Teaching a Dog to Listen to and Respect Her Guardians

By: David Codr

Published Date: March 10, 2018

For this Bennington dog training session we worked with 2-year-old Boykin Spaniel Willow (pictured here on the top with 15-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Weber) who doesn’t see her humans as authority figures, growling at them when they ask her to get off the bed.

Overall, Willow is a really good dog. I started out by offering some tricks I have learned that should stop a few nuisance problems pretty easily. One of these was to stop Willow from counter surfing and another tip should stop Willow from jumping up on people.

Next we went over the importance of rules and structure and how a lack of them can confuse a dog into seeing itself as having the same authority as the humans. When this happens, dogs often start to think listening to the human is optional. I mention this as its certainly connected to one the problem the guardian wanted to solve the most; growling when told to get off the bed.

Growling in itself is not something you usually want to disagree with as its a warning and an attempt to avoid aggression. But the fact that the dog thought it was ok to growl and nip at humans when asked to get off the bed is related to the dog seeing itself as having the same social status.

I recommended a number of rules to help the dog start to see and identify as bing int he follower role. One of these was to make all furniture off limits to the dog so that it literally sees the humans as having more status. And since the dog was starting to disagree with loosing this status at bedtime, removing it the rest of the day will help the dog gravitate away from that perception of self.

Other rules like having to sit before being allowed out the door, not being within 7 feet of anyone eating or in the kitchen when food is being prepared will also help the dog see the humans acting like leaders.

The guardian was using one of the escalating consequences I developed years ago as she brought Willow to our Puppy Socialization Class. However there are a few other steps that can also help.

To help the guardian get into a habit of using these other Escalating Consequences, I ran through a leadership exercise I created several years ago. This will also help the dog practice listening to the human.

Id like to see the older child and mother practicing this exercise 3 or more times a day as detailed in the above video. Once Willow start laying down right away, then they can start adding in a delay. By gradually working up to Willow waiting for five minutes to get the treat waiting in the middle of the floor, they will develop a healthy leader follower dynamic.

This exercise should help deepen the dog’s respect for the humans as authority figures which should have a positive impact on the dog’s obedience to commands and corrections.

Its going to be important for the family members to pet with a purpose and reward the dogs for desired behaviors like coming on their own (passive training) which will help Willow listen better when out and about at the family’s lake house.

At the end of the session I ran through a comprehensive strategy to curb and stop the growling at humans when they ask Willow to get off the bed in this Roadmap to Success video.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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