A Little Fireball Pomeranian Learns to Step Back and Follow His Owner’s Lead

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 10, 2015

Marley Pom

Marley is a five-year-old Pomeranian who over barks, chases and nips at guests when they arrive or move around the room – even with people he knows.

It took all over a minute to see that the dog had developed a false sense of authority based on how his guardian interacted with him. She petted him when he nudged, scratched or jumped up on his owner. The dog literally climbed on top of his owner as if she was a rock climbing wall. When he engaged in unwanted behavior, his owner often didnt correct him or didn’t react with good timing. When disagreeing with unwanted actions or behaviors, the timing of the correction is just as important as the correction itself. Once a dog gets too excited or worked up, it takes them longer to disengage or settle down. I call this the Bo Pelini Syndrome, lol.

Fortunately Marley’s owner had been reading my dog behavior session notes and came into the appointment with an open mind and expectation that some of her behaviors would need to change.

I started out by suggesting some rules and boundaries to help the dog start to see and identify as being in the follower position.  At first Marley attempted to protest when corrected, but once he realized that his protests didn’t do anything, he stopped.

Next I recommended that his owner adopt the “No Free Lunch” method of petting Marley. I consider petting a dog as “paying” them. Just like humans, its best to pet a dog for doing something. In Marley’s case, I suggested that whenever the dog nudged or scratched at her for attention, that she counter by giving the dog a sit or lay down command. These positions put the dog into a more subordinate body posture while also giving the owner the ability to practice leading the dog and using positive reinforcement.

I also suggested that Marley’s owner start petting the dog when it engaged in an action or behavior she wanted. This is a passive training method that is extremely effective and easy. One of the questions I often ask my clients is what their dog can do to make them happy. Usually I get a list of things they DONT want the dog to do. But as dog guardians, its our responsibility to communicate what a dog can do to please us. For me, its following commands and being well mannered.

So when her dog sat down at her feet, I suggested that she pet Marley while repeating the command word “sit” a few times. By engaging the dog this way within 10 seconds or so of sitting down, we can help it understand that sitting is a desired behavior that gets the attention of an owner. This is a much better situation than a dog misbehaving to get said attention.

I went over a few different ways to disagree with unwanted behaviors and actions as well as a few exercises to help the dog see and respect his owner as having authority over him. These exercises also use positive reinforcement to help the dog learn that following the guardian’s lead, commands or corrections results in attention, affection or a reward from the humans.

Next I arranged for Marley’s owner to come and knock on the door so I could show his owner how to disagree with the behavior and ask the dog to take a follower position after altering his guardian someone had arrived. For me, up to three barks is the dog doing its job. After three barks, its indulging.

By the time we ran through the exercise the third time, Marley’s barking had gone down about 80% and he was keeping a respectful distance form the door and allowing his owner to handle the situation. It will take some practice at this exercise, but due to Marley being an intelligent dog, it shouldn’t take too much practice.

By the time the session was over, Marley was looking at his owner with a newfound sense of respect and authority. He was obeying commands immediately instead of when he wanted to. He had already started to self police himself with the new rules and boundaries and his anxiety and energy had been replaced with a calmer more centered demeanor.

By enforcing the new rules, boundaries and limits and practicing the exercises and new communication methods, it shouldn’t take long for Marley to remain calm and automatically defer to his owner when guests arrive rather than barking and nipping at them on his own.

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