Using the Bucket Game to Help an Olde English Bulldog Develop Self Control

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 2, 2021

For this Omaha dog training session we went over the bucket game to help 2 year-old Olde English Bulldog Ope develop some self control and help with his problem of jumping up on guests.

Ope was pretty excited when I arrived for the session and it didn’t take him long to start jumping up on me. As soon as he did, one of his guardian started to call him away from me. A few minutes later when we sat down and Ope started to get into my bag and jump up on me again. The guardian repeated her previous action; calling up over away for me and this time petting him.

The problem with this is that any attention is validating to a dog. You have a window of about two seconds to correct or reward a dog and whatever happened right before you give them attention or pet them is what the dog thinks the petting is for.

Without realizing it, the guardian was inadvertently rewarding and conditioning her dog to do the exact things she didn’t want him to do. This is one of the most common mistakes I see people make with thier dogs.

I pointed this out as well as sharing a number of other dog behavior tips throughout this session. I think the reason that Im able to get such great results for my clients as a Omaha’s resident dog behavior expert is because I show them all the little things that they do that unintentionally teach and train their dog to do the things they wish it wouldn’t do.

I think a good portion of Ope’s unwanted behaviors are related to him being a little bit under exercised or understimulated. Dogs need physical or mental stimulation every couple of hours, otherwise they get bored which usually leads them towards unwanted behaviors like chewing, barking or jumping up. If you want a dog to stop jumping up on people, you have to keep them mentally and physically stimulated, usually doing somehting for them every 2-4 hours.

I recommended that his guardian start feeding him out of a snuffle mat and other food dispensing toys, do some cent games, get him some ingestible chew items, use kongs filled with peanut butter and a lick mat when guests are home as well as some creative forms of exercise.

One of the creative forms of exercise is something we stumbled across towards the end of the session. Ope gets to sleep with his guardians in their bed, but recently has started to try to take positions in the bed that make sleeping a challenge for the humans.

I showed the humans a simple way to condition Ope to want to sit and lay down in the portion of the bed that they want him to sleep in. This involves calling him up onto the bed, using a marker word to communicate when he got to the desired position and then giving him a treat. Because the bed is on a frame and Ope has shorter legs, this exercise of calling him up and down off of the bed quickly wiped him out.

I recommended that the guardians practice this bed exercise a few times a day, especially anytime that he starts to indicate that he has too much energy like jumping up on guests, zooming around the room, etc. The guardians can also practice this exercise in advance of zoom calls or anything else that they need to do an undisturbed. Proactively getting your puppy or adult dog exercise or mental stimulation is a very simple and effective dog behavior trick many dog behaviorists use.

I also showed the guardians how they could use delayed gratification to help the dog practice a little self-restraint and self-control. Anytime you have a dog that likes to jump up on people or engage in unwanted behaviors, finding ways for them to practice restraining themselves is a great way to help a dog develop self-control.

A really easy way to develop more control in dogs is to use the bucket game when preparing a dog’s food. You can learn how to use the bucket game to help your dog settle down and develop some self-control by watching the free positive dog training video below.

It was great to see how quickly Ope’s demeanor and energy level changed as soon as he figured out the game. Within 20 seconds he was zeroed in on the bowl and his breathing and movements slowed way down. He was still more excited that I would like to see, but that’s understandable considering how few guests he encounters due to coronavirus. The best part of this trick to calm a dog down is that anyone can do it, even if you arent a professional Olde English dog trainer.

If the guardians can get into a habit of making Ope wait, then moving the bowl horizontally five times without getting up out of a sit before lowering it, he will quickly adopt a new behavior of sitting quietly waiting for his food. The more situations where you change a dog’s behavior from excited to calm, the easier it is for the dog to control itself in other situations. That’s why this exercise is helpful for dogs who like to jump on guests, even though it doesnt seem like there is a direct connection.

I would recommend that the guardians practice this exercise as well as use a snuffle mat to feed him. I would do this exercise first with half his kibble, and then put half of his food into a snuffle mat after the bucket game. This will result in feeding time drianing a lot of Ope’s excess energy 3 times a day.

If the guardian struggle with the bucket game, practicing the bed placement exercise about 10 minutes before they’re going to feed him is another dog behavior tip that should help him settle down faster and burn that excess energy.

I shared a number of other dog behavior tips in this in-home Omaha dog training session. To make sure that it was easy for oops guardians to remember them all, we recorded a roadmap to success video that you can check out below.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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