Teaching Mia the Golden Doodle Some Manners

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 1, 2013

Mia (Goldendoodle)

Mia is a 10 month old golden doodle. Her owner had contacted me to help stop her from having accidents in the house, listen better and stop jumping up on people. Mia is the youngest of the 4 dogs that live in their home. When I arrived, Mia and her cohorts met me at the front door jumping up and barking excitedly.

I sat down with her owners to discuss the situation and asked a few questions about their day-to-day lives, including what rules the dogs were expected to follow. As is usually the case with my clients, the dogs had no rules in place other than no potty in the house.

One of the rules I frequently suggest is to keep the dogs off the furniture for a one-month period of time. When dogs sit of the same level as their human counterparts, it often gives them the impression that they are equals in terms of rights and privileges. In this case, the dogs not only sat at the same level as their human counterparts, they often jumped up to sit on the back of the couch so they were in a higher position than the humans.

I showed their owners how to disagree with the dogs whenever they did something that they did not like. I always advise my clients to incorporate escalating consequences. The first consequence is to make a sound  the dog understands as a “no” or that you disagree with whatever it’s doing.

The second consequences is usually just to simply stand up. To dogs, a standing position is more commanding and authoritative. If you stand up when a dog is engaging you, it will usually stop and back away.

If the dog still isn’t responding, the next consequence is to march towards the dog very deliberately. I advised their owners to march towards the dogs and continue walking through them until the dogs turned and walked away or set down. If your gait is smooth and confident and it looks like you will walk into them if they don’t move, most dogs will walk away. This is a great way to get them to stop whatever activity they are engaged in.

If that doesn’t work and the dog is still misbehaving, I suggest that the dog is placed on a leash in the house and the owner keeps the leash next to them or ties it to a leg of a table or chair in the same room. This restricts the dog’s freedom slightly, keeps it in your presence and is a great way to communicate that a behavior is acceptable.

Next I demonstrated a leadership exercise that will help the dogs see their humans as their pack leaders. Because the home had four dogs and one of them was a puppy, I had their owners place the three adult dogs in the backyard. I attempted to demonstrate the leadership exercise myself and Mia was very responsive. In fact, she was probably too responsive. When the exercise was over and I gave her permission to take her reward, Mia refused and stayed far far away.

After quite a bit of coaxing I was able to get her to come over and retrieve her reward. I repeated the exercise a few more times with slightly better results. However it was clear that Mia felt much more confident when she was with her dog room mates.

I stepped to the end of the room and started to coach her owners through the exercise. After each repetition Mia seemed to get it more and more, but was still hesitant and clearly lacked confidence.

Instead of continuing the exercise at that point, I decided to introduce a different exercise. This one helps a dog understand that it is rewarded when it recalls on command. I gave each of the family members a half-dozen tasty treats and we all went to separate corners of the room. I instructed them how to position themselves before they called her, as well as how to offer the reward.

At first Mia was equally reluctant to “Come” to the person who called her. However after a few repetitions and some additional coaxing she clearly got it and started marching towards whoever was calling her with a little bit of enthusiasm. We continued the exercise until she showed no further hesitation in coming to whoever was calling for her.

I suggested that her owners repeat the exercise with all the members the family each day until Mia faithfully comes on command every time.

Now that Mia was no longer fearful of coming to claim her reward, we resumed the leadership exercise I had started earlier. This time, Mia didn’t need as much coaxing to come and take her reward, but she was still a little hesitant.

I advised her owners to continue the exercise daily, but to increase the amount of time that they ask Mia to wait before she was able to go and get her reward. This will reinforce the human’s status as leaders in Mia’s eyes, as well as teach her how to self-restrain.

I suggested that her owners repeat the exercise with the other dogs in the home as well. It’s always best if all the dogs that live together have the same rules and boundaries, and know the same commands.

Next we discussed the potty training issues and accidents in the house. I asked her owners how they handled any accidents when they discover them. One of Mia’s owners explained that they would immediately grab her, rub her nose in the urine, and then place her out in the backyard.

This is a very common rehabilitation technique that is been proven to be utterly ineffective. In fact rubbing a dog’s nose in it only trains the dog to run away and hide from the human when it needs to go potty.

I advised Mia’s owners to add more structure and constant observation whenever she may have a bladder full of urine in order to prevent accidents before they happen.

There are a few times when a dog is more likely to need to go; after it wakes up, after its gets done eating and after a heavy play session. I instructed Mia’s owners to take her outside immediately following any of those three activities.

I also advised them to monitor her when she is outside. If she doesn’t eliminate within three minutes I told them to bring her back inside and either place or in a kennel or on a leash tethered to them for the next 10 to 15 minutes. At that point, they should take the dog back outside by itself and give it another few minutes to do its business. If the dog does not eliminate, repeat the same process. Eventually the need to urinate will become so strong that the dog will go outside. At that point, its important to start repeating the word potty when ever she starts to eliminate and to continue using the “potty” word for as long as she did her business. This is a great way of tying the word to the action.

Once Mia finishes her business, I instructed her owner to take a knee and throw their arms wide open while  calling the dog’s name excitedly. As soon as Mia came over to them, immediately offer a tasty treat while simultaneously repeating the word “potty” the instant it touched her lips.

By repeating this process every time she eliminates outside, Mia will learn that going outside is something that makes her owner happy and gets her a reward. Once that happens enough times, going outside will become her new “normal.”.  But until that time, I reminded her owners how important it is that they monitor her and add structure such as the leash and kennel following any trip outside that does not result in elimination

Because their owners were free-feeding the dogs, they never knew when the dogs needed to go potty.  Dogs usually have a pretty regular digestive track. Once you determine the amount of time the dog needs to process its food, it’s easy to anticipate when the dog will need to go outside to do its business. However when you’re free feed dogs you never know when they had their last meal.

I showed their owners how they can control mealtime by inviting the dogs in to eat one at a time. By controlling who has access to the food as well as the rest of the group during meal time, the dogs will quickly see their owners as more authoritative figures.

While I was only called in to work with Mia, all of them needed a little bit of work. By repeating the exercises that I demonstrated, as well as adhering to the new rules and structured mealtime, the new habits the dogs learned will quickly and permanently transform them into a balanced, well behaved pack.

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