I was in Palm City on Saturday installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® system for a new client and his Bull Terrier, Rocky. (Did you know that General George Patton and Colonel Pappy Boyington (WWII) also had Bull Terriers?) Well, the installation went quite well and we were able to train Rocky on Saturday afternoon. He quickly understood that it would be far better to stay around the yard instead of running down the street after kids on bicycles or the mailman. As we were finishing up, my client wondered if he could ask a behavioral dog training question. We had discussed the fact that we had trained over 4,000 dogs and had a pretty good understanding of “how dogs work”. My client said that even though Rocky “looked big and scary”, he was really a big baby and would often get nervous when guests were over. This nervousness often was displayed in hiding, or growling when the guests would walk past him.
Just because our dogs often look “big and scary” doesn’t mean that they are Alpha or confident. After observing Rocky, it was obvious that he was a happy, passive doggie. Because of this, it was important that he had a leader that he could follow and believe would always protect him.
A major part of a leader’s responsibility is to provide safety. One of the ways that this is accomplished is through consistent rules. Establishing and constantly enforcing the rule of “You must remain on our property” helps to reinforce my client’s role of leader in Rocky’s eyes.
A leader must also create safety through “keeping the home front safe”. This is accomplished by assuring Rocky that whoever comes to their home is not a threat and that my client is always there to protect and defend. This is done by extending rules to “people coming to their house” and through appropriate body language on my client’s (the leader’s) part.
The first thing that we can do is to immediately assure Rocky that guests are OK and that my client is in charge. I asked him to accomplish through the following steps:
- Greet guests outside on the front lawn. Have Rocky on a six-foot leash sitting next to him as they pull up. Give a little tug on the leash to have Rocky look up at him to see that he is calm and confident.
- Ask the guests to stay calm and don’t directly approach them. Ask them to stand still.
- Now, I told my client to slowly walk Rocky around the yard and then to approach the guests at an angle so that they would pass with approximately ten feet between Rocky and his guests. He should not walk Rocky directly towards them.
- If Rocky shows any signs of agitation through aggressive barking or lunging; repeat the process at a greater distance.
- He and Rocky should circle the guests and then come to a stop about ten feet in front of them. His guests should still remain standing and calm.
- He should regularly be giving Rocky assurances that he is in charge by slightly tugging on the leash to have Rocky look back and up at him. This calm and tall body language will reinforce with Rocky that all is well.
- Once everyone is calm, he can slowly walk Rocky up to the guests. They are not to pet him or pay much attention to him. If Rocky pulls back, he should wait a moment and then repeat the process. If needed, he should walk Rocky around the yard for a moment before he tries again.
- Once they have greeted outside, He should ask his guests to go inside to the family room (or wherever they are planning to go) and to sit down…
So we have passed the first hurdle of communicating to Rocky that these new “animals” seem passive and safe and that my client is in charge. We are now ready to ramp it up to being inside and moving around.
- Now that the guests are inside and settled, I want my client to calmly walk Rocky into the house and into the room with his guests. He is to keep Rocky on the leash and he is to hold the leash.
- His guests should stay calm and not pay attention to Rocky.
- My client can now sit down with Rocky and have Rocky at his feet.
- After a few minutes of “calm”, he can give Rocky more leash.
- Ask the clients to get up and move around without directly approaching Rocky.
- If Rocky appears calm and disinterested, he can drop the leash.
Now, for one more thing…
- I want my client to stand up and move around.
- Next, I want my client to call Rocky to him and put him in a sit. This assures that Rocky is giving him respect and focus with his guests as well as submitting that he can always protect him.
If, at any time, Rocky appears nervous or agitated, I told my client to step on Rocky’s leash (Remember I told him to put it on Rocky and never mentioned taking it off!) and calmly guide Rocky back to him. If needed, he should walk Rocky out of the room and around the house for a moment or two before returning. When he returns, he will sit with Rocky next to him before he determines that it is fine to release his hand from the leash.
As a general rule, I don’t encourage the guests to directly approach Rocky to pet and play with him. This can be taken as an aggressive act on their part or is something that Rocky just isn’t ready to accept. Here is what I told my client regarding guests and playing/interacting with Rocky…
- The guests are to generally ignore Rocky.
- If Rocky comes up to them, they can slowly put their hand down. They should not move their hand over his face and should show him the back of their hand (not their palm).
- If Rocky engages with a nudge or lick, they can calmly pet (rub) his chest or back.
- I don’t suggest excited play unless the guests are very familiar with Rocky. Excited play can easily escalate to jumping and nipping.
I also suggested that first time guests stay sitting as much as possible while he stands. This will help to tell Rocky, through canine body language communication, that his guests are submitting to him as the leader and that Rocky is safe. After “everybody knows everyone else”, this action does not need to be enforced.
Just like our mommies held our hands to reassure us everything was fine, that body language also reinforces overall safety and reinforced focus with our dogs. We would love to answer any of your dog questions if you just go to Dog Fence Training Help Palm City South Florida. Call us directly at (954) 472-4724. Find out all about Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and general dog solutions at Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Palm City South Florida. Robin and I are excited to have been your South Florida dog professionals for over twelve years in Palm City and all of South Florida. Our products work great to keep your dog secure and on your property. We have trained nearly 4,000 dogs to be great and loving pets. Please check out all of our Dog Obedience and Behavior Programs by going to Home Dog Training Palm City South Florida.