By Melissa French; Your Pack Leader (YourPackLeader.com)
Years ago I had a local attorney come to me about a Wheaten Terrier issue. His dog had escalated from barking at people when they came to the house, to charging, then to lunging, and finally, the dog had grabbed some clothing. Being an attorney, the gentleman was horrified because he knew the liability. He and his wife came to my place of business for a private consultation.
The Wheaten Terrier wasn’t particularly frightening at the consultation, but I did pick up some distinct signs of guarding: placing his body between the “threat” and his masters, strong, non-blinking eye contact, head low as stalking, a “freeze,” stiff body stance, etc. I began to talk to the gentleman about doing some obedience classes.
I began with the statement that the dog thinks the humans are too weak to fend off danger, and he feels obligated to protect the pack (ok, herd), most generally because the humans provide him with his physical, social, and innate needs, all except one. When it came to exercise, a walk was what the Wheaten got, but keep in mind that these dogs are bred to herd and guard livestock, and hunt vermin. So their energy levels are moderate to high.
When I got done talking with them, the gentleman wasn’t convinced that a dog training class was for him and his dog. How in the world would a dog training class in a public forum make his dog be less territorial and guardy in his home? I very confidently told him that if he took my eight week basic training course and he didn’t see improvement in the issues he was having and he actually participated by teaching his dog what we went over in class, I would give him a full refund. When he left, he was convinced that we were exchanging funds, and he would be getting the fee back in 8 weeks.
In the second to the last class, I always go around the room and ask these three things of the humans: 1) What is your dog’s best trait?, 2) What is your dog’s worst trait?, 3) and what did you get the most out of class. When we got to this gentleman, I don’t remember the answers to 1 & 2. But when it came to question 3 he said this:
“You know? You told me that I would see a difference in my dog at home after class and if I didn’t, you would give the fee I paid for class back to me. I have to say, you are right. I no longer have any of the problems I had prior to my bringing him to your class. He is much more relaxed when we have guests, and I don’t have to worry about him grabbing at clothing.” (To that, I smiled)
Please understand that your dog’s ability to learn is amazing. If you continually send your dog the right signals in a way that he can understand, he will begin to be more compliant, less combative, more pliable to your requests, and more settled and calm. If you don’t believe me, lets talk about it! If you are willing to do the hard work and not expect your dog to learn by osmosis, I know you will never regret taking a dog training class with your furry friend.
You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way. ~Marvin Minsky
Dog training begins and ends with “U.”