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Saturday, December 19, 2009

****** Ten Rules For Living With A Pushy Dog: ****** Structure Without Force


Until you have owned your dog for at least 6 months, and have completed a training course to help you evaluate your dog,  don't get in a big hurry to allow your dog on the bed or to jump up on the furniture uninvited. It takes some dogs a while to show you who they are--if they snap or growl, believe them! An aggressive dog is telling you it needs more structure, is uncomfortable, and needs less opportunity to make decisions about space. 

Have the dog wear a leash in the house (only when supervised of course) and remove the dog from the furniture using the leash.  This makes it safer for dogs that might bite if you reached for the collar to remove them.


If your dog demand barks for food, has been shown to be more reactive in areas of food preparation, then food should be presented to the dog after it responds to a few simple commands.  No free choice feeding.  Any food not consumed in 10 minutes is taken away and not offered again until the next meal time. 

Owner aggressive dogs will benefit by having several meals per week hand fed. Each handful should be earned by the dog's response to a command.


Don't let your dog control your movement.  Teach your dog to "heel" or walk with respect at your side without pulling you. Head halters, and a good obedience class will work wonders. Don't let the dog lean forward and balance on the front end.  Teach your dog that a good brisk walk does not entail sniffing, or repeatedly dropping their head.  Think about the walk as more of a structured march than free time for the dog.


If the dog chews, urinates, and/or has displayed pushy, controlling behavior, it is time to limit freedom. Crate train for times when you are away from the house, and some when you are home, the dog should be crated and be expected to be quiet and accepting. Use baby gates, or "stationing" when you are there to supervise.

Stationing: tie your dog to a doorknob or heavy piece of furniture. Give the dog something acceptable to chew. The dog can be stationed during the family's meal times, when guests arrive, or anytime you want the dog to be part of the family but under control. Stationing can be done for 20-30 minutes for young dogs up to several hours for older dogs. Be sure and give the dog appropriate potty breaks.


Don't play tug-of-war with your dog unless you do so with control,  and teach an "out" or "drop-it" command. When you play "fetch games" start and end the game with possession of the toy. It is not acceptable for the dog to bite at your skin or clothes.  Children should not engage in tug games with the family dog. 


Ignore nudging, whining or bringing you toys. Have your dog obey a command before giving it attention. All treats must be earned. Games are earned. Control the reward of going outside and coming in; be sure you are not jumping up and down to let the dog in and out at every demand.


Don't let your dog decide what handling is appropriate. Handle your dog's ears, feet, tail, etc. and groom it as long as you choose.  Read about Touch Desensitization in Brenda Aloff's book,  Get Connected With Your Dog.

If this is a problem, seek help from a licensed behaviorist, or a NADOI or APDT endorsed instructor in your area.


The threshold of your home is yours--not your dog's. Teach your dog a "quiet" command so that alarm barking does not become uncontrolled nuisance barking.

Do not allow the dog to greet your guests before you do. Dogs are easily taught to back up, so that you are between guests and the dog until the dog is more calm. This will also stop most jumping up on guests. You can also meet and greet guests with the dog on leash to help control barking, jumping, or circling (many reported bites are to the back of the legs of guests). Dogs who are persistent in attention demanding behaviors should be ignored for the first few minutes that you are home. Visitors should ignore your dog for 5-10 minutes.

Ask the dog who is determined to door-dash to look up at you when approaching a door. Food lures work well for teaching stationary attention. 


Train your dog to walk on a short, loose lead in the direction you choose. Male or female dogs should not be allowed to urinate away from home territory on your neighborhood walks. To allow this makes the dog think they are marking a very large territory. If your dog tries to mark every tree and post, continue to walk briskly.

The dog should have a good energy burn-off every day. This can be through walks, swimming, biking (check out the Springer apparatus for safely biking with your dog), or retrieve games in addition to the structured walk.


Some owners see their dogs as children and make excuses for behaviors that are often dangerous. Some rescue dogs may have had a rough experience, but it is we who remember the incident, not the dog. Being a victim of neglect or abuse is not a reason for aggression. 

Other owners want to blame the dog and give him or her human characteristics and reasoning abilities of which dogs are simply not capable. Dogs are not vengeful or vindictive, they are not capable of complex retaliatory acts (like chewing your new shoes because the dog was mad about something that happened yesterday). Dogs understand through instinct and training. Dogs need consistency, and time, time spent with their owners. That time is the most important thing to our dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. I get the raised eyebrows when I say things like "I am still trying to figure out who Solo is...." Dogs are malleable, that's why they have survived and thrived, but there is a core personality in each. Working with what works best for that dog will get you further towards your own goals.

    I bought some eyebolts for "stations" that I'm going to install. I've trained the heck out of the crate-good quiet place, but you can't always have a crate when you want your dog to be quiet. We do tie outs outside a lot-but my dogs don't generalize that to inside-sigh.