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Ask Pilar: Mess When We Return Home, Not Obeying Commands And Aggression At Table

Welcome to our “Ask Pilar” series! Professional dog trainer and groomer Pilar Garrido will answer questions you have about your pup. She is only providing a basic overview. For more information, please consult a trainer, behaviorist or groomer in your area, who can directly work with your dogs.

For this round of questions, our readers asked:

1. I am having an issue with our five-month-old Biewer Terrier. We used to leave her in a room when we’d go out and she’d cry. We stopped doing that and now she doesn’t cry. However, when we leave the house and come back, we are in for a big surprise. She goes crazy ravaging the trash, the kitchen looks like a total mess and, sometimes, we see her on top of the kitchen table. Can you please give us some advice?

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I would suggest that, before leaving the house, spend some time walking the dog first. She needs exercise, and you want her to spend her energy outside. It will be safer if she stays in a room while you are gone. You do not want any surprises or accidents. I know you tried the room before; why not do it again, but try converting it into her personal space this time. I bet she would love it, especially if her bed/sleeping box and toys are all there. A Kong dog toy is a good distraction — add some of her favorite food inside. Also, the smell of lavender can do wonders for your dog. When you are at home, try spraying it into the room where she always stays and put some in her bed. Leave the door open so that she can leave anytime she wants to. In due time, she will call it the room her home sweet home. Make sure that when she is in there, nobody bothers her. When leaving, close the door gently, do not speak to her and do not say goodbye. Just leave quietly. When you arrive, do not go to the room to say hello. You want to avoid any anxiety build-up. Let her come out when she feels like it and avoid being overly excited to see her. Just act normally. She will then learn that you leaving and coming back is just a routine activity.

2. We have a two-year-old male Airdele Terrier that had some dog training classes when he was just one year old. We still do the same commands that our trainer taught us to do. However, I think I am the only one in the family who gets frustrated whenever I command him to stay, stop or eat. When we all walk together, the dog walks and behaves well with my husband and not with me. Am I doing something wrong?

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Studies on dog behavior by the University of Florida, published in the Journal of Learning and Behavior, show that dogs can feel empathy. For this reason, they follow those who are caring, confident and calm. We must learn to be relaxed and not get frustrated so that our dog will want to voluntarily follow us. We communicate to our dogs through the way we use a leash and our body language. Words are something that the dog learns down the line, and it is the least important. That is why we sometimes see dogs follow and obey certain people and ignore others in the family. Follow everything that the trainer tells you to do and try to stay as calm as possible around your dog. Learning to control yourself and your emotions will help build that reassuring confidence, which allows our dog to feel safe being with us.

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3. We have an 11-month-old Appenzeller Sennenhund who used to behave and sit under the table when we’d eat as a family for lunch and dinner. Lately, she’s shown some signs of aggressiveness and barks a lot under the table or sits besides my son barking nonstop. One day, we decided to put her outside the house during lunchtime, and she started crying and barking outside. Can you help us fix this problem?

You will have to teach your dog to stay in her bed and wait until your family finishes lunch or dinner. Try putting a leash on her in bed so that you can prevent her from going to the area where the family eats. Taking her out from under the table is essential because we want to prevent her from claiming that space. In addition, it isn’t easy to monitor your family. Some families I know like to give their dog crumbs under the table, and barking is a way for their dog to get attention. We want to stop that behavior before it gets worse. By putting your dog in her own space, we claim the lost territory under the table as ours. It is not an easy fix, and it will take time. However, you will soon see some improvement when you start setting rules. Your dog will soon change her behavior, knowing that she is no longer in control. If you need additional help, please try consulting a dog trainer to monitor how you apply the training.

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