Teaching an English Cream Golden Retriever Learn to Stop Eating Mulch

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 10, 2016

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Riptide is a two-year-old English Cream Golden Retriever who chews and swallows mulch or sticks and plays too rough with neighbor dog Lizzy.

At this point I have worked with close to 2,000 dogs and Riptide gave me the most polite greeting of any dog I’ve ever worked with.

I often tell my clients then that when they select a dog, the most important factor is the dog’s energy level. It’s extremely beneficial that you pick a dog who’s energy level matches your lifestyle. This was certainly the case here, Riptide is a perfect match for his guardians laid-back energy and lifestyle.

That said, a lower energy dog by itself does not translate into a perfectly well behaved dog. I noticed that Riptide consistently invaded the personal space of both of his guardians and sometimes nudged them with his nose when he wanted attention.

Petting a dog is a very healthy and beneficial thing to do. However if we have a dog that gets attention anytime that it requests it, over time this can confuse the dog into thinking that it has more authority than it actually has. After all, when the dog tells the human what to do, the human complies. This can end up giving the dog the impression that they are in authority figure over the humans, or that they have equal authority.

To help Riptide start to see and identify his guardians as being authority figures, I suggested that they start Petting him with a purpose.

Petting with a purpose is probably the easiest thing a guardian can do that will have a positive impact on how the dog perceives his relationship with his family.

Next I went over some nonverbal communication methods that Riptide’s guardians can employ whenever the dog is starting to engage in any ununwanted action or behavior. This is far more effective than using words that the dog does understand. Not communicating with a dog in a way it understands is a common issues I help many guardians with.

The nonverbal communication cues and escalating consequences that I taught Riptide’s guardians will help them more effectively communicate what they do and do not want from their dog.

To help Riptide’s guardians put these new nonverbal communication cues into use, I headed outside and retrieved a handful of mulch. I placed the pieces of mulch on the floor in the middle of the living room and showed the guardians how they can communicate that they were to be left alone.

By introducing the object that we want the dog to ignore, and then consistently disagreeing with the dog when it shows interest, we can effectively communicate to the dog that material is to be left alone. I also suggested that the guardians provide Riptide with some large sticks, bones and other outdoor items for her to play an engage with. In this case, its likely the eating Mulch was one of Riptide’s ways of entertaining himself due to no other options in the yard.

Shortly after we finished the mulch video, I noticed Riptide gravitating towards his guardians and leaning up against them whenever he was unsure.

Many people never consider a dog invading their personal space as being a problem. But when it comes to other humans, we are pretty particular who we left into our personal space. If a dog consistently has to be in physical contact with humans to feel comfortable, it can lead to lower self-esteem or separation anxiety when a human is not present.

I suggested that Riptide’s guardians start to define their personal space and object when the dog got to close without an invitation.

While Riptide is far from the most troubled dog that I’ve worked with, he did have a few issues that can lead to more serious problems later in life. Independently none of these issues are in issue, but when you start combine them together they can confused the dog in many different ways.

It shouldn’t take Riptide’s guardians long to adjust their dog’s mindset into that of a follower. Once that transition takes place, the dog should cease many of the unwanted behaviors on his own. For any behaviors that continue, or new ones that develop, Riptide’s guardians now have the tools to put a stop to them.

After concluding my session with Riptide, I headed over to a neighbors house to do a session with the dog that Riptide likes to play with, a soft coated Wheaton Terrier named Lizzy.

After I wrapped up my session with Lizzy, we headed back over to Riptide’s house so that I could show the guardians how to bring the dogs together in a way that stopped them from getting over excited for playing too rough.

Lizzy and Riptide Post Sessions

The dog’s guardians mentioned that prior to our sessions, any time that the dogs got together they immediately started playing at a very high intensity level. But because of the work that we put in, in the two separate sessions, combined with a more structured entry into Riptide’s yard, the dogs were able to play at a lower level of energy without getting too out of hand.

I suggested that the guardians continue to bring the dogs together in this slower, more methodical fashion and to give the dogs a timeout any time that it appeared that playtime was starting to get too intense. It was great to see how quickly the dogs adapted to the new techniques that we introduced in the sessions.

If the guardians continue to provide structure and a slower introduction period, the dogs play time should remain more subdued and continue without the dogs energy or behavior getting out of hand.

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