A Mini Goldendoodle Learns to Stay Calm When Meeting Other Dogs

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 5, 2016


Zasu is a five-month-old Mini Goldendoodle who lives in downtown Los Angeles. His guardians contacted me to help stop his habit of jumping up on people, pulling on the leash, some potty issues and his fear of stairs.

Zasu was fairly laid-back when I first met him. He had a nice medium-low energy and healthy curiosity at the door. Aside from trying to jump up on me, it was a very polite and healthy greeting.

Because his guardians live in an apartment in downtown LA, they had been using puppy pads in the bathroom. This worked for the most part but he did have some accidents both in the apartment and sometimes attempted to do his business in the hallways of the apartment building – something his guardians were very concerned about.

I was going over some potty training fundamentals when I noticed the guardians reinforcing Zasu each time that he jumped on them or nudged for attention.

It’s not difficult to see why as this is one cute dog. But the fact of the matter is each time that the pet’s guardians petted the dog when he jumped up on them, they were telling Zasu that that was the appropriate way to ask for attention.

Not only is this an annoying habit for a pup to grow into, it confuses the dog into thinking that it has a position of authority. After all it’s telling the humans what to do and they are doing it.

To help the guardians stop rewarding unwanted behaviors like this, I went over a technique that I like to call Petting with a purpose

One of the other primary problems the guardians wanted to work on was Zasu’s behavior when he saw other dogs. His guardians said that he got so excited and worked up he could no longer control himself. So that I could see this behavior and fix it, we headed outside for a walk.

Once we got out front I noticed there was a little café down the street where a trio of dogs were hanging out with their guardians. I took the leash and spent a few minutes explaining how the guardians can reward Zasu for exhibiting calm behavior while other dogs are nearby through counter conditioning.

I started the above video showing his guardians how I would use counterconditioning to help change a dog from having a negative reaction to the sight of another dog. But as I pivoted to in the video, this technique can also be used to condition a dog to sit calmly when other dogs are nearby.

Anytime a dog is having difficulty dealing with a situation a good recourse is to increase the distance between the dog and whatever it is reacting to. I used an inverted variation of this technique to approach the three dogs while keeping Zasu completely calm

It will be important for Zasu’s guardians to patiently approach other dogs this way (whenever possible) until Zasu no longer shows overexcitement at the sight of other dogs. At first it will likely take four or more stops before the dog is both calm and close enough to interact with other dogs. Eventually they will be able to accomplish this and only two or three stops, then two, then one, then none.

The keys are the ability to get Zasu to sit or take a treat. If they cannot accomplish either of these, its a signal that they are too close.

Additionally if the other dog is excited and barking, that can also trigger a response in Zasu. So for the time being, it would be wise for Zasu’s guardians to avoid overexcited dogs.

The end goal is to get Zasu a ton of successful repetitions while remaining completely calm until he can walk right up to another dog while remaining completely relaxed and controlled the whole time.

Next we headed off for a structured walk so that I could show his guardians how they can use this type of walk to help the dog develop even more respect for them as leaders.

Because his guardians live in an apartment, it will be wise for them to research YouTube for ways to train the dog to walk at a loose leash heel. It takes a couple of weeks of training and practice, but because Zasu is only a puppy, his guardians will reap the rewards of a lifetime of pleasant walks if they invest the time now.

When we returned to the apartment building, one of Zasu’s guardians mentioned that the dog had a fear of the stairs. I wanted to take advantage of this training opportunity so I suggested we take the stairs instead of the elevator so that I could help address this problem.

It will only take a few more practices at this technique before Zasu is running up and down stairs without a second thought.

By the end of the session, Zasu who was following his guardians commands and corrections right away and already starting to adapt to Petting with a purpose by sitting in front of whoever he wanted attention from. Each time that his guardians pet him for one of these desired behaviors, they deepen a healthy leader follower relationship.

Now that his guardians know how to communicate what they want and don’t want from him in a way he understands, it shouldn’t take long for them to put a stop to any of Zasu’s remaining unwanted behaviors for the rest of his life.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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