Hi John: Over the Christmas holidays, we had some things happen with regards to Latte that we don’t quite know if we are handling properly. There were three guys who each did sort of the same thing to her–they would crouch down, ‘growl’ at her, some times even grab her nose gently and tug on it and “growl” as they did this. From that point on, she would bark at them, stand with her front legs bent with her butt up in the air and growl at them or bark at them. She liked them, her tail would be wagging, but after that every move they made, she would see it as an invitation and carry on from where they left off. What’s up with that? Any input would be greatly appreciated. – Thanks Cathy
Latte’s front legs down and butt up in the air is called a play bow and it is an invitation to play or to play more and you’ll often see dogs do this with each other. The fellows that came over are what I call the “Crazy Uncle Bob” factor or CUB for short. CUB is the fellow that comes over, winds your kids up and then goes home. Whether you have children or a dog, everyone has a CUB and in 20 years of dog training I’ve come to learn that the stock advice offered “Just tell your guest to ignore the dog and eventually the dog will leave them alone.” doesn’t much help. Some guests may co-operate but most think of it as a suggestion you’re giving them. Normally the degree of co-operation is inversely proportional to how cute the dog is. With cute dogs, CUBs can’t stop being CUBs anymore then kids can stop being kids and so for now forget about the evil CUB and focus on Latte.
Dogs believe in speed, strength, agility and strength of desire as factors that will influence who is the teacher and who is the student and until you convince Latte that you have those qualities superior to her own you’ll find it more difficult to behave with people she knows let alone people intentionally trying to wind her up. Try leaving the leash on Latte when it’s just the family home and supervise her like you would a two year old child. Step on the leash if she tries to wander off. Clip her to your belt if you have to. Put he in her crate when you’re at your wits end but try and keep the crate near you so she’s not associating her den with isolation. This sort of structure is intended to influence the dog regarding speed, strength, agility and desire factors. If you can’t get to the dog before the dog can get to the goodies during normal day to day interaction, it’s not going to happen when CUB visits. Just by doing this alone, whenever you’re home you should see a profound change in her overall attitude within ten days.
Then you harness this burgeoning respect. Rather then waiting for CUB to visit, be CUB. If you watch television when a commercial comes on, one of you give a worst case CUB scenario and the other step on the leash so she can’t get any closer then 3 or 4 feet away and don’t give her any positive attention until she cools her heels. Alternatively, you could teach her to go to a mat when your fill in CUB starts up. Lead her there on her leash and keep taking her back while your training partner tries to tempt her into play. Eventually start introducing the concept as dress rehearsals at the door when you’re going out on a walk. Knock on your own door. Ring your own door bell. Greet the invisible guest. Get that under your belt and then work with your non-CUB friends. The idea is lay a foundation so she can more easily connect the dots when she encounters a real life CUB character.