Taming a Giant. Carrick the Irish Wolfhound Learns to Respect his Owner’s Authory

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 11, 2013


Carrick is a four-month-old male Irish Wolfhound. His owner had contacted me because Carrick was wreaking havoc in his new home; getting aggressive with a Bulldog, getting over-excited, jumping up on people, not respecting their personal space, stealing items, not listening and overall, poor manners and social graces.

When I arrived, I could tell one of his owners was at her limit. She explained to me that they have three other dogs and that before Carrick arrived, that pack of dogs got along swimmingly. But once he arrived, there have been fights, over barking and one of the dogs was retreating to her kennel most of the time to avoid Carrick. She went on to explain that if i wasnt able to get the dog to behave, that they would be rehoming him.

Although this owner had previously wanted a Irish Wolfhound, the timing of Carrick’s arrival was not the best for her and as a result, there was a building resentment towards the dog. Since I could tell how frustrated she was within the first few moments of discussing this with her, I asked if she would be able to wipe the slate clean and give Carrick a fresh chance. Fortunately for everyone, she was game.

I started off with a leadership exercise I use frequently. The exercise teaches the dog to respect the authority and property of its owner, to restrain itself and increases the dog’s focus. I was able to repeat the exercise with Carrick a few times, but his attention span was very short making it more challenging that usual.

I decided to use another similar exercise that is more effective with stubborn dogs or puppies. I tossed a treat into his kennel to observe his reaction to the kennel. Carrick casually strolled in to get the treat then came on out. I tossed another treat inside and this time walked quietly behind him so that i was standing in front of the kennel’s open door.

After he got the treat, Carrick turned around and saw i was blocking him from exiting. He stood still, so i took one step backward. As soon as I did, Carrick moved forward to exit the kennel, so i did the same – walking back to the entrance so i was blocking it again. Carrick paused, not knowing what to do so I took another step backward. This time Carrick stayed in place so after a moment, I took another step back. I repeated this until I was standing ten feet away from the kennel’s open door. ¬†Carrick stayed in place but started to pant a bit which is normal. This was likely one of the first times he was restraining himself and he was panting because its difficult for a dog to do without practice.

After a few moments, Carrick sat in the kennel, then laid down to communicate to me he was surrendering to my wish that he stay inside the kennel. As soon as he did this, I took and knee and asked him to “Come.” Carrick very slowly walked forward almost expecting me to stop him or change my mind. Once he sat in front of me i praised him warmly so he knew he did the right thing. After repeating the exercise a few times, I coached his owner through it as well.

Carrick’s other owner arrived while she was practicing the exercise so she showed him the progress we had made so far. Once she finished, she coached him through the exercise. I love seeing a client absorb the knowledge so quickly that they are able to start applying it and teaching it to other people.

By repeating this exercise daily, and increasing the amount of time the dog is asked to wait in the kennel after lying down, we can help it learn to self restrain, focus and look to his human’s for leadership.

When we finished, Carrick started to get a little excited due to the arrival of his other owner. However, both owners said it was much more subdued than normal. I explained that was a result of laying down a foundation of leadership with the exercise and that if they practice it daily, that the calm nature they were seeing now will become the new norm.

Next I showed them a few different ways to communicate with their dogs and how to disagree or correct them when the dog didn’t respect their personal space, mouthed their hands, jumped up or engaged in other unwanted behaviors. At first, they had to apply these corrective techniques repeatedly, but within a few moments, they were having the desired effect on Carrick. He started to keep a respectful distance instead of stepping or rubbing on them.

Next we let out the Bulldog who Carrick was antagonizing. I observed their behavior for a few moments and didnt interrupt as they engaged in some casual play. One of his owners said the behavior was different and less energetic than usual. I explained that this is usually the case once a dog starts to understand the concept of self restraint.

Once it was obvious that the aggression play wasn’t going to happen, I had the owners let out the other two dogs to see how they interacted. A mini Australian Shepherd had an energy level that was considerably higher than the rest of the dogs. As I observed this, i saw the other dog’s energy level increase, especially Carrick’s.

Dogs will often try to mirror or match the energy level of the dogs around them. This can, and was, causing problems with Carrick so i advised them to give the Aussie a “time out” whenever her energy level gets too high. By making the dog pause as soon as it starts to get over excited, we can communicate that the behavior is unwanted.

Next I had one of the owners leave through the back door and pretend to be a guest knocking on the front door. At first the dogs all charged the door barking excitedly. I casually walked to the door, turned to face them then walked them back away from the doorway, claiming the space as my own. By repeating this every time anyone come to the door, the dogs will learn to give the arriving guest space and stop barking and getting over excited.

Next I showed their owners how to control and add structure to mealtime. Because eating is such an important and primal activity, humans who control feeding time immediately are looked at as authority figures. We called the dogs in one at a time to eat and gave them a limited amount of time to finish. Because the other dogs werent in the room, the eating dog was able to eat in peace and not be concerned another member of the pack was challenging them for their food.

By the end of the session, all four dogs were either lying on the floor or walking around very calmly. Carrick’s owner said that she was glad that I came out as she was ready to give him the boot because his energy level and lack of respect for her authority or boundaries was making her crazy.

Now that she has the tools to communicate to Carrick in a way he understands she is able to tell him what limits, rules and boundaries she expects from him. Based on how much calmer and respectful he was at the end of the session, Im confident he will become a balanced well behaved member of this great pack of dogs.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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