We were in Big Canoe at a new Home Dog Training client working with his cute, little Rat Terrier named Harriet.  Harriet had some respect and focus issues that were creating some concern with our client.  We progressed a long way during our first session and my client was positive that things were going in the right direction.  As we got close to the end of the lesson, my client mentioned that Harriet had a large issue with stealing their baby son’s toys.  He was afraid that this would escalate into nipping.  He definitely didn’t want anything like that to take place.  He asked that we talk about that also.

The good news is that we were on the path go having the Rat Terrier focus on my client and respect his wishes.  This will greatly help his ability to direct Harriet away from his young son’s toys.  The issue that we needed to address is assuring that Harriet clearly understood that she wasn’t allowed to take his son’s toys and, more importantly, assure that an escalation of nipping was completely out of the picture.

The first item that we covered was the idea of understanding what were Harriet’s toys and what were his son’s toys.  Since all the dog toys are on the ground and all of his son’s toys normally end up on the ground, that will be a problem.  We have to find other methods to clearly delineate a difference.  Without a clear delineation, correction will only turn into confusion for Harriet.

I suggested that he make sure that the only toys he allows Harriet to have are clearly “dog items”.  He could get deer antlers, doggie food treats such as a Kong toy with peanut butter, pull ropes. etc.  He should remove any item such as plush toys because they may resemble “action figures”.  He should also allow the “dog toys” to get a little bit dirty and smelly.  Since dogs have such an acute sense of smell, that will help put a clear mark of ownership on those items.

In the same respect, his son’s toys should be as different from Harriet’s as possible.  He should also place his son’s baby powder or some other “baby scent” on the toys to create the sense of ownership for his son.  Although is son doesn’t really care about the smell, Harriet will.

Next, I wanted to emphasize that there should be a zone for Harriet’s toys and a zone for his baby son’s toys.  For example, Harriet can have all her toys in the living room and his son has all his toys in the family room.  There also should be a doggie/baby fence between the two areas to create a clear delineation.

With expressed ownership and location delineated, we were ready to discuss behavior.  The most important thing to understand here is that dog and baby “keep to their own stuff”.

First, we discussed Harriet:

  • Harriet is only allowed into the family room on a leash. This will assure that my client always has a clear ability to redirect her, if necessary.
  • Harriet is not allowed to bring her toys into the family room. This will help build up the rule of “Harriet’s toys are in the living room”.  Maintaining this rule will build up the consistency needed to establish the behavior with Harriet.
  • Harriet is not allowed near his son unless supervised by an adult and the adult has the leash in hand. If the Rat Terrier starts to adrenalize or move towards a toy, the adult gives a slight tug on the leash and directs her away.
  • There is always an adult between Harriet and his son.
  • The adults will calmly play with Harriet and invite the son over to calmly pet Harriet; always under supervision.
  • The son is never allowed near Harriet with a toy in his hand. Being a baby, you never know if he may stick the toy in Harriet’s face or drop it right next to her mouth.

Now, his young son:

  • Loose baby toys should be picked up so the only toys available are the ones currently being played with by his son. (Yes parents, I know this is really hard to do!)
  • He should only allow Harriet in when his son is currently focused on something else. This could be the TV, IPAD, or toy.  His son should not be adrenalized and active.
  • Never, never, never have Harriet enter when his son is eating.
  • Allow his son as much freedom of movement as long as he is calm and not directly moving towards Harriet. Always be between them.
  • When his son approaches Harriet, put the toy down at least five feet away from Harriet.
  • His can now socialize with Harriet (under direct supervision) without the distraction of the toy in direct proximity.

All we have done here is to establish clear and safe guidelines between an interaction of Harriet and his young son.  The key to success is that the guidelines are consistent and clear.  Harriet will have no problem in understanding what she needs to do.

In fact, I told my client that he will quickly discover that Harriet will always be the easy one to train.  His son will always be the bigger challenge.

Please call us at (770) 718-7704 it you are in need of any dog training help.  We have a lot of good dog training advice at Best Dog Trainers Big Canoe Georgia.  Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Big Canoe Georgia.