Teaching a Terrier to Stop Nipping People From Behind in Los Angeles

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 30, 2018

For this LA dog training session, we used counterconditioning to stop one year-old Terrier mix Percy to stop nipping people or acting territorially.

Knowing that Percy was reactive to people he didn’t know, I called head and made some arrangements so that we could put him in a position to succeed.

I had the guardian bring Percy outside so that I could meet him in a less constricted setting. Dogs can feel insecure when they are in close quarters or don’t have enough room to move away. Dogs have a fight or flight response. If you dont give them the ability to flight, you can leave them with only one remaining option; fight!

Additionally, the outdoor environment provides a number of distractions which can help a dog stop focusing on whatever it is that they are fearful of.

I used some dog behavior tips and a lot of positive reinforcement to help Percy feel comfortable when he met me. Once he started eating treats out of my hand I knew we had passed a threshold. I wanted to build on our progress though, so I asked the guardian if she and I could walk with Percy down the street a little bit. Dogs process things by literally moving forward so going for a quick walk after our greeting help to cement the good feelings. The guardian would be wise to repeat this meeting with anyone she thinks Percy may not be a fan of right away.

After the walk, Percy’s guardian and I sat down to discuss his day-to-day routine and I made a number of suggestions that should help alleviate some of his stress and also reinforce her position as leader. Petting with a purpose, rewarding desired actions through passive training and consistently enforcing rules and boundaries will all go a long ways towards developing a healthy leader follower dynamic. So will upping his exercise.

One of the main issues Percy’s guardian wanted to work on was his habit of reacting and nipping people or lunging at dogs that he didn’t approve of. It appeared to be inconsistent at times so I probed a little bit deeper.

Without seeing it in person it’s hard to say for sure, but I suspect that many of these unwanted behaviors are a result of a combination of him being confused about his position and some of his Terrier genetics.

To stop the dog from nipping at people from behind, I handed the guardian my camera so that I could demonstrate a strategy that has worked for me in the past. I have successfully used counterconditioning to stop many dogs from unwanted behaviors like nipping.

You can watch me explain how to use counterconditioning to stop dog nipping in the free dog behavior training video below.

When using counterconditioning it’s supremely important that the dog is below threshold at all times. It’s also important that the dog is looking at a whatever it normally reacts to. When we were practicing, the guardian struggled a bit to get Percy looking in my direction as I passed by. She was holding the treat in a way that caused him to look at the floor. I would recommend that she practice holding a treat and re-positioning it as he looks at different points of the room across from them until she is more comfortable and accurate with this technique.

If the guardian practices this technique at a distance where Percy feels not threatened, she can gradually help him practice not reacting or nipping people from behind. Once he is consistently nonreactive at that distance, she can increase the speed of the person passing by until he is moving by as quickly as possible. Once that threshold is reached, the next step is to move one step closer to the stimulus and repeat the entire process again. But I cannot stress this enough, the dog must be below threshold the entire time.

This counterconditioning approach to stop dog nipping is very effective but takes a lot of repetition. The guardian will need to make sure that she takes note of the distance away from whatever Percy reacts to when she starts and finishes each counter conditioning session. The idea is to very progressively collapse the distance until the dog is right next to the stimulus, without reacting to it. In fact, the dog learns to enjoy the activity or stimulus as its now linked to tasty treats and a calm and balanced state of mind.

To help the guardian remember all of the other dog behavior suggestions I made in this in home dog training session, we shot 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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