Training a Pair of Soft Coated Wheaton Terriers to Respect Their Guardians

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 26, 2016

Talulah and Emma

Talulah (left) is a one-year-old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who has some potty issues, occasional door aggression, likes to counter surf, doesnt listen consistently and jumps up on people. Her room mate Emma is a fourteen-year-old Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier who gets Talulah fired up by barking when guests arrive.

The dog’s guardian had been following my session write ups and attempted to use my technique to keep Talulah away from the door when I arrived for the session.

Talulah was a combination of excited and territorial during the greeting so it was a good idea for her guardian to tether her to maintain everyone’s safety. Additionally, increasing the distance between a dog and something it is reacting to is always a sound strategy.

While the guardian was able to move to Talulah away from the door initially, she was not as confident and assertive in her movements to clearly communicate to the dog that she had the situation under control. This hesitancy was what caused the dog to feel the need to navigate herself around her to get to the door.

Once the introductions were complete and the dogs were settled down, we sat down to chat about the door answering technique for a few minutes. When we finished I had the families son head out to play the part of a guest so that I could demonstrate the technique using her dog.

Because Tallulah sometimes engaged in redirected aggression towards Emma, we placed her outside for this practice run.

I suggested that the guardian practice this technique with each dog separately until the dogs were consistently staying behind the boundary on their own and they were abel to stop dog barking. Once this is the case, then she can start practicing with both dogs together while keeping a keen eye out for any signs of aggression from Tallulah.

I suggested that the guardian have relatives, family members and friends practice arriving at the door so that she can get better at this exercise without the pressure of knowing a real guest is waiting at the door.

Next I sat down with the family to discuss the dog’s day-to-day routine. This always gives me an opportunity to observe how the dogs interact with humans and vice versa. In this case, the dogs did not show much respect for anyone’s personal space and Tallulah was not shy about demanding attention from her guardians.

In the course of our discussion I learned that the dogs had a couple of minor rules but not a ton of structure. Because dogs go through life probing for limits, not incorporating rules  can give the dogs the impression that they have the same authority as the humans. This is even more important when you have a home with multiple dogs.

When a dog considers itself to be the same status level as a human, then listening to the human becomes optional. I knew I needed to change the dog’s perception of rank in order to transform this home into one with the proper leader follower dynamic.

I spent the next few minutes going over a technique that I have developed called Petting with a purpose.

It will take a couple of days to a week or so before everyone in the family gets into the habit of refraining from petting their dog unless it first complies with a simple commands such as sit, come or lay down. But once all the humans get into the habit of asking the dogs to do one of these actions first, they will engage in a mini dog obedience training exercise every time they pet them.

I spent a couple of minutes discussing how important it will be for the guardians to get Tallulah an appropriate amount of constructive exercise every day. Failing to do so will result in behavior issues as well as play that is too intense for fourteen-year-old Emma.

Because Talulah was all juiced up, I strapped on a pair of rollerblades and had her pull me up down the block a few times to take the edge off before we got back to work.

If you have a higher energy dog, it is imperative that you provide the dog with constructive ways to expend their excess energy. I would say at least half of the clients I see would have fewer problems with their dogs if they were to simply increase the amount of exercise the dogs get on a daily basis.

Later we went over a few techniques and tricks that will help stop dog barking and charging of the door. I used this opportunity to stress how important timing is when communicating with the dogs. By disagreeing with the dogs the instant they start to engage in any unwanted action or behavior, it’s much easier to stop an unwanted behavior before it really starts.

I also went over some positive reinforcement techniques and emphasized how important it was to either reward or correct the dog within a three second window. If you attempt to reward or corrected dog after three seconds, it gets very difficult for the dog to associate the correction or reward with the action.

I wanted to give the dog’s guardians another easy dog behavior training exercise that utilizes positive reinforcement as I have found you make much more progress by rewarding wanted behaviors then correcting a dog from engaging in things you don’t like.

Because Tallulah did not listen very well when her guardians called her to come to them when outside, I spent the next few minutes of this in-home dog school going over a simple recall exercise.

I suggested that the dog’s guardians practice this recall exercise at least once a day for the next week or so while gradually increasing the distance the dog has to travel to get to each person. By gradually making the task more difficult by adding distance we can help train the dogs to be more obedient.

The next step will be to practice this exercise in the backyard without any other dogs nearby. When they transition to outside, it will be important for the family members to collapse the distance between them so the dogs only has to walk a few paces to get it’s reward. Once it gets into a habit of doing this consistently outside, then they can start increasing the distance between people to make it more challenging.

I wanted to finish up the dog training session by taking Tallulah out for a walk so that we could do a little leash training. Because she had a tendency to pull on the leash, I fitted her up with a Martingale collar and showed her guardian how to apply the special twist to keep the dog from pulling.

By taking our time when going through the leashing process, we were able to get to Lula to remain in a calm and balanced state of mind when we started the walk. This very important step is the same one that many people skip over as they are rushed to take their dog on a walk. But the energy a dog starts a walk with inside is the same energy they will carry with them throughout the walk. Spending a couple of minutes getting the dog’s settled down and calm before heading out on the walk will pay big dividends for the dog’s handler.

We wrapped things up by going over a more structured way of feeding the dogs. By controlling access to the food and the order in which the dogs eat, we can help facilitate a healthy leader follower dynamic through this very primally important activity.

By the end of the session, both dogs were showing more respect for people’s personal space. They were sitting to ask for attention rather than nudging or pawing after guardians, looking up to them for guidance and staying behind the boundary when we practiced the door answering ritual.

By adding more structure to the dog’s daily routine and correcting them good timing whenever they break the rules, the dogs guardians will be able to develop a healthy leader follower dynamic that will result in the dogs respecting them as authority figures. Once this is the case, disagreeing with unwanted actions and behaviors will be a snap.

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