A Little Obedience Training Helps a Pair of Goldendoodles Stop Charging the Front Door

roxie-and-oreo

These two energetic Golden Doodles are Oreo and Roxie who live in Omaha, Nebraska. Their guardian and her three young boys set up a dog obedience training session in order to stop them from charging the door, invading personal space, pulling on their leashes, and not listening to the guardian’s commands and corrections.

Oreo and Roxie’s guardian was concerned when guests came over that they would be greeted by overly eager and excited dogs jumping up and hounding them as they entered the house. We got an up close and personal example of this behavior when we arrived for the session.

As you can see, Roxie and Oreo were pretty excited; invading our personal space, jumping up to greet us, and circling us as we walked in the door. We avoided direct contact with the dogs and were sure not to pet them while they were in this state. It is easy to confuse their excitement with happiness; however, Oreo and Roxie were displaying an unbalanced state of mind, rather than just joy upon seeing us. While we love positive dog training and reinforcement, rewarding that behavior, either by petting or with verbal greetings only reinforces that behavior.

One of the first things we introduced was our petting with a purpose philosophy. When we practice this, we are able to help the guardian and her children avoid petting Oreo and Roxie when they are over excited, while helping the dogs feel like they need to earn their affection by listening to commands. By having the guardian see petting as something the dogs must earn, she is also able to establish a position of authority in the dog’s eyes. Once we stop rewarding their persistent nudging and invasion of personal space in order to get affection, and we require the dogs to respond to a command for that affection, we can attain the results we are looking for.

We learned quite quickly that Oreo and Roxie did not have any rules or boundaries. This can confuse the dogs into thinking that they have the same authority as the humans they live with. If the pup thinks that it has the same authority as humans, then listening to the humans can become optional.

We suggested some easy rules for the dogs in order to help them transition into a follower’s mindset. Each time we enforce a rule, ask a dog to wait or limit something, it helps the dog see us as leaders. This sort of dog behavior tip can go a long ways towards helping the dogs respect their guardians.

One of the most important lessons we were able to teach Oreo and Roxie’s guardian was that correcting the dogs has to be done in a timely manner. Dogs learn through association, and the timing of our corrections or rewards have to happen within a 3 second window if the dogs are going to be able to make the connection between what they are doing right or wrong and the rewards or correction we are giving them.

Next we discussed how the guardian can catch the dogs’ unwanted or desired behaviors early. Dogs signal their behavior rather clearly, if we pay attention to them. Staring, holding their breath, freezing in place, licking of lips and other actions are all signals we can read if we know what to look for. Knowing what to look for helps the humans see the behavior starting to develop. This allows them to guide or correct the dog to help it stay out of trouble by heading it off before the dog can get there.

One of the issues surrounding communication with our dogs are the words we choose to use and how often we use them in non-training situations. Early in the session, we noticed that the children enjoyed repeating the command words multiple times. This can distract or confuse the dog if its said with an incorrect timing.

As Oreo and Roxie’s guardians had gotten into a habit of repeating commands, something all too common with many dog guardians. But when we repeat a command over and over, what we are really saying is its not important. When a dog asks another dog to do something, they follow through right away. This helps the following dog understand that commands are not suggestions.

We suggested that the guardians stop repeating themselves and shared a series of escalating consequences that they can apply in cases where the dogs do not respond right away. Consistently following through is a great way to help the dogs understand that they need to listen and respond the first time, every time.

As our arrival video showed, Oreo and Roxie run to the door and overwhelm new guests as soon as they arrive. We wanted to show the guardians how they could claim the area around the door before opening it. Brian headed outside to play the part of a guest so Sam could demonstrate.

Note that after each step, Sam would stop and pause for a second while facing the dog. This is a very important element to this exercise. By facing the for directly, Sam was communicating she was “talking to it” and not the other dog. By pausing for a second, Sam was explaining that she was establishing a boundary. As long as the dog stays in place, she can take another step backward after the pause. But if you try to take multiple steps too soon, the dogs will look at that as an invitation to approach.

After walking the guardian through the new door behavior, Brain headed back outside so that guardian could be the one who answered the door.

The guardian did a good job for her first time, but there were some suggestions we made after filming the above video. First off is attempting to move both dogs away at the same time. You may have noticed the dogs split around the guardian so she reached down to touch their collars.

The better approach is to pick one dog (the more intense of more excited and walk directly at it in a deliberate movement. This will cause the dogs to stop or move back. Once the dog is behind the new boundary, the guardian should stay facing that dog, but take a big step backwards, then pause like Sam did in the above video. If the dog stays in place, she can take another step back after a half second pause. Any time the dog starts to come forward, the guardian should hiss before it passes the boundary and if that doesn’t stop the dog, start marching right at it suddenly and not stop until its back behind the line.

Once the guardian can walk all the way back to the door while keeping her hips pointed at the dog now behind the boundary, she can repeat the process with the second dog. The important two things are to keep your hips pointed at the dog at all times, and to disagree before they pass the actual boundary.

Another suggestion is to incorporate crisper, more deliberate movements walking. At first, the guardian walked back softly which a dog can interpret as non authoritative. She also stood with her feet apart (one in front of the other like taking a step). This can be interpreted as indecisive by dogs so always be sure to bring your feet together and square your hips at the dog. But after the dogs stopped challenging the guardian’s boundary, her movements back to the door were right on.

At the end, the guardian turned so that her hips were pointing away from the dogs. Eventually this will be the case, but while the dogs are still learning, it would be best f the guardian kept her hips pointed right at the dogs and her butt to the door. This is why we suggest people practice with friends and family members a dozen or so times before turning sideways to answer the door.

As we finished up our session with some tips on how to feed the dogs, they were listening and responding to the guardian’s requests and corrections right away.

The key for this family will be getting each of the human boys to be consistent with their command words, and to practice their commands with rewards and good timing.

Because the dogs both showed a readiness to learn and respond to their guardian’s commands, it shouldn’t take long for the family members to teach them to listen better, mind their manners, respect personal space, stop charging the door and stop getting over excited when guests arrive.

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