A Rowdy Dog Learns to Respect and Follow His Guardian

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 25, 2015

Rufio

Rufio is a five-year-old Boxer / Pit mix in Los Angeles who barks territorially when people come to his house.

As soon as he realized I was in the house, Rufio barked at me in a “where did you come from” sort of way. I had prepped his guardian on how to disagree with this behavior and he put the techniques into action quite effectively.

After Rufio’s guardian started to disagree with his barking in a way the dog clearly understood, the dog retreated out of the room. I had suggested his guardian deny the dog the ability to sit on an ottoman in front of the couch. Prior to the session, this had been the dog’s spot.

The problem with allowing the dog to sit at the same height as the humans can give the dog the impression that they have the same rights and authority as the humans in the house. Additionally this put the dog literally face to face with the humans. Having a dog in that position barking in a human’s face is highly inappropriate.

But once the ottoman that gave him status was no longer an option for the dog, he left but continued barking in the other room.  I had his guardian go and get the dog so we could help him learn a new way of behaving when a new human is inside.

By blocking the dog from running away from the situation, we were blocking him from engaging in the barking from the other room behavior. I wanted the dog to stay in the room and understand that the human was there with his guardian’s permission.

It didn’t take long for this strategy to work. Not only did Rufio stop his constant barking, when he did vocalize his disagreement with me he did it in an almost under his breath sort of way. The fact the dog was lowering the intensity of his reaction was proof that he was changing behavior before our eyes.

While this stopped Rufio from barking in protest at my presence, it didn’t stop his barking for other reasons. One of the bad habits the dog had picked up was demand barking. After I gave the dog a few treats, he started to bark to let me know he was demanding them.

Giving in to a dog who engages in demand barking is rewarding the behavior so I went over how his guardian can use the techniques he used before in this situation.

While disagreeing with these unwanted behaviors is a big part of the rehabilitation process, I demonstrated a leadership exercise I developed a few years ago. The exercise helps the guardian practice leading and correcting the dog and it helps the dog practice controlling itself. In this case, ignoring a high value treat that I placed on the floor then claimed as a dog would.

After running through the exercise a few times, I coached his guardian through it until he was getting the same results.

Now that we had helped the dog learn to control himself and see his guardian in a position of authority, we were ready to put a stop to Rufio’s primary issue, barking at guests who come to the front door.

I had a room mate leave the apartment and wait a few moments before knocking at the door. As soon as the dog heard the knocking he got up and rushed to the front door. I followed him then claimed the area around the door in the same way a dog would.

After demonstrating how to do this, we repeated the exercise but this time Rufio’s guardian answered the door himself.

By communicating that he had the situation controlled and making the dog leave the area before proceeding, Rufio’s guardian communicated to the dog that he had it under control. Its going to take some practice at the door answering exercise before it becomes habit so I suggested that the guardian’s room mates text him when they are on their way home. This way the guardian can practice claiming the door and the dog can practice taking a passive observer position.

By the end of the session Rufio was calmer, listening better and interacting with his guardian in a more respectful manner. The more the guardian disagrees with unwanted behaviors and assumes the leader role, the less reactive the dog will be until his stops reacting at all.

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