This is a case study and story about two rowdy dogs and how in-home dog training saved the dogs with their forever family. Expert dog trainer and dog behaviorist Laurie Yakish explains.
Kristy and the Jack Russell Terrorists
But they were sooo cute…
Kristy is a first grade teacher and the mother of two grown children who have recently moved out of state. She decided that now would be a good time to get a couple of small dogs to fill the empty nest and got a couple of Jack Russell Terrier puppies, sisters to be exact. Their names were Thelma and Louise. Kristy spent the first couple of months with the girls’ potty training, trying to keep them from chewing on the furniture and socializing them with other puppies at the park and puppy/dog socialization classes. Things were going pretty well at first.
Teenage Terror Times Two
Then a couple of things happened. First, Kristy started the new school year and secondly, the girls hit adolescence. All hell was breaking loose. Thelma and Louise were non-stop activity. They barked at everything that moved. If they could see a squirrel through the window they barked, scratched at the glass and sometimes even accidentally pulled down the blinds. If they got too worked up they would end up in a fight. Thelma and Louise barked at the neighbors as they walked by. They barked at bicycles. They barked at the neighbor kids on their bicycles. One day for lack of anything better to do Thelma and Louise decided to play tug-o-war with the drapes. Kristy was not pleased to say the least and her husband, Frank was no happier when he returned from his business trip. They were both completely fed up with the nasty notes taped to the front door.
Considering all the time and attention that Kristy had put into Thelma and Louise when they were little why are things going so badly now? The easy answer is bored teenagers. The more complex answer is poor boundaries and not enough mental stimulation or physical activities. When they were little, Kristy was home almost every day. It was summer. She played with them and took them to the dog park to play with other puppies. They were almost never alone and when they were they were kenneled but only for short periods. Now they were alone most of the day five days a week and left to their own devices. Also, it was now winter and Kristy wasn’t able to take them outside to play as much. Not good, but what’s a mother to do?
But What IS a Mother to do?!?
Thelma and Louise need to learn how to handle being left alone and they need to learn how to amuse themselves in a more constructive way. Kristy tried kenneling them while she was at work with a neighbor coming over once a day to let them out but after a few days it became clear that this was going to create other problems. The neighbor found it harder and harder to get the girls back into their crates every day and when Kristy got home from work and let them out Thelma and Louise were wilder and more out of control than ever. She was out of ideas.
It’s Super Dog Training to the Rescue!
Finally Kristy started looking into local dog trainers. She discovered that she had a number of choices in dog training programs between group classes and in home dog training. After a number of phone calls and a great deal of discussion, Kristy decided on private dog training lessons in her home. The first recommendation the behavioral trainer made was to take Thelma and Louise’s dog dishes away and replace them with project or puzzle toys which are toys filled with the dogs’ food. The dog has to interact with the toy to get the food out. These toys were rotated on a regular basis to prevent boredom. In the evenings when Kristy got home from work and the weather was inclement she played fetch and hide and seek with the dogs for physical activity and mental stimulation.
The trainer also taught Thelma and Louise a structured system of rewards and consequences for their behavior. First they practiced with the girls by having the trainer walk by the front windows. If the dogs barked they got into trouble. If they were quiet they got treats. Next the trainer walked by the windows with her dogs, one at a time until the girls were getting treats on a consistent basis. Next, she taught Kristy how to booby trap the windows so that the dogs would be greeted by a very loud alarm every time they went near them. These alarms would automatically reset themselves so Kristy could leave them in place while she was at work.
On the Road Back from Crazy Town
Since they were still young terriers Kristy wasn’t comfortable with leaving them out of their crates for the entire day just yet and the trainer agreed. They came up with a compromise. Kristy would crate Thelma and Louise when she left for work. The neighbor would let them out around lunch time and give them their project toys after they came back in from going potty. On her days off Kristy would practice leaving them out of their crates with their project toys for short periods of time while she did errands. Things are not perfect yet and there are still occasional missteps but overall life is improving and everyone is happier. As the girls mature they will become a joy to have around.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laurie Yakish is a dog trainer and dog behavior specialist working in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is certified through Animal Behavior College but more importantly Laurie was mentored by Gary Wilkes who pioneered clicker training and many other groundbreaking behavior modification protocols. Laurie is an active member of IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals). Dog obsessed since she was four years old, by seven she was frustrating the daylights out of her mother by stealing snacks out of the cupboards to use as treats to train her dog Pepper to play high jump.
You can learn more about Laurie and her unique brand of dog training by visiting www.dogtraininglauriesway.com