Structure Stops a Coton de Tulear’s Separation Anxiety and Possessiveness of His Guardian

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 5, 2016


Tucker is a seven-year-old Coton de Tulear who has separation anxiety causing him to chew and destroy the woodwork around the door the guardians use when they leave the home. He is also possessive / protective of a few members of his family.

Tucker was curious but calm and under control when I arrived for the session. He came up to investigate me but did not jump up and showed good respect for my personal space.

But a few minutes after we sat down to discuss the situation, Tucker started giving me some challenging eye contact and a couple of very quiet growls.

While he was attempting to communicate possession and dominance, he did it in a very insecure way. Watch the video below to learn how I disagreed with Tucker and got him to adopt a completely non-confrontational mindset.

Often when I am dealing with dogs who appear to be aggressive around specific guardians, it’s due to the dog feeling that the human is its possession or under its protection. One of the best ways to address this type of behavior is to incorporate rules, boundaries and limits and enforce them consistently.

The more that we enforce our rules and correct the dog, the more the dog sees us as an authority figure. Changing the leader follower dynamic in the house will not only stop Tucker’s attempts to possess his guardians, it will help him stop thinking he needs to escape the house to go find his guardians when they leave him home.

But correcting a dog is only half the battle, sometimes its far less than that. I have found the dogs respond much quicker to positive reinforcement than correction. In some situations we have no choice but to disagree. But if you can come up with a way to utilize positive dog training, you will find a happier and more engaged dog.

A few years ago I developed a technique that I like to call Petting with a purpose that helps humans deliver positive reinforcement in a way that increases the dog’s respect for them.

It will take Tucker’s family a couple of days to a week or so before they stop unconsciously petting him without any reason. Once everyone starts only petting the dog after he does something for them, they will see the dog start to identify more as a follower. This means the dog will start obeying them faster look to them as a leader and feel less stress once it stops thinking its job is to protect the humans.

Because Tucker is actually a little bit insecure, teaching him new tricks and commands is a great way help him build up self-esteem. I suggested that the guardians all pick two or three tricks they they find taught on YouTube.

Every week a different member of the family should spend a day teaching Tucker a new trick or command, then show everyone else in the family how to do it. By practicing that trick for the rest of the week, Tucker will become very good at it while simultaneously getting a confidence boost.

If the family can teach Tucker a good 8 to 12 new commands or tricks before the fall, they will be rewarded with a much more confident and obedient dog.

I spent a couple of minutes introducing a very important command that the family should certainly tackle first, the stay.

If you would like more information on training your dog to stay this way, check out this YouTube video.

By the end of the session Tucker was acting much more respectfully. He had stopped trying to get up on the couch and was no longer growling or giving challenging eye contact.

The session was difficult on Tucker, his self-esteem took a real hit when I blocked him from claiming possession of his guardian. It’s going to take him a little bit of time to reacquire that confidence which is why I really hope the members of the family embrace the challenge of teaching him a new trick or command every week for the next 2 to 3 months.

Now that the guardians know how to use positive reinforcement to train their dog and can add structure into his life to help him identify as a follower, his days of feeling possessive and needing to protect his guardians are over.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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