Why I Hired a Dog Behaviorist

Why I finally hired a dog behaviorist to train my dogs and help my small dog overcome his anxiety

Things are going to change in my house this weekend. I have a dog behaviorist coming over on Saturday to spend two hours working with my chihuahua and my chiweenie. We need to work on a few behavioral issues. 

My husband and I have had discussions about hiring a trainer in the past but always decided against it. Our dogs are so small that we just never really thought it was a big deal. They are too small to be much of a nuisance and their behavior is easily corrected. Things started to change a couple of weeks ago when I read, “Never let a small dog get away with behaviors that you wouldn’t let a big dog get away with.” I started to feel a wee bit guilty. 

Another day we were outside and met another dog in the neighborhood. They were friendly and all got along well but eventually their leashes tangled together. It was a mess. It made me think of that scene in 101 Dalmations when they are at the park and Pongo and Perdita tangle around each other. My neighbor told his small dog to sit, and he sat. I told my dog to sit and he ran around like a madman. It was embarrassing. I got angry at my dog before remembering that it isn’t his fault I’ve never bothered to focus heavily on training. Besides, what did I really know about dogs? Prior to having these two I was always a cat person and cats don’t need training like that.

That very night I sat down and started researching how to train small dogs. I remember feeling frustrated when I read how challenging chihuahuas are to train and what independent thinkers chiweenies can be during training. The next day I bought some bite size treats (my dogs love these) and we started to get to work. We focused on learning skills like sit, stay, and down.

I thought we were making great progress until the night my chiweenie lunged at the chihuahua, then growled at me.

Why I hired a dog behaviorist

For some reason he has started to become toy and food possessive. That was behavior I didn’t know how to address on my own. I called my vet who referred me to a dog behaviorist in Atlanta. I called the behaviorist to book a session and, after a short discussion, he made a couple of immediate suggestions.

Remove all toys and the toy basket

We have a basket in the corner of our living room which holds all of the dog toys. They’ve always been able to go to the corner and dig out any toy they feel like playing with at the time. Apparently, this is a big no-no, especially with dealing with a toy possessive dog. He told us to immediately pick up the basket and restrict his access. After all, he can’t be possessive over something he doesn’t have. Now, he only gets a toy when I sit down to play with him. When play time is over, I have to take the toys away.

Pick up the food bowls 

This goes right along the same theory as the toys. My dog can’t be possessive over something he doesn’t have and it re-enforces my role as the pack leader in the family. Now, my dogs are fed on a schedule and I pick the bowls back up after 30 minutes. If they didn’t eat, they wait until the next meal time. 

Engaged play for at least 30 minutes a day

I have always played with my dogs. We’ve always played fetch, tug o’ war, and other games. We’ve gone on long walks and they are regularly tired but the behaviorist insisted that I set aside a solid 30 minutes every day for one-on-one play time with the dogs. He said that this will teach the dogs that I am in charge because I control the toys and I control play time. This should, hopefully, stop my chiweenie from lunging at my chihuahua and stop him from growling at me.

Wish me luck!

Ashley LaMar
Ashley bounces between Atlanta, GA + Charleston, WV with her husband and two small dogs for life and work. If she’s not writing or blogging, she can usually be found cooking, reading, or watching baseball. Follow her on Twitter @ashleyfromfbl

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