Ty the Boxer gets a Second Chance and Learns to Respect His Owners

Sam and Ty

Sam is a four-year-old Australian Shepherd, pictured here on the left with his roommate, four-year-old boxer Ty.

While Sam has lived with his owners since he was a puppy, Ty was recently adopted. While his owners think he’s a great dog and love him, they were at the end of the rope in terms of some of his behavioral issues; food obsession including snatching sandwiches out of his owner’s hand, not listening, pulling on the leash and jumping up on guests.

Things got so bad at times that Ty’s owners had posted on Facebook that they were potentially looking for a new home for the dog. Fortunately someone I’ve worked with in the past saw the FB post and recommended that Ty’s owner contact me.

When I arrived for the session, both dogs were overexcited at the door to such an extent that their owners had to grab and push them away in order to open the door. While both dogs were clearly excited, Ty was completely ignoring his owner’s commands and instructions.

I started out with a leadership exercise that incorporates food to test Ty’s ability to focus.

I placed a tasty meat treat on the floor between my ankles and stood over it in a guarding position. This is the same thing that a dog will do to communicate to other dogs to stay away from the item.

As soon as I placed the treat on the floor, Ty started to move towards it. I immediately took a step towards Ty which stopped him from moving forward. Once he stopped, I immediately took another step back so that I was standing over the treat again. After pausing for a moment, I took another step backwards so the treat was lying in the floor between myself and Ty. As soon as I did, Ty started to move back toward the treat again. I repeated this back-and-forth for a moment or two before Ty finally sat down a respectable 5 feet away from the treat. Before Ty had even finished his sit, I had taken another giant step backwards to communicate that his sit was exactly what I was looking for.

I took a few more steps backwards away from the treat, pausing between steps. As soon as Ty lay down on the ground, I immediately walked over to the treat, turned to face sideways so the treat was next to my hip, knelt down and gave Ty permission to get it. Ty got up and slowly moved over to where the treat was with his head lowered and his ears back in a respectable position. I encouraged him by tapping the ground a few times to get him to take the treat which he finally did very gently.

I repeated the exercise a few times until I was comfortable the Ty understood what I wanted from him. At that point, I coached both of his owners through the exercise as well.

Now that Ty has the foundation of the exercise in place, I instructed his owners to gradually increase the amount of time they require Ty to wait in the laying down position before they gave him permission to eat the treat. By repeating the exercise a few times a day for a few weeks, gradually increasing the amount of time with each repetition, Ty will learn to focus better as well as how to self-restrain. This also teaches him to look to his owner’s for permission which will help reinforce their leader / follower relationship.

Next, I asked their owners to put the dogs on a leash and prepare as if they were going for a walk. As soon as their owners pulled out the leashes, both dogs started to get more and more excited. Within a minute, Sam was so excited that his owners had to almost physically restrain him before being able to put the leash on his collar.

Whenever a dog is overstimulated or excited and we attempt to move forward, we bring that excited energy with us to whatever activity were about to engage in. It is far better to stop and pause. This gives the dog the ability to relax, calm down and return to a more balanced state of mind. Only then should you proceed with whatever the activity is. This teaches the dog that in order to move forward, it needs to be in a calm and balanced state of mind.

I took the dogs out for a walk one on one without their owners present. Sometimes dog owners inadvertently trigger bad habits out of their dogs by the way they conduct the walk. If they let the dog walk in front of them or pull on a leash and the owners do not correct the dogs properly or with good timing, the dog thnks those behaviors are correct.

Walking each dog solo allowed me the ability to observe each dog and determine what corrections were needed.

Since Ty was the more muscular and rambunctious of the two, I started out with him. Because his owners said he pulled on the leash, I fitted him up with a Martingale collar and added my special Twist to the leash. I waited for him to calm down and once he was in a balanced state of mind, we went out the door. Ty pulled a bit at first but it only took a few corrections to get him to fall into a nice heel. After walking him a short distance I returned and handed the leash to one of his owners.

I showed her the proper positioning of the leash, where to hold it, how to correct him as well as a few other tricks that will help the dog pay attention to her and follow her lead on the walk.

As soon as she started walking it was clear that the Martingale and new hand position made a big difference. When I asked her if it was better, she laughed and said “yeah, he’s not pulling my arm out of my socket anymore.”

I repeated the process with Sam. He was much more responsive to my corrections on the leash. In fact when I was walking back to his home, I only had to use two fingers on the leash.

By correcting the dog’s with good timing and walking with a confident leadership, these dogs will quickly learn the proper etiquette their owners want on a walk.

These are good dogs who simply needed someone to come in and help their owners communicate with them better. Now that their owners know how to tell the dogs what they want and have escalating consequences and rewards system they can use to motivate them, I anticipate a very quick rehabilitation process.

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