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Extraordinary Contradictions (Barking and Crate Soiling)

Hi, John, My 22-month Labrador Retriever, is a tremendous challenge; she barks for her meals. If I don’t feed her when she starts to bark, she wets in her crate. Sometimes she wets, even when I do get the food there on time. She has been vet checked. She is destructive in the house that I have to keep her crated far more than I should. I have tried her on a 20-foot leash, so that I can correct from a distance, but she has countered this control by wetting at will.  Snickers goes to dog school, three times a week and has done so since she was five months old. She heels beautifully, on-leash, when in class, knows Down, Stay, Halt, Stand-Stay, and Sit and has done basic agility. I have limited success in off-leash work.  I have done three-minute off-leash sit-stays and down-stays. She does recall but runs at me at full speed, then body checks me when she gets to me. In class, I now recall her while standing against a wall. Try finding a wall outdoors. At dog school, she has been nicknamed “the Meth Lab” because of her crazy behaviour. If she breaks on an off-leash exercise, she takes off at top speed and circles the arena about six times, then comes on recall. I love Snickers and I know how to be firm with her. She is enrolled in school and has an excellent teacher. I am trying hard. However, she is out of control and I don’t know where I went wrong.
Hi M.H.
There are such contradictions in your letter. It seems that you’re working very hard but you absolutely must be doing all the wrong things. Your dog however is speaking very clearly to me. She knows “Halt” but you’re having a problem with her body checking you? Training 3X/week and she still performs as if everything is a trick or a game? At some point in training (and you’re way past that point) every dog needs to understand, Come, Heel and Stay are jobs. Everything you describe are a typical byproduct of a dog that has never heard the word “No”. I’m not saying you haven’t said it, I’m saying she hasn’t heard it and to be blunt I don’t think you’ve been firm with her a day in her life. Either that or she has a screw loose.
A dog that gets so excited about food that it urinates may indicate a situation where the training for treats has been overdone. A dog that urinates when disciplined may indicate over-the-top discipline but more likely a horribly confused dog as to just what it is being disciplined for. This does not equal “excellent teacher.” It usually indicates a trainer with little experience or no experiences with anything other then one approach to dog training and so little creativity when it comes to customizing a program to a particular dog’s needs.
If this was a child with a behaviour problem and your trainer the therapist and the therapist after a fair kick at the can was unable to produce results for you and your child, what would you do?
I think it’s time to move your Meth Lab on down the road. The chemistry isn’t right where you are.
Pawsitively yours,
John [email protected]

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