Teaching Pete to Stop Marking Inside

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 12, 2013


Today I worked with a pitbull by the name of Pete.

You would never know from looking at him but Pete suffered a loss recently. His former owner contracted cancer and surrendered Pete before the inevitable. Unfortunately since that time, Pete has bounced into a few different foster homes as a result of a couple of behavioral issues: having accidents in the home, jumping up and not listening or following commands.

The goal of this session was to put an end to Pete’s few behavior issues. The amount of progress we made in a short time gives me hope that this will be his forever home. But on the off chance his foster parents can’t keep him, Id like to encourage anyone with an interest in potentially adopting Pete to add a comment under this post.

When I arrived he seemed excited and happy to see me and did not display any aggressive tendencies. He did jump up on me and as a good size dog that has the potential to scare some people so I started there.

I showed his foster family my technique to stop Pete from jumping up on them. Because this technique should only be used in the proper situations I’m not going to detail it here. But I will say that during the session, I noticed him jumping up less and less. You could also see that when he did, there was some hesitation in his movement so a few more corrections should eliminate that behavior permanently.

Whenever a potty trained dog has accidents in the house, I always want to make sure there are no health issues involved first. Since Pete had been placed through a rescue group and had been checked out by his foster parent’s veterinarian that wasn’t the issue. Dogs are very much creatures of habit and routine and when it is interrupted, its not unusual for dogs to have accidents in the house even if they are already potty trained.

Since Pete’s foster parents free fed their dog, they continued that with Pete. While you can free feed a balanced well-behaved dog without any problems, the lack of routine and structure can make it difficult on dogs you don’t have the best potty training technique to begin with.

I suggested that they put both dogs a regular feeding schedule. Because they are both the same size and similar breeds, they should have a very similar digestive timeline. Since the foster parent’s dog is potty trained, feeding both dogs at the same time makes it easy to know when to let them out to do their business.

I also recommended that they add structure to the dog’s feeding ritual. Sex and eating are two of the most primal activities that dogs take part in. If the pack leader controls the feeding situation, it helps to elevate them to a leadership status in the dog’s eyes. It also helps the dog learn to self-restraint and to look us humans for guidance and leadership.

Since the order in which dogs eat equates to their position in the pack I suggested that their owners eat before they feed the dogs. I also came up with a different way to feed them; placing food into both dog bowls but keeping the dogs away so that they watch their humans eat first. Only after the humans are done eating will they bring in their existing dog to eat next.

Once their dog finishes eating I advised them to ask that dog to leave the area completely and then invite Pete in. By regulating who is near the food, as well as when they can eat their food, we are able to show the dogs that the humans provide and control their food. This will help reinforce the leader follower relationship.

Next I demonstrated an exercise to help Pete learn to restrain himself as well as further elevate his owners as pack leaders in his eyes.

I placed a treat on the floor and stood over to protected the way dogwood to another dog. For about two minutes Pete tried to circle around me to get to the treat, but I continually moved to block him while keeping the treat behind me.

Once Pete stopped trying to get past me and laid down, I immediately gave him permission to eat the treat. He walked over to it very slowly and respectfully, with his ears back and slowly picked up the treat off the floor.

After demonstrating this a few times to his foster parents I coached them both through it. By repeating this exercise daily and increasing the amount of time that we make Pete wait each time before giving permission to eat the treat, we will help him learn to control himself even though he wants something, for longer and longer periods of time.

Next I asked how often they walked Pete. “Oh my gosh he pulls like there’s no tomorrow,” was their response. I fitted Pete up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash to take him outside for a walk.

At first he wiggled around a little bit and bit at the leash because he was clearly not used to the collar. However after about a dozen paces, he settled down and fell into a nice heel beside me.

I walked both of his owners through the proper technique, positioning and corrections for the walk and was pleased to see they both had the same success getting Pete to walk at a heel without pulling on the leash. By adding a daily walk to his routine, they will be able to give Pete another reason to see his foster parents as his pack leaders.

By the end of the session Pete had settled down considerably, jumped up less, laid down in front of the family cat and was even starting to keep a respectable distance away from his human houseguests as they were eating dinner.

It will take a little bit of time and effort, but clearly Pete is a smart dog with a big upside who deserves a good home. Im hoping after today’s session that this becomes his forever home.

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This post was written by: David Codr