I was working in Lithonia last Tuesday with a new Home Dog Training client, his family, and their ten-month-old Blue Heeler named Digger. Like many Blue Healers, Digger was very energetic and ready to learn and obey.  The problems that my client and his family were facing with Digger were his constant jumping, persistently stealing food from the table, and inability to listen.  Digger responded quite well to our training and these issues were quickly resolved. Our client was extremely excited with the results we were able to achieve and couldn’t wait to start Digger’s ongoing training process. 

Keep your dog safe and secure with a house full of Christmas guests and out-of-town relatives.

As I was wrapping up, I asked if they had any additional questions or issues we needed to address. My client told me that this would be Digger’s first Christmas with their family.  They had scheduled several Christmas parties for the kids and adults and had out-of-town family members flying in from Seattle for the holidays.  He asked if I had any suggestions to keep Digger “a good little boy” with all these activities taking place around the house.

I told my client that it is incredibly difficult to properly envision every action or situation that could take place during the Holiday Season.  I reminded him that he had just told me about the holiday parties and out-of-town family. These are unique and specific situations that do not take place on a consistent or regular basis.  They can place Digger in a situation that will increase his adrenaline level and probability for excited behavior.

I then smiled and told him not to worry…

The lynch pin of our success in having a great Holiday Season with Digger and all the crazy things that are about to happen was something that we just reviewed in our lesson.  I told my client that he needs to stay focused, anticipate Digger’s response to specific stimuli, and have the ability to immediately and constantly gain Digger’s attention and guide him to the proper solution.

I continued by emphasizing the point that, whatever the case, he must always be prepared to act. I reminded him of the redirective process and the proper use of Digger’s six-foot leash. He must have Digger wearing his leash during the parties and at all the times the guests are present.  Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, Digger will probably be quietly sitting or calmly walking around while the leash is dragging behind him.  (I will get to the “point one percent” in just a second…)

I then highlighted that he needed to simply be a “good parent”.  During the Christmas Parties it was very important that he maintain Digger’s focus and keep him close at hand. If Digger starts to misbehave, he can then immediately correct and redirect.  Many times, he will see a situation start to unfold and correct Digger before he starts to react. (This is the equivalent of the times your mother would say “Don’t even think about doing that!”)

Because of what we learned today, my client should be able to interpret Digger’s body language and determine that he is about to do something. This is what will allow him to proactively correct Digger before any escalation even takes place. The moment he observes the inappropriate body language signals from Digger, he needs to redirect Digger back to him. When he has Digger’s focus, he needs to let Digger know that he is the boss and he is keeping Digger safe, happy, and secure.

I reminded my client what we had learned today and what he needs to do.  First, he must calmly and quickly move to the end of Digger’s six-foot leash.  Next, he should pick the leash up in his hand and calmly walk him away from the inappropriate situation.  Examples of an “inappropriate situation” that could cause Digger to improperly react could be: (1) crazy child jumping on sofa (2) someone turning up the volume of the television to a very loud level, or (3) food being served.

Once my client and Digger have moved away from the “issue”, he should observe Digger to see if he has calmed down and is focusing on him.  If Digger is still a little “hyper”, he could move farther away from the “inappropriate distraction”. Once Digger is calm and completely focused on him, he can stop and place Digger in a Sit.

Having Digger calm, sitting, and focused on my client is key to the success of my client’s corrective action. These actions indicate that Digger respects my client as his caregiver and protector and is prepared to follow his direction.

Everything is now great and my client can calmly let the leash fall to the ground.  If he so desires, he can hold the leash and calmly walk Digger back to the original area (as long as the crazy stuff has terminated). At that point, he can drop the leash and let things peacefully continue.

I continued by stating that there will be times when my client won’t be able to proactively catch Digger before he starts to go nuts.  In these instances, Digger will be energetically misbehaving while wearing his six-foot leash.  The leash has now become my client’s target to execute the correction.  He must slowly approach Digger and calmly step on the leash. If Digger is running around, this may take a moment or two to successfully implement. As soon as he has placed his foot on the end of the leash, he can perform the same steps we just discussed.

I then talked about the situation when people come to the front door.  This is a very “excitable and focused” time for many dogs.  Most dogs, including Digger, will normally run to the front door when they hear a knock on the door or the doorbell ring.  Digger will then jump, bark, and even run outside. I reminded him to make sure Digger’s leash was on when he expected people at the front door. He can then easily step on the leash, pick it up, and control Digger as the people come in and the door is closed.  His control of digger during this activity will also tell Digger that “the door is no big deal”.

There will be times where “home Holiday events” will provide a complete “sensory overload” for Digger. This could be the same thing as standing in the front row of an Alice Cooper concert (showing my age).

In both instances, the best solution is to move away. If things are ramping up to a fever’s pitch or my client can’t effectively manage Digger, the best thing is to remove Digger to a quiet location in the home.  My client could take him to a bedroom in the back of the home or a quiet location in the basement playroom. Assign a “play buddy” for Digger. This person is now “the person in charge”. It is his responsibility to keep Digger’s focus on him and to calmly interact with him. The goal in this instance is to let Digger know that he is safe and secure.

Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help.  You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years.  We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and great families and are ready to help you.