I have become great friends with a 2 year old misguided Maltipoo named Suki. Suki was very insecure in her “sense of place” in her family and was claiming her territory by house soiling in areas she felt would help to brand her territory.
When I went to the home, Suki had taken ownership of the family room in the house. The couch and love seat were “hers”. As I entered the family room, Suki stood on top of the couch barking at us, which is another reason the owners had called me. She was letting us know we were entering the “forbidden zone!”. The family redirected us to the kitchen because it made Suki “settle down.”
This had been going on for quite a while. What I helped the owners understand is that Suki had no idea where she fit in the pecking order and she didn’t feel they were strong enough leaders to “handle” the role of alpha of her pack. I taught the owners that Suki needed to understand boundaries in their home, much the same as parents teach children boundaries in their home. We did this by putting a light line on the dog’s collar that is only worn when the owner’s are present.
Why the heck did you do this, you ask? Well, if the dog has a line on its collar and you keep the line attached to you, then the dog can easily be kept off the sofa until she has earned the right to get on what should be “the owner’s sofa”, not forbidden territory and not allowed to sneak off and go pee or poop. In a very short amount of time, Suki learned that these places were “off limits” until she earned the right to be there. They also practiced good leadership in having Suki do sits and downs before she got treats and affection.
I always find it really remarkable that until people are really motivated to view their relationship with their dog differently and with new insight (what the dog needs to be balanced), inappropriate dog behaviors don’t change. Once a person understands, from a dog’s perspective, what’s going on and why, (new insight) and they implement change in their relationship based on the insight, the dog problem vanishes.
And so it was with Suki, a changed and “Perfect Pooch” in just 3 weeks.
On our last lesson I entered a quiet home, was pleasantly greeted by a delightful pup and happy owner as we all sat down in the family room for our final lesson.
As I left, I couldn’t help but notice a look on Suki’s face which seemed to say: “Thanks for fixing my mom and dad!”