Breed: Golden Retriever
Behavior Challenge: Reactive to other dogs when walking on leash, general anxiety and separation anxiety, pushiness
Hunter had some “control” issues. When things were going his way, he was an easy-going, wonderful companion. When he preferred to be doing something different, he was going to let you know. As is often the case with Goldens, he didn’t get violent or aggressive, but he wasn’t passive either. When he was done walking or wished to go another direction, he would sling a front paw over the leash, turning himself into a 3-legged dog, and causing the owner to have to stop and straighten him out (or so she thought). He would also get pushy with his ball and his energy, getting in your face and in your space when he was ready for attention, and he would retrieve items that weren’t supposed to be retrieved, like tissues.
Basic obedience and a Nothing In Life Is Free (NILIF)-type program were keys to changing this dog’s mind. He didn’t have to agree with everything we did, but he did have to comply with fair requests that were made of him, such as sitting and heeling, for the simple fact that he was the dog and we were the humans. NILIF would help the owners see when they were inadvertently reinforcing behaviors they didn’t like, and also make this dog “work” for his rewards rather than just demand them.
Hunter and his owners enjoyed quick success. As a trainee, Hunter was quick to learn and mostly happy to comply. He clearly LOVED the attention. For this dog, affection was the most valuable reward he could be given. Hunter quickly found his place and the paw-slinging behavior was quickly fixed. The general anxiety and pushiness required a longer-term commitment to changes in handling and more consistency at home.
In Their Own Words – Our Client Experience
Last spring my husband and I adopted Hunter, a golden retriever rescue. Although we owned a golden retriever for many years prior to adopting Hunter, our old dog was very mellow, particularly in her later years. Hunter, on the other hand, is much more active. When he first arrived, he was a bit timid but with each passing day he became more comfortable and with increased comfort, he became harder to handle.
He was awful on a leash – pulling and rearing up on his hind legs, then swatting the leash out of my hands with his front paws. Very aggravating! He also jumped on us, on visitors. He whined and barked unless he was right beside us. Lastly he tended to bark and growl at other dogs when we went out for a walk.
I had gotten pretty frustrated because he was getting worse, not better. So, after a few months I called our vet’s office for advice. They recommended Sarah at Paws in Motion. She was a great help. She talked with me for a long time by phone, explaining her philosophy and technique. She was flexible about the frequency and timing of our training sessions.
Sarah has a nice balance, is neither too dog-centric nor too owner-centric. In other words, she helped us understand and set reasonable behavior expectations, then communicate those to the dog. She clearly likes dogs, but it also appropriately firm, holding them accountable and at the same time pointed out ways in which we inadvertently contributed to the problems we were having. In the end, she trained the dog and the owners! The great thing about this approach is that we learned a lot about dog behavior and how to address it, so as challenges came up, we got better and better about addressing them effectively. She recommended a book, gave us handouts, provided necessary equipment and met at convenient times and places.
I am happy to report that Hunter is much better behaved and seems much more secure. I think Sarah correctly diagnosed Hunter as having some anxiety and separation issues from his rough start. She recommended using a clear and firm manner, but also encouraged us to notice and appreciate his efforts. He is now a nice dog, much calmer and better behaved.