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Disclaimer: The material provided by Bailey on this web site is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. The information presented is provided with the understanding that Bailey is not engaged in rendering medical or professional behavioral services. Such information should not be used as a substitute for behavioral advice provided by a qualified canine behavior therapist.

Please remember that Bailey's advice, comments, or opinions are solely Bailey's, and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff here at Pawsitive Training for Better Dogs.

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Battle With Bichon

Dear Bailey,

Living with my seven month old Bichon Frise, Phoebe, has become a constant battle.  It has reached new heights in the last few weeks.

Phoebe is generally a very affectionate, well-behaved dog, as long as she is doing something she likes.  When she isn't, she turns into a spoiled child, growling, barking, pouting, and lunging. 

She has several bad habits that are hard to live with, but the largest is her attachment issues.  She follows anyone who is watching her underfoot from room to room, pawing at the door and whining even if we go to use the bathroom.

If she cannot see someone for more than 30 seconds, chaos ensues.  If I am on the bed and she is on the floor (I never allow her to sleep on the bed), she jumps, barks and growls continuously, despite me yelling, “no!” and pushing her down.

When she is in the crate in the back seat of the car, she barks.  When I put her to bed in her crate, she barks within seconds.  She carries on for hours sometimes.

She cannot be left outside because she barks and whines excessively.

I've read that I should put her in the crate with a toy and stay in direct view of her in order to show her that I don't leave each time she's in the crate.  According to that training tip, I'm supposed to take her out after 5 minutes of quiet behavior.  However, she starts barking within seconds, then I'm stuck with it for 30 minutes or more.

I've exhausted the web and tried every tip I could, but this is one problem in addition to chewing, jumping, temper tantrums, and occasional biting.  I am at the end of my rope.  I really want Phoebe to be a part of my life, but every night is full of stress for both of us.  Any advice you can offer is so greatly appreciated!

Thank you.


Bailey's Reply:

Dear Sarafina, 

Sounds like Phoebe is quite the diva!  She gets what she wants when she wants it.  Phoebe is completely in charge of your life.  Boy, has she got you well-trained.

Your underlying problem is that most dogs really don't want to have that much responsibility.  It can really freak them out.  They would much rather have you in charge, providing security, food, guidance, etc.  If you can't be a strong, kind leader for them, then they feel no other choice to take the role as leader, even if they don't want to. 

Try to see things from Phoebe's point of view.  In human terms, it would be like someone telling you that YOU are going to be the President of the United States at this very second for the next four years, but no one is going to tell you how to do it.  Would you feel pressure?  Fear?  Insecurity?  Doubt?   

My advice to you is RUN- don't walk- to a positive reinforcement training class, or contact a trainer to work with you privately as soon as possible.  A good trainer can show you how to be a better leader to Phoebe.  I am certain that this will greatly improve your relationship.  Despite all the tips you can read about on the internet, there is no substitute for having a trainer work with you and your dog in person.  As Bob Bailey (a well-respected, well-known trainer) says, "Training is simple, but it's not easy." 

And about the crate...  You're expecting her to remain quiet for way too long.  Quiet behavior needs to be taught in baby steps.  Try rewarding Phoebe with a high-value treat (like cooked chicken breast, or salmon) when she is quiet for one second.  She shouldn't even have the opportunity to bark because you will be offering her a treat once she's in the crate.  Then let her out.  Repeat this 20 times.  Then reward her for being quiet for two seconds.  Let her out after she receives her reward.  Repeat this another 20 times.  Slowly increase the time as Phoebe gets better with quiet behavior.  Remember to make some "quiet" sessions shorter than others, so it's not always more difficult for Phoebe (an example: 1 second, 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 1 second, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 3 seconds, etc.) 

Good luck to you and Phoebe!



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