Dog won’t listen to wife
By JOHN WADE, Special to QMI Agency
I have a 100 pound 23-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog. When on-leash with me he responds to all training skills we learned. With my wife, he tugs, pulls, chews the leash, and does basically whatever he likes. If they meet a neighbour walking their dog(s), he gets extremely excited, completely uncontrollable, flips, flops, and pulls to the point where she feels afraid that he will hurt her. How can my wife get him to respond to the training that he has had? - J.D.
I've often found in these cases that when the woman is saying 'No!', the dog is hearing, 'Maybe!' When the man is saying 'No!', the dog is hearing 'Better listen!' This is a generality, but dogs seem to be attracted to the latter.
Women seem to have a heck of a lot more patience with dogs, and a lot of dogs take advantage of it. In situations like yours, I've never found any need to suggest a dog needs to be loved less, but instead it boils down to convincing the owners to start saying 'No!' to their dogs. They need to act less like a grandparent to a grandchild they only get to see once a year, and more like to a husband that wants to go to Vegas for the weekend with his ne'er-do-well friends.
In the big picture, women are fantastic dog trainers because their powers of observation tend to be better than men when it comes to noticing minutiae in behaviour. They generally know there's something bothering their kids, a friend or a spouse faster than men do. They are great at reading dogs as well. That ability to catch nuances allows a good trainer to shape and extinguish ideas before they turn into actions. It's a skill set without value, though, if the dog doesn't recognize the person's posture as authentically as that of a teacher worthy of respect.
Men and dogs are generally pretty good at the posturing game. When you see a bunch of dogs get together, you're going to see some initial posturing going on. Standing up straight, direct eye contact, legs poised for stability and maximum balance, chest out. Everything else being equal, dogs more willingly take direction from someone who acts like De Niro looking into the mirror saying, 'You looking at me?', rather than Mister Rogers saying, 'It's a wonderful day in the neighbourhood.'
The sheer size of your dog may be making it possible to take on a 'fingers in the ear, I can't hear you!' role, so have a look at the equipment your wife is using for a start. For example, try out a leather leash. It's way easier on her hands and seems to result in more confident handling.
I'd also look at the training collar you're using. Whatever it is, if the dog is able to make her fear for her safety, it needs to be changed. Try one like those that I have on my website, wadecollars.com. It's a slip collar but it has a cord lock type attachment, so you can keep it in place under the jaw and behind the ears. It's like power steering and useful in situations like this.
I'm betting your wife has a lot of ability to tap into, but she may have to neutralize the dog's physical advantage and learn how to start sending out, 'I'm not asking you, I'm telling you!' posturing signals. Find a female balanced trainer for your wife to work with. She'll help her get things on track.
John Wade helps dog owners through his books, workshops and telephone consultations. If you have a question email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.