Changing a Labradoodle’s Perception of Authority to Stop His Bad Behavior at Home and on Walks

Trib is an eleven-month-old Labradoodle who lives in Santa Monica. His family set up a dog obedience training session to stop him from barking at guests to his home or people or dogs on walks, jumping up on visitors and some leash training to stop him from pulling on the leash.

When I arrived for the session, even a dog trainer could instantly tell Trib was acting out in a territorial way. He was telling me that disagreed with the arrival of the dog behaviorist and I not welcome inside, well as far as he was concerned.

I had Trib’s guardian attach a leash and hand it to me so that I could step on it about a foot away from where it attached to his collar. I did this to Trib to stop barking. Many dogs will bark and then run or move away and Trib was displaying this technique. By blocking him from moving away, he changed his approach and instead just say there quietly.

While I had him on a leash time out next to me, I did not try to pet, look at or talk to Trib. My goal was to help hum understand that just because someone new was in his living room, nothing bad would happen. While we think of petting a dog as a way to let them know we are friendly, this approach will not work with a dog who is reactive.

I spent several minutes explaining how a lack of rules and structure had resulted in Trib thinking he was an authority figure. When a dog thinks its in a leadership position, it will look for a job or way to contribute to the pack. Because security is a job many dogs think they are well suited for, this is a common behavior people ask me to help fix.

I suggested a number of rules, boundaries and limits as well as how the guardians can enforce them using non verbal communication cues. Once we finished, I had one of the guardians bring over a hot meal so that the other guardian could use what I just taught her to establish a boundary around her while she ate the food. Teaching a dog to respect people’s personal space is a great behavior to develop.

It took a few corrections, but eventually Trib caught on and laid down on the floor next to his guardian to indicate he was no longer challenging her. I recommended the guardian and the other members of the family practice this same technique a few times a day on their own. This will give them a chance to practice this technique without the pressure of a “real” guest trying to eat a meal or snack.

The family can use this same technique to establish a boundary to the baby’s nursery, the kitchen when food is being prepared and even the front door when guests arrive. It will take a little practice, but Trib picked up on it so well, it shouldn’t be too hard. I suspect, enforcing the other new rules may be more challenging.

After the meal, I spent a few minutes going over some leash training; showing the guardian how to leash Trib up for a walk while keeping him calm. Many people confuse excited for happy, but excited is just another unbalanced state of mind. By practicing the leashing exercise multiple times a day, and stopping when Trib starts to get over excited, his guardians can communicate the only way we will go for a walk is if he remains completely calm. This will greatly diminish his pulling on the leash.

I showed the guardian how to add a special twist of the leash to a Martingale collar to give them more control, then we headed out for a short walk around the neighborhood. Fortunately for us, the local landscaping crew was out to trim the grass and rake up some leaves. These are people Trib reacted to strongly in the past; barking and lunging at them.

But because we took our time leashing him up, had spent an hour enforcing new rules (ie demonstrating the humans are the leaders) and were using a new collar that gave the humans more control, Trib’s behavior was much better on this walk.

Hearing this was the first time Trib had walked beside the workers without responding confirmed to me that Trib’s primary issue was his guardian’s unintentionally telling him he was in a leadership position. A little positive dog training and leash work was all that was needed to teach Trib what his guardians wanted from him on walks.

Now that they know how to give him the leadership and structure he needs, his days of over barking at visitors, jumping up on guests and not listening to his humans will quickly become a thing of the past.

ROADMAP to SUCCESS

  • Stop petting Trib when over excited.
  • Train Trib to use the dog bed under the TV with the treat technique.
  • Pet Trib with a purpose, making him sit or lay down to ear his attention.
  • Use a leash time out to disagree with Trib when he barks at guests.
  • Use Escalating Consequences to disagree with unwanted actions or behaviors (use within 3 seconds of breaking the rule).
  • Use passive training to reinforce desired actions like coming, sitting down and laying down.
  • Have friend and family members come over to practice claiming the area around the door or when eating snacks at the table in the living room or dinning room table.
  • Practice having Trib stay at the top or bottom of the stairs.
  • Practice leashing Trib up multiple times a day; stopping the process the instant he starts to get excited.
  • Use the Martingale collar and special twist of the leash to keep Trib next to his handler instead of in front.
  • Take Trib out for longer walks, preferably in the morning.
  • Take Trib to dog parks to work on socialization and burn excess energy.
  • Take Trib to dog day care or a long walk / trip to the dog park before guests arrive to drain excess energy.
  • Make sure Trib eats after the human feeding him eats first.
  • Dump any remaining food after Trib walks away from the bowl and replace empty bowl to the floor.
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