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My Dog is a Jerk! - My New Years Resolution Update

My Dog is a Jerk! - My New Years Resolution Update

February 06, 2014 by Kathleen McAlister
Categories: Respect,Resolutions,Tips

Zoey is a two-year-old Boxer/Bulldog mix.

Zoey chews on anything that comes near her mouth (eating flower petals wh ile walking past a vase on the coffee table is a favorite of mine).

Zoey takes bones from the other dogs (from between their own two paws). 

Zoey is a jerk.

 

Sometimes her behavior is comically absurd. (“You ate the whole wheel of cheese? I’ m not even mad. I’m impressed.”) Once, she ate the left shoe of a pair of flip-flops. I replaced them, and she ate the left one again. While wondering to myself why the dog couldn’t have had the courtesy to at least leave me one right shoe and one left shoe, I moved all of my shoes to a new closet that she can’t access.

Last week, we spent approximately 60 hours straight in close quarters with two humans and three dogs. (That’s enough time to watch Anchorman 34 times.) The dogs usually go off to daycare and other adventures throughout their week. They get tons of social fulfillment and physical activity, and then take plenty of naps. So

when Zoey in particular (being a young dog of an energetic breed) gets even the least bit antsy or bored, she starts to try to find her own adventure. At two years old, she’s still just an adolescent. As with any adolescent, they should not try to find their own adventures. It usually involves climbing something, eating something that’s not food, or harassing someone.

I mentioned Zoey’s three major behavioral problems and our resolutions to fix them in the New Year’s blog. We know keeping up with your New Year’s Resolutions can be hard. The last time I went to the gym, I walked back out into the 2014 Snowpocalypse.

Here are our three major problems, and how we’re working on them: 

1. Dog won’t stay on settle down 

  • First and foremost, this is all about respect. It takes time and diligence to build. This process can and will take a couple months of work to lay the proper foundation.
  • Test her reaction to ‘Settle Down’. When she gets up, does she come to me, or go away from me? Build a plan based on her reaction:
    • If she comes to me, this is a sign of over dependence and can be an early sign of separation issues. Working on ‘Settle Down’ with distance is key here, starting with one foot away, and spending a few weeks increasing the distance she lays away
    • If she gets up and just walks away, then she has no respect for me and what I asked. So we need to work every day on long duration ‘Settle Downs’ (at least the full 30 minutes) until she understands that I am serious, as well as making sure we work hard on Respect exercises like ‘Backup’, and waiting at gates and doorways.
  • Referring back to the title of this article, my dog is a jerk, and I have noticed that she will happily lie there for 20 minutes, even 25 minutes and never test me once on whether or not she can get up. She is basically humoring me, because if I keep pushing to 30 minutes she starts testing me more and more, and not wanting to stay where I put her. So I have to be diligent in following through with her to prove my point.
  • When I work on distance, I am going to start adding in my movement. While she is laying a foot away, I will stand up, and walk to the other side of the room and back. Hoping she does move, to use it as a learning opportunity to put her back just as nicely and calmly as I did the first time, even though I expect it’ll be the 500th.

2. Dog constantly finds things to get into/eat.

  • If we lived in a Nerf world, I honestly wouldn’t care if she picks up things to eat (as long as they didn’t belong to a person). But it’s not, so chewing on acorns can result in one being lodged in her small intestines, or eating a dead cockroach could result in her getting sick from disease or whatever it was that killed said cockroach, eating a pair of shoes has all kinds of things that can get stuck and lodged in her GI tract. So this has to stop for her sake.
  • I am going to work with Zoey on ‘Leave It’, and make sure she understands that it instantly means that is not hers and she best spit it out. From there I will use that knowledge and skill to start working on teaching her ‘Yours/Mine’, so she understands what toys are hers and its ok to chew on, and what is mine and is off limits.
  • We are going to differentiate chew toys from play toys.
    • Chew toys: bones, rope toys, Nyla-bones, and the like are for gnawing and chewing.
    • Play toys: stuffed toys, tug toys, tennis balls, etc are for playing with and not for chewing.
      To a dog, there is no difference between the feel of a stuffed toy, and your slippers or couch!
  • The best way to work on this problem will be to follow the 3 Rules of Housetraining; Inside with me on leash, outside with me on leash, or in confinement.

3. Dog over-reacts to all stimuli and situations.

  • Thankfully the first 2 projects really lay the foundation for this one. We have to have Respect and an easy way to tell her to leave something alone to get her to stop reacting to things.
  • One thing to remember is that robbers don’t knock on the door, and they often look for places where a dog just makes indiscriminate noise all the time. So having a dog that reacts to every leaf blowing by is actually counter-productive to safety.
  • A good rule of thumb to follow if you do want them to continue to bark is to let them bark once, then tell them “Thank You. I’ve got it from here.” They probably won’t stop barking the first few times, so follow up with ‘Leave It’ and enforcement. Eventually, with consistent enforcement they will understand that I heard them and appreciate the alert, but I don’t need any more help.
  • If I don’t want any barking, it’s best to watch for smaller alert behaviors, such as when they pick up their head and “see” a sound, when they perk up their ears, or (like in Zoey’s case) they get the “bulldog stare” (like the Carebear Stare, but much less helpful). This is when you interrupt their THOUGHT PROCESS with ‘Leave It’. Interrupting while they are thinking it, and before it has escalated to an actual action, is the best time to correct a behavior.
    This prevents your dog from entering into a cycle that can be just as good if not more rewarding than many corrections we could manage to give. A good example being spotting a dropped piece of pizza, getting to and eating that pizza even while getting a correction can be worth it. So prevent it before it gets that far.
  • And finally, minimize her reactions to things when we’re out walking. When I see her getting ready to react to something, I will correct it. And if she persists, I will turn her and walk her away, making her lose in whatever confrontation she has set up in her head.

Zoey makes very slow progress with each day that passes. All things considered, I love this dog. So much. She’s a good dog, she’s just an adolescent and a bulldog - stubborn and stubborn.

Challenge Accepted, my dear little pup. I can out-stubborn you.

 

Podcasts:

Respect Series: Settle Down
Respect Series: Goalie
Respect Series: No
Stopping Barking the Easy Way
Teacing a Calm Dog in Every Situation, Part 1
Teacing a Calm Dog in Every Situation, Part 2

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1 Comment

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