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Katherine A. Houpt.

Q Our sheltie started puppy kindergarten when she was four months old. Then I joined a dog-training club with her, and we have continued our training ever since. She has a very outgoing personality, loves all the dogs in the club and earned her TDIA last fall. We are proud of her!


We are friends with a couple who adopted a one-year-old Labrador Retriever when our dog was about two-and-a-half years old. The hyper lab is often too aggressive in play behavior. She doesn't respect my sheltie's "chill out" signals (lip curl, tucked stance, snapping) but continues to pester until my dog is hiding under chairs. I asked our club instructors about this. They believe the Lab's previous owners did not socialize the dog well when she was young, so she now lacks the social skills that can only be learned from a socialized adult dog who is her own size or larger.

When I relayed this information to her owners, they said that since their Lab regularly spends time with Shih Tzus and an Australian Shepherd puppy, this is proof that my dog is the problem. They see her lip curl as aggression, not intolerance of a social faux pas. It probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that the Lab's owners are unschooled about raising and training a dog, so she's not very obedient either.

In the past we have dogsat for each other, but I refused to watch the Lab for a week. This has caused a rift, and I really would like for this friendship to be restored. Would you please describe the right method and conditions needed to safely refine the Lab's social skills? I will certainly pass them along, knowing they cannot dispute your expertise. Then, maybe we can all get along!

A Congratulations on your sheltie's earning the TDIA certificate; she must be a wonderful therapy dog. It appears that your sheltie and the young Labrador have a personality conflict. I do not think either dog is in the wrong; it is merely a difference in opinion. While the sheltie is calm and dignified, the Labrador is full of vibrant energy. It is no wonder that they would need some work to bring them together. I am glad to hear that you and your friend are willing to work together to help engender friendship and goodwill between the two dogs. I suggest supervised play sessions. You may also want to ask your friend to increase the amount of exercise her Labrador gets, especially prior to these sessions. This way, her energy level will be toned down a little and your sheltie may find it easier to play with her.

To work on the specific problem of play, let the dogs interact, and as soon as you see any sign of tension or lip curling by your dog, the Labrador should be quickly reprimanded verbally and removed for a five-minute time out. This will take cooperation between you and the Lab's owners, but we are trying to train the Labrador that ignoring signals is bad and results in removal from play. This is a form of negative punishment, like grounding your teenager for bad behavior, in contrast to positive punishment like a slap on the dog's rump. If you have someone at home to help, you might volunteer to take the Labrador for the owner's next trip, so you can practice several times a day.

Katherine A. Houpt,


VMD, PhD, Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Send your behavior or health questions to:

Dr. Houpt, Box 7, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, New York 4853-6401

We regret that we cannot respond to individual inquiries about canine health or behavior matters.
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Title Annotation:ASK THE EXPERTS; dog training
Author:Houpt, Katherine A.
Publication:Dog Watch
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
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