An Excited Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier Learns to Calm Himself Down

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 30, 2015


Quigley is a one-year-old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who mouthes the family’s daughter, doesn’t always listen and is fearful of the leash after working with Dillion’s dog training. Quigley also nips people and gets anxious when anyone leaves the house.

Its frustrating to me when I get a call from someone who used Dillion’s dog training due to the methods that they use. One particularly alarming method is to put a dog on a pinch or prong collar, then violently jerking it upwards 15 times while telling the dog “good boy” on each pull.

A prong collar should NEVER be used this way. It should only be used in specific situation and the time proper technique, neither of which was the case with this “trainer.” If I had to label it I would classify the method of jerking the prong collar as abuse. My apprentice Tara said its similar to slapping your child 15 times in a row while telling him / her ” good boy / girl.

In most of the cases where I was called in after the client used Dillion’s Dog Training, the dog had developed some aggression and other unwanted behaviors as a result. Fortunately that wasn’t the case with Quigley, likely due to his guardians stopping the technique after only a day or two.

However the dog did get pretty over excited when I arrived for the session and dogs often get into the most trouble.

After sitting down and discussing the situation with Quigley’s guardians, I determined that most of his unwanted behaviors were due to having no rules and structure combined with attention on demand from his guardians.

To change the leader follower dynamic in the home, I went over the ways I disagree with unwanted behaviors and the escalating consequences I apply when a dog continues engaging inappropriate and unwanted behaviors.

By constantly disagreeing with Quigley the instant he starts to engage in any unwanted actions or behaviors, his guardians can communicate that they disagree in a way the dog understands and respects.

It will take some practice and consistent application of these escalating consequences before the dog stops engaging in the unwanted actions. But once these new communication methods become second nature to the guardians, they will apply them without even thinking on those rare occasions the dog breaks the rules.

Now that we had some rules, boundaries and structure in place, I turned my attention to the kennel. After a visit to a local dog boarding facility, Quigley came back with a new habit, pooping in his kennel. This can happen for a few different reasons, but after discussing it with the family, Im guessing it was due to not being let out of the kennel often enough while the dog was kenneled there.

I went over some remedial potty training tips to help reinforce how happy the family is when Quigley does his business outside. By rewarding him with good timing for eliminating outside and repeating a command word during and following the act, we can help the dog learn to prefer to defect outside again.

In the course of this discussion I learned that the dog wasn’t always fond of getting into the kennel and that he was often over excited when it was time for him to be released from it. To help change these behaviors I showed the guardians an exercise that will help Quigley learn to stay calm and enjoy staying in his kennel.

By practicing not allowing the dog to exit the kennel, even though the door is wide open, her family can help the dog practice being calm in the kennel. This exercise has the added benefit of helping the dog practice its self control. In time, this practice will help the dog stop and control itself in other situations where it gets out of hand.

To help Quigley’s guardians practice implementing the escalating consequences I walked the family members through a leadership exercise I developed a few years ago. The exercise involves placing a high value item on the floor, then claiming it as another dog would. Only once the dog lays down several feet from the treat did I allow him to get it.

After practicing the exercise with Quigley a few times, I coached the members of the family though it individually.

I suggested all the members of the family practice the leadership exercise with the dog every day for 10 days to  two weeks, gradually increasing the length of time the dog is asked to wait until it is given its release. By moving this wait time up gradually, its easier for the dog to successfully complete the exercise and also develop the ability to restrain himself.

Next we were ready to tackle one of Quigley’s biggest issues; her over excitement at the door when guests arrive. I had a member of the family head outside and play the part of an arriving guest so I could show them how to claim the area around the door.

By claiming the area and asking the dog to move back and keep a respectable distance, we can help it understand that the humans have the situation under control.

After claiming the doorway myself, I walked the family’s mother through the exercise so that she can repeat the process in the future.

The first attempt wasn’t as successful as I wanted, partially due to the very open floor plan of the home. Quigley used his athletic ability to defeat her guardian’s attempts multiple times. The guardian was ultimately successful, but I didn’t want Quigley to continue that behavior, so I suggested the guardian use a tennis racquet to extend the reach of her hand.

It usually takes six to 12 practices of this exercise before the dog stops challenging and starts to wait behind the boundary when the guardian goes to answer the door. As the dog becomes more accustomed to this new exercise, the need for the tennis racquet and time involved will dissipate.

By the end of the session, Quigley was already acting like more of a follower. He took commands and corrections from his guardians quicker and was already deferring to them instead of the other way around. It will take a week or two of practice before the dog adopts these new behaviors all the time. But based on the progress we made in the session, Im confident that Quigley will turn a new leaf as his respect for his guardians develops.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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