Teaching a Bulldog His Humans are the Authority Figure to Stop His Marking

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 18, 2015

Max Bulldog 1


Max is a five-year-old English Bulldog who’s marking furniture, walls and other items in the house caused his guardian to reach out to me for help.

After discussing the situation with his guardian and her family, I learned that Max didn’t have many rules, boundaries or limits he was expected to follow. Making things worse, his family petted him any time he nudged, jumped up or barked at them for attention.

Marking items is how dogs claim things and wham a dog is claiming items in a home, its a safe bet that he considers himself in a position of authority. The best way to stop the marking is to get the dog to see itself as being a follower.  The best way to make that happen is to make sure the dog see’s that the leadership position is already taken.

To accomplish this I went over a few leadership exercises that help redefine the leader follower dynamic. One of these exercises involved claiming a piece of meat left on the floor in the middle of the room. The first time I went through the exercise it took Max longer than normal before he gave up. But Im a persistent behaviorist and was able to outlast him.

Part of the issue was Max’s eyesight wasn’t the best. The second issue was the floor and the treat were the same color. I solved this issue by placing a paper towel on the floor so when I dropped the treat on top of it, the treat was visible to Max.

He attempted to go through and around me, but once Max communicated he gave up on trying to get the treat, I gave it to him. I wanted him to understand that fighting or attempting to go around the human resulted in nothing, but giving up or listening was rewarded.

Once I was able to get Max to complete the exercise a few times, I coached his guardian through it. At first she was slow in her movements and her timing was off. But we stuck with it and within a few moments, Max was keeping a respectful eight foot distance from the treat on his own.Max Bulldog 2

Next we repeated the exercise in the kitchen. It was a little difficult for Max at first as the kitchen’s floor plan didn’t have any clearly defined borders. After a few moments we laid down a strip of tape on the floor so that Max could easily identify the boundary he was to stay behind.

Because of the work we did in the previous exercise, getting Max to stay behind the kitchen boundary was a snap.

By the end of the session, Max was exhausted. He finally just laid down on the floor at our feet and zonked out.

Max Bulldog 3

While we did go over some exercise and physical activities, it was the mental challenge that really drained Max’s energy. Most dogs are never exposed to exercises that challenge them mentally. In addition to the lessons learned, the energy drain is always a nice side effect.

Seeing Max start to respect the personal space of the humans in the home was awesome. But it was when he started to restrain himself and stay behind boundaries and borders that I felt the proudest. It will take time, patience and consistent reinforcement of the new rules and boundaries before Max’s self perception changes to the point that he stops marking altogether. But once that happens, Max’s days of marking in the house should be over.


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This post was written by: David Codr

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