How Adding Rules and Structure Helped a Pair of Dogs Stop their Occasional Beefing

Ziggy is a five-year-old Boston Terrier who lives in Gretna with two-year-old Silver Lab, Marley. Their guardians set up a dog behavior modification to get Ziggy to stop jumping on people, stop nipping, learn to settle down and most importantly, stop Marley’s occasional aggressive behavior towards Ziggy when going out into the back yard.

This is really the tale of two dogs. Ziggy is a high energy dog; zipping all over the room, jumping up on people, invading personal space, getting on the furniture and then back again.

On the other end of the spectrum was Marley, a very laid back labrador who picked up a toy to carry around any time he got excited or moved about the room.

When you have multiple dogs, rules, boundaries and limits are important elements to have in place. Without this structure in place, the dogs often get the impression that they have the same level of status or authority as the humans they live with. The problem with this scenario is listening to the humans becomes optional to the dog if it sees the human as a peer. That was certainly the case here.

Because he was so much smaller, Ziggy’s guardians were allowing him up on the furniture, but not giving Marley this same privilege. Because dogs sit in the order of their height (with the leaders sitting higher), this most certainly caused some friction between the two dogs. When I mentioned this to the dog’s guardian, he mentioned that one of the dog fights occurred while Ziggy was on the couch.

I suggested a number of rules and boundaries that will help the dogs start to see the humans as being in a leadership position and the dogs as followers. This is an important perception of status that must be addressed in order for the humans to put these dog problems behind them for good.

I noticed that the humans had a tendency to pet the dogs any time they jumped up on, nudged or invaded the human’s personal space. Any time you pet a dog, you are rewarding and reinforcing whatever the dog happens to be doing at the time. So in this case, the humans were unintentionally training the dogs to jump up on them and invade their personal space.

To stop the humans from doing this, I suggested they start petting the dogs with a purpose. Instead of petting the dog when it nudged or demanded attention, this method has the humans asking the dog to do something to earn the praise first. By asking the dog to sit or lay down, then petting them while saying the command word at the same time, the humans engage it in a mini dog obedience training session.

This is a great example of how to use positive dog training. If the humans in the family can all get into a habit of petting the dogs this way, they will start training the dogs to engage in desired actions and behaviors each time they pet the dog.

Consistently correcting and rewarding the dogs within 3 seconds will help the pair learn what is and is not wanted from their family members. While this seems obvious, sending a mixed message or the opposite is a common mistake I see many dog guardians repeat.

To help the humans better communicate with the dogs, I went over some non verbal modes of communication and explained how the humans can use them to get their point across to the dogs right away.

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