Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at email@example.com.
I have an 18-month-old Goldendoodle who is a very kind and loving dog. My family’s intent is for him to work as a therapy dog. The problem is I am a 14-year-old small girl who this dog doesn’t respect at all. I feel like I have tried everything. My family has hired behaviorists and trainers. I walk him 30 minutes a day — morning and night — and I train him for 10 minutes after each one of those walks. No matter what I do, he doesn’t respect me. However, he respects the rest of my family. All my dad has to do is walk in the room and he will drop whatever he has. It's the same with my brothers, who are 11- and 16-years-old.
The next issue is that he has possession aggression. He is very fast. He grabs everything and does not let it go (at least for me). For example, he loves socks and will swallow them. Because of this he has had to get two surgeries and has had multiple visits to the vet to induce vomiting. We have buckets with lids and locks, but he can also open doors. When he gets something to chew on and I try to take it away, he growls — a lot. Then when I try to open his jaw, he bites me.
I need help. How can I make him respect me? Is it my fault or the dog's?
Wow. It sounds like you have quite a few issues going on. From what you wrote, it appears you are doing some good work already. Maybe we just need to add a little fine tuning. I can share a few tips.
Let’s break your letter down into individual sections so you can focus on one thing at a time.
First, respect for dogs can be confusing. Some of the factors may be related to your age and stature. Size matters to dogs. That said, one of my former apprentices has gone on to become a dog behaviorist and she is just over 5 feet tall. So it's something you can get past.
While the walks are great, they may not be enough. Your average dog needs an hour of exercise every day, but some dogs may need even more. From what you wrote, I'd guess your dog falls into that category. This video on creative ways to exercise dogs can help you supplement your walks with some easy indoor exercise options.
I'd look for some ways to build in compliance before your dog gets what he wants in your day-to-day life. Petting with a purpose is a wonderful way to help your dog learn to respect you as a leader and help him practice asking for things instead of telling you what to do.
Do you enforce rules with your dog? Dogs often see those who enforce rules as the leader. Enforcing rules gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership in small, subtle ways multiple times a day.
I'd suggest you also start developing a strong leave it command with your dog. Once established, you can pull out high-value items and leave them on the floor when you can supervise and give the dog the leave it command. The more you repeat this, the less the dog will try to take things you want them to leave alone.
Lastly, this video includes a really easy and sneaky way to condition your dog to come to you — even when you don’t call him to come over.
Remember, training and behavior are separate. While training is awesome, I'd suggest you work more on these structural changes and behavior exercises to help your dog learn that listening and respecting you cause good things to happen.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
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Despite being a senior cat at 10 years old, Baby is full of energy and mischief. Here, she dangles from a bannister in her house in Gretna.
Karen Windle, copy editor
We’re Bruce and Ernie (left). We love sneaking raw bacon off the kitchen counter, lounging around the house naked, er, without our collars and making friends with deer. (The deer *love* to play tag, but for some reason we’re always “it.”)
Katy Glover, online editor
Buster can put a smile on your face like no one else, including those of neighbors who spot him dragging me along on a walk or run. Unfortunately, this high-energy guy recently has been sidelined by the doggie version of a torn ACL and subsequent knee surgery. He could use a little boost, so I'm nominating him for the OWH Pet Parade.
Julie Anderson, news reporter
At left is Clyde. He’s a dog. He’s 2 ½. He’s deaf. At right is Pieces. He’s a cat. He’s 13. He can hear. They would like very much for you to pick them!
Brad Davis, business editor
If you're an avid reader of the World-Herald, maybe you've heard of Cooper. Features reporter Chris Peters has written about raising Cooper. Here he is on the custom pallet bed his mom built for him.
Chris Peters, features reporter
At left is Daisy. Her best friend is a reindeer, who comes to visit a few weeks each year. She complains a lot to the non-magical beings she lives with, for obvious reasons. At right is Diaz. He's a handsome boy who doesn't care about that. He loves walks and belly rubs, all people, most dogs, one cat, and zero racoons and opossums.
Rich Mills, copy editor
At the Ducey Farm in Dundee, we have the blackshirt gals who guard the back yard (Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt), and the chickens who help me garden (Brooklyn and Penny). They produce eggs and inspire pillows for the cutest and most fashionable dogs in the world (Phoebe, Gigi and cousin Tyson), who love to bark at the feral cats (Bunny and Butterscotch) who live outside and have matching tails!
Marjie Ducey, reporter
Gator likes eating snackies, expertly posing for pictures, getting floof everywhere and borking (not barking) at neighbor dogs.
Cory Gilinsky, features (and Sarah Jarecki, civilian)
Gracie the border collie and Beau the red heeler like long walks and frequent car rides, especially to drive-thrus that give treats.
Deb Shanahan, metro desk editor, and Kent Sievers, photographer
Isabel doesn’t enjoy her humans (especially the little ones) a lot, but sometimes likes a good chin scratch. Mostly she enjoys being left alone to sit on top of the piano and watch the birds outside.
Kevin Coffey, music critic
Izzy is 6 months old. She likes to chase her tail (and often catches it), climb up couches (and people), and bother Zake. Zake is 15 years old and unsure of Izzy. After all, Izzy has the high ground.
Zach Tegler, copy desk
Jameson may be named after whiskey, but this five-year-old gal is all sweetness. At first skittish after being rescued from a farm in Oklahoma, now her favorite hobby is stealing hearts — and covers.
Laurel Foster, online
We say Juni found us after my wife was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. This little Havaton brings our family joy, love and snuggles every day.
Jeff Robb, news reporter/data geek
Laika is, hands down, the happiest dog at the dog park. She is named after the heroic Russian cosmonaut dog, one of the first animals in space. Ciara loves to pray. When she joins our family in prayer, she sounds like Scooby Doo. She is fiercely loyal and protective.
Susan Szalewski, copy editor and news reporter
Lolo was adopted seven years ago in Louisiana. She's a mutt, and we think she's part nutria, otherwise known as a swamp rat.
Hunter Paniagua, digital sports coordinator
Minerva is a very hard worker. Two-year-old "Minnie" likes to spend her time cleaning, inspecting boxes and bird watching. (And looking adorable.)
Brandon Olson, digital content hub editor
Molly, a rat-terrier Chihuahua from NHS, loved everyone she met. She was an excellent high jumper and cuddler and gave us joy for 17 years. She died in April.
Betsie Freeman, features reporter
Nellie is a 10-year-old tabby cat who is more like 5 years old at heart. She enjoys sleeping in fresh, warm laundry, eating, chasing lasers and listening to stories with best friend, 4-year-old Sam.
Ashlee Coffey, Momaha.com editor
This is Oliver. He has three legs and a bullet permanently lodged in him. (We didn't put it there). He pretends like he's surly and tough but deep down he's very snuggly.
Roseann Moring, political reporter
Loves tuna, SBH and
A fireside nap
Sarah Baker Hansen, features, and Matthew Hansen, columnist
I'm Sasha. I was a stray in Oklahoma (where my ear was somehow torn) before a shelter rescued me & treated my heartworm. I just tested negative for heartworm, yay! I really like to play dead & get belly rubs!
Alia Conley, news reporter
Slugger, owned by the original Pet Parade Petitor in Chief and saved by Big Red Rescue in Omaha, chases his tail faster to his right than to his left. He ate a hole in the blinds to watch his owner come and go.
Steven Elonich, online editor
Toby is a 4-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix with a big personality. Given the protective tendencies of his breed, he’s very serious about watching over his property — and his owners. Until he isn’t.
Dave Elsesser, features editor, and RyAnne Elsesser
Toothpick loves biting bare legs, gazing longingly at birds outside and dipping his paw into bags of Spicy Nacho Doritos so he can lick off the Doritos dust (which his owners know is gross and bad but are powerless to stop).
Erin Duffy, news reporter
Boston Terriers, Willow, 8, and Dexter, 6, have a closet full of costumes, sweaters, scarves and even some pajamas. They only sit this nicely for photos because there are LOTS of treats involved – but really – they are crazy little puppies!
Tammy Yttri, copy desk chief
Nine years ago, we found Zed roaming the earth (it was a ruff life). He’s a good boy. He likes his toy lobster, pepperonis (which we call pupperonis) and keeping up with his fans at Zedwin.org.
Graham Archer, digital editor
Hi, my name is Zeus, I an eight-year-old American Eskimo looking to get back in the game. They say I am fixed, but I think my only problem is you aren’t in my life. I love long walks and treats. I want someone to chase squirrels with. Won’t you paw right?
Chris Machian, photographer