Introducing Boundaries to Help an Excited Terrier Behave Better

By: David Codr

Published Date: November 23, 2015

Winston Moose Look Alike

Winston is a one-year-old Terrier mix who gets over excited when guests arrive, sometimes nips his guardian when she corrects him in an over excited state and is jealous of her boyfriend.

It was quickly apparent by his greeting that a good portion of Winston’s problems were due to overexcitement.

I sat down with his guardian to discuss the session and what she wants to accomplish. I wish I had my camera out so I could film his interaction with her.

Winston didn’t just stick near his guardian, he climbed on top of her as if she was an amusement ride. Making matters worse his guardian immediately started petting him as soon as he did this.

I made Winston get down and used the leash to block him from repeating this over excited, inappropriate behavior.

A major reason why Winston was so anxious in the above video was his guardians consistent over putting whenever the dog invaded her personal space or demanded it by pawing at or nudging her.

Basically the Guardian had created a dog that was needy and felt insecure whenever he was not in tactile contact with her. By blocking him from engaging in this behavior, we can start to introduce the concept of boundaries. Regular practice at this will be crucially important for Winston’s guardian in order for him to become rehabilitated.

I used this leash technique to block him initially, but he carried on to such an extent that I explained to his guardian how she can use this leash technique to disagree with Winston whenever he engaged in over excited behavior.

Because many dogs get into the most trouble when they are overexcited, going to be extremely important that his guardian apply this consequence as soon as he passes what she considers level five, or the middle of his energy level.

But as any dog guardian knows, sometimes a dog needs to be told no more than once. The problem is, continuing to use the same command or correction over and over eventually waters down it’s effectiveness.

To help his guardian better communicate and disagree with him, I went over a set of nonverbal communication cues that I call escalating consequences.

By consistently applying these consequences the instant that Winston starts to engage in unwanted behaviors, his guardian will be able to more effectively curb these unwanted actions and behaviors.

It will be important that his guardian works on developing 10 variations of her hiss sound to disagree with Winston. One of the dirty secrets with dog behavior is disagreeing with a dog before or the second that it starts to engage in unwanted behaviors. When used with good timing and the correct intensity, the hiss sound can be very effective tool in stopping a dog before it starts to get excited or into trouble.

I let Winston off of the leash so that his guardian could practice using the escalating consequences we just went over.

Because Winston had so much difficulty calming himself down I wanted to give his guardian another tool that she can use to help develop his ability to restrain himself.

I utilized the kennel for this exercise which neutralized Winston’s ability to run around in circle the room. I practiced a few times myself until Winston seem to get it and then I coached his guardian through the exercise until she got the same results.

One of the times that Winston gets the most overexcited is whenever anyone arrives at his home.

Because security is usually handled by the senior ranking dog in a pack, it will be asked dreamily important for his guardian to take over this responsibility herself.

I showed her how to clean the space around the door and reminded her how important it is that we keep our hips and shoulders pointed directly at the dog while engaging in this activity. This is where our authority is pointing so by projecting it at the dog and breaking down the door answering ritual into bite-size steps, we can help Winston learn to remain calm and wait behind his guardian as she answers the door.

All of these techniques and exercises are going to be extremely important for Winston. One of the problems his guardian really wanted to solve was Winston’s reaction to her boyfriend whenever they sat together, embraced or lay down.

Winston would literally place himself between them or bark to get attention whenever they started to interact with one another. This is essentially because Winston believes that his guardian and himself are a mated pair and views his guardians boyfriend as an unwelcome lothario.

Fortunately Winstons guardians boyfriend is an extremely patient and understanding man. I suggested that whenever possible Winston’s guardian be the one to disagree with the dog when he engaged in any of these behaviors. It’s important that she use the escalating consequences immediately. Many people let a dog engage an unwanted behaviors and failed to respond until it becomes annoying to them personally

But for dogs, if we don’t disagree with what they’re doing they interpret that as our agreeing with their behavior. Is Wyatt so important that we immediately disagree with the dog the second that it starts. If the dog engages in an unwanted behavior for a few moments before we respond, that makes it difficult for the dog to identify what exactly it is we are disagreeing with. After all it’s been engage in the behavior for a few minutes without any rebottle so it must be something else. At least that’s how the dog sees it.

Fortunately Winston is a dog that wants to please. I had his guardian and her boyfriend together on the couch ,cuddle and even embrace without Winston’s reaction. I love how quickly dogs can change their behavior once we communicate what we want, or in this case don’t want it away the dog understands.

By the end of the session Winston was pooped. But it was great to see his guardian improving her reaction times and technique when she corrected him.

As his guardian practices disagreeing with Winstons unwanted behaviors the instant that he starts to engage in them, she will improve the leader follower dynamic and help the dog understand that he is not her mate.

It’s going to be tough for his guardian because I know that she enjoys putting him but by incorporating some structure, boundaries and limits and asking the dog to sit or lay down before she puts him, she will be able to change his perception of authority in the home. Once the self perception is changed the way that she wants it to be, most of Winstons unwanted problems and behaviors should disappear completely.


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This post was written by: David Codr

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