the picture.

While we were discussing the rules, I noticed that any time Maggie got close to her guardian, the human reached over and started petting her right away. The one time the guardian didn’t start petting right away, I saw Maggie nudge her guardian. While petting a dog is a good and healthy thing, if we always do it when the pup asks for attention, we are telling the dog it has authority over us.

To help the guardian communicate to Maggie that petting and affection are a privilege not a right, I shared my Petting with a Purpose strategy.

Petting with a purpose is a great way to use positive reinforcement to help develop a healthy leader follower dynamic between human and dog. This sort of positive puppy training works wonders and helps the dog learn to want to please the human instead of the other way around.

Next I went over some non verbal communication methods that the guardian can use to disagree with Maggie any time she breaks these new rules. Many people talk to their dogs verbally, but often the dog doesn’t understand what message the human is trying to send. I developed these non verbal cues after observing how dogs communicate with one another so most dogs get them right away.

As we were wrapping up the discussion on communication, one of the three cats that lives with Maggie came out of the back bedroom and strolled through the living room. As soon as Maggie saw the cat, she lowered her head and started to stare at the cat. A stare like this can be a way of communicating and it certainly was for Maggie. She was getting ready to tear after the cat as she usually does. But this time, I interrupted her by disagreeing with one of the non verbal cues.

By closely monitoring Maggie’s behavior when the cats are around, the guardian will be able to disagree sooner than usual. This is often the difference between a dog stopping or ignoring you. Maggie is going to test and probe to determine the resolve of the guardian over the next week or two. But if the guardian can consistently disagree with good timing or redirect her, Maggie should come to understand she can’t play with the cats whenever she wants.

While training and behavior are different, some training exercises can go a long way towards helping a dog develop control and discipline. A perfect example of this is teaching a dog to stay.

You can find a great puppy training video on youtube that goes over how to teach a dog to stay on command with this link.

It will be important for the guardian to practice the stay exercise a few times a day (short 1-2 minute sessions) for the next week or two in order for Maggie to really develop this skill. But once the dog has it down pat, not only will her self control and discipline grow, the guardian will be able to use this command when the pup finds itself too distracted to mind her manners on her own.

The next issue up was Maggie’s behavior on walks. The guardian wanted me to help train her so that she stops pulling on the leash. I pulled out a Martingale collar and showed the guardian how she can add a special twist of the leash to give her more control and stop the pulling on walks.

Before we could head out for some leash training, I made sure to point out how important it is that the dog is nice and calm when we attach the leash. Many people keep on going when the dog gets over excited, but stopping and waiting for the pup to calm down before continuing can help the dog learn that they need to stay calm in order for the walk to start. This simple leash training tip solves many dog walking problems on its own.

Before opening the door and starting the walk, showed the guardian another simple exercise that she can practice before each walk to help make sure the dog is calm and in a follower’s mindset.

Maggie’s guardian was a little late in her corrections and wasnt using the correct intensity when we first started walking. But within a hundred feet or so, she started to get dialed in. After a couple of minutes Maggie was walking in a nice heel position next to her guardian with minimal corrections needed.

I wanted to address Maggie’s kennel issues when we got back from the walk but the guardian needed to head out for an appointment so Im sharing a link to a write up with another dog that had the same problems with the kennel.

If the guardian applies the same techniques and a lot of positive reinforcement, it shouldn’t take Maggie long to get over her kennel issues too.

By the end of the session, Maggie was following the new rules on her own and was so relaxed that all three cats came out into the living room. The guardian mentioned that this only happens is when the cats knew Maggie was her a play pen or deep sleep. The fact that the cats felt comfortable enough to come out while Maggie was unleashed and laying on the floor watching them speaks volumes.

If the guardian can consistently enforce the new rules and boundaries, practice petting with a purpose, master the structured walk and get used to the new communication cues, it shouldn’t take Maggie long to give up her unwanted behaviors in favor of those that her guardian approves of and rewards her for.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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