I was in Lithonia at a new Home Dog Training client working with their cute, little Australian Cattle Dog named Daisey. Although very lovable, she had a very difficult time listening to my clients and liked to misbehave. We spent a good amount of time working on focus and standard obedience exercises. These activities would help Daisy learn to pay attention to my clients. This would also allow them to become more aware of Daisey’s body language and to understand when she would get “that devilish glimmer in her eyes” and start to misbehave.
After several hours of training for both Daisy and my clients, things began to improve. My clients were very, very happy with the results of the training and their newfound knowledge of how to work with Daisy and teach her right and wrong.
At the end of the lesson, I asked my clients if there was anything we needed to address. They thought for a moment and then remembered that Daisy had a big issue with stealing their baby son’s toys. They were scared that this inappropriate action would intensify into nipping. They didn’t want anything like that to take place. They knew that this was about “the correction” they had just learned, but was there anything unique that they could do to assure this would not take place?
I assured them that they were on the right path by confirming that Daisey continually understood that she needed to focus on them and that they were supplying her with simple and consistent rules. This will positively assist their ability to direct Daisey away from their young son’s toys. What they needed to do now was to highlight the fact that the toys were their son’s and that they were not Daisey’s to take. They also needed to assure that the interaction was calm so that an adrenalated escalation would not occur that could move towards Daisy’s excited nipping.
I first reviewed the notion of identifying what were Daisy’s toys and what were their son’s toys. I observed that they had placed all Daisy’s toys on the ground. Scattered around Daisey’s toys were their son’s toys. They, too, were scattered on the ground. This, I pointed out, was a very big problem.
We have to find a method to clearly create a distinction between their son’s toys and Daisy’s toys. Without a clear delineation, Daisy will never understand why they are correcting her for “going after” their son’s toys. She will find my clients’ corrections to be inconsistent and will respond by ignoring them.
My first suggestion was to make sure they only give Daisy “dog toys”. These toys should be clearly different than their son’s toys by sight and smell. I mentioned items such as deer antlers (don’t give your baby an animal bone), doggie food treats such as a Kong toy with peanut butter (why give your baby sticky food on the ground), pull ropes (naturally dangerous for a baby), etc. They should get rid of plush toys because they may resemble “action figures”. They should also allow the “dog toys” to get a little bit dirty and smelly (within reason). Since Daisy has a strong sense of smell, that “extra little smell” will help put a clear mark of ownership on those items.
Next, I told them to keep their son’s toys separate from Daisy’s toys. They should also place their son’s baby powder or some other “baby scent” on the toys so that Daisy understands that they “don’t smell” like her toys. The unique and different scent will allow her to understand that they are not her toys.
There should be a unique location for Daisy’s toys and a unique location for their baby son’s toys. For example, they can allow Daisy to have all her toys in the living room and they should keep their son’s toys in the family room. I also mentioned that it would be a prudent idea to place a doggie/baby fence between the two areas to create a clear delineation.
With expressed ownership and location delineated, I moved my focus to behavior. We needed to establish an environment where their son and Daisy understand what was “their stuff” and that they should only play with “their stuff”.
First, we discussed Daisey:
- They are only to allow Daisy into the family room on a leash. This will guarantee that my clients can always redirect her, if necessary.
- Daisy is not allowed to bring any of her toys from the living room to the family room. This will create the rule of “Daisy’s toys are to remain in the living room”. Keeping this rule will create the needed consistency for Daisy so she understands where she must keep her toys and where she can play with her toys. Both locations are in the living room; and living room only.
- Daisy is not allowed near their young son unless supervised by an adult and the adult is firmly holding the leash and “paying attention”. If Daisy begins to get excited or move towards a toy (only toys in the family room are the son’s), the adult gives a firm tug on the leash and directs her away from the toy and back to the adult. Daisy should now be calm and focused on the adult.
- An adult must always be between Daisy and their son.
- It is fine if the adult calmly plays with Daisy while they are in the family room. If all is calm and their young son wants to play with Daisy, the adult can calmly call Daisy over. The adult will remain close by and ready to remove Daisy from the area, if needed.
- Their son is not permitted near Daisy whenever he is holding a toy. Being a baby, you never know if he may stick the toy in Daisy’s face or drop it right next to her mouth.
Now, we talk about their young son:
- Loose baby toys should be picked up. Only the toys their young son is currently and actively playing with should be allowed. If the toys are on the ground and away from him, they should be picked up.
- Daisy should only be allowed to enter the room when their son is calm and not immediately focused on Daisy. Their son could be peacefully playing with a toy, watching TV, or tinkering on their IPad. This removes any external triggers that could provide inappropriate focus or excitement for Daisy.
- Do not allow Daisy in the room when their son is eating. This includes their lunch or even just a single cookie.
- Allow their son to have as much freedom of movement as he wishes. This is as long as he is calm and not directly interacting with Daisy. As always (and I keep saying this because it is important), there is an adult between their son and Daisy.
- Their son should not have a toy when he approaches Daisy. He should put the toy down at least ten feet before he gets to Daisy. He should approach slowly and calmly. It is the adult’s responsibility to make sure this happens. If Daisy starts to adrenalize, they should direct their son away from Daisy while quietly correcting her.
We have now established clear and safe procedures for a “meeting” between Daisy and their son “when toys are involved”. The key to everything is to keep it calm and slow. On top of that, the adult should always be watching everything “like a hawk”.
In slight jest, I told my clients they will discover that Daisy will be the easy one to train in this situation. This is because they are establishing a clear and consistent learning environment for Daisy. Their son will probably be the greater challenge.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over seventeen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.