Third Time’s a Charm for our Favorite Border Terrier Max!

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 12, 2017

Max is a four-year-old Border Terrier who was recently adopted into a West Omaha home with Barley, a three-year-old Goldendoodle. We originally set up this dog behavior training session to make sure Max adjusted well into his new home, but I actually ended up spending most of the session teaching Barley to respect boundaries and not such a nosy and pushy dog when it came to asking for attention from his guardians.

Max is a special dog to us. We first worked with Max in 2014 when he was a little over a year old. His guardians called us in to work with his dog aggression, overexcitement and anxiety.

Due to having small kids and no fenced in yard, his original guardians didn’t think they could provide Max with the environment he needed so they made the very difficult decision to release him to us. We worked with him for over a year and were able to reduce most of his aggression. What was left was some anxiety when he is unable to interact with dogs he sees.

I ran into someone looking for a dog while I was working with Max and things seemed to be turning for Max as this great guy decided to adopt Max. We did another dog behavior session with Max so I could outline all of the things we worked on and that he needed to watch out for.

I really wish that would have been Max’s happy ending, but unfortunately the guy who adopted Max split up from his wife. With an uncertain out-of-town living environment, he surrendered Max back to us so we could find him the forever home he deserves.

It took a lot of interviews before we found a home that we felt would be a good match for Max. We started out with a visit, then a few days later we arranged an overnight stay. Things were going great until a small bump in the road we will cover later in this write up. But before we get into that, here is the video I shot when I arrived for the dog behavior session.

As you can see in the above video, Max was VERY excited to see me. Because you are rewarding and reinforcing whatever a dog is doing when you pet it, I refrained from petting Max until he settled down.

One thing I made sure to stress to Max’s new guardians was to stop petting Max whenever he is over excited and if possible, add in some structure for activities. A good example is to have Max stop and sit waiting for him to return to a calm state before throwing the ball again when playing fetch (one of his absolute favorites things to do. Well fetch is Max’s second favorite, aside only to fetching into a lake where he can swim on the way back.

Ironically, most of this session was spent with the family’s other dog, Barley. Barley is a big old goofball, but he had horrible respect for boundaries, getting up into people’ personal space with zero hesitation.

I shared a number of tips and suggestions with the family including how to train a dog to respect personal space. We recreated a scenario that usually triggered Barley invading peoples personal space, cooking in the kitchen. You can learn how to accomplish this with your own dog by watching the dog training secret detailed in the video below.

By recreating situations where Barley invades personal space or literally sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong, his family can teach him how to behave in various situations. This is a much better way to train a dog than to attempt to do so when in the middle of a real world scenario when our attention is divided.

Earlier in this write up, I mentioned there was a small hiccup; Max nipped the family’s precocious title girl during his overnight visit.

When I heard that Max had nipped her, I was shocked. While Max used to be dog aggressive, he has never shown even the slightest bit of aggression towards humans. In fact, Max has always enjoyed playing and interacting with children of all ages.

Upon further investigation, I learned that the family’s daughter was attempting to give Max a hug as many little girls are want to do. But its important to understand that this act can be hard for many dogs as the restraint can be uncomfortable or interpreted as an attempt to dominate them. Especially for hugs that linger longer.

If Max starts licking his lips, freezes or starts breathing heavy while being hugged, these are ways he is communicating he is uncomfortable. Knowing what the signs are and stopping the interaction that is prompting that will ensure no additional nips happen.

My apprentice Sam is studying for her PhD as a dog behaviorist and had been helping with Max throughout the process. She suggested that the family create a safe zone such as a kennel or dog bed. If Max retreats to this space, it will be important the kids understand they cannot go and get Max while there. Making this safe place a “base” will help the kids learn to respect Max’s boundaries and help the dog feel empowered to move away if the kids do something he isn’t a fan of. A much better option than a nip.

If the family notices Max starts to avoid or move away from the young girl consistently, we may need to review her interactions and possibly introduce an interaction or activity that is mutually enjoyable so that they grow to become the best of friends. The little girl is amazing with a sharp eye and interest in insects and animals that belies her young age. Im pretty sure these two will be thick as thieves soon.

Anyone following my page knows I abhor dominance theory and only utilize positive dog training. I want the dog to know what I want and structure things so it has the same goal I do. This puts everyone on the same page and is a very powerful way to train a dog.

I suggested the family use this same approach by placing an M&M’s into a jar or mug with each child’s name every time they pet with a purpose, pet a dog for a desired behavior or any other positive interaction. They can also remove an M&M if the child does something we want to avoid like trying to hug Max without an adult present (or when he is excited, stressed or tired), grabbing or treating him roughly or interacting with him when in his safe place.

This way the kids are motivated to engage with the dogs in ways that help improve their training and dog behavior. Dogs learn through repetition, consistency and good timing. Having some minions helping out can be a huge help or a big hindrance. A little positive reinforcement should help ensure its the former.

Max will always have a special place in our hearts. He is a great little dog with a BIG personality. We could not be happier to have Max in a home with a dog and kids he can romp around and play with.

We wrapped up the session with a Roadmap to Success video for both dogs. You can view it by clicking the video below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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