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Canine Behavior/over zealous dog

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Question
Whenever my son brings his dog over to my home during holiday dinners and such. His dog will not leave my guests alone. She is a 2yr old lab/pit mix. She is a sweet dog, but expects constant attention from everyone.  She loves to play with her ball and wants everyone to toss the ball to her in the house or play tug of war with one of her toys.  She also trys to lick everyones hands or stick her nose in everyones lap believing everyone wants to play with her.  My son will lock her up in my bedroom, which causes her to whine as though she thinks she is being punished. I hate doing that to her and would like her to be around our guests, but I do not want her to constantly bother people.  Is there some training method we could try?

Answer
This dog's behavior is a display of social anxiety.  She is uncertain in her surroundings (status) and is demonstrating juvenile appeasement behavior (licking) and attention seeking in order to feel more at ease and find a place where she "belongs".  She's also very young and immature and a breed mix that is notoriously hyperactive (i.e. will drive you nuts) until about 3 years of age (or even longer!)  Confining her isn't fair, he's better off leaving her at home actually.  It's confusing and isolating and furthering her anxiety.

Here's what you can try:  keep the dog on leash when she is in your home.  Pay absolutely no attention to her at all if she displays the behavior that annoys you (this is NOT cruel even though I know it FEELS that way).  Your first impulse is to be kind and not want her to feel rejected and this is a testimony of you, yourself, as a fine human being but THIS IS A DOG, not a child.  In order to "teach" a dog its "place" one must deal with the dog in its own culture.  By ignoring ALL attention seeking and attention demanding behavior, you are actually making a calming statement to her about her social status in your home (YOU are at the top, she is at the bottom).  Next step:  use "sit" (taught with positive reinforcement) to GIVE her attention.  You can teach the dog this quite easily (you and the dog, no other people present) in the following manner:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1W_3CDVVqo&feature=related

If you were to spend one day every week for the next two to three weeks with the dog in your home for a few hours and do nothing but randomly interact while teaching "sit", she will have an acquired conditioned response to YOUR command (cue) in YOUR environment.  You will then have the upper hand in terms of how to redirect her anxiety: when she is anxious and demanding, pick up the leash, ignore her, wait for her to calm, cue her to "sit" and THEN give her attention.  Do this when she is interfering with your guests (and let's not flood her by bringing her to a full blown party or a house full of relatives on a holiday).  Slowly she will begin to understand that YOU are in control and that she must "work" on your cue for the attention she craves.  Do not make her ball available to her (no, this isn't mean).  Do much as you would for a rambunctious, temper throwing toddler: ignore what you don't like, reward what you like.  (It's easier with a dog LOL).

Any more questions use followup (so I can see original question/answer).  There's NO "dominance" or any other such foolishness involved here.  There's simply an immature, anxious dog who wants to "belong".

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.

Expertise

I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.

Experience

30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for ThePetChannel.com for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, K9Shrinks@egroups.com. Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Organizations
Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Publications
Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Education/Credentials
Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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