I was at in Gainesville last week seeing a new Home Dog Training client and his Brittany Spaniel named Alice. My client had a long “help list” for Alice and we started to work through the problems, one by one. As soon as we started, I noticed that Alice would always want to try and get ahead of my client as we walked from one room to the next. I looked at the “help list” and noticed that he had not marked that down on the list. I pointed this out to him and he said that he had never given that behavior too much thought. He then mentioned that he had tripped several times as Alice would push ahead of him and that her running ahead often gave her the opportunity to jump on his friends or other family members. He said that we better add that issue to the list. I told him that we needed to work on that issue first in order to set the scene for all the other issues.
I began by pointing out that Alice’s “running ahead through the door” behavior is not only annoying, but is establishing an inappropriate dominance hierarchy. From her perspective, the alpha leader will always be in front to check out that everything is OK for everybody to follow. When he moves from room to room, that is a new place and a new opportunity for his dog to do her job and make sure everything will be secure for the rest of the group. When he allows this to take place, he is surrendering his leadership to her. When he does this, she is placed in the leadership role. She no longer needs to focus on him and he will not be able to teach and direct.
This is a very bad thing and will not allow any training to take place. We agreed that this needed to be corrected immediately. The great news is that I have an effective exercise to stop Alice from going through the door ahead of him. Here is that we worked on and what I tell all my clients with this specific behavior problem with their dog:
- Place your dog on a leash and slowly move towards the door.
- Stop when you are about a foot or two from the door. Give your dog the sit command and then give him the wait command.
- Slowly open the door, while you are facing your dog. Look for any sign of movement from his sitting and waiting. If your dog starts to move, walk him in a circle and then give him the sit and wait commands again.
- Continue to open the door and then step through to the other side. Remember to always be facing your dog.
- You are on the “other side” when both of your feet are in the other room or other side of the threshold.
- Your dog has to remain sitting and waiting for three to five seconds. If he moves, step back through he door, walk him in a circle, put him in a sit and stay and repeat the step-through the door process.
- When your dog has not moved for the three to five seconds I mentioned earlier, invite him through the door to be with you.
- Put your dog in a sit position next to you for three to five seconds. Give him some praise for doing a great job.
- You are now done.
I told my client that he needed to do this every time he and Alice were going from room to room or in and out of the house. This will quickly turn Alice into a respectful dog; focused on him and waiting for his command.
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