Wednesday, February 18

Changing Group Dynamics

My dogs have a problem. Whenever I say "outside" or walk to the backdoor, it's pandemonium! Barking, lunging, dogs jumping over each other - it's chaos. And if they get excited enough, my macaw starts going at full volume. It has to stop.

The method of changing their behavior is actually extremely simple in its simplicity, and has been referred to by others as "doggie zen." Essentially, I'm making the dog control itself naturally in order to obtain what it wants. Usually this applies to crate training - not letting the dog out of the crate until it has settled down and stopped barking/pawing/whining etc. I'm using similar principles.

To start with, I proceed to the back door. If anyone barks or whines, I immediately leave the room, keep my back to the dogs, and look up at the ceiling. I don't say a word. I stay this way for at least twenty seconds, maybe longer if they're still being noisy. Sometimes it takes four or five attempts before they are calm enough to be let out. My dogs are never at the point where they've "gotta go gotta go," so it's a lot easier to be patient when you don't have to worry about an accident on the floor.

Next, I include the behavior of not jumping on each other. The first step was silence - once they've gotten that down pat, I further up the ante by not allowing any potential aggressive behaviors. Usually this goes hand in hand with barking, but you may have some sneaky petes.

Third, and my final step, because it's as difficult as I wish to go, is to make the dogs sit at the door before they can be let out. I don't make them all sit at the same time, at this point, but as soon as one sits, that dog can go out. If you want out, you have to sit. Eventually I'll have them all sit concurrently. Baby steps here. ;) You could also do a down or any other behavior you want.

If you want to go even farther, you can require that the dog remains in a sit while you open the door, and doesn't leave until you give him permission. Obviously this is a good deal more difficult with multiple dogs, but it's necessary if you want to avoid the "bum rush" out the door.

Remember to keep it positive and give lots of verbal encouragement. You can see how with each step I take, the dogs are "earning" their potty time.

No comments: