When she walked into my office I tried to keep the surprised look off my face. Her eyes were black and blue and her nose was swollen beyond belief. As she sat down she started to cry and had a difficult time talking. I got her a glass of water and let her know to take her time. Once she gained control, she informed me that her dog was responsible for her broken nose and black eyes.

She went on to tell me that her dog had injured her arm and wrist and her leg. She said that she loved her dog. She also added that her dog was a large black lab and in no way aggressive. Her dog had injured her by jumping, pulling, and in general not listening to her commands. She said that the latest incident had happened a few days before. She told me that she was getting ready to walk her dog. She had put her dog on leash and was about to go out the door. Just as she was about to exit the house through the front door, her dog saw a cat across the street and took off at full speed.

She hung on to the leash and tripped trying to go out the door. She went face first into the door and broke her nose. At this point she teared up again and said that she loved her dog but didn’t know if she could keep him. She had no control. I told her not to worry, and that we would get her dog under control.

I taught her my system for dealing with behavior problems, what I call my M.U.T.T. Method. The M stands for Manage, U for Underlying, T for Training, and the last T is for Time.

M=Management – A big part of dog ownership is effectively managing your dog’s behavior. Crates, kennels, baby gates, and leashes are some tools to help you manage your dog’s behavior. In this case, we put a gentle leader head collar on her dog to help manage her dog’s pulling problem.

A gentle leader works by controlling the dog’s head. In principle, it works a lot like a horse bridle. It makes it much more difficult for the dog to pull, and it gives you much better control over the dog on leash.

U=Underlying – Whenever you are dealing with a behavior problem you have to understand that there is an underlying problem. For instance, if a dog is digging there could be many different underlying reasons for the digging. It could be that the dog is bored, frustrated, hot, or it could be breed specific. Terriers love to dig.

In this situation, we figured that one of the big underlying reasons was lack of exercise. Her dog was loaded with energy. We came up with a plan to have her son bring the dog to the park three times a week on a long leash. He would spend about 45 minutes throwing a ball for her dog. In addition to the ball playing, she brought her dog to a dog daycare three times a week. By giving her dog some intensive, aerobic exercise her dog started to calm down.

T=Train – We put her dog on a training program that consisted of the basics (sit, down, stay, walk, and come). She or her son had to spend at least ten minutes each day doing a training session. We focused on teaching her dog to greet politely at the door and stop pulling. By using the gentle leader she was able to walk her dog past very distracting situations. She even expressed her amazement when she crossed other dogs and animals during their walks and was able to control him.

In addition to the obedience training she also learned how to teach her dog that she was the leader. She had her dog work for attention, food, and playing. By establishing some leadership she gained much better control.

T=Time – Any behavior program is going to require time. By following the steps that we outlined she started to see changes within a short period of time. By following the program for 21 days, those changes would become stronger and stronger.

Any time you’re faced with a behavior problem, remember the acronym M.U.T.T. and apply each step. You’ll be happy with the results.