Teaching a Dog to Calm Down and Respect Her Owner’s Authority

RimmiRimmi is a Beagle / Lab mix who was adopted this summer. Her owner called me for help with her tendency to nip or bite when she got overexcited which was most of the time.

When I arrived for the session, Remmi’s owners had her on a leash. I usually like to see how a dog acts when a guest arrives so I know how best to treat it. That’s when I spotted the two cats. While Rimmi was able to restrain herself in their presence, their owner did not trust her with them. As a result, Rimmi remained on a leash in the apartment most of the time.

Because Remi is still a puppy, it’s important that she is able to explore and interact with the world around her other own steam to gain perspective and experience.  This is a developmental stage that will inform how she behaves throughout the rest for life. There’s nothing wrong with placing a dog on a leash when it is misbehaving but leaving a dog on a leash most of the time can have detrimental effects.

I suggested that her owner place the other place the cats in another room with a closed door at least half of the time so that Rimmi has practice being free so she can develop the ability to learn to control herself.

Almost as if on cue Rimmi decided to tear around the apartment as fast as she could. After her second circuit around the room, I grabbed her by her collar and attached the leash to it. I stood on the leash for a minute allowing me to calm down. Once she did I took my foot off the leash and a minute later Rimmi calmly walked over to one pick up one of her toys.

I suggested that her owners apply the leash time out same technique to disagree with displays of overexcitement like that. However I also stressed the need for them to get her additional constructive exercise. Most dogs needs some exercise every day, puppies need more and Rimmi needs a lot. A good dog is usually a well exercised one.

I also suggested that they pick up a number of dog toys as they only had a couple of options. It’s important that a dog have plenty of things to occupy his time, especially if it’s expected to ignore cats that are in the house.  I suggested that their owner introduce these new toys one at a time and do so when the dog is showing special interest in the cats. This is a great way to distract the dog and offer it a acceptable activity instead of staring, fixating or play hunting the cats.

I went through a few communication methods and leadership exercises that her owners will be able to practice to help add more structure to Rimmi’s life. But in some regards Rimmi was almost a wild dog. Her owner told me that she couldn’t even get Rimmi to sit nicely to take a treat, so I decided to show them a recall exercise they can apply.

We all took seats at different sides of the room with a handful of high-value treats. One at a time we called the dogs over to us using the single command word of “come.” At first Rimmi bounced all over the room and jumped up on the person that called her to try to snatch the treat. I showed her owners how to disagree with that behavior by standing up and moving their hand in a way to catch her attention while discouraging the jumping up or overexcitement.

Within a few minutes Rimmi was recalling in a much better fashion; walking over immediately and sitting down properly in front of whoever gave the recall command. Normally asking a dog to come and sit isn’t that big of a deal, but for Rimmi it was. She was much calmer, was paying closer attention to her owners, and it was clear that she was starting to see them in a more authoritative light. But the best part was Rimmi was doing it on her own. No leash required.

By adding more exercise to Rimmi’s daily life and practicing the leadership and basic command exercises, Rimmi’s owners will be able to better communicate the behavior they want and disagree with what they don’t. The more they do this, the more Rimmi will see and respect them as authority figures. Combine that with more experience being free and being asked to respect rules and boundaries, Rimmi’s days of over excitement, out of control behavior will be over.

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