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Friday, October 9, 2009

Dog's behavior ruins vacation

Dear Jan,
My four-year-old Giant Schnauzer is very well behaved at home.  My husband is gone a lot for his job, and it's just  Bo and me at home most of the time.  Bo spends his days alone in a large pen adjacent to the house.  When I get home, he's in the house with me and follows me everywhere.  The problem is I can't take him out in public.  He becomes a different dog!  He'll lunge at skateboarders and dogs, he becomes totally inattentive to me, and he's borderline unmanageable because of his size and strength.  I recently took him to Portland thinking how fun it would be to walk through the parks there with him, but it was a nightmare.  I ended up spending most of my time dog-sitting him in the hotel room!  Why is he like this?  Can it be fixed?

Dear Evie,
Here's what Bo needs to become better away from home:
  •   Socialization with dogs
  •   Socialization with the world
  • . More exercise
  •   Leadership
Socialization with other dogs:  Get him into a play group.  Doggy Daycare is ideal.  If you don't have one in your town, consider a shopping trip to a larger town where you can drop him off at a good daycare for a few hours of socializing.  The other dogs will teach him things you haven't been able to, about self control and respect for authority.   He'll get a lot of stuff out of his system and be utterly exhausted when you pick him up.

Socialization with the world:  It's easier to leave a dog at home when he's difficult to take out in public.  But to help him, you must push beyond your (and his) comfort level.  Get a Gentle Leader head halter (for control) and a short leash, and start going for short walks in town.  Five minutes in the grocery store parking lot.  Five minutes around the block by the library.  Five minutes around the high school track.  Gradually you'll be introducing him to more and more distractions and teaching him that he can handle them--that he MUST handle them--because you require it.

More exercise:  Yes, it's hard to exercise them when they're difficult to walk on a leash.  Do it anyway.  With the right tools (Gentle Leader, short leash) and the right mindset ("We're going to FIX this thing!!"),  your frequent short walks will become easier, more gratifying, and longer.  No dog can be well balanced without proper exercise.  The more the better.

Leadership:  Work on your leadership skills.  Be FIRM and resolute with your boundaries, rules and limitations.  No fudging!  Let your dog know you are a person with strong convictions.  He wants that in you.  Be clear and concise with commands.  Follow through.  Demand the same type of respect from him that you would from fellow workers or subordinates.


sally chapman said...

hi jan, your wisdom and advise to those who write in always reinforces and benefits my relaionship with tequila. thank you - hope your fall is beautiful and healthy. sally chapman

sally chapman said...

jan - I always benefit from the reminders of your wisdom and advise to dog owners, who write in. Thank you and i hope your fall is beautiful and healthy.