June was struggling to gain control of her young dog Farley, a beautiful Standard Schnauzer.
She cited trouble with mouthing and general rambunctiousness as reasons for a consultation.
When I met Farley, he presented himself as a normal and energetic young dog. One thing that was apparent immediately, however, was that Farley never gave June eye contact -- ever. In fact, it was as if she didn't even exist, despite her being at the other end of the leash.
Leash walking was a train wreck, with Farley lunging ahead, and paying no mind to June's instructions.
In talking with June and getting a detailed history, two things came to light.
First, June was at odds with her husband over how Farley should be handled and trained. Her husband felt that the way to train the dog was through the application of dominant and corrective measures, which included lots of scolding and jerking the dog around by the collar during leash walking. June wasn't comfortable applying those techniques.
Second, June had no real value in Farley's mind. His food bowl always had kibble for him to graze on, he had access to a box full of toys to entertain himself, and he even spent time running on a treadmill for exercise. And compared to her husband, she was not an effective punisher.
The application of heavy corrections had resulted in a "punishment callous," meaning that corrections were so standard for Farley that he became conditioned to them, and they ceased being effective. June could not deliver the strong punitive corrections that her husband could, so her corrections had no effect on Farley. Such is the ugly side of corrective training -- the more you apply corrections, the harder they must become over time, as the dog becomes insensitive to them.
June and I came up with a training plan that did not, much to June's relief, rely on punishing the dog, but rather focused on Farley's efforts to offer behavior that we found acceptable. We also devised a strategy to make Farley see June as an important member of his world by changing the feeding and toy routine.
Instead of keeping Farley's food bowl full of kibble, we placed him on a twice daily feeding schedule. When June filled his bowl, before placing it on the floor, she calmly cued Farley to sit.