Using Leadership and Patience to Teach Olive to Calm Down
Meet Peanut and Olive, a couple of dogs who live in midtown. While I was only called in to help with Olive’s over excitement and pulling on the leash, I ended up working with both dogs for the session.
When I arrived for the session, Olive was extremely excited and repeatedly jumped up on me while Peanut focused on sniffing out the contents of my bag. Usually I like to sit down and discuss the situation with the dog’s owner before I get started, but Olive’s jumping up required an immediate correction.
I showed her owner how I disagree with the jumping up behavior which is usually a dog’s way of “claiming” the human as their own. Olive loudly protested when I made her stay in the up position, but after the correction, she did not try to jump up on me for the rest of the session. By repeating this correction anytime she jumps up in the future, the behavior should end within the next day or two.
Next I showed their owner a few ways to disagree with unwanted behavior. These are communication methods based on the behavior dogs engage in normally which is why they are so much more effective then shouting “no!” or other ways to disagree with unwanted behavior. By consistently incorporating these methods, the dogs will quickly learn that the behavior will no longer be tolerated by their owners.
Because many of Olive’s issues were related to her abundance of energy, I showed her owner a way to disagree and teach Olive that calm behavior is rewarded while out of control energy will be limited. Just like the method’s of disagreeing with other unwanted behavior, consistently applying this technique will help Olive learn to stay calm and restrain herself.
Next I showed their owners a leadership exercise that will help with all of the issues they are having. The exercise teaches the dog to recognize and respect structure and leadership while allowing them to develop focus and self control. I suggested their owners practice the exercise with both dogs daily for the next week or two until they see a consistent appreciation and respect for their authority.
Because Olive’s over excitement is a result of unspent energy I suggested that she be taken out for a 30-45 minute walk every day. Her owner laughed at the suggestion and went on to explain that Olive got so excited when she saw the leash that she had to often wrestle her to get it on.
I had her owner bring out the leash so I could show her how to disagree with the behavior. If we don’t stop and address overexcitement as soon as it starts, the dog is going to bring that excitement and energy out on the walk. By stopping and addressing the behavior immediately, we can communicate that over excitement prevents the walk from starting.
I had her owner hold Olive in a heel position while Peanut’s owner walked around her. Olive pulled, barked, jumped, lunged and basically just spazzed out trying to get to Peanut. I took over the leash and showed her owner how to interrupt and disagree with the behavior. Within a half minute Olive was sitting in a heel position as Peanut circled us.
Once Olive’s energy level and behavior was under control, I fitted her up with a Martingale collar and added my own special twist to the leash. Olive protested a bit at first, but I consistently corrected her until she sat and waited for my lead. As we left the house I made sure to stop after taking each step down the stairs and moved Olive back into position each time she tried to run ahead. It took two repetitions of defending the stairs, but eventually she took the steps one at a time as I did.
I handed the leash over to Olive’s owner and had her repeat the stairs one at a time until she got the same result. Next we walked down the block so that I could show them how to keep Olive in a heel position. I also suggested that the room mates walk their dogs next to each other rather than one in front of the other.
When dogs all walk parallel to one another, no one is leading and no one is following which allows for a more relaxed and structured walk. By the time we returned to their home, the dogs were both walking in a heel position with little to no corrections.
By the end of the session, the dogs were in a balanced, relaxed frame of mind. It will take their owner’s consistently disagreeing with unwanted behavior, practicing the leadership exercises and regular walks before the calm balanced behavior becomes the new normal. But considering the difference in behavior from the start to end of the session, I have no doubt these dogs will learn to behave and follow their owner’s lead.