Dog Fight or Reprimand?

Posted on Jul 21, 2018 in Aggression, Dog Training, Leash Training, Posts, Reaction, Rescue Dog, Socialization, Training | 0 comments

Good dogs resolve conflict — all by themselves! 

Below, I outline an incident that occurred at a local park in detail and include what each dog’s body language indicated. There are good lessons here on how dogs resolve conflict and set the rules for the playground!

Here are the Players:

First we have Mo, a scruffy adolescent female terrier weighing about 20 lbs., who enters other dog’s space quickly and without hesitation. Next we have Nel, a shy adolescent female of about 40 lbs. who approaches other dogs hesitantly when greeting. Our third dog is a small 10 lb adolescent male named, Arlo who would sniff all the dogs and then run away and pee on the nearest tree only to repeat the pattern again. Finally, there is Ann, an adult 55 lb female who enjoys chasing squirrels mostly, and was extremely tolerant of other dogs sniffing her.

This is when it gets interesting!

This is an example of the scene, terrier closing space and insecure dog baking away.

Ann, Nel and Arlo had just politely greeted each other moments before when they spotted the gregarious Mo trotting towards them from a distance with head and tail up. From about 30 feet away, Mo began to sprint and squared off and growled nose to nose at Nel.  Nel stepped back about 6 inches from Mo when Ann stepped in with a reprimand. Ann chest bumped Mo right on her back.

 

This is when it gets noisy!

That is when it got noisy with both dogs growling as Ann stood over Mo and reprimanded her by holding her down with her mouth. I could see Ann’s mouth was open and was fairly sure she was not biting down. I quickly stepped in to separate the two, and Mo ran away.

This is an example of the scene, but not the actual dogs at the park.

Ann never even look at me, which was much appreciated as some dogs will redirect if they are too aroused. She was not. Ann immediately relaxed, and I do not even remember her shaking off. Next, Nel walked over and licked Ann’s face, possibly in appeasement.

 

This is when Mo should have stayed!

Mo’s mom was screaming at the top of her lungs saying what a bad dog Ann was and that Mo just had “poor social skills”.  I attempted to tell her to put Mo back down so that Mo could resolve the issue and learn from it.  I was certain that Ann was quite calm and had resolved the disagreement quickly.  But Mo’s Mom was upset, even though she knew that Mo was not even scratched. She left without understanding that her dog was the one that started the conflict and most likely learned an important lesson. Ann was truly just reprimanding Mo for being rude to Nel. Period.

This is my point:

If you own a dog that quickly charges into unfamiliar dogs faces and growls or gets even mildly stiff, avoid allowing this to happen.  It is a matter of time, before your dog “with poor social skills” gets put in it’s place by an adult dog who is confident enough to do so. You might complain that your dog was “attacked”. However, if there is minimal damage, it means your dog just received a reprimand for being rude. It is often just that simple. The adult dog should not be punished for reprimanding and setting rules on the playground.  Mo is clearly an insecure dog and selected the shy dog Nel to bully. Thankfully, Ann was there to keep the peace!

This is what you can do: Slow down the introduction.

After 5 minutes, this beagle never looked at the lab. The bagle was saying “no thanks”.

Begin by walking your dog toward the other dog on leash, but stop about 15 feet away and let the dogs communicate a few seconds. Call them away and repeat. The insecure dog will eventually learn to read other dogs cues from a safe distance as they mature. I use a very slow approach to be sure both dogs want to greet. If one dog is looking away, turning away, or ground sniffing, then you do not get any closer. However, if both dogs are still expressing loose body wiggles  after 5 minutes of parallel walking, then continue to get closer.

This is an example: 

 How to Introduce New Dogs

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Is your dog predisposed to Separation Anxiety?

Posted on May 19, 2018 in Barking, Dog Training, Pets, Posts, Separation Anxiety | 0 comments

Will your dog likely develop Anxiety when home alone?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from a form of Separation Anxiety, contact your vet, as many of the symptoms can also be medical in nature. Your vet may include a complete blood cell count, biochemistry, thyroid test, and urinalysis to gather more information on what may be causing some of your dogs behavior changes.

So, what are the signs you should look for?

This girl is worried, noted by the compressed body, tucked tail, scanning and stiff body.

 

Is your dog slightly environmentally insecure or worried in new places? Does your dog hesitate when walking down some streets or new parks? Do her eyes become enlarged as she scans the area often?  Maybe her body looks compressed, or she moves slower then normal with stiff leg movement. Maybe she sits and refuses to move forward, yet if you turn around, she quickly moves in the direction of home.

 

 

 

 

Is your dog somewhat sound sensitive? Observed by your dogs startle reflex when a truck rumbles in the distance,  you drop something, or you raise your voice.  These dogs may run to another room or cower. They may also become tense or lower their body and head, show the whites of their eyes and push their ears way back. Maybe you need to medicate your dog during fireworks. These dogs often go into flight mode and try to hide somewhere safe. They may stay in a state of anxiety for 30 minutes for more.

 

Lucy is clearly insecure with this greeting, noted by her compressed, stiff, body, tucked tail, ears back, closed mouth. She is side stepping away to the right.

 

Is your dog shy or worried about strangers? Shown by your dogs hesitation to enter guests space. Maybe your insecure dog shows his anxiety by greeting visitors in an over the top excited, jumpy wiggly or mouthy manner. Moderately fearful dogs may rush the door, barking rapidly.  Or maybe your dog has become increasingly territorial of your home or car when people approach or are visible. If you dog is unable to calm quickly after being stressed or aroused, they are showing you that they struggle to rebound from a stressor.

 

 

 

If your dog exhibits any of the above character traits then your dog is more likely to develop a form of Separation Anxiety, than a dog who is:

  1. Environmentally confident
  2. Demonstrates no Sound sensitivity
  3. Is Social with all people
  4. Can Rebound quickly after being stressed
  5. Is Patient by nature

 

Distinguishing between SA and Isolation Stress:

Separation Anxiety: Is described as a dog who is unable to cope when their human is away. Not just anyone is able to comfort these dogs as they have bonded with one or two individuals.  These dogs often have low environmental confidence, low sociability with new people, and are persistent in nature.  Their inability to rebound keeps them in a state of anxiety longer. If the dog is vocal in nature, his anxiety may manifest with barking, if he is high energy, chewing may manifest. They often become extremely excited and aroused when familiar people enter the home and are often labeled velcro dogs.

Isolation Stress: Is described as a dog who is fearful of being alone.  Their fear of other stimuli is heightened when no one is there to make them feel safe. These dogs often have low environmental confidence, and may exhibit some form of sound sensitivity. These dogs are often persistent in nature and therefore whine or pace longer then a patient dog. Vocal dogs may bark and high energy dogs may begin to chew on items nearby. 

Here are a few examples to give you a better picture of what may occur.

Example: Max is fearful of most men and will bark or growl at them when they come too close. He is also very protective of his house and car. When alone in the home and he hears a man’s voice outside, he begins to slowly and stiffly pace about the rooms, he often drools, and will occasionally urinate in the home. This isolation stress will subside when the voices stops as his rebound time is fairly good.

Example: Lucy is a shy pup who takes a few minutes to warm up to strangers. On walks, she often hesitates, scans her environment and only wants to sniff the ground near her. If she hears a siren or any medium/high pitched noise she pulls towards home. Lucy’s family has recently moved into a new home.  She begins to whine when left alone for the first time, which leads to her barking, pacing and scratching at the door. When her familiar humans come home she greets them with such jumpy enthusiasm they scold her and then see the door damage and scold her even more. Lucy’s low environmental confidence and sound sensitivity have contributed to her stress and anxiety of being alone.

Example: Mika is a high energy German Shepherd mix who will play fetch for an hour and will persist to find the ball when it goes into the tall grass.  Mika is also verbal and barks when aroused or frustrated. When left alone, she runs and barks in the home after her owners leave for nearly 10 minutes, then chews her toys or an occasional pillow or article of clothing for 10-15 minutes and then climbs in her bed for a three hour nap. Mika is not exhibiting anxiety when alone, yet her high energy, verbal temperament and her enjoyment of chewing can mimic that of anxiety. 

To determine these dogs anxiety levels, we set up a camera to determine what the triggers were, how their behavior changed and if they were able to recover.

 

A successful Behavior Modification Program will use counter conditioning and desensitization to slowly help these dogs become comfortable in their environment and cope with being alone.  

Counter conditioning is about changing the associations that the dog already has to something.  When we desensitize our dogs, we make them less sensitive to what they fear. Conditioning for this training purpose is about building their confidence and giving them the tools to feel safe when alone.

Basic Plan:  Disassociate each of your routine habits before you leave so your dog stays calmer. Example:  If putting on your shoes is a reliable predictor for you leaving, put them on many different times a day.  Pick up your keys, walk around and sit them down, without looking at your dog. You get the idea. Stop to breathe several times to help lower your dogs anxiety and aid in his resiliency.

Condition: Help your dog become more confident in your home by having many short positive training sessions each day to a particular bed/mat or place.  

  • Condition your dog to go to this bed/place, using a positive approach. This is never forced or it will have a negative association and impede your goal.  
  • Build some duration on the mat/place by rewarding your dog often for staying on his mat while you go across the room.   I never say “stay” I just let the dog learn that when he is on his mat, good things happen. Sometimes when I return I drop 10 treats on his mat to increase association.
  • Condition your dog to his favorite interactive food toys using high value food items. This conditioning must be done for several days before offering it to them and walking out. If your dogs association is not strongly compelling and positive, this toy or treat may

                 Four pups enjoying daily kong time


    become a predictor of you leaving, and increase your dogs anxiety.
  • Increase your dogs daily physical and mental exercise.
  • Teach your dog a cue, “Be good” or I’ll be back”. This gives your dog feedback, that you will be gone but will return. You can begin to teach this in small pieces while you leave your dog from one room and go to another and return, reward with calm praise. Over time you gradually increase the time you are gone and always return with calm praise. 
  • Generalizing this behavior to different rooms, the car, deck, yard, vets office and more will aid in your dogs coping skills.
  • Add white noise to drown out noise for sensitive dogs.
  • Talk to your vet about medication as it is often helpful for dogs who are environmentally worried, or sound sensitive.

Summary: I hope you now have a better idea of why some dogs are predisposed to and suffer from Separation Anxiety Issues.  What to look for in your dogs temperament, and some positive intervention techniques to support your dog. Always be mindful that an underlying medical condition may also be a factor. Inform your vet of your concerns, and seek a professional Dog Behavior Consultant to aid in your dogs training plan.

Dogs who engage in chewing when alone will benefit from a variety of toys options.  Interactive toys that encourage dogs to work for their food keeps their mind engaged.  Chew toys should be safe, appealing, and virtually indestructible. Many chew toys can be stuffed with dog food or healthy treats to increase their appeal. 

Below are a few toy options for you to consider, listed by the Toy Name Description Manufacturer/Website

Bustercube Hard plastic cubes with inner maze.  Slowly dispense kibble when rolled Kruuse  www.bustercube.com

Chewber Durable rubber frisbees  designed for chewing, tossing and tugging     Chewber  www.chewber.com

Classic Kong / Treat Ball Rubber toys with various hollow areas that can be stuffed with food Kong Company  www.kongcompany.com

Nylabone Synthetic and edible bone shaped chew toys Nylabone  www.nylabone.com

Orka Ball / Orka Jack Pliable synthetic hollow toys that can be stuffed with treats   Petstages  www.petstages.com

TireBiter nylon tire-shaped toy can be tossed, tugged, and stuffed with spreadable food Mammoth Pet Products www.mammothpet.com

 

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Why Does My Dog Respond That Way?

Posted on Mar 18, 2018 in Dog Training, Leash Frustration, Leash Training, Posts, Reactive, Training | 0 comments

“Why” your dog may not be able to change her behavior like other dogs…

Have you attended a dog training class, maybe a Leash Lunger or Reactive Dog Class?  You see other dogs in class improving, but your dog continues to scan the environment instead of looking at you.

Some of these dogs still lunge at dogs, but they have met each other and no longer have a need to be persistent.

Where I Start…

When a client brings me a dog, I begin with identifying who the dog is prior to setting any expectations. Each dog is an individual, and will show you how they will respond if you know what to look for. I will share a recent consultation with you below.

Consultation : REACTIVE DOG (short version)

Dog: Stella, 2 year old spayed solid black German Shepherd in good health. Lives with her mom and a 4 year old child who she enjoys being with.

History:  Stella does well in daycare, and never shows aggression to any people or dogs. They describe her as tolerant of the young adolescent dogs and will play with any dog that engages her. Mom says she allowed Stella to greet other dogs on leash when she was a pup to socialize her, she has never acted aggressively with any dog she has met.

Owners Complaint:  Stella’s Mom complains that she cannot walk Stella on a leash, as she pulls extremely hard to get to any dog she sees in her environment. Even if she puts treats to her nose, Stella will not reorient to her, she physically has to pull Stella away. 

Observations…

When I observed Stella’s behavior it was immediately apparent that she was extremely visually aware of her environment, as she constantly turned her head to anything that moved. She is fairly high energy and trots, not walks, to whatever interests her. When she saw a bird over her head in the tree, she stood still staring at it for several minutes, not moving a muscle. When her mom called to her, she ignored the calling and remained focused on the birds as a second bird joined the first one. Finally, her mom said “Stella, want a treat?”, Stella twitched her ear and then looked at her mom, then returned to watching the birds for a several seconds before responding to her mom for the treat. Once she ate the treat, she trotted back to the tree and visually watched anything that moved.

Who is Stella?

Stella showed us that she is extremely visually aware of her environment and she is very persistent in this visual behavior when the stimuli is interesting to her. She also showed us that she is not willing to come to us, unless she knows the reward is worth it to her. She has her own interests and is persistent when something interests her. She also loves playing with all the neighborhood dogs.

Realization…

Would Stella likely be a leash lunger?  Yes! Now you see how the combination of her temperament plays a significant role in her (response) behavior. 

Implementation…

What key change could Stella’s mom incorporate in her leash training? Increase the value of the reward to something that Stella finds very rewarding. We determined she liked dried liver extremely well.

Effective behavior modification programs work on many dogs but will not work completely if your dog loves dogs, is visually persistent by nature and is not very food motivated. When this is the case, patience and understanding is key!

I am having trouble getting this pups attention as she is extremely aware of her environment, loves dogs and is somewhat food motivated. Patience is needed here as we allow her to be who she is.

Now you know…

If you are wanting to change your dogs behavior, first try looking at your dog to see who they are, what is their nature, their temperament. Some traits to consider: sociability with people and dogs, patient, vocal, high energy, lazy, becomes extremely aroused when near people or dogs, biddable with or without food, visually or olfactory aware and persistent. Understanding who your dog is will help you understand WHY she responds the way she does.

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Dog Bite Prevention

Posted on Nov 26, 2017 in Aggression, Positive Association, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

As a dog trainer, I often work with dogs who have bitten people, yet I am  able to hand feed and often begin body handling them without getting bitten myself.  Since dog bite prevention is a critical focus of my reward-based dog training, I will share some simple techniques to reduce your chances of being bit by a dog.

Learn to read dog body language:

Relaxed Body Language

If the dog is facing you, look for signs he is calm and relaxed. These would include a loose body (free of tension), open mouth, relaxed ears, soft blinking eyes, relaxed neutral tail and ears. These are communications signs from the dog that he is feeling okay about you near him. This handsome boy is offering me friendly relaxed body language as he stands at an angle showing he is feeling comfortable about my presence.

Stressed Body Language

If the dog is facing you with a closed mouth, or a non blinking eye, with body weight forward, or stiff, or eager to get to you in an aroused state. He may be saying stay where you are.

This cute fuzzy face is facing me directly with his head and neck raised up, closed mouth, still body, with round eyes that are not blinking. All signs the dog is unsure, and asking me to stay away.

 

 

Consider the history:  Dogs who have been physically grabbed, alpha rolled, held down, and dominated are 100% more likely to feel stress when approached by a stranger.  These dogs often panic, are unable to think clearly and overreact to a strangers approach by lunging, growling or snapping as their safety is paramount. Dogs who have not experienced positive associations with humans will be less trusting and may take a while to trust. The dog must set the pace in the relationship.

What do I do to avoid being bitten?  

  • I stop moving, turn my face away, raise my chin up and slowly turn sideways to the dog, relax my joints as I take a deep breadth.  
  • IMPORTANT! I never reach my hand out (BAD IDEA). 
  • I Begin by asking the dog to come into my space. If he looks at me then looks away, he is telling me he is worried and I should not approach.

If you ask a dog to come to you and they turn away, let them be. This dog is removing herself from what she perceives is a scary situation.

  • If the dog is displaying  low body compression, curved back, I will often get low and turn slightly away, offer a toy or treat to the dog, if he moves towards me, then I engage by tossing a toy or treat.
  • I wait and see if the dog stays in my space or immediately retreats.  A dog who immediately moves away or maintains a forward stance is not ready to be petted, this is a low level distance cue and should be respected.

How can you make Friends with a territorial Dog?  Treat and Retreat is a progressive training program I use to build a trusting relationship with stressed or conflicted dogs.  This is simply a game to reduce the dogs stress as I am in the dogs presence, this is not about petting the dog. Reducing a dogs fear will reduce territorial aggression, leash lunging, air snapping, and biting. Click the link to view a video of me playing Treat and Retreat with a shy dog.

Video:   Treat and Retreat with Contact

In Summary:

  1. A dog who approaches me and leans against me has invited contact. I can slowly pet his back one or two strokes and then stop, to observe the dogs body language and wait for the dog to invite more contact. 
  2. A dog who turns his face away should not be appraoched.
  3. Learn Dog Body Language:
    1. A dogs relaxed body language, often offered by a dog at feeding time.  Open mouth, soft eyes, relaxed loose jointed body, neutral tail and ears.
    2. Fearful/stressed body language, often offered at the vets. May include stiff or curved body, slow body movements, tucked tail, looking or turning away, tightly closed mouth, wrinkled brow, refusal to eat treats, lowered head, growling or lip curling, ears pinned to head, paw lifted, whites of eye showing.
  4. Have a plan when you see the dog. If you do not have treats on you, ignore the dog completely.  With high value treats on you, you can begin the Treat and Retreat game.
  5. The dog always sets the pace, if the dog attempts to look or turn away, just stop and ignore the dog.  Give the dog a break, sit down or start farther away from the dog. If the dog begins to bark or lunge at you then slow the progression down as you are just making him more fearful/stressed.

Dogs give plenty of warning before they bite, it is up to you to ignore any dog that is not seeking out your touching. With the above advice you will be able to slowly make friends with fearful/protective dogs without pushing the dog to the point of using his teeth to resolve conflict.

I have added a few photos below for you to practice your observational skills in reading dogs body language.

relaxed!

Relaxed, stressed, relaxed

Stressed as shown by her closed mouth, squinty eyes, stiffly held legs, tucked tail

Stressed as shown by her rounded, compressed rigid body, moving away, closed mouth, ears way back, tail dropped.

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Don’t touch me!

Posted on Jul 9, 2017 in Aggression, Positive Association, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Reactive, Training | 0 comments

My scottie, Sophie is not happy about this stranger petting her.

Most humans are comfortable greeting others by stretching out their hands, and making direct eye contact. As a result, humans often interact with dogs in human ways, including but not limited to, quick hand movements, forward social pressure, leaning over, staring directly at the dog and sadly, reaching out. Haptic communication is a branch of nonverbal communication that refers to the ways in which people and animals communicate, and interact via the sense of touch. Again, it is normal for humans, but rude and scary for many dogs.

Most dog owners want a dog that will willingly accept being petted, even by complete strangers. When children are involved this is even more extreme, with dogs enduring fingers in their mouths, ears and eyes.  It is true most dogs are social and do love a good scratch, let’s just not assume they like it from a stranger.  Touching a dog should only be done if the dog chooses to make contact with the person, avoid approaching dogs and DO NOT reach your hand out to let them smell you.  Seriously, I can think of  several dogs that have bitten, specifically when a stranger reached out.

Based on this dogs body language, she is enjoying be scratched.

I suggest you ask your dog and see how he or she feels about being touched by you or a friend. Call your dog into your space and begin to pet her with two hands for just a few seconds, then stop and lean a bit away. If your dog moves away just a bit or shakes off, then your dog is telling you that at this moment, in this environment, that touching was not very rewarding. If however, your dog leans into you and asks for more touching, then your dog finds this interaction rewarding.  Watch your dogs body language in different environments, and he will tell you how he feels about the hand that is coming closer to him.  

Old School training would have told you to hold your dog down for growling or snapping at a friend. This use of force will only increase the dogs fear and will break his trust in you completely.  Fearful dogs that are handled with force often get worse over time, and their behavior can escalate to a point that people think euthanasia is the only solution.

Fortunately, there are steps for changing how your dog feels about being touched. Please note, if your dog is showing severe aggressive signs, or has bitten already, contact a behavioral specialist for professional help. To teach our dogs to be comfortable with body handling, I recommend you use a traditional counter-conditioning/desensitization program (CC/DS). While each program is unique to each dog, here are some general and important things to know about CC/DS. 

  1. My Experience: Not all dogs feel relaxed with a human hand coming at them. My own dog growled at my children for about three years before he learned to trust them when they were petting him with one hand. In addition, my scottie nipped many hands as strangers would reach out to touch her. Both rescue dogs took over a year to learn to tolerate being touched by a strangers and much longer to enjoy it.

  2. Take it Slow: It is critical that you never push the dog to the point of being scared or stressed.  Because of this we can only ever move as fast as the dog will let us. Yes, the dog sets the pace. Depending on the severity of the dog’s anxiety around being touched, this process may take as little as a week or as long as several months. For dogs that have a history of getting defensive or aggressive when touched, you will want to go even slower to prevent your dog from getting overwhelmed and snapping.
  3. Have a Plan: It is a good idea to write out the steps you plan to take for the CC/DS program. This will help you be sure to move very slowly, and not try to skip steps that your dog may not be ready to skip. You can change the plan as you go, either taking more or less time depending on your dog’s response. 
  4. Make it fun: For this systematic desensitization program to work, you must always stay below a dogs “threshold” — this is the point where your dogs fear is so high, he is shutting off the thinking part of his brain. In order for this not to happen, you must stop if your dog begins to show signs of anxiety or fear.  Just because your dog is not trembling or fighting to get away does not mean he is completely relaxed about the process.  If your dog panics, shows signs of significant stress or anxiety, does not recover quickly or refuses to eat, you have moved too fast and need to go back to the previous step and increase more slowly. 
  5. Lets Talk: Your dog relies on you to be able to read his body language to tell when he is feeling relaxed, and when he is feeling stressed.

This dog is stressed , noted by his lowered body and head, ears back, paw raised, mouth closed, eyes on hand.

a) Signs of relaxation: a relaxed body posture, relaxed open mouth, slow relaxed panting, slow, loose wagging tail, readily responds to petting and talking from owners, readily accepts treats and remains loose jointed.

b) Signs of stress: rapid panting (when not hot), drooling, shaking, yawning, “shaking off” as if wet, lifting a front paw while leaning away, licking lips often, sniffing at the ground, whining or growling, hesitant to take the treat or takes it very roughly.  

Other elements of this training:

  1. Timing is critical, the timing of your treat delivery can mean the difference between success and failure with your CC/DS program.  Your dog should be happily snacking the entire time your friend or groomer is touching him,  as soon as they stop petting, the treats should disappear. This will allow for your dog to easily make the association that handling means yummy treats, no handling means the yummy treats go away.  Make sure to pause several seconds in between each treat delivery/body handling episode before starting again, this will allow the message of “hands = good food” to really sink in. This sounds easier than it is, you will need to practice to set your dog up for success. 
  2. Pay for petting is a method I like to use to change a dogs association to being touched. This is great for dogs that have nipped a hand that came at them. Start with someone the dogs knows well, they pet the dog under the chin, then feed a treat. Pet the dog on the side of his face and over his eyes, then feed a treat, look in each ear then feed a treat. Repeat this process while increasing the time you are petting or the body part you are touching. Repeat over and over using the dogs meals so that a hand coming at his face is not scary anymore. 
  3. To help you see the process here is a video: Body Handling Conditioning Diego
  4. Make sure to use high-value treats (ideally that your dog doesn’t get for any other reason) such as boiled chicken breast, liverwurst or cheese. The higher value the food items, the faster the positive association will be made.  You can also use a longer lasting treat such as a Kong, hollow sterile bone or Dixie cup filled with peanut butter or squeeze cheese. If using something like this, hold the container right up to your dog’s face the entire time you are handling his body and remove it as soon as the handling stops. 
  5. Frequent training sessions of about ten minutes, rather than trying to do a long body handling session is best. Remember, you are trying to take it slow and make it fun for your dog.

The Time Line at which you get through this conditioning depends on how stressed or anxious your dog is as well as how quickly he or she rebounds. Some dogs change very quickly and begin to seek out touch. While others do not seem to be able to change and need this conditioning with every new person they meet for many years.  The end goal is not for your dog to seek out every hand, but to feel relaxed when a hand comes at him.  When this program is done correctly, your dog will begin to associate a hand coming at him as a source of good things. Because you use high value treats, your dog might even begin to drool rather than growl.

Tip: During this desensitization training period it is important to avoid putting your dog in a situation where he might bite or snap.  Exposing your dog to the scary situation while trying to counter-condition him, is going to slow your progress. 

 

 

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Training the Territorial Dog

Posted on Mar 29, 2017 in Aggression, Dog Training, Positive Reinforcement, Posts, Rescue Dog, Training | 0 comments

Judy’s recipe to help you change the behavior of your territorial  dog. These are dogs who rush and bark at people through windows, fences, and at the door. 

  1. Management
  2. Understanding your dogs warning signals
  3. Training/Desensitization
  4. Proofing

 

1. Management means changing the environment so your dog is not put in situations that trigger his fear or pushes him over threshold.  As any new negative experiences can make his fear worse. It also means preventing him from practicing unwanted behaviors so that they do not become a habit. Good management should be practiced while you train and desensitize your dog. 

 

 

2. How to read your dog is an important step in changing his behavior. What are your dogs stress or warning signs? What signs does your dog use to tell strangers they would like to have more space?  Have you observed your dog looking, or leaning away, growling, whale eye (whites of eye shows), head up with a frozen forward stance, air snapping, or barking at a person?  If your dog is lunging at people, then you or a previous owner have missed his lower level warnings and allowed people to close, now he has to protect himself.

look away

Low level Distance Cue: Leaning and looking away. This child received a bite to the forehead because her humans did not know this dog was using a low level distance cue.

Learn your dogs stress signals, so you can support your dog. Low level distances cues should never be punished, as this can result in a dog that is not allowed to express his fear, hence he may bite with no warning. 

Looking away from a person, turning muzzle away, turning neck farther away, closing the mouth, ears go back, brow may furrow, dog becomes still and possibly stiff, and the white of the eyes often appear. This is when YOU need to support your dog by calling them to safety or stepping in to reduce their stress. Remember, not all dogs have the same tolerance, your dog may wait three seconds before they bite when stressed while another dog may be more tolerant, waiting 10 seconds. Knowing your dog’s stress signals is essential to his or her success. 

This is a very good warning to respect.  Correcting a dog for being afraid of people never works.

This is a very good warning to respect, correcting a dog for being afraid of people never works.

 

More serious distance cues are more obvious and may include growling, freezing, lip curling, show of teeth, air snapping, lunging and rapid barking, standing tall and motionless with direct eye contact. If a warning did not work, the dog may feel the need to bite to keep himself safe. If your dog skips this warning, it is possibly because he did not have time to give another warning or possibly your dog is not tolerant at all and will react much quicker as his nature.

 

3. Training or desensitizing and counter-conditioning (CC&D) is a wide spread behavior modification technique, whose ultimate goal is to change the emotional response (which leads to an overall change in the dog’s approach to the subject) towards a given “trigger” that caused the dog to react in the first place.

Counter conditioning is a classical conditioning approach where we pair something that created an unpleasant or scary response with something highly rewarding to the dog.

  • If you use treats in various different exercises where your dog has no fear, then your dog most likely has a positive emotional response to the presence of treats which creates the opposite of a fear response.
  • If at any time during your training, you dog stops eating, then slow the progression down, take a step back in your training. This is your dogs way of saying I am not comfortable with the current situation to eat.

By pairing food with a trigger at a sub-threshold distance (a distance where a dog has little or mild to no response) we are getting the “looking forward to” instead of the fearful aggressive response. Our goal is to change the emotional response towards something that was considered unpleasant to the dog before. Specifically, I use a process called Treat and Retreat https://caninebehaviorcounseling.com/regarding-that-dog-bite/

Using positive reinforcement training to teach your dog some emotional control can be very effective with territorial dogs. Teach your dog to sit and stay in different environments to help your dog see you as their leader.  Any dog who has a good leader built on mutual trust will progress faster through this recipe. So be a good pack leader to your dog and ask many behaviors throughout each day and reward with food, toys or affection. These dogs are more likely to look to their leader for guidance when a guest arrives.

Emotion control practice in neutral environments is hugely helpful for territorial dogs.

  •  Train a sit/stay while people pass on the street or local park,  practicing so your dog can be successful is essential to your dogs success. Always begin each training session in an environment where your dog is calm and below threshold.  Progress to environments closer to home, your street, driveway and in the home.
  •  Train a strong “come” or “here” to be able to call your dog away from a stranger when you see stress signals from your dog. Simply take some bits of cheese in your hand and say the cue word “here” when you dog looks at you, say “yes” and toss him a treat. Walk away and repeat “here” say “yes” as he begins to come to you and reward with five or six pieces! Practice in multiple situations and always be generous with the reward.

4. Proofing the behavior gives you the knowledge of how he will respond to a particular stimuli in different locations or situations. When I have proofed my dogs behavior in many different situations, I have verification or confirmation that I know how he is going to respond.  If you are thinking your dog “reacts differently in different situations” than you need to slow your process down and get to know your dogs stress signals better. You are most likely missing some warning cues.

Keep in mind, every dog will progress at a different pace, this pace is set by the dog. Factors that effect how your dog responds can include many variables, such as how a person smells, moves, height, gender, if they make direct eye contact, are nervous, if they lean forward, or stomp their feet, how long they are near, just to name a few.  

Remember, this is a recipe, if you leave out one ingredient, your final product will not be what you expected. All the ingredients must be included over a period of time. My wire haired terrier took over a

Passed!!

year to finally trust tall men and my scottie nearly double that time to trust any human, as she was five when I adopted her. She also came to me with an 8 bite history and two police reports in her file. Unfortunately, her previous trainer shocked her when she growled at people — yes, this did make her much worse.  With Counter Conditioning how she felt about people, she began to see them as a predictor of good things and safety. You can imagine how gratifying it was when she passed her Canine Good Citizen Certification by a trainer she had never met before. Parenting a territorial dog is a process, stay positive and celebrate the small successes with your dog.

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