Teaching Barley to Stay Calm to Help Murphy Relax

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 15, 2013

Barley and MurphyBarley is a one-and-a-half year old Wheaton Terrier, pictured here on the left with his two-and-a-half year old room mate Murphy.

Their owner had called me in due to Barley’s increasing aggression and rough play with Murphy. She had informed me that unless I could put an end to Barley’s aggression, he was going to be rehomed as the stress was having a bad effect on Murphy.

When I arrived for the appointment, Barley was outside in the back yard and Murphy was behind one of the indoor fences their owner had put up between rooms to keep the dog’s separated. When Murphy was let in, I could see that she had a nice medium to low energy level and good social graces. Barley on the other hand, was bouncing and barking outside with a great deal of vigor.

I had their owners let in Barley so I could see how the two dogs interacted together.  I didnt see any aggression, but Barley clearly had a higher energy level than Murphy. When one dog has a higher energy level, it can cause the other dog’s in the pack to raise theirs to meet it. For this reason, I suggested their owners incorporate some escalating consequences whenever Barley’s energy level started to rise.

Dog’s can only focus on one thing at a time and when their energy level gets too high, its hard for undisciplined dogs to stop or listen to their owner’s commands. This is why i suggest owners give their dog a “time-out” whenever their energy level gets too high. You can accomplish this by putting the dog on a leash, in a kennel or making the dog sit in place until the energy level gets low enough for the dog to calm down.

As soon as Barley’s play with Murphy got too intense, I demonstrated the technique by putting Barley on the leash. It took a minute, but as soon as his energy level dissipated, I dropped the leash. After correcting him a second time, his energy level stayed lower for the rest of the session. I knew Murphy felt the same way as her body language took on a more relaxed look.

Next I demonstrated a leadership exercise that will teach Barley to respect his owner’s leadership and increase her ability to restrain herself. Barley protested a bit at first but after a few minutes she stopped arguing and surrendered. As soon as she did, I rewarded her and praised her instantly.

I changed dogs and repeated the exercise with Marley who picked things up even faster than Barley did. I suggested her owners practice this exercise with both dogs daily, while increasing the difficulty level to help the dogs learn patience and to wait for longer and longer periods of time.

Next I showed their owner a more structured way to conduct mealtime. Because dogs equate the order the members of the pack eat with the rank of the members of the pack, its important that the human’s eat before the dogs. This reinforces the leader / follower relationship in one of the more important and primal activities dogs participate in. Since we feed dogs literally thousands of times over the course of their lifetime, this simple structure results in long term benefits.

By the end of the session, Barley was showing a calm demeanor and was very reactive and responsive to her owner’s commands and corrections. Now that they are communicating with their dogs in away the dogs understand, the dogs fell into a calm and balanced frame of mind. Their owner commented on how she couldn’t believe that Barley was being so good and calm. By continuing the leadership exercises and reinforcing the new rules and boundaries this new calmer behavior will become the new normal for Barley.

 

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