I had two really similar cases this week and thought you might want to hear about the resolution to each of them in the event that their situation and solution could help you. These two cases were great practical applications of the three main principles my training is based on: following the natural learning process, getting the “freedom/responsibility quotient” in balance, and teaching the skill of recovery.
In both cases, these lucky dogs got to go to work with their owners. Both cases also shared a similar complaint by the humans; the dogs would periodically (and in one case nearly constantly) bark at clients that would come through the front door of the office. In my assessment of each case, these weren’t aggression problems per se (though, I imagine, it’s never fun apologizing to your clients when your dog barks at them). I never want to minimize aggressive behavior but both these dogs lacked the follow through that makes ‘alarm barking’ more serious. It’s also worth noting, the tenor of these barks weren’t the “hey, I’m excited someone is here” bark either. Each barking behavior was similar; an alarm bark (an announcement that there was an intruder) BUT without the follow up. Meaning they exhibited none of the signs that they intended to escalate (e.g. charging, lunging, low head with a stiff neck and a ‘locked in’ stare-down or an escalating low growl). There was some reticence in the body language after barking, and after a while (sometimes 10-15 minutes), if the people “behaved” (to the dog’s satisfaction) the dogs would each settle down and ignore the “intruders”. In both cases, the dogs were off leash and able to roam where ever they’d like in the office. These were both adult dogs (over two years old) and were breeds that didn’t have a profile that suggested a high level of protective drive.
THE BASICS AND INDIRECT STUFF: I asked each of the people to remove their dog from the office for a three or four days so they could do some basic foundational work with them. Those of you that have listened to the podcast, or have gone through the video course, know those basics. They worked on: loose leash walking (relationship work), coaching of nervous system recovery (basic core skills), and the owners introduced some basic structure and restriction of some their dog’s usual freedoms around the house.
THE OFFICE STUFF: Once they brought their dogs back to the office, we introduced some new policies. As opposed to letting the dogs roam around the office off leash, I asked each owner to set their dog’s bed next to their desk with a leash cinched around the leg of their desk to limit the dog’s freedom. This was done in part because, in both scenarios, the owner’s desks were about as far from the entry door as you could get. In situations like these, we want to start easy, create some structure, and create some distance from any triggers. Those of you familiar with the podcast and video lessons know that this is the step of bringing what I call the “freedom/responsibility quotient” back into balance. (If that doesn’t make sense you can download the free eBook on the topic on the home page of the website www.thedogsway.com)
THE INTERACTION WITH THE DOGS IN THE OFFICE SITUATION
So, after this foundational work and office structure was set up, we were ready to deal with the entry of people into the office directly.
The negative feedback: (yes, I believe in communicating to our dogs that they have done something wrong when they do …