Re-programming Lacey

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I had an interesting training session with Lacey and Tanya last night. Lacey has been exhibiting some unwanted behaviors that must be addressed before they get more out of hand than they are already. She is making all the decisions – especially, where food is concerned. She breaks position when she’s tired of maintaining it, she walks away during exercises, she ignores whoever is calling her back, and lately, she has started growling and trying to mouth Tanya’s hand when Tanya corrects her. She is helping herself to food on the table, food on the counters, and even the food on the plates when the family is eating.  And she doesn’t care whether the family sees her doing it; if she wants it, she takes it. This is incredibly disrespectful and it must be stopped.

To begin the long process of getting Lacey back to balance, I asked Tanya to put her leash on her, and then observe for the duration of the session. Using the leash, facial expressions, and the hand gestures she knows, Lacey was reminded about her place in the pack.  She broke position several times and tried to walk away. She was called back and she refused to come on her own, so I used slight leash pressure to reinforce the command. She tried to help herself to high-value food rewards, she was corrected, and she growled at me – which resulted in an immediate, firmer correction.

These exercises were repeated using various areas (table, counters, etc.) until Lacey accepted that she was not in control and surrendered willingly to the rules being set out for her. By the end of the session, she was holding position, she was quiet, she was ignoring all food placed within her reach, and she was waiting patiently for the next instruction. To reinforce this, I instructed Tanya to start holding Lacey’s food bowl and controlling her access. By holding the dish, Lacey is forced to wait for permission; this teaches Lacey that in order to eat, she must show respect to the source of her food.  This is a critical lesson for her to learn, as she is a very dominant dog who has no problem bullying until she gets her own way. By taking control of the food, Tanya and her family will teach Lacey that who controls the food, controls the pack.

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