copyright 1996 by Cheryl May
First of all, check with the library and see if you can get a copy of "People, Pooches and Problems" by the late Job Michael Evans. The booklet, "Alphabetizing" by Terry Ryan is also good. Both of these are available from Direct Book Service at 1-800-776-2665. Look in the Evans book for the chapter on "Recalcitrant Rovers." Follow the guidelines in the book. It may seem like a pain, but it is a non-confrontational way to place yourself in the Alpha (in charge) position. Brian Kilcommons' "Good Owners, Great Dogs" is also good.
Here are some things to do NOW:
Place the dog's sleeping are outside your bedroom -- preferably downstairs from you, if possible.
Don't feed the dogs before you eat. Alpha eats first.
Teach a sit and a down stay. You can do this using food as a lure -- you just want to teach the words.
When you have these two commands, make the dog sit and wait at the door before going out. If both of you are going out, YOU go first. (This is a pain, but it is worth it.)
Start doing long downs in the evening while you are watching TV, reading, etc. One trainer even calls them TV downs. These should be for 1/2 hour each evening. Don't let the dog get up and walk away -- you have made the decision, not him.
With a problem dog -- and yes, you *have* a problem dog if he has bitten you -- nothing in life is ever free. He must do *something* for everything he gets. Have him sit before you put his food bowl down. If you are free-feeding, stop. Don't give him treats just for breathing -- make him do something to earn them.
Don't respond when he comes to you demanding attention -- putting his nose under your hand, etc. If he does that, ignore him. Then in a few moments you can notice him and have him sit before petting.
Follow the other procedures outlined by Evans. One other thing about aggression is to be sure the dog doesn't have a health problem! If your vet says he checks out okay, then go ahead with the Alpha program (actually the Alpha program won't hurt, either way, but it's important to always rule out health problems.)
Above all don't be discouraged. Many people have successfully turned problem dogs around with these methods, especially if you start soon enough. But if you are really having problems, your best bet is to seek help from a professional trainer. See my link to William Campbell's page where you can read an article on how to select a good dog behavior consultant. Don't wait until it's too late!
copyright 1996 by Cheryl May.
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