She put her dog’s food bowl down in the laundry room (that’s where her pup eats her meals) then she left to bundle up a load of clothes to be washed and returned to laundry room.
She approached the washing machine, when suddenly, with no provocation, and out of nowhere, her dog lunged and bit her on the leg. BAM – like lightening! Even weighing no more that 20 pounds – soaking wet – it was quite a bite!
She was shocked. Her beloved family dog, the one she’d raised since he was an 8 week old puppy, bit her on the leg for no apparent reason.
Think this couldn’t happen to you?
Unfortunately in some homes with dogs, the dog biting the owner, is replayed at least twice monthly (sometimes more) in varying degrees of seriousness.
It’s not always food bowl guarding either. Sometimes it is space on a couch, a chair or a bed which results in a dog bite.
I’ve been called to help with dogs that are guarding their own personal space on the floor. Or dogs who begin growling at an unsuspecting child who approaches to try and pick something up in the pup’s personal space.
This lady’s 3 year old mutt had grown up in the family since about 8 weeks of age and the owner admitted that she had always been a bossy little dog, from the minute she strolled in through the front door and parked herself on the couch. With no structure in the home at all for the dog -the family was headed down the wrong path of life with her. The consequence- the dog bit her.
What We Did
We began by putting this dog on an earn-to-learn program – sitting and downing for everything. All family members participated.
- There were 4 family members: Mom, Dad and two teenage kids.
- Each family member began one dedicated 3 minute training lesson of sits and downs each day with their dog, and each picked a time that fit their schedule for this dog obedience training.
- Limiting the dog training to 3 minute sessions made it very easy to commit to the training.
- I then split the family into teams: Mother/daughter and father/son to do one more thing. Each team had to pick a time to do come, sit and down between each team member for only 2 minutes.
- We used the back yard and the family room at first then began to call the dog room-to-room between team members.
- This began to give the dog a sense of – who is doing what for whom. This developed a new awareness of all family members.
- There was a significant reduction of stress and anxiety.
We added two structured walks each day.
- Each family member was assigned to a day so as not to give anyone the feeling of being over-burdened. If only one family member did all of this they would be overwhelmed with the task.
- Next we started a gradual desensitization to family members and people around his food bowl, chew bones and space.
The final chore was to put all of this on a calendar that spanned two months and posted it on the refrigerator. And of course, Mom made sure everyone did their fair share.
I’m happy to say that there is no more food bowl or article guarding and the family could not be happier!
The key to their success
The key to their success in modifying their dog’s behavior was commitment.
The family committed (110%) to working their dog on the program.
It makes me one happy dog trainer to work with clients who recognize that only a serious commitment to working the plan will turn their dog around – and it has!
Consistency and repetition will begin to breed habit, so keeping structure in his life and expectations high is the key. They decided to continue their daily rituals with their dog indefinitely.
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Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”