In this episode, Kayla from Journey Dog Training covers five different Listener Questions about all sorts of dog behavior questions.
Lunge-y Hound Dog
Kathy has a hound dog that lunges at squirrels, people, dogs, and all sorts of other things. Kathy’s hound is also pretty unfocused outdoors, sniffing all over instead of listening.
- Looking at a front-clip harness to give the owner more control.
- Changing the route of the walk to reduce the dog’s access to things that make her lunge.
- Teaching the dog a “U turn” or “turn and go” behavior.
- Playing the “Look at That” game with things that cause the dog to lunge.
- Giving the dog some decompression walks on a long line to help the dog get some sniffing out in a better way.
- Exploring some nosework games for the dog.
- Practicing check-ins and capturing attention from the dog indoors and in easy situations before practicing outdoors.
- Once we’ve got the dog’s attention, we can play with some trick training with distractions indoors (such as around a bowl of kibble) or outdoors.
Noise Sensitive Shih Tzu
Andrea has a Shih Tzu who is scared of the sound of coughing and sneezing. Andrea has allergies and the dog will run away and hide if the dog even hears someone clearing her throat.
- With a reaction this extreme and this unusual, our first stop should be the vet’s to rule out underlying medical issues and potentially look into behavioral medications to help deal with this phobia.
- Teach the dog that sounds can create chicken from the sky using incredibly quiet versions of the sounds that might upset the dog. Start with a neutral sound at first if necessary.
- Playing the “treat and retreat” game with the dog when she’s nervous about sounds.
Growly, Hyperactive Street Dog
Paula has a growly street dog. The dog has growled at several people, has bitten the owner, and is being punished for aggression. The dog is also “hyperactive” and has growled at people when they try to take things away from him.
- When the dog growls, toss the treats over the dog’s head and away from us (treat and retreat).
- We discussed that giving someone more chocolate when they’re mad won’t reward them for being mad, and the same goes for dogs!
- Back away if you’re worried about the dog – keeping your fingers and toes is more important than a given learning opportunity.
- Identify the triggers by working with Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.
- Set up management using muzzles (see this blog for muzzles for hard-to-fit dogs), baby gates, etc to avoid all confrontation.
- Cease all punishment and corrections towards the dog, as this will make the dog more stressed and can make the problem worse.
- Check out the Dog Decoder App to learn more about early warning signs in your dog’s body language to try to identify problems before the dog even starts growling.
- Keep in mind that this dog sounds easily spooked, easily upset, and is probably confused and feeling defensive. Approaching this dog with compassion and patience is more likely to get results than trying to force the dog to submit.
- Finally, a hand target can help move the dog around the house without force.
- Finding a trainer to work with is definitely an important step given that this dog already has bitten someone!
Reactive Service Dog in Training
Kayla (not me) has a dog that’s nervous or reactive towards kids in specific locations. The dog is being trained as a service/therapy dog according to the owner (unclear which one). The owner thinks that the dog was abused or hit in his last home, and they hope that moving will help resolve his reactivity as it’s currently worst near the house.
- It’s possible that things will get better with the move, but I wouldn’t count on it.
- If you want a dog for service/therapy work and you’re struggling with reactivity, it’s time to get a trainer on board ASAP because the dog is currently showing behaviors that are unacceptable for that “job.”
- We need to avoid triggers for this dog. I don’t want this dog anywhere near kids until the dog is working with a trainer, because it’s such a huge liability to have this dog potentially bite or aggress towards kids. Any dog can and will bite, and it’s just too risky.
- Head across the street from a playground and give the dog a piece of chicken whenever you see or hear a kid. Do a few one or two minute training sessions, keeping the kids away from the dog and just teaching the dog that Kids = Treats.
Amanda and the Whiney Pointer
Amanda has a pointer who is whining at night from the moment they put their son down to bed until they put the dog to bed. The dog is whining for an hour or two every night and everyone is starting to go a bit crazy!
- What purpose is this whining serving? What reward is the dog getting for the behavior, either purposeful or accidental? My guess is that this is attention-related or that the dog truly needs more exercise/stimulation, and whining is helping her get that.
- Let’s try to increase the dog’s exercise/enrichment/stimulation as soon as the son goes to bed but before the dog starts whining. Potentially this means giving the dog a Kong right before the son goes to bed.
- Explore the relaxation protocol as an option for mental enrichment that also teaches the dog to “turn off.”
- Potentially implementing a bit of negative punishment whereby the owners get up and leave (for 30 seconds or so) if the dog whines at them so that the dog learns that whining does not get her attention or anything else good! When the owners return, they should give the dog something else to do right away so that we’re not just using punishment – we’re also returning armed with a new way to head off the whining. This will help us head off extinction bursts.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.