Ask the Dog Trainer! Sponsored by John Van Olden

All Week users will have the ability to ask dog training expert John Van Olden their pressing dog questions about your dog's behavior issues and training!

About John Van Olden:

With over 20 years of professional experience, John is one of the most successful and experienced dog trainers in California.

John provides private training and believes that the best approach is to begin in your dog's home environment free of distractions before progressing to a public setting where he will work to make sure that your dog has the same level of focus that he/she has at home. “I believe that training should take place at both ends of the leash, and feel that I'm as talented a teacher of people as I am a trainer of dogs”, John Van Olden.

Learn more by visiting, http://www.johnvanolden.com/index.html

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decafdog

In Dogs

Reply To: JohnVanOlden

Dear John,

I recently rescued a golden mix male dog. His personality is great and he is a very social dog at the park. However, when we are at home he is not very affectionate towards me and always wants to lay under the bed. This behavior only occurs in the house, and when we are in other places he loves to be right next to me. I thought dogs loved to lay on peoples laps and always wanted to be with their master. Is it possible that he is just independent when he is at home, or am I doing something wrong at home?

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JohnVanOlden

In Dogs

Reply To: decafdog

Hi

   Well you don't mention how long ago you adopted your dog, but it does take anywhere from 3 to 6 or so weeks for them to completely bond with you and your family.  Dogs usually feel safe and secure in enclosed spaces which is why he likes to be under the bed. and even if you've had him longer than 6 weeks or so, this could be a behavior he's learned from when he was new in your household.

    Try to keep him close to you when you are home, by keeping him on a leash in the house for a while.  If he's good with you on the leash when you're out of the house with him, this will help him become more comfortable with you when you're home.  If you've been working on his "stay" command, you can also get him a bed that you can put in your family room area and have him stay there from time to time when you're home and around him.  If you take away his option to hide out from everyone when you are at home, you'll begin to build his confidence and get him used to your household.

    Hope this helps!

 

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Amy

In Dogs

Reply To: JohnVanOlden

Dear Mr. Van Olden,

We adopted a terrier mix about three and a half months ago, she was four months old when we got her.  Her history is a little unclear, but we know that she was rescued from a backyard breeder situation in which there was both abuse and neglect.  While she is extremely loving and playful with us, she is very fearful towards strangers.  She will bark at them, and in some cases lunge at them if they try to touch or pet her.  We have seen a lot of improvement over the past few months, but she still has serious issues with other people.  We were wondering what advice you had in terms of teaching her to be less afraid and aggressive towards others. 

Thanks for your help!

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decafdog

In Dogs

Reply To: JohnVanOlden

Thanks for the advice, I will give it a shot and see how it goes!

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JohnVanOlden

In Dogs

Reply To: Amy

Hi Amy

   Sounds like your dog needs to have her confidence built.  The first thing I would recommend is that you work on getting her obedience as reliable as possible.  This means that she'll do her commands in ALL situations, even those where she may not feel as comfortable as she might if she were home and it were quiet.

   My dog Mojo was afraid of everything.  Unfortunately, by the time I got him, this fear sometimes manifested itself as aggressive behavior if a stranger tried to come to close to him.

   I taught Mojo a reliable stay command, first away from any distractons.  I also taught him a focus exercise.  When it came to loud noises, like city busses, etc, once he achieved good focus, I began to work on it around distractions.  Now, the first few times I tried it, he still tried to bolt and run when he heard loud noises, but he wouldn't because his "stay" command was pretty solid.  I would reward him like crazy for staying, and over time, I taught him that the busses and other noises weren't anything to be afraid of by desensitizing him this way.

    The same can happen with people, though in this case, once you build your dog's confidence by setting good boundaries with solid obedience training, you can have your dog try to approach strangers for treats.  You should not have them come up to her, but have her start with a nice calm stay, then release her to go get a treat with a "go say hi" command.   

    Working with a (good) trainer might be a good first step to get the obedience solid and reliable. 

    Good luck!

John Van Olden

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blacklab

In Dogs

Reply To: JohnVanOlden

Labrador Who Eats Everything:

I know it’s a common trait amongst labs to eat everything in front of their faces, but there has to be a way to try and curb this instinct. For example, does my dog really need to put everything in his mouth regardless of the condition it’s in (I will spear you the details, but just imagine some of the things you find on the street).

I have tried a lot of different behavior curbing tactics. One of which was tough love and I strapped on a shock collar. It really got be too much, so I stopped using the collar and switched to verbal discipline and kept him on a tight leash to just take away his ability to grab whatever he wants.

Can you help provide some advice on why/what I can do to help teach him to only eat food that I give him, and not to eat everything he sees?

Thanks

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kristinlaxalt

In Dogs

Reply To: JohnVanOlden

Dear Mr. Van Olden,

We have an eleven year old Golden Retriever/Yellow Lab mix.  We were recently on vacation and the housesitter/petsitter that we have been using for many years called to tell us that he had peed on her.  She told us that they were sitting out in the front yard when some neighbors walked by; upon seeing the people, he lifted his leg and peed on her. 

We aren't very concerned about it, but were just curious as to why he would all of the sudden do this when he has never done it before.

Thanks for your advice!

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JohnVanOlden

In Dogs

Reply To: blacklab

Hi

    You mention using a shock collar, and while some form of consequence is probably needed here, sometimes it's not a matter of what you correct your dog for or when, but what you do immediately afterwards.  Trying to recreate the situation immediately to give your dog the chance to succeed, such as turning around and walking your dog past the object he was corrected for going after, then rewarding him for ignoring it, can often go a long way towards teaching him not only what isn't expected, but what is.

      If your dog is engaging in this behavior more obsessively, (OCD) there could be other anxiety related issues going on.  These can be solved but you should probably consult a trainer about it.  When you do, be sure to have the trainer explain to you exactly what he/she feels the issue is, its cause, exactly what she/he will recommend to help, and exactly what you can expect.  If the trainer is unable to provide this information in a satisfactory way, I would recommend finding a different trainer.

    Thanks for your question.

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JohnVanOlden

In Dogs

Reply To: kristinlaxalt

Hi

   That's a good question.  Unfortunately we can only theorize until somebody comes up with a way for us to talk to and understand our dogs. 

     This could possibly be some kind of territorial issue or a form of dominance, but could have also just been triggered because he was excited when he saw the other people.  (Had I seen it happen, after I stopped laughing, (just kidding) I would probably have a better guess based on his body language, level of excitement, etc)

   Because it's isolated and not somthing he does all the time, and because his environment was different because you were gone, you're probably right in not worrying about it too much.

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