Sherry Davis

Friday, Jun 06 2014 02:00 PM

SHERRY DAVIS: Sometimes both dog, owner need retraining

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Columnist Sherry Davis.

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By Sherry Davis

Most owners aren't interested in how a behavior problem started, they just want their dog "fixed."

But when it turns out that the owner is a part of the problem's origin and continued re-enforcement, correcting it will be impossible unless both the dog and its owner are retrained.

For example, take dogs that run out doors. Although some breeds definitely have a predisposition to run, a new puppy doesn't arrive at its new home at the age of eight weeks and start running out doors. In fact, for the first two months of their lives, most have been given pretty strict lessons in respecting boundaries by their mothers. When they go into their new homes they are more than willing to follow and obey the instructions of their new surrogate "moms." (They won't start cutting that invisible umbilical cord with their new owners until somewhere between the age of 4 and 5 months.)

But what often happens is that an owner assumes that puppy-like docility will continue without change so they don't establish certain boundaries for behavior, or they may unintentionally teach misbehavior by using human logic and not consider what they are really communicating to their puppy.

For instance, a dog door is a wonderful thing from a human standpoint. The dog can exit the house into its fenced backyard to eliminate or play whenever it chooses; the dog is safe and the owner doesn't have to be bothered letting it in and out.

But let's look at it from the dog's point of view. Since he is allowed at-will access at one door, why shouldn't he expect the same at other openings? And although it is not hard to teach a young puppy how to respect an owner's authority and control its impulse to run through an open door, it is a step that is often overlooked until after the puppy has made repeated self-rewarding escapes.

Even in homes without dog doors, dogs should not be allowed to charge out into a fenced yard just because the owner opens the door. They should be taught to wait (unless it's an emergency) until invited to enter or exit. Some people do teach their dog to sit and wait at the door, but sitting, with forward posture at a threshold, quivering in excitement, is not acceptable because it indicates a dog that is focused on getting out instead of taking its cue from the owner. This is also a dog that will bolt at the slightest trigger. Ditto for the dog that braces himself against his owner's knees in a squeeze attempt to pass.

A dog should move away from the area of the door at the owner's approach and assume a calmer posture and energy before it is released to exit. Retraining may require the use of a leash until the dog understands what is wanted, but if the owner is willing to be patient and consistent they will win in the battle for control of the door.

***

Breed of the week: the Yorkshire Terrier.

Although it is classified as a toy dog, and at times a greatly pampered one, the Yorkshire is a dog that definitely shows its terrier roots. Brought to Yorkshire by the working-class Scotch weavers who migrated from Scotland to England in the mid-19th century, its ancestors were a meld of the Waterside Terrier, crossed with the rough-coated Black-and-Tan English Terrier and the Paisley and Clydesdale Terriers.

While early yorkies weighed in at anywhere from 6 to 20 pounds, the breed standard today calls for a dog that doesn't exceed seven pounds. (There are no size requirements on pets!)

Prospective owners should not be fooled by the yorkie's diminutive size or baby-doll appearance. These are spirited dogs that definitely show the terrier strain that made them prize ratters in Victorian England.

While owners may find their lionhearted attitude amusing, it often gets them in trouble as they will think nothing of taking on dogs 10 times their size, so early socialization and obedience training are a must.

Their biggest behavior problems? Yorkies are notorious for being hard to housebreak, but this is not really a breed problem. Yorkie puppies are just very small and have to go more often and owners have a tendency to give them too much freedom in the house too soon.

While yorkies make good doorbells, it is important to teach them early when barking is permitted and to stop when cued or they can easily become nuisance barkers.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/ owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at csi4k9s@ yahoo.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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