How Does this Dog Feel?

Posted on Apr 10, 2016 in Leash Training, Pets, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

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Looking at this dogs body language, the boxer is leaning away from his best friend, his ears are pinned back in fear, the whites of his eyes show the level of stress. This dog is not thinking about what he did but how he feels right now.  Why does it matter how a dog feels? Because his feelings will effect his behavior.  Dogs will often avoid humans who make them feel stressed or worried.

 

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 In contrast, look at the body language of these two young girls, and how they are making each other feel?  This is a baby sitter and a child she is responsible for.  The baby sitter is building trust, mutual communication and a connection. We can see a positive relationship building based on body language.

 

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 The body language of this Scottie is pretty clear how is she feels about the hand petting her.  She was just groomed by the hand now petting her, do we have a trusting relationship, mutual communication and a connection?  

 When I introduce a new rule structure to my dogs or my clients dog, I make sure good things happen when the dog performs the wanted or desired behavior. We can all agree that consequence drives behavior in all of us, but I want you to think of a consequence as a rewarding one.  It is not just that I believe it works, it is scientifically proven that if a dog does a behavior and what follows is rewarding, the behavior will be repeated.  This repeated behavior performed several times per day and continued over a few weeks becomes a desired habit.  Is that not what we all are trying to do?  Shape our dogs behavior into good habits? 

Below is an Example of how I make a dog feel during a training session.

With a foster dog, I grab a handful of treats and lure the dog to his mat, if he sniffs it, looks at it or step on it, I say “yes” or 2015_0207 Family Dog Two-29click my clicker and drop a treat or two between his paws.  Then I ask the dog to get off his mat, pick it up and walk a few steps with it in my hand.  I repeat the process of laying the mat down and rewarding the dog for moving onto the mat.   When he steps onto it, say “yes” and reward generously.  Initially, put the mat away between sessions and play this game a few times per day.  When your see your dog get excited that you are about to lay the mat down, add a cue like “go to your place” just before you lay the mat down.  Once your dog is walking on the mat quickly, wait on the “yes” and see if your dog offers you a sit, then say “yes” and reward.  Eventually your dog will offer you a down and then you can jackpot this behavior.

To maintain the desired behavior of “go to your mat” I will randomly reward my dog when I see him go to his mat without being asked.  Rewards can be a slow massage, stuffed yummy kong time, favorite chew bone, yummy treat, a good scratch, whatever your dog finds rewarding.  I use this each morning as we enter the kitchen, each of my dogs will move towards their mat and I will eventually feed them while they are on their mat waiting patiently.  I no longer ask them to go to their mat, they know going to their mat predicts they will get fed, which is rewarding to them and nice for me  to have then out of the kitchen.

IMG_0109If you are reading this Blog, then I assume you have a dog or are thinking about getting a dog.  My hope is that you are a positive influence in training your dog, and not one who feels they need to “dominate” a dog.  Consider how your behavior makes your dog “feel” when you are training.  I hope your dog feels good when you are near, when he looks at you and when you reach to touch him.  If not, read more of my blog to learn how to train your dog while also having a happy, healthy and trusting relationship.

 

Remember, how you make a dog or friend feel, will effect the relationship.  In my experiences,  your dog will not remember what you say, but he will remember how you make him feel.

 

 

 

 
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Your Dog Bit Me!

Posted on Mar 22, 2016 in Aggression, Dog Training, Dominance, Leash Frustration, Pets, Posts, Training | 0 comments

Your dog has bitten a human and everyone is telling you to “euthanize your dog”.  First, take a breath and let’s assess the situation and understand why this bite occurred before making any decisions.  Consider the environment first and see what was happening.  Now, think about the dogs emotional state, shy with new people, startled by a sound or stimuli, sleeping, highly aroused, barking frantically, sitting nicely beside you, or guarding a resource?  

SNAP!

Snapping at this boy would be a normal response for this golden.

Most dog owners feel utterly shocked and embarrassed their dog would bite a person. They feel to relieve their guilt, they need to succumb to the pressure of family and friends and kill their dog.  I have taught many dogs with bite a history a soft mouth, yes, an older dog can learn and change.

Here are a few reasons dogs bite

  1. Guarding a resource that is worth fighting for.
  2. Being approached while confined by a lead.  
  3. When a stranger enters their home.
  4. While being body handled.
  5. Waking a fearful dog can result in a bite.
  6. Medical imbalance can cause dogs to over react.
  7. While trying to defend themselves from being attacked by another dog.
  8. If the growl does not get you to back off, a bite may just work.
  9. When a fearful dog is cornered.
  10. Some dogs actually learn that biting works.

Giving the dog a choice in the relationship.  We have all heard, “My dog is protective, ignore him.” If you are afraid then put him in a safe zone. If not, play a treat and retreat game,  to keep you safe and let a shy dog know of your intentions.    

Treat and Retreat Game

  1. With the dog on a 6 foot leash let the dog approach you, stand at an angle to the dog, stay soft in your joints and, blink often. 
  2. Toss a high value treat at his feet and then toss one behind him, repeat.
  3. If a dog chooses not to come near you or make contact, then you do not touch him.
  4. If he chooses to approach you, continue tossing treats or hand feed then toss a treat behind him.
  5. Hand feed him again then tossed one behind him, repeat.
  6. Turn to walk away, toss a treat and walk away from him, toss a treat and walk away, repeat. 
  7. If he is coming closer to you and has an open mouth and soft body, hand feed him, toss a treat away as you walk away.
  8. Ask the dog if he can sit or shake.
  9. If a dog can not do a behavior then do not touch them.
  10. If however he sits and or gives a paw, toss him a treat and repeat this pattern.
  11. Ask him to sit, give paw, hand feed and toss treat way behind him, repeat
  12. Ask him to sit, touch him under his chin, feed him and tossed him away.
  13. Continue this pattern of letting the dog approach you, sit, touch briefly and with the back of your hand, then toss him away. 
  14. Be aware of the dogs body language, any change will tell you you are moving too fast for his comfort.
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This dog is about to move away from the lady and her child.

Criteria changes here for each dog depending on how they feel about the environment and progression.  

Removing social pressure and letting the dog choose to be approached or touched is key for many shy dogs. Please respect your friend’s dog by giving him a choice in the relationship. Remember, not all dogs are social with people.

 
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Dominance: Reality or Myth

Posted on Feb 5, 2016 in Aggression, Certified Dog Trainer, Dog Training, Dominance, Pets, Positive Association, Posts, Puppy, Rescue Dog, Training |

I felt the need to share this article again as many dog owners and some dog trainer’s are not familiar with the Best way to train a dog.

by Donald J. Hanson, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA

It was in the September of 2000 that the first version of this article appeared in Paw Prints, the Green Acres Kennel Shop newsletter. I have updated the article ten years later because sadly there are still too many people, some of them animal professionals, and some who try to play the part on TV, promulgating the dominance myth.

Unfortunately a popular reality TV show has captured people’s attention and is talking about dogs as pack animals and again perpetuating the idea of using “calm-assertive energy” (read: fear and intimidation) to resolve issues with problem dogs.  Like most “reality” TV shows there is very little that is real here. The methods and approach used on this show are contraindicated by science and behavioral experts and many consider them inhumane. Unfortunately, many viewers do not seem to understand that the show is edited but instead believe “miracles happen in 30 minutes.” Even though each show contains a disclaimer; “please do not attempt any of these techniques on your own, consult with a professional,” people do try these techniques at home and cause further harm to dogs that are already suffering. As result the two largest organizations of professionals that deal with animal behavior; the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) have issued official positions warning against the use of the dominance approach in training or dealing with behavioral issues with dogs. Green Acres has elected to do the same in an effort to educate dog lovers about our position on this topic. That position statement can be found on our web site at www.greenacreskennel.com

If you attended a dog training class anytime  through the 1990’s, if you read any dog training books written during this period, or if you have had any behavioral issues with your dog, then you have most likely heard about dominance. You were probably told that in order to prevent your dog from becoming dominant that you had to: 1) always go through doorways first, 2) always eat before your dog, 3) never allow the images-2dog on furniture where they might be elevated above you, 4) never allow the dog to sleep on your bed, 5) always punish your dog for stealing or chewing things that belong to you, 6) push your dog away when they jump up or paw at you, and 7) never let your dog pull on leash. Essentially you were told that you had to be ever vigilant and that you had to do whatever it takes to show your dog that you were the boss in order to prevent him from taking over your home and becoming disobedient and even possibly aggressive.

The Myth

The concept of the dominant dog was based on a model of how wolves interact socially within a group. The wolves being studied were described as having a strict, force-based hierarchical structure where one male and one female were always the imagesdominant ones in the group. These dominant wolves had first access to the resources necessary for survival: food, water, and a mate, and fought to maintain this access. The other wolves in the pack were constantly challenging the alphas so that they could take their position and have access to the resources. Someone then extrapolated that since wolves and dogs are biologically the same species, dogs must also be struggling for dominance amongst each other and with us, and that this drive to be dominant is why dogs are disobedient and may even become aggressive.

This idea that dogs were striving to be the alphas over us resulted in the recommendation that we must always be dominant over our dogs and that the best way to do that is to use physical and mental intimidation, just like the captive wolves used with another. This philosophy was captured in a popular book of the 1970’s, How to Be Your Dogs Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete. The Monks include detailed instructions for physically disciplining your dog. They recommended hitting your dog hard enough under the chin so that it hurts and shaking the dog by the scruff of their neck while yelling at them. The Monk’s described something they called the alpha-wolf roll-over as the ultimate punishment for the most severe disobedience. This involves grabbing the dog by the scruff of their neck and firmly and rapidly rolling the dog on its back and pinning it while making eye contact and yelling at the dog. In their book the Monks asserted that these disciplinary techniques are what a mother wolf would use in the wild to discipline her pups.

My first personal experience with the alpha-wolf roll-over occurred in the very first dog training class that I attended. Paula and I were taking our new Cairn Terrier puppy to a dog training class based on the recommendation of our veterinarian. We knew nothing about training dogs and assumed that the people teaching the class did. Gus was approximately 12 weeks of age and had no prior training. It was the very first night of class and ALL the puppies were expected to sit on command. When Gus images-1would not sit, the instructor told me I had to show him who was boss and make him sit, and if he still wouldn’t do it, then I should alpha roll him. Well Gus wouldn’t sit (I know now he had no clue what I was even asking for) and so I was told to “roll him!” I soon had a terrified (unknown to or disregarded by everyone) Gus, flat on his back, pinned to the floor, eyes rolling, body writhing, mouth growling and snapping at everything. The instructor was really adamant now: “We can’t have that! Grab his muzzle and clamp it shut!” My instincts said “Whoa! That’s not safe!” but these people were the “experts” so I grabbed Gus’ muzzle in my hand. Instantly, I felt his canines puncture my palm as my blood started dripping on the floor. Gus broke free and moved as far away from me as he could. There is something to be said for listening to your gut instincts. Gus listened to his. I failed to listen to mine. Unbeknownst to me at the time, everything that I had read and been taught about the Alpha Wolf Roll-Over was based upon flawed knowledge. My puppy was afraid for his life and it was my fault.

The Reality

The wolves being studied that resulted in the conception of the dominance construct were not a pack of wolves living in the wild but were in fact a mixed non-familial group of wolves living in a fenced enclosure with far less resources than what would be available in the wild. This was not a normal wolf pack nor were these wolves in a typical environment.

We now know that true wolf packs, living in the wild, do NOT have a strict, force-based hierarchical structure. In Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs, biologist L. D. Mech notes “… in natural wolf packs, the alpha male or female are merely the breeding animals, the parents of the pack, and dominance contests with other wolves are rare, if they exist at all. During my 13 summers observing the Ellesmere Island pack, I saw none.” What Mech observed was a family of wolves: a breeding pair, pups and possibly some of last year’s pups. The breeding pair provides for and raises the young until such time that they move on to start their own pack and families. This is how a typical wolf pack in the wild interacts. In order to survive they must work together. If they were constantly fighting one another they would not live to reproduce.
While we know that wolves and dogs are biologically the same, we also know that behaviorally they are very different. On page 24 in the book Dogs, evolutionary biologist Dr. Raymond Coppinger states: “Dogs may well be closely related to wolves but that does not mean they behave like wolves. People are closely related to chimps but that doesn’t make us a subspecies of chimpanzees. Nor does it mean we behave like chimps.” Coppinger goes on to explain some of the differences between dogs and wolves: 1) dogs are not as quick at learning and have poor problem solving skills, 2) dogs have smaller brains, 3) dogs are easily tamed, 4) dogs are better scavengers, and 5) even when feral, dogs do not have a pack structure. As Coppinger states on page 67: “I don’t think a dog knows what people are talking about when they exhibit this “alpha wolf” behavior. Dogs do not understand such behaviors because the village dogs didn’t have a pack structure; they were semi solitary animals.” “In fact, contrary to popular belief, dog’s around the world do not (or only rarely) exhibit ‘pack’ behavior.” Coppinger’s observations are made based on his study of dogs throughout the world.

As for Gus and me, I do not really remember much of what happened next other than being offered ice for my hand as Paula worked with Gus for the remainder of the class. In fact, Gus and I were rather wary of each other for quite some time and I let Paula images-2take him to the rest of his classes for the next couple of years. Over time and lots of games of tennis ball, Gus and I learned to trust one another again and started having fun. As I started to learn more about dogs I discovered that there were far better ways to train a dog than with fear and intimidation and trying to be dominant.

So, if my dog Is not dominant, why does he misbehave?

So, if wolves do not have a rigid force-based hierarchy and dogs are not really wolves and do not form a dominance hierarchy, why then do some dogs exhibit some of the obnoxious, undesirable behaviors which in the past have been attributed to dominance? I believe there are some of the most common reasons we see undesirable behaviors in dogs:

Unrealistic expectations – Many people expect dogs to be furry little people with human values and morals. They do not like that dogs exhibit normal canine behaviors such as mounting other dogs, sniffing dog butts, and jumping up on people, just to name a few. Some of the behaviors we find undesirable are perfectly normal for a canine. To not accept these behaviors is simply unrealistic.  However, if we find a behavior such as mounting undesirable, we can easily teach our dog a behavior such as “off,” which gives them something else to do, which is mutually exclusive to mounting. For some illogical reason people expect a dog to always comply with every command they give. How many people do you do know that always do everything they are told to do?

Failure to manage the dog and its environment – Every dog has at least two trainers; its guardian and the environment in which it lives. The typical guardian probably spends less than an hour per day actively training their dog while the environment is working 24 hours a day seven days a week. Therefore, part of training any dog needs to be the proactive and intelligent management of the environment in which the dog lives. For example, dogs are scavengers and are always looking for food. If your dog steals a steak off the countertop it is not because they are trying to become dominant, it is because we left the steak somewhere the dog could get and then left the dog alone in that room. Instead, we need to take advantage of the fact that we are smarter than the dog manage the environment to prevent undesirable behaviors. If a dog is successful in a behavior, it will be repeated, not because it is dominant but because it has learned the behavior is rewarding.

Failure to train the dog – Too few people take the time to take their dog through at least one training class. These people often end up with a dog that has “issues” and is then labeled “dominant”. Every dog needs to be trained and training needs to continue throughout the dog’s life. The best way to train any animal, dog or human, is by rewarding them for the behaviors we like and managing their environment to prevent behaviors we do not like.

Unintentional training – Many people do not realize that they are rewarding the dog for the behaviors they do not like. Chasing the dog when he steals a sock rewards the dog for stealing, pushing him off when he jumps up rewards him for jumping, and letting him go forward with the leash tight is rewarding him for pulling on leash. We cannot blame the dog when we reward these undesirable behaviors.

Allowing the dog to train you – A lot of “dominance” issues involve dogs that have essentially become spoiled brats. Their guardians have not taken the time to learn about dogs but instead treat the dog as if it were a furry child, allowing the dog to train them. Dogs do what works, and if they find they can stay on the couch by growling or get attention by pawing at you, then that is what they are going to do. These dogs are not dominant; they have quite simply done a very effective job of training you, instead of you training them.

Physical Punishment – People who choose to train their dog with physical punishment are more likely to see “dominant” like behaviors such as growling, images-1because they put their dog in a position of fearing for their safety. Tools such as shock collars, prong collars and choke collars are designed to cause pain which often results in the dog becoming fearful. When your dog is afraid or feels pain he will respond accordingly, and that response may be aggressive in nature. Rather than rewarding desirable behaviors, these people focus on punishing for undesirable behaviors and in so doing create a dog that is always on the defensive and afraid that making the wrong choice will cause pain.

Failure to meet the dog’s needs – A common reason for undesirable behaviors in dogs is our failure to meet the dog’s most basic needs including physical exercise and mental stimulation. Stealing a sock or your underwear is a great way for the dog to get the attention from you he wants and needs. To a dog, it can be very rewarding to be chased and yelled at, especially if this is the only exercise their guardian provides.

Emotional issues – In my experience most aggressive behavior by dogs is not due to “dominance” but is due to an emotional reaction, fear and anger being the most typical. A dog that is afraid is a dog under stress and like a person under severe stress can react very irrationally and if they feel threatened very forcefully. Sadly there are Unknown-2still trainers that tell people to punish their dogs for growling or advise them to force the dog into a sit-stay and allow people to pet it until the dog becomes comfortable. This would be akin to taking a person afraid of snakes and tying them in a chair and allowing snakes to crawl all over them. This approach is certainly not humane and is more likely to make the fear worse. Dogs with emotional issues can be helped, but a training class is usually not the answer.

Undesirable behaviors in dogs that are attributed to “dominance” are not due to a pack driven instinct of the dog, but rather are due to our failure to take responsibility for the dog’s needs, and to properly, humanely train ourselves and our dog. If a dog is “dominant” it’s because we have trained them to be so.

Strive to be good guardians and provide your dogs with everything they need, including food, water, shelter, training, mental stimulation, physical exercise and common sense management. Then they will not learn the undesirable behaviors that in the past have been erroneously attributed to dominance.

Originally published in Green Acres Kennel Shop Paw Prints, September 2002.

Update August 2010

© Donald J. Hanson, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA

For a more information on the dominance myth, we recommend the following books and articles:

Recommended Reading for Further Education

Books

Dogs: A new Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton, 2002.
Dominance Theory and Dogs Version 1.0, James O’Heare, DogPsych Publishing, 2003.
Don’t Shoot the Dog – The New Art of Teaching and Training (2nd edition), Karen Pryor, Bantam Books, 1999.
On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas, Dogwise Publishing, 2006.
Stress in Dogs,Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, Dogwise Publishing, 2007.
The Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson, James & Kenneth Publishers, 2005.
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller, Howell Book House, 2001.

Articles

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2009. AVSAB Position Statement on the  Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of animals. (http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/dominance%20statement.pdf –  http://bit.ly/4rUf20)

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior 2007. AVSAB Position Statement – Punishment Guidelines: The use of punishment for dealing with animal behavior problems. (http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements.pdfhttp://bit.ly/acLqtl)

Association of Pet Dog Trainers 2009. APDT Position Statement on Dominance and Dog Training (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominance.aspxhttp://bit.ly/6lmj7w)

Association of Pet Dog Trainers 2009. Dominance Myths and Dog Training Realities (http://www.apdt.com/petowners/choose/dominancemyths.aspxhttp://bit.ly/6Gigqd)

Blackwell, Emily J., Twells, Caroline Anne, Seawright, Rachel A. Casey. 2008. The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, September/October 2008, pp 207-217. (http://www.journalvetbehavior.com/article/S1558-7878%2807%2900276-6/abstracthttp://bit.ly/bgbtBX)

Bradshaw J.W.S., Blackwell E.J., Casey R.A. 2009. Dominance in domestic dogs – useful construct or bad habit? Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, May/June 2009, pp 135-144. (http://www.pawsoflife.org/pdf/Library%20articles/Bradshaw%202009.pdfhttp://bit.ly/aborOI)

Herron M.E., Shofer F.S., Reisner I.R. 2009. Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 117, pp. 47-54.  (http://www.k9events.com/dog_training_method.pdfhttp://bit.ly/84g7my)

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., 2004. Dog training methods—their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Anim. Welfare 13, 63–69. (http://www.antrozoologisenteret.no/artikler/art_training_methods.pdfhttp://bit.ly/8JkPfE)

Mech L.D. 1999. Alpha Status, Dominance, and Division of Labor in Wolf Packs. Canadian Journal of Zoology. (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/basic/resources/mech_pdfs/267alphastatus_english.pdfhttp://bit.ly/4TZ89P)

Mech L.D. 2008. Whatever happened to the term alpha wolf? International Wolf. (http://www.4pawsu.com/alphawolf.pdfhttp://bit.ly/c7Cyel)

Ryan, David. 2010. Why Won’t “Dominance” Die? Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors website, www.apbc.org,

Hanson, Don, 2010, Brambell’s Five Freedoms, Green Acres Kennel Shop web site, (http://www.greenacreskennel.com/pages/Articles/ART_Brambells_5_Freedoms.htmlhttp://bit.ly/au2LOn)

 

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Is It Just the Dogs Breed?

Posted on Jan 31, 2016 in Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Posts, Puppy, Reaction, Reactive, Rescue Dog, Training |

Does your hound constantly have her nose to the ground?  Is your retriever pup a bit too mouthy?  Is your Pyrenees, Chow or Catahoula mix

Don't kid yourself, this girl is a loud barker when on a leash!

This sweet girl is a loud alarm barker!

acting a bit growly with strangers? Does your terrier like to grab and shake toys?  How about your adorable herder? Ever nipped at anyones heels?

Ray Coppenger, author of Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior and Evolution explains Breed Specific Behaviors. Not that long ago, dogs were chosen and bred based on their ability to be useful.  For example, dogs were kept around if they were able to:

  1. Protect the herd from predators by alarm barking.
  2. Could find or flush out the bird or grouse to be hunted.
  3. Retrieve a kill after it was shot.
  4. Kill pesky rodents and small animals that jeopardized the crops.

Desired traits which were specifically bred for in the past may not be so desired for a family pet. A lazy, relaxed calm dog was not as desirable and therefore not chosen for breeding.

Isolated Behaviors in Breeds

I recently participated in a Webinar by Ken McCort. Here are some things I took away: 

  1. Hound dogs were used to search and track, which meant their nose needed to be on the ground.
  2. Sporting dogs were used to search, stalk and point at their prey. 
  3. Herders were bred to drive and chase, and, yes, even nip at heals when needed. Example, the Corgi was encouraged to nip the heels and bred low to avoid the kick back from the hoofed animal they were moving.  Shelties were bred to bark when herding as they used noise to drive the herd.
  4. Terriers and heelers were bred to grab and hold and were even knows as “catch dogs” as this was a desired motor pattern.
  5. Retrievers were used to bring birds back to their handler using a soft mouth.

To learn more, here’s a useful link: Ken McCort, Wolf Park Educator

If you find yourself wanting to change a behavior in your dog, first

Alert but not overly aroused.

Alert and ready to hunt.

consider if this behavior is a normal one to your dog’s breed.  You may never extinguish a behavior trait that your dog was specifically bred for.  While this behavior can be modified by rewarding another behavior, you must be realistic with your expectations during the behavior modification process.  

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Teaching a Dog to Sit, Stay will Improve His Emotional Control

Posted on Dec 26, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Pets, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training, Unleashed Control |

Briggs is practicing a down stay in the field.

Briggs is practicing a down stay in the field.

This is Blog #4 in helping the dog who is barking and lunging at people.

Step 1. Management; prevent him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

Step 2. Desensitization and counter condition; change how your dog feels.

Step 3.  Understanding your dogs Distance Cues.

Step 4.  Emotional Control Exercises, teaching your dog to sit and down stay will help your dog have better emotional control. 

Begin training sessions of  5-10 minutes several times a day in a low distraction environment.(Some where in your home is a good place to start). The secret to a good stay is to not move through the stages too fast. Build up gradually by adding duration and distractions.

Nice sit stay in the heel position by Layla.

Nice sit stay in the heel position by Layla.

Using the Collar: Say dogs name and ask dog to sit, touch the collar and say “stay” while holding a flat hand in front of the dogs face. Reward quickly with a few treats, repeat.  Now try it without holding the collar, “come, sit, stay” reward, reward, then release. Repeat while standing.

Using the Leash:  Say dogs name and ask dog to “sit, stay” while a raising a flat hand. Reward quickly with a few treats, then release your dog and repeat. 

Duration: You may have to reward with treats every few seconds, then release your dog.  The goal is your dog will want to “stay” as this is rewarding, when you release him the food stops.  If your dog moves before you release him, walk or look away and try the pattern again but reward generously until they understand what it is you are asking.

Add Criteria: Using your dogs daily meal, repeat this pattern “come, sit, stay” or “heel, sit, stay” reward and release, repeat while adding duration in every room of your house.  Add higher criteria by having a familiar person walk past and reward generously if your dog holds his sit, stay.  If he breaks, no worries, show him the food and repeat the pattern until he is successful.  Progress to sit, stay outside in the driveway, yard and street with no distractions then add criteria by having a  familiar person walk past and reward generously for good emotional control.  

Down stay in a public place.

Down stay in a public place.

Success: By now your dog understands that when a person walks by “good things can happen.”  If your dog training is failing, I will bet it is because the criteria is too high for the dog.  Set your dog up for success and reward many repetitions of sit, stay or down,stay in many locations with only familiar friends passing by.  As your dog matures, he will develop better emotional control in a variety of situations AND see people passing by as a predictor that good things can happen.  If your dog does not have strong emotional control at home, then please do not ask him to sit and stay in a public location as this criteria is too high.

Time Frame: Each dog will progress at a different pace and they can only go at their pace.  Factors that change how your dog feels and reacts can include how a person smells, how tall they are, male or female, how fast they move, if they make direct eye contact, if they are nervous,  lean over the dog, cough, laugh or even stomp their feet.  If there is one person or several makes a huge difference how each dog feels.  If your dog goes over his comfort level, he may lunge and snap.  Do not punish, simply slow the progression down until you reduce your dogs fear. 

Personal Experience: I have progressed countless clients through this process, and two of my own dogs! I am not worried

Breakfast was earned holding a down stay in different locations.

Breakfast was earned holding a down stay in different locations.

about either of my dogs lunging or biting a guest.  I rescued my Scottish Terrier at 5 years of age with a history of multiple bites, after 18 months of training she passed her Canine Good Citizen Certification and can now greet people in my house. For months, I had to introduce her to guests on the street, then in the yard and eventually inside my home,  this is a detailed desensitization process.  The good news is you will get there with your furry friend, just take your time, manage when you can not train, train below your dogs threshold and practice daily using his meal.

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Dog Aggression Towards Humans

Posted on Dec 11, 2015 in Aggression, Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Positive Association, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

Working at the fence only when you dog is calm.

In my last blog, I mentioned that changing your dogs behavior begins with good management which prevents him from practicing the unwanted behavior.

I will now explain how to change your dog’s response when meeting a stranger, using the processes of counter-conditioning and desensitization.  Counter-conditioning means changing the negative association the dog has formed about people, and replacing it with a positive, happy association using something the dog loves. Desensitization means exposing the dog to the “stimulus” (in this case, a person) at a distance, far enough away that it does not provoke a fear response from your dog, and gradually reducing the distance to the person until the dog is relaxed with the person nearby. Subsequent training can continue as your dog remains calm, and is able to accept treats or play with toys.

Repeat this process for several weeks in neutral environments, like your street, rewarding your dog when a stranger appears as long as your dog is in a thinking frame of mind and not barking and lunging.   

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Pablo looks at me with dogs in the distance

Over time, your dog sees a stranger and begins to feel less stressed and can offer a behavior like looking at you for something rewarding, like food or a game of tug.  Changing your dogs emotional state will change his behavior.

Friends who want to help you can participate in this desensitization process but should be coached to not approach your dog, but rather wait for the dog to approach them.  Then they can toss a treat at his feet, then toss one farther away behind the dog to help the dog feel safer.  The friend can continue to walk down the street while leaving a trail of treats behind them for the dog to enjoy. Hence, people = yummy food! 

I suggest you introduce new friends outside your home or down the street, as your dog needs to be calm for desensitization to work.  If your dog is on a leash, be sure the leash is slack and the handler follows the dog, rather than directing the dog’s movements. This gives your dog a choice in how close he wants to be to the stranger which allows desensitization to be effective, and it allows you to constantly see how your dog is feeling. Pay attention to your dog: if they become stiff, intense, begin breathing fast, or barking, slow down as desensitization needs to happen to change your dogs behavior.

I rescued my scottie with a 5 bite history, she can now greet strangers in neutral environments with a relaxed happy state of mind.

Avoid trying to “make your dog like guest right inside your front door” as this is often where your dog is barking and growling, therefore he is not calm enough to learn.  Sure, he may gobble up the treats, but if he is still highly aroused such that you need to hold him tight, then he may be over threshold which slows your progress. 

In Summary, to desensitize your dog to strangers effectively, you MUST start in a location where your dog is calm.  If your dog acts aggressively towards strangers at your front door, then start outside in the yard or on your street.  If your dog acts aggressively at the gate or fence, then you need to take your dog to a neutral environment down the street so he can be calm enough to think and learn. If a dog is acting aggressively when you approach his kennel, then start with him outside where he is calm and can think. Many dog owners fail to change how their dogs feel about strangers because they start in locations that are over their dogs threshold so no learning can happen.

This process of counter-conditioning and desensitization may take 6 week, or 6 years! It simply depends on your dog’s current associations.  So be a good dog owner, and if you see your dog acting anxious or skittish around people, begin the process of counter-conditioning and desensitization so you can reduce your dogs stress when around strangers and therefore reduce a potential bite.

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