We were installing a Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® System for a new client in Boca Raton to help keep his precocious Labradoodle, Cosmo, from escaping from the front yard. Although high energy, Labradoodles can be very intelligent and Cosmo caught on with the training very quickly. My client was positive that he would be able to have Cosmo with him in the front yard as he sat on the front porch without always having to call him back and chase him down the street. As we were finishing everything up and, our conversation turned from “dog containment” to “dog training”. Our client knew that we were professional dog trainers and had a “dog training question”. He said that although Cosmo was a great and gentle dog, sometimes he would get something in his mouth and never let go. He would growl and even snap if anyone got close. This was completely not like their Labradoodle and he wondered if there was anything that could be done.
The one thing that we always have to remember about dogs is that “they are dogs”. There are certain times and specific things that cause them to act out in ways completely different from their normal behavior. “Guarding stuff” is one of those actions. Although a dog may allow you to put your hand in their food bowl, pull goodies out of their mouth, or pick up their bones that are right next to them; there can be instances where they may snap and guard.
This unusual action is normally caused when an item is special, unusual, and has “high value” to the dog. For example, Cosmo loves peanut butter and gets it on rare occasions. At these times, you give it to him on your fingers and he excitedly, but gently licks the peanut butter from your fingers. Now, you have left the peanut butter out on the counter with the lid off as you were making a sandwich. You step away for a few minutes and Cosmo grabs the peanut butter jar.
You approach Cosmo to get the jar and he postures with his body language to let you know to stay away. He continues to devour the peanut butter and you continue to approach. Now, he will probably growl and snap at you if you continue to try to get the jar.
Cosmo’s aggression seems completely against his normal nature. This is true. The issue lies in the fact that he now has something so wonderful that he just has to have it at any cost. No matter how much he loves and respects you, that peanut butter his his.
Redirection is the key to getting the jar of peanut butter away from Cosmo in a calm and safe manner. We are not going to go “head on” in trying to retrieve the peanut butter because that will not decrease his determined focus on the object. We are going to suggest something that he may think is even better than the peanut butter. This suggestion, or redirection, will only be effective for a short period of time. But, it will be long enough for us to be successful.
Here is what I suggested to my client:
- First, we discussed all the “really great things” that Cosmo loves. One of them is a doggie treat that comes in a cardboard box. Every time my client shakes the box, Cosmo gets all excited and runs to his feet; waiting for a goodie.The treat and box is a perfect object of redirection because if offers both a visual and audible distraction.
- When Cosmo has something in his mouth that he won’t release (i.e. the peanut butter jar), my client is to get the box of doggie treats.
- He is to call Cosmo to get his attention and then shake the box of treats. If needed, he should take one or two of the treats out of the box and show that to Cosmo.
- As Cosmo comes over for what he thinks is a quick “I will get this treat and then go back to the peanut butter”, he is to guide Cosmo farther away and drop the treats in his doggie bowl.
- As Cosmo is enjoying his treats, another family member should pick up the peanut butter and put it away.
In this instance, he should not praise Cosmo for being a “good boy” because he really was not. As I mentioned earlier, this is a “fix” for a rare occurrence and the goal is to simply get back to normal. He should let Cosmo finish the goodies in his doggie bowl and move on as if nothing happened. He successfully initiated the redirection and his goal had been met.
As “humans in a modern world”, we often focus and analyze the 1% situations. If Cosmo is normally a great dog and occasionally does something completely out of left field, over analyzing the event is not the solution. We should just do what is necessary to get things back to normal in a consistent and calm manner. Robin and I hope you will always contact us about your out of sight dog fences or home dog training needs. Please visit Dog Fence Training Help Boca Raton South Florida or phone (954) 472-4724. We also have great Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® and dog training suggestions at Best Out of Sight Dog Fence Trainers Boca Raton South Florida. Robin and I have been your local pet professionals for over eleven years in Miramar and all over South Florida. Is your dog just crazy? Besides dog fence experts, we are also dog training experts. Find out more about our Behavior and Obedience Dog Training Program by clicking Home Dog Training Boca Raton South Florida.