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September 27, 2013

THE OLD TRAINER: Breaking dogs of begging tougher on owners

Jack Haskins says training dogs not to beg is easy. The hard part is for their owners to learn not to give in.

D ear Old Trainer: I love Cora and Rosie, but they are world-class beggars. I give them a bone, then they keep begging the rest of the night for more. Can I train them not to?

– Treva, Colma

Dear Treva: Yes. The training part is easy. Having the will power to stick to your command is the hard part. We all love our dogs and hate to say no to them. Cora and Rosie beg because they know you will cave if they keep the pressure on.

Here is how you stop it. Give them their bones, then hold both hands out, palms facing them, spread them apart, and tell them “that’s all.”

The hand signal is the same as that of a blackjack dealer when relieved. Once you do it, turn and walk away. Never relent. You have to mean it because they know if you’re bluffing.

Do it at the end of every activity, playing, throwing a ball, whatever. Do it every time they beg. In a few days – if you stick to it – they will learn the signal means fun over, no appeal. At that point it becomes a universal command, no matter what activity you wish to stop.

Dear Old Trainer: Laker, my 4-year-old German shepherd, refuses to make up with the guy I have been dating for the last few months. Laker is a wonderful dog and usually mellow, but he bristles as soon as my boyfriend walks in the door and won’t have anything to do with him. Laker won’t even let him pet him. What is going on?

– Irina, Santa Clara

Dear Irina: It’s possible Laker is jealous. This happens all the time when a newcomer shows up and hangs with the pack. No dog likes to see a new arrival share the pack leader’s affection.

Or it may be that Laker refuses to allow any privileges to someone he has decided he outranks in the pack. Dogs ignore girlfriends and boyfriends and other transitory people who drift in and out of their boss’s life.

But the fact that Laker bristles tells me he sees something negative in your boyfriend’s character. He is reading body language, tone of voice and subtle indicators of character you don’t notice. Or don’t want to notice.

Dogs do not form negative opinions of people on a whim. They watch people every second when they evaluate them and if there is something the person is trying to hide they see it. Laker is not swayed by charm or fast talk.

I pay close attention to how my dogs react to people. If they dislike someone there is a reason. An example is the story a few weeks ago where a family thought they had a wonderful baby sitter until they noticed their dog bristling every time she arrived. The sitter fooled the family, but not the dog.

Laker has only one agenda – to protect you – so listen to him. Observe your boyfriend with the same detachment Laker does and you will likely see what Laker sees.

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