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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I recently took in Zoe, an 8-y-o golden, who is NOT used to having any sort of boundaries.

She is smart and quickly learned things like not being allowed on furniture and waiting for my cue before she is allowed to eat her food, but when she is excited all of that goes out the window.

One example is that I've tried to set the boundary that I go out of doors first. I really think she understands this but when she is excited about something she sees outside or thinks we're going for a car ride she bolts out the door.

A big obstacle with her is that I'm pretty sure sitting hurts her knees due to an injury so she is extremely reluctant to do it and I stopped asking her to because I think it does hurt her. So getting her into a more calming position is a no-go.

The biggest thing for me is leash behavior. She's okay at it and isn't dragging me down the street but I want her to walk beside me (slightly behind me) and not start pulling when she smells something or sees a person or another dog. If we walk around in a busy area I spend the whole time dragging her away from going to greet every person she sees.

I just want her to walk calmly beside me. Is this too much to ask of an 8-year-old who has never been told not to behave like a wound-up puppy? Our other dog, who we also adopted at an older age, listens so well. I find myself getting frustrated with Zoe. Help??



Edit: Just read the post about dog zen / impulse control. Zoe is okay at that (needs work for sure, which I will do) but caught on after 3 tries. I really do feel like she knows what I want from her but just can't be bothered to do it.
 

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How long have you had her? How have you been training and proofing the behaviors you want?

First, spend some time allowing her to settle in and build a relationship with you. Rewards-based training is great for that, but keep things fairly easy in the beginning. You want lots and lots of success. It's hard, but try not to compare her to your other dog. She's a different animal with a different personality, but still a lovely girl. I have two dogs - one who has naturally excellent house manners and one who doesn't. When I start comparing the two and wondering why Tyson can't be more like Katie .... well, it doesn't help anything.

From what you described, it sounds as though she can do the behaviors in relatively distraction-free environments, but may not fully understand what's expected or have had the opportunity to practice in multiple low-distraction areas before being asked to perform under more challenging circumstances. To work through, practice in many, many different situations and very gradually increase distractions.

Also, look into Premack - it's basically rewarding the desired behavior with something the dog wants. So, if the dog wants to sniff a patch of grass, she needs to walk on a loose leash to get there. You need to practice and set up less challenging situations to start, but it's a great way to work through situations like that. For door manners, set up a situation where she can't actually run through the door (e.g., leash, gate) and work on waiting. What I did with my dogs is to approach the door and wait for them to sit (in your case, perhaps wait for her to stop walking). Then went through the motions of opening the door: reach for the handle, turn the handle, open the door slooooowly, then release. If the dog moved at any point, I went back to a neutral position with my hands at my side and the door didn't get opened, they didn't get to go outside. It took a few tries before they got it. But then, we had to work on distractions, so I placed a low value reward outside the door (maybe a piece of kibble) and very gradually increased the value of the reward. Then added motion - so not just a ball, but a ball rolling in front of them.

Finally, it's not that she "can't be bothered to do it" it's very likely that she simply can't because the tasks are too difficult for her at this point.

A side note, "I just want her to walk calmly beside me. Is this too much to ask ..." It depends on what you mean. No, it's not too much to ask for a dog to not pull you towards anything that catches their eye (or, more likely, nose). But, it is too much to ask if you expect your dog to never explore the environment.
 

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the recently took in... (saids alot ) your very mindful to wanting to help her, time and maturity for your relationship to grow I think yall will be fine.. and though she can't sit... using stand , stand stay in place of sits, works just the same. Congratulations on your new pup !!!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
How long have you had her? How have you been training and proofing the behaviors you want?

First, spend some time allowing her to settle in and build a relationship with you. Rewards-based training is great for that, but keep things fairly easy in the beginning. You want lots and lots of success. It's hard, but try not to compare her to your other dog. She's a different animal with a different personality, but still a lovely girl. I have two dogs - one who has naturally excellent house manners and one who doesn't. When I start comparing the two and wondering why Tyson can't be more like Katie .... well, it doesn't help anything.

From what you described, it sounds as though she can do the behaviors in relatively distraction-free environments, but may not fully understand what's expected or have had the opportunity to practice in multiple low-distraction areas before being asked to perform under more challenging circumstances. To work through, practice in many, many different situations and very gradually increase distractions.

Also, look into Premack - it's basically rewarding the desired behavior with something the dog wants. So, if the dog wants to sniff a patch of grass, she needs to walk on a loose leash to get there. You need to practice and set up less challenging situations to start, but it's a great way to work through situations like that. For door manners, set up a situation where she can't actually run through the door (e.g., leash, gate) and work on waiting. What I did with my dogs is to approach the door and wait for them to sit (in your case, perhaps wait for her to stop walking). Then went through the motions of opening the door: reach for the handle, turn the handle, open the door slooooowly, then release. If the dog moved at any point, I went back to a neutral position with my hands at my side and the door didn't get opened, they didn't get to go outside. It took a few tries before they got it. But then, we had to work on distractions, so I placed a low value reward outside the door (maybe a piece of kibble) and very gradually increased the value of the reward. Then added motion - so not just a ball, but a ball rolling in front of them.

Finally, it's not that she "can't be bothered to do it" it's very likely that she simply can't because the tasks are too difficult for her at this point.

A side note, "I just want her to walk calmly beside me. Is this too much to ask ..." It depends on what you mean. No, it's not too much to ask for a dog to not pull you towards anything that catches their eye (or, more likely, nose). But, it is too much to ask if you expect your dog to never explore the environment.
Thank you so much for this wonderful reply. Reading this kind of clicked for me and gave me some perspective. I think I'm expecting her to generalize a behavior in every situation and that's not how dogs work.

Do you use a command when you go through the door first--'wait' or 'me first' or anything like that? Similarly, is there a word I should use when I let her go sniff things (moving out of heel)? I just read the Premack wiki and it makes a lot of sense... if she wants to go sniff the grass she can do it but only if we go there with a loose leash. So during a walk how do I communicate 'you can smell that grass now' vs 'we're going to keep walking'?

She really is a lovely dog and brings a lot to the family--Copper has beautiful manners and we love him but he's not very affectionate, so it's nice having a dog who likes bear hugs and cuddling. I really will work to stop comparing the two because they both enrich our lives in different ways.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
the recently took in... (saids alot ) your very mindful to wanting to help her, time and maturity for your relationship to grow I think yall will be fine.. and though she can't sit... using stand , stand stay in place of sits, works just the same. Congratulations on your new pup !!!
Thank you! :) :) She's new to living with me but she was my family's dog so I've known her since she was a puppy and we already have a very close bond. She follows me around the house and gets freak-out excited every time I come home, even if I was only gone for 30 minutes.
 

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Thank you so much for this wonderful reply. Reading this kind of clicked for me and gave me some perspective. I think I'm expecting her to generalize a behavior in every situation and that's not how dogs work.

Do you use a command when you go through the door first--'wait' or 'me first' or anything like that? Similarly, is there a word I should use when I let her go sniff things (moving out of heel)? I just read the Premack wiki and it makes a lot of sense... if she wants to go sniff the grass she can do it but only if we go there with a loose leash. So during a walk how do I communicate 'you can smell that grass now' vs 'we're going to keep walking'?

She really is a lovely dog and brings a lot to the family--Copper has beautiful manners and we love him but he's not very affectionate, so it's nice having a dog who likes bear hugs and cuddling. I really will work to stop comparing the two because they both enrich our lives in different ways.
Glad to have helped!

For waiting at the door, I don't use a cue. I expect an automatic sit and wait (or at least I did until my husband started letting them run helter skelter out the door). I use a release word (go) to tell them it's ok to go out. (As a side note, I generally want them to go first as it makes it closing the door behind us easier.)

For sniffing, they've mostly learned to sniff on a loose leash as we walk. If they want to stop to explore, I stop with them. If there's something just out of reach, I'll get their attention and then walk towards the spot (I don't let them explore too much in those situations because whatever catches their attention that much is usually something nasty.)
 

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Glad to have helped!

For waiting at the door, I don't use a cue. I expect an automatic sit and wait (or at least I did until my husband started letting them run helter skelter out the door). I use a release word (go) to tell them it's ok to go out. (As a side note, I generally want them to go first as it makes it closing the door behind us easier.)

For sniffing, they've mostly learned to sniff on a loose leash as we walk. If they want to stop to explore, I stop with them. If there's something just out of reach, I'll get their attention and then walk towards the spot (I don't let them explore too much in those situations because whatever catches their attention that much is usually something nasty.)
That makes sense. For the past few days we've been having great walks--I've been feeding her half of her dinner (she is highly food-motivated and even her regular food is high-value) during the walk and rewarding every time she looks up at me and randomly when she is walking loose-leash. Today we passed some people with their dogs and she was momentarily distracted but didn't try to run up to them. Again, thanks for all your help!
 

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I think you are on the right track above. Our going in and out of doors starts with " wait". Sit, stand or Down is ok but must stop and wait while I deal with the door. After I open the door I " invite " my dog to come through with " come on". We then wait again. It's a little complicated but takes the excitement edge off. Eventually it's a pretty smooth operation. We do this also for all cross streets, paths or things that take effort to get around.

I use a 12" tab with my leash. This keeps the dog very close to you. When we get to an area where it is safe to go to the end of the leash I use a release command called " sniff". My dog is free to sniff around all she wants to except dangerous items. " leave it" works here. She can pull as hard as she wants as it's very good exercise too. Then I call her to heel, and we continue walking. Over time walks become fun and enjoyable. I use a " watch me" command as we walk loose leash or anytime I want her to look to me rather than a distraction such as other dogs.

It takes time and a good bond with your dog to get to this point. Leave your cell phone in your pocket and cigs at home, you are dog training and it needs your undivided attention.

A word of caution, don't be letting your dog dash up to other people and dogs without invitation. If this happens to us the dog gets pepper sprayed or stunned or both. I have ZERO tolerance for loose off leash dogs or out of control dogs. There is no excuse for this behavior. Look at it this way, how would you react if a total stranger suddenly came running up to you and either grabbed you or tried a big kiss. I know how I'd react and it wouldn't be pleasant for the stranger.
 
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