Some Puppy Training Helps a Mae Day Rescue Pup in Los Angeles

By: David Codr

Published Date: October 28, 2016


Stanton is a three-year-old German Shepherd / Chihuahua mix who lives in Los Angeles. He was recently adopted through our friends at Mae-Day Rescue. His guardian scheduled a puppy behavior session with me to help with his tendency to get over excited, marking and basic leash training.

When I originally spoke with Stanton’s guardian it was right after he was adopted. At that point in time Stanton was being very nippy and occasionally growly with his new guardian. Fortunately once the dog settled in, many of those nuisance behaviors dissipated on their own.

Stanton was curious and pretty well behaved when I arrived for the session.

After exchanging pleasantries, I sat down in the living room with Stanton and his guardian to discuss what they wanted to accomplish during our session.

I learned that Stanton did not have very many rules he was expected to follow. Because dogs probe to test for boundaries and limits, not having any rules likely gave Stanton the impression that he had the same authority as this human. When a dog thinks it has the same authority as you, then listening to you becomes optional.

I suggested a number of rules that will help Stanton start to see and identify his guardian as being an authority figure. One of these rules was that Stanton would not be allowed on the furniture for 30 days or as long as his unwanted behaviors continued.

For dogs, the higher the stand or sit amongst their peers has a correlation to the perceived authority or rank they have among them. By letting the dog sit at the same height as his guardian, the human was inadvertently telling Stanton that they were equals.

Whenever I suggest that the dogs be kept off the furniture, I always recommend that we introduce a dog bed so the dog or pup has a place to go to.

I spent the next couple of minutes teaching Stanton to use the dog bed on command.

Although Stanton had had access to the dog bed since the day his guardian brought it home, the puppy had shown very little interest in it. I was quite pleased to see how quickly that changed once we applied the correct technique and started to introduce positive puppy training methods.

Knowing that Stanton is reactive two dogs that he encounters on walks, I wanted to teach him and his human a focus exercise that will allow the guardian to redirect Stanton if they encounter dogs he reacts to while on walks.

This focus exercise is a great way to help a dog who suffers from dog aggression or reactivity. Its possible this is a result of leash aggression, lack of socialization or his experience growing up as a street dog. Whatever the reason for his dog aggression, this form of positive puppy training will help him learn to look to his human when uncertain around other dogs.

It will be important for the guardian to consistently practice this focus exercise a few times a day until the pup snaps to attention anytime he hears the command word. Only at that point should the guardian start to add additional distractions to make the exercise slightly more challenging each time they practice. All practice sessions should be 1-2 minutes in length and always end on a good repetition.

Throughout the session, I had noticed that anytime that Stanton got within arm’s reach of his guardian, the human immediately started to pet him. I took a couple of minutes to explain that any time we pet a dog, we are reinforcing whatever they happen to be doing at the time.

This means that if you are petting the puppy when it is anxious or nervous, you are actually reinforcing the exact thing you are trying to quell. To help the guardian start to apply structure to this frequent activity, I went over my petting with a purpose strategy.

Because Stanton has only been with his guardian for a short period of time, it shouldn’t be that difficult for the human to get into a habit of asking the dog to do something before he provides it with attention or affection.

By adding the small amount of structure to such a repetitive interaction, the guardian can help the dog start to see and identify itself as being in a follower position. This will also produce a boost in the puppy’s confidence as he will feel a sense of pride by earning his praise and attention.

Next I shared some nonverbal ways of communicating with the puppy to his guardian. We were able to put these nonverbal communication cues into real world practice by asking a neighbor to knock on the door.

Instead of letting the dog be in front of the human as I answered the door, I demonstrated how to take control of the situation first using some non verbal communication and body language.

It will be important for Stanton’s guardian to practice this exercise 10 to 15 times over the course of the next week or so in order to establish the new behavior. I suggested that he utilize delivery drivers if he is unable to get friends or neighbors to help out by playing the part of a guest.

Next we were ready to tackle one of the activities that often got Stanton all worked up; getting leashed up before heading out for a walk.

This type of leash training will go a long ways towards helping Stanton learn to behave better on walks. Many people do not understand that the dog’s energy before they leave the home is the behavior they will likely exhibit while on a walk. By waiting for the dog to be calm, we can put it into a position to succeed on the actual walk.

I recommended that the guardian go through the leashing process a few times a day without taking him for a walk. This will desensitize the dog and help it stop getting over excited when it sees the leash.

Because we took our time and were patient throughout the leashing process, by the time we got outside to take a walk, Stanton was very calm, cool and collected. Stanton was learning to heel and stop pulling on the leash.

I recommended that Stanton’s guardian practice the focus exercise that we introduced earlier in the session while on walks once he has mastered it inside the home. By practicing this exercise without the presence of any other dogs but while outside, the guardian can put the dog in a position to succeed when they do encounter dogs on walks because it will now have a target behavior to engage in.

By the end of the session, Stanton was behaving exceptionally. He did not pull on the leash or show any other signs of overexcitement on the walk, he was listening to his guardian’s commands and corrections right away and was already starting to use the dog bed.

With a little bit of practice at the focus exercise, consistent and timely enforcement of the new rules and boundaries, petting with a purpose and claiming the door whenever a guest arrives, Stanton will learn to adapt the behaviors his guardian wants.

If any additional problem behaviors arrive, the guardian will be able to use the tools, communication methods and techniques we introduced in the session to nip them in the bud right away.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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