Picca and Jaxson Learn to Like the Kennel & Stop Pulling on the Leash

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 17, 2013

Piccah n Jaxson

Piccah is a 7 yo Pitbull who recently welcomed 3 yo Jaxson (right) a 3 yo Boxer Pit mix into their home.

The owner had contacted me to help with both dogs but primarily with Jaxson who jumped up on guests and disliked his kennel to such an extent that he chewed a hole in the side of it in wide enough to stick his head out.

When I arrived both dogs were outside in the fenced in front yard. When I approached the gate their owners grabbed both dogs by the collar as I let myself inside the fenced in yard.

As soon as they let the dogs go, Jackson jumped up on me repeatedly. Piccah up was absolutely the more respectful and subdued of the two. She approached me very casually and gave me a good sniff before walking away

Because it was hot and very humid we went inside to sit down and discuss the dogs and the behaviors that their owner’s wish to stop.

As soon as we got inside, Jaxson either jumped up on me, bumped into me, sat leaning against me or shoved his nose into my bag. Basically Jaxson didn’t understand the concept of personal space, a problem that is very common among pit bulls and other bully breeds.

I showed the owners how to correct Jaxson when he got too close to them or their guests. I don’t believe in punishing dogs, but I do believe in introducing consequences to discourage unwanted behavior.

I demonstrated a corrective sound of that I like to use whatever dog does anything that I disagree with. That is the first consequence I advised them to use when the dog crossed a boundary or broke a rule.

The next consequence to introduce would be to literally stand up. I did this repeatedly whatever Jaxson infringed on my personal space. After about seven or a corrections, Jaxson started to keep a respectable distance away from me.

However after a few minutes, Jackson reverted to his old ways and tried to sit on top of my shoe. This time I escalated the consequence by standing up and walking towards Jaxson until he moved away from the immediate area. Basically I took space away from Jaxson to communicate to him that I wanted him to give me more room.

By introducing escalating consequences whatever dogs break the rules, it’s much easier for them to understand what is expected by their human counterparts.  It will take several corrections over the course of a few days before Jackson starts to keep a respectable distance out of habit, but the progress we’ve made in a very short period time proved that Jaxson’s an intelligent animal that can clearly learn to change his behavior

Next we went down into the basement laundry room where Jaxson’s kennel was. Because the dog had chewed a hole in the side of a plastic kennel, I had suggested that his owners pick up a more durable wire kennel prior to our session.

To start things off I tossed a few treats into the kennel to gauge how reluctant Jackson was to enter it. When I saw that there was almost no hesitation for him, I thought to myself this is going to be easy. Little did I know.

Typically when a dog has a fear of a kennel, the rehabilitation process I favor involves tossing a few treats in the kennel to get the dog walking under his own power, than following behind him and standing in the kennel doorway to block him from exiting.  When I do this, I gradually stepped back away from the kennel offering the dog free space as a way of offering my trust. Whenever the dog walked towards the entrance to the kennel, I also walked towards the entrance of the kennel to block him from exiting.

This looks very much like a dance as the dog and myself are often moving forward then backwards over the course of a few moments. As soon as the dog sits in the kennel, I take a giant step backward immediately to communicate that his relaxing in the kennel was exactly what I wanted.

Jaxson ended up sitting down in the kennel within a few moments, but that’s as far as he decided he was going to go. We stayed at it for the better part of an hour with Jackson continually trying to leave the kennel which resulted in me correcting him.

Because the room that the kennel was in was a unused laundry room that was isolated from the other parts of the home, I suggested that we pulled the kennel and placed it into the living room where they spent most of their time. Frequently, when a dog has an aversion to staying in the kennel, it’s because it’s owners set up the kennel in the garage, laundry room, basement or other unused part of the home. While this is a convenient place to place the kennel, to a dog it appears as if it’s owners are intentionally isolating it away from them. Many times, simply moving the kennel to the family living room solves the problem.

However since Jackson had such a strong aversion to the kennel in the basement, I decided that we should all go for a nice long walk before we tried the exercise again. Since both dogs had a tendency to pull on the leash, I fitted them both up with martingale collars and added my special twist to the leash.

As soon as the dog’s owners pulled out their leashes, Piccah started getting excited and revved up. Their owners explained to me that what I was witnessing was very subdued compared how excited she normally gets whenever they pull out the leash.

Whenever a dog starts to get overly stimulated or excited prior to an activity it enjoys, I always slow down or even stop and wait for the dog to return to calm balanced frame of mind before continuing. Whenever we hurry and try to put a leash on the dog when it is overexcited, the dog is going to bring that overexcited mentality out the door with them.

The best way to address this problem is to stop moving forward any time the dog starts to exhibit overexcitement. By stopping and waiting for the dog to return to a balanced and calm state of mind before placing the leash on the dog or walking outside the door, we are able to communicate to the dog that unbalanced behavior results in stoppage. Consequently, balanced calm behavior equals the start or continuation of the activity the dog enjoys.

Once both dogs had settled down, we walked out the back door and went for a short jaunt. I demonstrated how to correct both dogs when they pulled on the leash as well as the proper technique to use to prevent them from pulling in the first place. After 100 feet or so, both dogs fell into a nice heel beside their owners and aside from a few minor corrections, remainder in a heal throughout the entire walk.

When we returned, we gave the dogs a few moments to relax and cool down as it was extremely hot outside. After bringing the kennel up from the basement into the living room, Jaxson seemed mildly interested in it.

As I did before, I tossed a few treats in to the kennel and allowed him to walk in and walk out of the kennel after getting them. Eventually I followed Jackson when he walked into the kennel and stood in my blocking position outside the door.

Jaxson did basically the same thing that he did downstairs which was sitting, but not lying down. Since I always wait for the dog to lie down before giving them permission to exit the kennel, this was a problem.

I adjusted the exercise in a number of different ways in attempt to get Jaxson to relax and surrender by lying down in the kennel. However after over an hour, it was clear Jaxson was not going to do so without help. At that point I changed tactics and started using a reward to entice Jackson to first sit, and then lie down in the kennel.

After going through about a half a bag of my treats, it was clear Jackson was much more comfortable in the kennel. I added a new twist to the exercise and was finally able to get Jaxson to lie down in the kennel. The previous record for this exercise was a very stubborn boxer who took over two hours. I’m pretty sure Jackson beat that dog by about an hour!

When Jackson finally did lie down on his own without any reward or treat to entice him, I immediately gave him the command to exit the kennel. I repeated it a few times before coaching his owners through the exercise as well.

It’s clear that Jackson had a very deep-seated reluctance to relax in his kennel. However at the end of the session he was lying down in the kennel for longer and longer periods of time. It will take some time and quite a few repetitions, but clearly Jaxson can learn to relax and remain in his kennel.

Provided his owners move cautiously and gradually increase the amount of time they ask Jaxson to remain In the kennel, he will learn that its nothing to be feared and in fact is a place that he can go to whenever he feels uncomfortable.

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