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'Bad Dog' Challenge II takes on car-chaser, reflection-reactor

Posted November 24, 2008
Updated October 12, 2011

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— Over the next few days, WRAL is going to once again see if we can turn bad dogs into good ones. This time, we have three dogs – with different issues and different trainers – to show us the bad behaviors that need correcting.

Our first dog for the "Bad Dog" challenge II is Mali. She is a Sheltie and lives in Cary with the Riddle family. 

Mali doesn't like cars.  She barks and chases them while pulling her owner, Nancy Riddle, down the street.

“The fear is that she would break the leash, or the collar, and get hit,” Riddle said.

What is worse, her bad behavior escalates with each passing car and extends to anything with wheels.

“I think it's the motion of the wheels or something because bikes will make her get excited as well,” Riddle said.

The normally sweet dog turns into a terror.

“It really sounds like she's this really awful dog,” Riddle said.

Jenn Merritt, with Blue Dog Creature Coaching, was called in to help Mali.

“This is going to be Mali's new harness,” Merritt said as she changed Mali into a harness with two leads for better control. 

Merritt then changed Mali's focus. The plan was to use a clicker, followed by a treat, to condition Mali to watch Riddle – instead of tires.

“What's going to happen is she's going to look at the car, she's going to hear the click and she's going to immediately turn to you because she's going to know there's the possibility of a little reward,” Merritt said.

It worked almost immediately. Mali is much more interested in the treat than the cars.

“It's such a safer occupation than being a car-chaser,” Merritt said.

So with that fixed, it was time to address a rather unusual behavior. Mali freaks out at reflections.

“She'll hit the stove 20 times in a row,” Riddle said.

When Riddle unloads the dishwasher, Mali sees the reflections on the ceiling and jumps repeatedly.

“She'll keep going for 15 to 20 minutes,” Riddle said.

Merritt suggested using the same clicker method to redirect Mali's focus or giving her a toy, filled with treats, to keep her occupied.

“To make my home a little bit calmer wouldn't be a bad thing,” Riddle said.

If you are worried about Mali getting fat with all those treats. Merritt suggested using kibble from a meal for training. If different treats are used, those calories should be subtracted from a regular meal.

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