Teaching Auto Self Control

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 22, 2014

AutoI was called in to work with Auto, a four-year-old, German Shepherd who was becoming increasingly aggressive to people outside of his family.

When Im dealing with a territorially or possessively aggressive dog, Ive found the best way to change the behavior is to help the dog see its owners as authority figures. Once a dog respect its owners this way, it will follow commands and take corrections pretty easily.

I introduced a leadership exercise to help redefine the leader follower relationship between the dog and the members of the family. This exercise is a great way to introduce the concept of self restraint while also putting the humans in a leadership position.

Auto’s primary owner placed a high value treat on the floor and communicated that Auto was to leave it alone by his movements. Auto only needed two corrections before communicating he understood it wasn’t his treat. As soon as he did this, his owner knelt next to the treat and gave Auto permission to get it.

One by one the members of the family went through the exercise with Auto getting better at it with each repetition. I instructed them to repeat the exercise daily for the next week or two by everyone in the house. This will help Auto see everyone as an authority figure which will allow everyone to disagree with any aggression or unwanted behavior.

Because Auto frequently ducked or nudged his owners with his nose when he wanted attention, I suggested they adopt the “Nothing in life is free” technique. By not petting, rewarding or providing attention to Auto unless he earns it by following a command, his family can further condition him into a follower position.

His owners had told me he would lunge aggressively at the door or windows anytime he saw a stranger. I showed his owners how to block him and back him away from the door, then went outside to play the part of a stranger at the door.

As soon as I knocked, Auto was at the front door barking an alarm and jumping at the door. His owner walked over calmly and used the technique to successfully back Auto ten feet away from the door. Once she had claimed the space and settled the dog down, she was able to open the door and keep Auto in a sit. The second time we practiced, his other owner did the honors with equal success.

I showed them how to incorporate positive reinforcement for good behavior when people pass in front of the house. When dealing with an unwanted behavior, its equally important to reward good behavior as well as disagree with the unwanted.

By changing the leader follower dynamic, Auto’s family is now “authorized” to disagree with Auto’s aggression. By using communication methods he understands, it will be much easier for them to help Auto learn what is and is not acceptable. In time he will adopt new behaviors based on the rules and boundaries his family wants him to respect.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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