Our otherwise well-behaved younger dog, Lexi barks at everything when I’m around (not so much when I’m not). We can live with that. However, she has also started growling at our 15 ½ year old dog. She has even gone after him once or twice. This is unacceptable behavior so we called in a dog trainer.
After meeting with the trainer, it turns out that I am the problem and I am the one who has to be trained! Apparently our actions can be interpreted by canine brains in ways we can not always predict or understand. I’ve always thought it was love and devotion that made Lexi follow me around. It turns out I’ve let her feel that she has to protect me 24/7.
She thinks that’s her job – and because of many of her Heinz 57 strains of DNA, she takes her job very seriously. I also thought it was love and affection that made her drape herself over me when we sit together. Wrong again. She is being possessive and asserting that I am her “property”. This exacerbates her desire to “protect” me from anyone else, particularly from our other dog.
So, I have to make some changes in the way I relate to her.
I know that dog people often have strong ideas about the “right” way to train dogs and their humans. I personally believe that different things work for different people and different dogs. Also, some behaviors come more easily to some people. For example, I am not a disciplined person and I have a poor attention span. So I do not do well with rigid rules or strict practice schedules. I need behaviors that I can adapt into my not very structured day-to-day life.
So here’s what the trainer worked out for me and Lexi.
I will keep her from spending all her time next to me. That should let her know that she doesn’t own me or need to protect me. She already knows how to sit, lie down, stay, and come. While I watch TV, she has to sit on her dog bed across the room from me. And stay there until I release her which also tells her I’m the alpha, not her.
She has to look to me to determine where she should be and what she should be doing, at least sometimes. If this isn’t enough to alter her behavior towards our second dog, I will extend the “give me space” scenario to other times of the day until she “gets it”.
I didn’t realize that I had inadvertently put Lexi on “guard duty,” thus creating stress for her. I feel terrible that I did that to an already anxious dog. Hopefully, this old dog can learn new tricks and I can release her from her “job” with me. Making some new rules will let her know that I’ve got things covered and don’t need her help.
I never want to change the cuddly, fun part of our relationship. But if I can eliminate the stress for her, maybe we can just be a loving human and her dog BFF.