Nimbus Learns to Relax and Respect the Rules of the Home

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 26, 2014

NimbusMeet Nimbus the Pitbull. Nibus’s owner asked me for help with a few bad habits they had been unable to stop; getting over excited, occasional not listening, snatching food from the families toddler and getting over animated when guests arrived for a visit.

Because I knew of the guests arriving issue, I entered the home projecting a confident authority through my body language; keeping him in front of me, standing tall, keeping an eye on him without making eye contact and smaller slower movements.

Nimbus was clearly excited to see me, but the energy level wasn’t what I would call out of control. His owners told me that this was a somewhat subdued greeting for him so I suggested they have their guests incorporate some of my tactics. By ignoring the dog in terms of trying to interact with him (no petting, no talking to him, avoiding eye contact or looking at him, etc), keeping their energy level low, and not allowing the dog to circle behind them, they will be able to help condition Nimbus to greet people in a similar way.

While Nimbus’s energy was a little high, it wasn’t out of control, likely due to my body language and positioning. But since that wasn’t the case with all guests, I suggested that his owners move Nimbus down a hallway a bit and asking him to stay there when they answered the door.

To demonstrate how to practice this exercise, I had one of his owners go outside and wait a moment before knocking on the door and playing the part of a arriving guest. I told him to knock and ring the door bell as many times as possible to create as much energy and excitement as possible.

We returned to the living room and sat down to facilitate as normal a setting as possible before the door bell started to ring. Once it did, Nimbus barked excitedly and started bounding around the room and looping closer to the door.

I stood up, walked slowly over to the door and inserted myself between the dog and the door. While facing Nimbus I walked towards him, reverse herding him away from the door. Each time he tried to go around me, I stepped to the side to cut him off while still moving forward which increased the distance between the dog and the door.

Once we got to the hallway, I reverse herded him halfway down it then told him to sit. While I was doing this his owner was banging on the door and ringing the bell which made it very difficult for Nimbus. That is the purpose of practicing the exercises this way. I want to make it as difficult as possible when practicing this to help condition the dog to stop reacting to and running towards the door.

By the time I got Nimbus to sit down int he hallway, the barking had almost completely stopped and his energy level was much calmer. I suggested that they practice this exercise a few times a day through the holiday weekend to help Nimbus change his door greeting behavior.

Because he responded so well and so quickly, I surmise that Nimbus’s days of charging and getting excited when the door bell rings will quickly become a thing of the past.

Because the family has a toddler and Nimbus was prone to food-snatching, I offered some advise on how to establish boundaries and rules. Each time that Nimbus got too close to the toddler, I made a sound to disagree with his proximity. Nimbus responded extremely well to the sound, even when he was walking over to investigate some food the child threw on the floor.

By consistently making this sound whenever Nimbus gets within 5 feet of anyone with food, we can communicate that we expect him to keep a respectable distance from anyone who is eating This distance will help Nimbus resist the urge to react to the movement of dropped food.

By the end of the session, Nimbus was pooped. The family’s cats (who normally avoid coming into any room Nimbus was in) even joined us. When one of his owners said he had never seen the cat so close to the dog without Nimbus reacting, I knew it was a result of engaging new communication methods along with establishing the new rules and boundaries. After a few weeks of practicing these things, Nimbus will leaner to relax and behave better all the time.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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