A few weeks ago, I was at a new Home Dog Training client in Flowery Branch. He had a young Springer Spaniel who was about thirteen months old.  Like all Springer Spaniels and all puppies, Bailey, his Springer, was completely nuts.  The “A priorities” for my client were to get Bailey to not be nuts.  Since there is no “Stop being nuts!” command, I focused my efforts to correcting Bailey’s inappropriate behavior and started Bailey and my client on a daily canine obedience training program. 

Learn how family dynamics can impact a dog's behavior

Once Bailey understood that he needed to provide my client with calm and respectful focus, he was a different dog. He stopped jumping, didn’t nip my client’s pants, came when commanded, and didn’t rush the front door whenever anyone rang the bell.  My client was ecstatic, and I thought that “my job was done”.

Before I go on, I want to mention one more thing that wasn’t at the initial training session.  Although my client and his wife were present and quickly understood what they needed to do to transform Bailey into a great dog; their kids were away at friends’ houses and soccer practice.  Unbeknownst to me, they were a major factor in Bailey’s misbehavior.

Now, let’s fast forward to several days ago.  I received a call from my client saying that Bailey was completely nuts again.  He told me that Bailey was absolutely perfect when I left and remained great for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  When the kids got home later that evening, Bailey was already asleep for the night, and everything still remained calm.

The next morning, things went completely bonkers.  The kids got up and started to run all around the house; as kids do.  The kids opened Bailey’s crate and Bailey jumped right into the “circus-like” atmosphere.  My clients were having a hard time in calming down both their kids and Bailey. Their failure to have a calm house made them angry and increasingly animated.  This only made matters worse for everyone. 

They then told me that they noticed that Bailey was “the craziest” when the kids were home and the household “was out of control”.  Noticing that Bailey was normally “out of control” during these times as well, he asked me if having a crazy family could impact Bailey’s behavior.  

I have been asked this exact question hundreds of times over my “dog training career” and I always find it difficult not to laugh every time I hear it.  With this said, I calmly replied to my client, “Yes”.

I am always educating my clients that the only way they can teach their dog what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do is to first create a calm, safe, and consistent learning environment.   In order to successfully accomplish this, they must first minimize all instances of superfluous distractions.  If the only thing that Bailey has to focus on is my client, that is what he is probably going to do.  This makes it far easier for my client to tell Bailey what is right and what is wrong.

If, besides my client trying to teach Bailey what to do, there are all sorts of other things going on, his teaching will probably fail.  Multiple distractions minimize or eliminate the possibility of Bailey concentrating on my client and focusing on his direction.  The “crazy environment” in which the family has placed Bailey will never allow him to focus on my clients and learn what they are trying to teach him.

The next thing out of my mouth to my client was that he and his entire family had to “stop going nuts”.  He and his entire family must remain calm, cool, and collected in order to have any possibility in gaining Bailey’s focus and turning him into an excellently behaved dog.

With this said, I acknowledged that this could be a herculean task with an active and energetic family in “the real world”, but it is a goal he and his family must work towards. I then offered some additional suggestions:

  • Start with a “family meeting” in which everyone must discuss and (more importantly) agree on how you want your dog to act around everyone in the family and everyone he encounters. Write everyone’s suggestions down and then edit the document using two criteria. First, only include the items on which everyone agrees. (i.e. EVERYONE must agree that the dog can’t jump.) Second, the rules you agree upon must be universally enforceable.
  • Review each rule and establish a plan that details how every family member will enforce the rule.
  • There must be universal “buy-in” from everyone regarding their responsibilities towards the dog and the actions they will implement. This is critical. Without 100% buy-in, “weak links” will form, and your dog will detect vulnerability and an opportunity to misbehave.
  • Each family member must interact with the dog on a daily basis regarding one or more of the issues facing the family.  Examples of “interacting” could be practicing obedience commands such as sit or stay. You can also practice “situational issues” such as not charging the front door or stop running the fence line. When appropriate, multiple family members can concurrently engage in these exercises.
  • Things you should stop doing right now include:
    • Playing rough with your dog.
    • Engaging your dog in any way that could hurt, scare, or frighten him.
    • Yelling or becoming overly adrenalized towards your dog.
    • Giving your dog treats “for being good”.  Treats are “bribes” and should not be the cornerstone of getting your dog to obey.

Although all these things may sound intuitively obvious and easy to implement, they are more difficult than you might believe.  It is now time to step back and take a long and deep breath.  Remain calm and cool.  This will allow you to succeed. You are now ready to have a great dog.

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.