I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Jefferson yesterday for their first dog training session with Coco, their 18 month Coonhound. The big problems they were having with their Coonhound were jumping, running out the front door, and not listening. These were generalized bad behaviors based on improper focus and misunderstanding of the appropriate social structure. After about two and a half hours of information dispersal and practical exercises, Coco was no longer doing all the things my clients had mentioned. My clients also understood their appropriate role in maintaining Coco’s obedience and correct relationship. As we were finishing up, they had one more question regarding their dog’s bed in her crate.
One would think that since Coco was such a fast learner when it came to appropriate behavior and obedience, that it should be a slam dunk when it came to chewing up and destroying her bed in her crate. This is a mistake that many people make and often creates even larger problem down the line. First, let’s think about what we successfully accomplished.
- We got Coco to stop jumping. This was accomplished by active exercises where she would attempt to jump on us and we would instantly communicate that she was not allowed to jump. She was immediately rewarded with positive acknowledgement as soon as she was not jumping.
- Coco was running out the front door. We created a dog training exercise where we answered the front door but had our main intention of making sure she maintained a continual distance from the open door. This was a simple and immediate requirement we imposed on her due to a specific, external action. Once the door was closed and the action was complete, we instantly rewarded her with positive acknowledgement.
- Coco just would not listen. We established a set of “house rules” that Coco always needed to obey. These rules had the characteristic of being enforced by our physical presence and successfully acknowledged through our instant actions.
We were successful with all of these actions and Coco was really great. The problem that we ran into with Coco’s chewing up her bed in her crate was that she did it when my client was not around. He could not correct her in the act and had absolutely no ability to provide any sort of positive acknowledgement of appropriate actions.
All my client could do was to continually replace the destroyed beds with new beds. This was not only an increasing annoyance and expense; it was sending the wrong signal. Since there was no consequence for Coco destroying her bed, she had no idea that her action was wrong. If this activity was allowed to continue, she would probably extend the chewing to other soft, plush items in her reach. These things normally include sofas and pillows (far more expensive than a doggie bed.)
I told my client that he was the boss and his rules always needed to be maintained. He could either maintain those rules through his physical presence or through his total ability to create an environment that maintains those rules.
The answer became very simple. I told him to remove the bed from the crate and allow Coco to sleep on the plastic floor of the crate. Dogs sleep on rocks in the yard and on the tile floor in the family room. They do not need the bed. Coco would be fine without the bed and he won’t be (unknowingly) sending her the wrong signal that it was OK to chew on the bed.
Bed is gone. Coco sleeps on the crate’s plastic floor. Rules are maintained. Life remains consistent. My client communicates to Coco that he is the boss.
Sometimes you have to understand that you need to pick your battles and come to grips with what you can and cannot do. This realization will help you remain consistent and a leader in your dog’s eyes.
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