Helping a Maltese Develop More Confidence and a Yorkie More Control

Molly and Lucy

Molly (left) is a thirteen-year-old Maltese who lives with Lucy, a seven-year-old Yorkie. Their guardian set up a dog training session with me to stop dog barking, put an end to Lucy’s marking and help Molly stop feeling so insecure.

Molly was pretty calm and collected when I arrived for the session. Not so much for Lucy; she barked excitedly, tried to jump up on me, ran around the room and did little circles.

I sat down with their guardian to discuss the session and what she wanted to achieve. The number one item on the list was to stop Lucy from having accidents in the house. After asking the guardian how she potty trained the dogs, it sounded like she left out a couple of important steps such as marking the action with the command word “potty.”

To help make sure that the dogs understood what it was their guardian was asking from them, I went over some remedial potty training tips to help with this problem.

However after filming the above video and discussing it with the guardian a little more, I came to the conclusion that this was actually dog marking in the house, not a dog having potty training accidents.

When you have multiple dogs living together, it’s natural for them to try to determine who is the senior dog. In some cases dogs will take to marking inside the home, especially if they don’t feel that their human is in the leadership position. It’s easy for humans to cause a dog to get confused in this capacity because we don’t often act like leaders the way that dog’s perceive them.

I saw a number of reasons that the dogs may be confused in this way; the guardian allowed Lucy to climb up on top of her whenever she wanted, she complied whenever the dogs whined for attention or position, she petted the dogs whenever they demanded it, shared petting with both dogs when one saw the other was getting attention it wasn’t, eating after feeding the dogs, etc.

I suggested that the guardian start to incorporate a number of rules that will limit the dogs access in the house (boundaries) as well as require them to ask for permission to do things. One of these rules was to not allow dogs on the furniture for a period of 30 days. And after 30 days, only with permission and good behavior.

When dogs live in a group, the dog with the most authority sits in the highest position because he or she is in charge of security. They need to have the best vantage point to make sure that no predators are stalking the pack. So when we let dogs sit at the same height as us, we are saying they have equal authority.

Some dogs can be on the furniture and still respect us. But in this case, not so much. So making the furniture off limits helps the dogs see a literal distinction between human and dog.

But anytime that you tell a dog that the furniture is off-limits, I find it’s very beneficial to incorporate a dog bed at the same time. Because the dog’s guardian did not have one, I had her get out a towel so that I could show her how to use positive reinforcement to get the dogs to use the dog bed on command.

While it will be a bit of a challenge for the guardian to not allow the dogs on the furniture for a month, this is going to be a very important rule for Lucy in particular. Lucy is not going to make it easy. She is going to protest, whine and attempt to use sympathy to get the guardian to give in. That’s why it’s going to be so important for the guardian to stand her ground and remember that she has a very nice comfortable home with soft padded carpet. So really, telling the dog but it is not allowed on the furniture is hardly a sacrifice and certainly not the end of the world.

I also wanted to give the guardian some tools that will help the dog’s learn to develop more self-control and discipline. A great way to accomplish this is teaching the dog to watch their guardian. I used the same technique I learned after reading Karen London’s book, Feisty Fido.

I recommended that the guardian practice this exercise with both dogs separately. Being able to get the dog to stop what it’s doing, sit down and look up at the human is a powerful command and rehabilitation tool.

Because this had such a positive impact on Molly, I suggested that the guardian go to YouTube and find 10 to 12 new dog commands or tricks and each the dogs a new one every week. Just like humans, dogs have a sense of pride when they feel like they have accomplished something. One that I HIGHLY recommend anyone teach their dog is a proper stay. I got my technique in part from this Youtube video.

By the end of the session, the dogs were already starting to follow some of the new rules we just introduced. Molly had learned to come on command and seemed to be carrying herself more confidently. When we started the session she was more reserved, almost lethargic and somewhat hunched over. But as we were wrapping things up she had a little bit of a bounce to her step, was holding her head high and keeping her nose up.

On the other side of the coin, Lucy seem to be a little bit more subdued and in control.

This was really the story of two dogs. One that had too much exuberance and not enough control and another that needed a confidence boost. Now that the guardian has the tools to better communicate what she does and does not want from them, it shouldn’t be long before they start adopting these new behaviors all the time.

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