Teaching Toby to Respect His Owners While Building up Sunny’s Confidence

By: David Codr

Published Date: January 27, 2014

Toby and SunnyThis is Toby (6 years old) on the left with his room mate Sunny (4 years old). Their owner contacted me to help them stop the dogs from urinating in the house.

When I arrived for the session I could immediately tell that Sunny was a little insecure. He kept his distance, avoided eye contact and exhibited nervous body language and energy.

When I sat down with the family to discuss the situation I found out that the dogs really didn’t have any rules they were expected to follow. This is often the case with my clients and can be one of the reasons a dog does not listen or respond to the commands their owners give them.

I suggested a few new rules that will help the dog’s see the members of their family as their pack leaders. While they may seem inconsequential to us, these rules can have a lasting impact on the dog and how they perceive themselves.

Because Sunny was still avoiding eye contact and was reluctant to come on command, I decided to initiate a “recall” exercise to start helping him build up his confidence. Whenever I work with a dog who is insecure or lacks confidence, I have found teaching them new skills is the best way to help them learn to not be so skittish.

I had the members of the family position themselves around the room and then gave a few instructions on how to call Sunny. At first, it took a considerable amount of coaxing to get him to come over to the person who called him. But after he realized that he was rewarded with a tasty treat each time he complied, he started to come quicker.

By the end of the exercise he was almost running to whomever was calling him. I suggested the family continue to practice this exercise until he came without any hesitation 100% of the time. I also suggested they teach him some new tricks and commands which will further help him gain confidence.

Next I showed the family a leadership exercise to practice with Toby. It only took a few repetitions before he understood what we were asking him to do. I coached all the members of the family through the exercise and explained that by practicing it daily for the next few weeks, he will learn to focus, pay attention to them, practice self restraint and recognize the members of the family as his pack leader.

Towards the end of the session their owner went over the “accidents” in the house. Because they are isolated to specific areas and items and low in volume, its more likely that the dogs are marking the house in an effort to assume the pack leader position. Because the pack leader is usually the only one to mark territory, this problem should go away once the leadership and confidence issues are solved.

By the end of the session Sunny seemed more confident while Toby was listening to his owners better and following their commands. It will take a little practice as these dogs have lived with these issues for years. But considering how much progress we made in two hours, im confident their owners will put an end to these unwanted behaviors in no time.

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