Sunday , 10 December 2017

Ask A Trainer: (not so) Lucky in Love!

(cover photo: “Kissy Face”  is copyright (c) 2009 Beverly & Pack, and made available under a Creative Commons Attribution)

I am extremely worried about my dog Lucky. He is two and a half years old. Since this female dog keeps coming to the backyard, he’s been acting odd…he doesn’t listen when I tell him to come inside he sort of looks then acts like he’s coming then goes the opposite direction. He wants to spend all day in front of the glass door and has started crying and howling more than just when he hears a siren. I’m not sure what’s wrong he also looks at me and starts whining especially if I block him from going up the stairs.

Hello Lucky’s Owner!

Thanks for taking the time to write in. I know you wrote in asking a question for Dr. Lissa, but we feel that this is more of a behavioral question as opposed to a medical issue.

My first question would have to be, is Lucky neutered? He sounds very much like a dog who is ‘in love’ so to speak! Is this female dog still coming around? I also have to wonder how often, and how she’s gotten into your yard. Either way, Lucky has already met her, and it sounds as if he’s smitten!

It’s hard to know if the female who visits is spayed, or if she is an intact dog. Does Lucky have many doggy friends? I don’t believe that all of our dogs need other doggy friends, but there are some dogs who really enjoy the company of dog friends, while there are others who can take it or leave it, while there are also those who don’t want to make friends with any new dog, and that is perfectly ok in my book.

Male dogs can smell a female in heat up to 3 km away!

If Lucky doesn’t have many doggy friends, he really may love the chance he is getting with this female. The novelty of it may very much outway his desire to obey a command to come back into the house, especially when he has such a pretty friend coming to visit!

If neither of the two dogs, Lucky and the visiting female dog are spayed or neutered, and are still intact, then the attraction is only that much stronger. The need to mate and reproduce is very strong in animals, and they will do almost anything to accomplish this goal.

If the visiting female is in heat, your dog Lucky will be able to scent her even if she is up to three kilometers away. At her most opportune times during her cycle, the stronger her pheromone scent becomes…calling all males, like a beacon.

If Lucky is indeed neutered, he will still be able to detect a female in season. He may not have the need to roam as much as an intact male would, or have the need to mate as much as an intact male would, but he is still very aware of the female’s state.

It sounds like Lucky generally listens to you, so I would just work a little harder on his recall. Practice the ‘come’ in many areas, especially in the backyard, with a variety of distractions. The more Lucky is set up to succeed, and the more he is rewarded for wanted behaviors, the more he will continue offering those behaviors.

When working out in the backyard, I recommend using a long line on your dog. This is just a cheap thin rope, 25 feet long, without a loop handle at the end of it. Tie it to your dog’s collar, and let him drag it around.

If your dog is paying attention to you, clap your hands, or make a kissy sound, and start running away from your dog. Almost all dogs love the Chase Me Game, and it shouldn’t be long until Lucky is running after you.

Lots of dogs love the "Chase Me" game!

Once he does, turn and reward him. If your dog is not paying attention to you, then either whistle, clap your hands, or make a kissy sound. I try to refrain from using a dog’s name too often, as if the dog hears his name too often, he very well may start blowing it off, and tuning you out. I try to keep my dog’s names in reserve for when I really need them to pay attention to me. In regular play times and training sessions, I stick to sounds to get my dog’s attention.

Again, run away from your dog, and get him engage in this super fun game of chasing you. Once he does, then reward him. After you’ve done this a few times, you can then start adding the word ‘come’ when he is actually coming towards you. Don’t forget to reward. After a few repeats of that, you can then start asking your dog to ‘come’ before you start running away. Don’t forget to reward!

If your dog doesn’t listen, or doesn’t seem interested in playing your game, then gently pick up the rope, and gently reel him in. Do not yank him to you, and keep a happy tone. You can try running backwards to entice him, or you can turn and run. If need be, then reel him in all the way. But don’t forget to reward him. Even though you were the one who did all the work, he still needs to get rewarded because we want Lucky to learn that when he comes, he wins the lottery!

You will need to practice this to make it habitual for your dog. You don’t have to spend much time each day doing this, the shorter the sessions, the better is it. But if you can do it multiple times during the day, the faster he will learn.

In terms of his wanting to spend most of his time watching out the glass door, this is normal for a dog who is bored, and doesn’t have much to do. A dog may have a variety of toys, some very nice doggy beds, and while this is very nice, these things do nothing to help stimulate his brain. I would begin feeding him his meals with the help of food puzzles, as well as intelligence games. Kongs stuffed with his meal should definitely keep him occupied. He will also work more at getting his meal in a Kong than he would from eating it out of a bowl on the floor. Check with your local pet supply store, they should have a variety of food puzzles and toys.

If Lucky is not neutered, then this is something that I would highly recommend as well. There are many benefits to neutering a dog, one of which will be to help curb his infatuation with this visiting female.

Regarding the sirens, there are some dogs who find the sounds of sirens to be too much, and they may either whine when they hear them, or they may sing along, as some dogs do. The whining he does when he is not allowed to do certain things is simply him expressing himself, and trying to get you to comply with him. It seems that Lucky has learned the whining can at times get him what he wants. And if it’s worked for him in the past, he will keep trying it.  So long as you know that he is not hurt, and is whining to get you to let him do something, or let him go somewhere, then I would just stick to my guns and ignore him. Walk away into another room, if need be. He will learn that his whining will not get him what he wants. But for him to learn this, you need to be consistent.

I am sure that you will be able to get Lucky’s behavior more to your liking if you work with him on his recall, get him neutered, and not give into his whining when he wants something. You can do it!

Good luck and happy training!









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