Taking Time Helps Odie Learn to Calm Down and Control Himself

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 17, 2013

Odie

Odie is a Chihuahua / Jack Russell Terrier mix. His owners contacted me for help with several behavioral problems. According to his owner’s email to me, Odie was “holding us hostage with some of his behavior.”

When I arrived for the appointment, he was so excited his owners had to restrain him as he couldn’t control himself. Dogs have many different levels of energy and Odie was clearly in the “High energy” camp.

Before I got started I sat down with his owners to discuss the situation. After they went over the long list of issues they wanted help with, I asked what rules Odie was expected to follow. It didn’t take long for them to realize that aside from not eliminating inside, they didn’t have any rules in place for Odie.

When you have a high energy dog, setting clear rules and boundaries can help define the leader follower relationship. When you dont have any rules in place, many dogs interpret this as a lack of leadership and try to take over the leader position themselves.

I suggested a few basic rules that would be easy to follow that would also help Odie see and identify as a leader; not allowed on the furniture for a month, having to sit at the door before being able to go outside, not jumping up on humans, waiting for permission to eat, etc.

I also went over the concept of “escalating consequences” to incorporate whenever Odie broke any of the rules. While I dont condone physical punishment for dogs, I do feel strongly that incorporating escalating consequences when he dog misbehaves as a crucial part of the rehabilitation process.

Because Odie is such a twitchy, high-energy dog, I suggested the family incorporate a “time-out” any time Odie’s energy got so high he couldn’t control himself. By stopping and waiting for the dog to calm down every time it gets over excited before moving forward, we can help it learn to stay in a more calm and balanced frame of mind all of the time.

To further elevate the members of the family as Odie’s leaders, I demonstrated a leadership exercise. I use this exercise for many clients as it helps the dog learn to focus, look to him humans for guidance and leadership as well as develop the ability to self restrain.

It took a few repetitions before Odie started to catch on to the exercise. Once he “got it” I coached the members of the family through the exercise with equal success.

By the end of the session, Odie was lying peacefully on the carpet instead of pacing the floor, jumping up, barking and mouthing his family members. By practicing the leadership exercise combined with time outs, a strict adherence to the new rules and prompt corrections via the new set of escalating consequences, Odie’s new calm demeanor should become a permanent state of mind.

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