Tuesday Training Tip: Getting Back on Track!

Mama Sally:

I’ve had lots of questions about why Rugby’s behavior went south in August after things had been going so well.  The honest truth is that I just don’t know why he is behaving this way, but I honestly think that it probably is definitely linked to the crazy and stressful July that we all experienced.

Both Michael and I were trying so very hard to help Rugby cope with the stresses of day after day of noise, strangers and chaos inside and outside of his house.  His home and his back yard were a mess, and nothing looked like it was supposed to look for him.  If we could have kept his back yard looking the same, he would have had someplace to go that was familiar.  That just wasn’t the case.

Because of all of the change and stress for Rugby, Michael and I were spending a lot more time with Rugby than he normally gets, because our own lives were in chaos all at the same time.  I think all of the attention that was lavished on him for an extended period of time left him getting a bit big for his britches, and by the time August rolled around, I think he just forgot who he was, the rules for living at home, and things quickly got out of hand for him, and ultimately for us as well.

So….what do we do at my house when we see ugly and aggressive behavior on the rise with Rugby?  I do a few targeted simple things which are designed to turn his behavior around quickly.

  1. I want him to lose privileges so he has something that he can earn back.  This one is very important to me.  If there’s no reduction in privileges, why should he change anything that he’s doing?  If he can continue to get an easy and perk filled life AND be really naughty too….well whoopie!!  That’s a big score for Rugby James!
  2. So, when he loses privileges, I try to make sure that they are privileges that have a strong value to Rugby.  In his case, it means not being allowed on any furniture, absolutely zero people food whatsoever, not even getting to lick the bottom of a yogurt cup, and no special bedtime snack.
  3. I go back to training very basic commands, with the focus on tasks that Rugby already knows really well, and I ask him to be extra sharp in his work.  He can’t be sloppy and earn a treat or any pets from me.  He has to do several commands to get a single reward, but I also do include jackpots when he is doing an exceptional job for me.  I make sure that the rules are the same as always for training any work that we do together, because he needs to know that he can win and get great, consistent rewards from me.  I want to be perfectly clear that I’m not angry with him in any way, shape or form.  I’m just making it extra clear that he has crossed a line and he needs to shape up his behavior overall very quickly.  I want him to earn back privileges, but he needs to remember that these things are privileges and not rights in our home!

Those simple things go a very long way to help Rugby understand that he’s gotten off the track.  It’s been two weeks now, and I can see things heading in the right direction.  Rugby is much more compliant these days, and he’s looking for ways to earn back his lost privileges!  He really misses being invited up on furniture and getting extra snuggles and that special bedtime snack.

He loves work of any kind, so training is something that he really enjoys, and because I train with positive reinforcement, he knows that he will get opportunities to earn lots of praise, good pets, and some treats as well.  Because I have taken away his privileges, I make sure that I’m giving him multiple opportunities to earn a good amount of attention from me.  I don’t want him to feel discouraged or unloved or worry about his future with me.

Over time, as his behavior comes around and I see some stability and good predictability in how he’s behaving, I’ll take a look at letting him start to earn privileges back again, one at a time.  There’s no time frame that I have in mind on this, but I’m typically not really quick to give things back until I see the good behavior that I want for an extended amount of time.

Rugby James:

When all of the big storms happened, nuffing in my world looked right.  Everyfing was out of place.  My back yard what I getsa play in off the leash had all kindsa big trees all over the place.  The Mama taked me out on my long line for about free weeks, on account of the fence gotted smashed from the trees and I could walk right across it.  The skirrels and chippymunks didn’t even wanna be in my yard!

Inside the house, it was a wreck!  All of the Mama’s bedroom furniture was out in the living room, and I hadda sleep in the guest room on my bed what was the wrong room to sleep in!  The Mama wouldn’t go into the right bedroom at night, and she even opened the door every night to let me see that it was a big mess in there, but that’s my sleeping room and it’s my safe spot at night…not the guest room.  But the Mama wouldn’t let us sleep in there so it was upside down and into the guest room for me!

During the day, I hadda go in the kitchen in my smaller crate, what was just wrong.  The Mama didn’t wanna put me in my regular crate, on account of it was in the office I share wif her, and that’s the end of the house what had all of the noise and traffic!  She hadda be available to answer questions so we mostly stayed in the kitchen togedder, what was just wrong.  I hadda bark and bark and bark, only she never did really listen to that stuff.

After all of the mens wented home at night, she maked sure I was okay wif the Daddy and she wented to train udder doggers.  I stayed home wif the Daddy, and he lubbed me up and played wif me to make me feel betters….like we hadda regular life.  The Mama was really worried about me, I could tell, and she gived me sum extra snacks at bedtime and sum extra lubs when it was quiet in the house.

When that upside down stuff goes on and on, lil doggers just doesn’t know if it will ever end, or if it’s gonna be like that every day forever. So, I gotted a lil pouty and irritated that it didn’t go away, and I didn’t getta have my backyard, and I was sleeping in the wrong room, and that kind of stuff.  There was strangers in my house all day long, and I keeped barking to tell them to go home, only they never did listen for a long, long time.


The Mama telled me I gotted too big for my britches, on account of I was being hateful to the Daddy, and I gived her a really hard nip on her leg.  So she hadda go back to the really strict rules at home what we does from time to time when this stuff happens.  That means I doesn’t get my privileges.  I gets my kibbles and Salmon, I getsa play, I getsa work and have good exercise, only the work is harder on account of the Mama makes me do fings just so or I doesn’t getsa have a kibble or any pets.  She doesn’t give me new stuff to learn when this happens, on account of the new stuff means I get more kibbles for trying while I’m figuring stuff out.  This is the old stuff what I knows, and I has to do it really right or I misses out.  Pfft!!

I doesn’t know how long this will go on, but I will say this:  I trusts the Mama, and I know that she lubs me.  She lets me work a lot, in lil bits of time, and when I works, if I gets it right, she really sayes sweet fings, and pets me up really good and I gets kibbles.  Sumtimes she gives me jackpots what is a few extra kibbles when I gets it really good.  Mostly the only difference right now, is I doesn’t getta be on the furniture what makes me feel big and important around the house.

 If I mind my manners, the Mama will relax the rules a lil bit over time, and then I getta get sum fun stuff back.  For right now, I’m looking close to see chances what I can show the Mama that I can behave really good!!  We’re a team, the Mama and me, so even when I’m in the doghouse for a bit, we work togedder!!



  1. says

    Aw, I can totally relate to Rugby's getting a little pushy and forgetting the rules. Every once in a while, Haley gets that way too and she gets a short timeout to remind her not to get too cocky. That works pretty well for us too.

    • Sally says

      Thanks for reading and for your comment, Elaine. I think most dog owners can relate to a dog getting too cocky with their behavior! Glad you've found what works for Haley to get her back in line!! 😀


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