"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Dog on Crack

– Posted in: Columns, Newsletters

Hi John 

I have two dogs.  One is a 1-year-old deaf Blue Heeler named Lightning. The big issue in this house is Barrel the 2-year-old Aussie shepherd/ blue heeler cross.  He is extremely active and energetic.  We try to get all his energy out everyday with walks, and playing ball in the yard etc, but it just never seems to be enough.  He is hard to live with in the house as he is constantly barking at every single noise he hears.  If we try to get him to stop barking, or discipline him for anything for that matter, he gets angry and snarls, and sometimes he bites.  Most often he will attack Lightning when we discipline him.  We can’t really pet Lightning without Barrel jumping in and biting.

When we play ball, if Lightning gets to the ball first Barrel attacks him. We have had problems at the dog park, where on several occasions he has taking down children hard that were running around.

We love our little Barrel but he makes life so stressful sometimes that it makes me cry.

Sincerely

M.S.

Dear M.S.

The Blue-Heeler and Australian Shepherd breeds are high energy, high drive, and highly intelligent working dog breeds and if a person hasn’t the lifestyle or the training ability to be a good match they very much have the potential for being dogs on crack.

These dogs need clearly defined and maintained relationships as to who’s the teacher and who’s the student and working dog obedience levels where “Come!” means, “Now!” not, “After you’ve played pretend the running child in the dog park is a sheep.”

It’s great that you love your little Barrel but loving dogs is easy, getting respect sometimes, no so much and he seems to be somewhat wanting in that arena if he’s constantly getting “angry and snarls, and sometimes he bites.”

Barrel is the sort of dog where no matter how much I might otherwise want to do so, he wouldn’t get the time of day from me if he didn’t do something for me and the better he got the harder I’d make it for him. I’d have him drag a leash indoor and a long rope outdoors so I could catch him at my whim. Every door, stairway he’d have to wait. If he got in or out of my truck without permission I’d haul him back until he did it right. I’d make him learn to “Come!” so well that he’d have grass stains on the pads of his feet from turning around so quickly. I’d make him stay on a mat whenever I was eating. There’d be more. In other words, I’d give him a teacher, and a job. I wouldn’t love him any less but his day would be filled with constant reminders that it was my house and he just got to live there. I guarantee if you can do that Barrel will be relieved, relaxed and responsive.

At the end of the day even though Barrel very likely has what it takes to become a decent canine companion and citizen you might find that you don’t have the lifestyle or the handling ability to bring it about. I get that it would be hard to give him up but if he were mine and that were the case I’d feel worse knowing that I was sentencing to him a life time of being frustrated and in conflict as I assure you whatever unnecessary stress you feel the relationship is causing, his burden is no less serious. Your other dog Lightning would likely be able to blossom as well without having to worry about Barrel’s wrath every time he chased a ball or got his head scratched.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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