I was out on a second Home Dog Training client in Oakwood yesterday. Daisy, her two year old Papillion was progressing quite well with her obedience commands and many of her behavioral issues were being quickly resolved. The one, big issue that still remained was her crazy barking and lunging at people coming in the house. My client got Daisy from the local Humane Society, so we had no real information on her background or any clear picture regarding the cause of this unwanted behavior.
I always tell my clients that when we don’t know what is causing an unwanted behavior, we should not focus on trying to find out. We should focus on how to teach Daisy that people and other dogs are OK. The big mistake that people always make in this instance is to try and force the behavior they want. The more they try and simply force a result, the more their dog normally gets crazier.
There is no way that our teachers “forced” us to learn how to read. What they did was to teach us how to read. We would start off with very simple activities that we could accomplish. As we understood those activities, our teacher would slowly add more complicated issues that built on what we had already learned. If we “didn’t get it”, we would back up and reinforce what we knew. This is called “learning”. There is no “forcing” involved in this process.
When it comes to Daisy’s fearfulness of people, we need to teach her that people are OK by having her learn it one very small lesson at a time. As the “Dog Trainer”, my first goal is to find where Daisy is comfortable in the learning process. I had the client put Daisy on a leash and go into the other room. I quietly sat in a chair at the far end of the room and asked my client to slowly walk Daisy to the door. As soon as Daisy saw me, she started to go crazy, bark, and lunge. We tried to redirect her to regain her focus, to no avail. This told me that I was starting the process at a point where Daisy wasn’t able to learn. I needed to “turn back a few pages in the lesson book”.
Next, I asked my client to put a chair about half way into the room. I now asked her to walk Daisy out for a few minutes. This time, I asked her to pick Daisy up and calmly hold her in his arms. I asked him to feel her breathing to determine if she was calm. Once she was calm, he slowly walked into the room. Daisy saw me and was fine. He continued into the room and sat down in the chair. Daisy was still fine, but intermittently gave a very soft growl. My client could easily gain her attention to him and Daisy was fine.
When I asked my client to hold Daisy as they entered, I had made my client a larger distractive focus. This helped to maintain a larger bond between them than walking on a leash. It also allowed my client to physically (yet passive) feel Daisy’s interpretation before it was adrenalized. Because of this, Daisy felt more at ease with me in the room. She still wasn’t ready to come over to me and have me pet her, but it allowed her to be in the same room and be calm.
I told my client that he could also use little treats as redirected distractions to maintain Daisy’s proper focus. The goal is to have Daisy look towards him for what she should do. If he is staying calm and unengaged, that tells Daisy that everything is fine with this stranger in the room.
Once Daisy stopped giving any growling, he could slowly move closer to the other person. As that goes well, he can get up and walk out with her. Once she has no issue with that, he can come in with Daisy in his arms and then leave by having her walk at his side. Finally, he can come into the room with Daisy walking with him.
These are all “baby steps” that are based on higher levels of trust and focus. Each one must be successfully completed where Daisy is saying “No problem, I feel fine” before he can move on to the next level.
Rescuing a dog is always the best. The challenge we face are the unknown fears they may have and how do deal with the (many times) unknown.
I hope you will contact Robin or myself at (770) 718-7704 if you are in need of any dog training help. We have many great dog training articles at Best Dog Trainers Oakwood Georgia. Find all our phone numbers, text addresses and email contacts at Dog Training Help Center Oakwood Georgia.