Please Help (a dog trainers dilemma)

Imagine, you get a phone call or perhaps an email from a frantic person. This person tells you they have a problem (A huge problem) and they were given your name by someone who knows you and knows you possess knowledge to help. This person says they have tried everything to solve this problem to no avail. They give you all of the details of the said problem and then say, I need your help desperately or I am going to do something rash! Many people would immediately want to help, especially if they had specific knowledge on how to solve this persons problem, right?

You tell the person that you can help and schedule to meet them. You take the information and tools necessary to help solve their problem. You arrive and meet the person and explain your specific knowledge with this said problem and they seem delighted and relieved by the information you give them. You then tell them how to use the information to help their situation. They have an excuse as to why they cannot do it or why your specific tools won’t work for them. You offer different solutions, all knowledgeable, that can work yet all are countered with an excuse from the person. They want you to fix the problem without taking any of the information you offer. “Maybe, you could take the problem home, keep it for a while and bring it back when you have solved it? ” they say.

Later, when you have given all of the information necessary to fix their said problem, you find out they did end up doing something rash and saying they “tried everything, even went to you for information and nothing worked”, they had no choice.

How would that make you feel? Think about it. It is utterly ridiculous, makes absolutely no sense. Clearly they didn’t want a solution to their problem and were going to do something rash regardless if you helped or not! They didn’t want your help, only to complain, to make it look like they did something so they could feel better when they did the “rash” thing.

Welcome to dog training!

Ask any dog trainer what their most difficult problem is and I guarantee you, it won’t be the dog. The above scenario happens more often than we like. People contacting us with dog training issues but not wanting to implement anything we offer. Just fix the dog. Don’t get me wrong, not all clients are like this and some will do the work needed but sadly, a vast majority will not. I assume this is because everyone has an opinion on dogs and dog training rather they have studied dog training or not. You can get dog training opinions from your neighbor, your uncle, your friends, pretty much everyone who has owned a dog. Therefore, I think people also take the information given by dog trainers as just that , an opinion, rather than educated training advice.

When giving dog training information to a client, trainers give instruction on what the person needs to do to get the desired effect from their dog. The person has to change before the dog ever will. Sadly, many people just want the dog to change.

Trainers are often contacted by owners saying that the dog in question is out of control, they have tried everything, they are at their wit’s end and if something doesn’t happen the dog will be sent to rescue, a shelter, or euthanized!

When a trainer arrives at a person’s home they will offer several suggestions on how to fix the behavior, often times with push back. Let me explain in greater detail. Please note this is not all of what dog training encompasses but a quick summary.

There are 4 quadrants of operant conditioning in dog training that dog trainers follow. and you can read about them here. for the purpose of this blog post you just need to know that dog training is primarily based on motivation. You have to motivate a dog one way or another, either positively or negatively.

All trainers generally start with positive reinforcement as it is the least invasive, minimally aversive type of reinforcement. Some trainers use “all” positive reinforcement and no other. All training needs to incorporate some form of positive reinforcement to motivate the dog to do what you want. Positive reinforcement, when used correctly, along with timing and consistency, helps to motivate the dog to do what is expected and works very well for many dogs. Positive reinforcement needs to be used frequently in the beginning stages of training, tapering off once the dog has learned a behavior. Even though there are many studies and articles published on the effects of positive reinforcement in animal training, dog trainers are often told by owners ” I don’t want to be dolling out cookies all day”

If a dog is doing something that could pose a threat to himself or others such as car chasing, bicycle chasing or leash aggression, along with positive reinforcement to teach engagement with the handler, counter conditioning and desensitization, often times a training collar will be needed. A training collar could be a martingale, prong collar or e-collar. All are tools that “if used correctly”, rarely have to be used at all. These tools motivate the dog to stop doing something it shouldn’t be doing with a negative consequence. These are tools that need to be implemented with a trainers supervision and in combination with positive reinforcement can work very well for these types of behaviors , yet trainers are often told the owner “WILL NOT ” use a training collar.

Management should also be used during the training process but is also the only other option a person has if they refuse to use any form of reinforcement. Management simply means, keeping the dog out of situations that you know spark the response. It includes using baby gates, pens, kennels or fences to manage the dog. Management does not fix the problem, rather just manages the dogs behavior. It still takes work. Many trainers are told for different reasons, that the owner doesn’t want to contain their dog in a kennel or pen or behind a gate.

Often times, I guess due to human nature, a client goes through a trainers program, progress is being made yet still slacks off and goes back to their old ways, only to find the dog doing the same.

Many times I have gone to a clients house after several training sessions and find they are not wearing their treat pouch to positively reinforce good behaviors, they have changed the training collar to a harness which actually motivates a dog to pull, they stopped using their kennel to manage certain situations, and they no longer practice daily with the dog on the things they were taught such as obedience, leash walking and exercise, Then say………”I’m afraid, it’s not working.”

So, what is a trainer to do if the owner is unwilling to use positive reinforcement, positive punishment, management or anything we suggest? Welcome to the dilemma!

This is why many dog trainers do not take clients with behavioral problems or instead focus on teaching different classes such as obedience, agility or sport dog. When dealing with changing a dogs behavior, you are more than often dealing with changing the humans behavior, and that is much harder to do…..

So what am I saying, what is my point? I guess this is a plea to people with dog behavioral issues everywhere, help us help you!

Before you hire a trainer, research what kind of trainer they are, how knowledgeable they are and what their experience level is. Once you pick a trainer, regardless of what you have been told by non dog training people, listen to what they have to say, implement the training advice, and do the work….all of it! Don’t rule something out because of what you think about it based on what someone else said, without having any experience with it.

Dogs are not plug and play and all need some form of training, some more than others. When hiring a trainer don’t think he or she is there to fix the dog. They are there to teach you how to behave so your dog behaves. Realize there will be a lot of work on your part and……DO THE WORK! Help us, help you!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs. She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior.

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Making sense of operant conditioning

For those who read our article Please help.

When it comes to dog training, dog trainers use what is called Operant conditioning. While many people become confused when they hear the word operant conditioning, the principles and categories are actually pretty straightforward.

Operant conditioning, or trial and error learning, is simply a description of how animals learn, a description that requires a few important definitions.  I have found that the best and most easily understood description regarding the 4 quadrants of operant conditioning is by Dr. Sophia Yin from her book How to behave so your dog behaves.

from How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Dr. Sophia Yin)

Reinforcement vs Punishment

The first two definitions to know are reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement is anything that increases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. For instance, if you call your dog and then give him a treat when he comes, he will be more likely to come the next time you call. Thus, by giving him a treat for coming, you reinforce his behavior of coming when called.

Punishment is anything that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will occur again. For instance, if you call your dog and then yell and scream at him when he comes, he will be less likely to come the next time you call. Thus, by yelling at him, you punish his behavior of coming when called. This second scenario may seem an unlikely event, but it happens to people every day. When owners call Rover five or six times before he comes running and then yell at him for taking his time, they are really punishing him for coming when called.

Positive vs Negative

The second set of terms to know are positive and negative. Positive and negative do not mean good or bad; instead, think of them as a plus sign or a minus sign. Positive means that you’re adding something, and negative means you’re subtracting something. Positive and negative can be applied to both reinforcement and punishment.

Combining the Terms

Now we can combine the terms into four categories—positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. Here’s what the categories are:

Positive and Negative Reinforcement

Reinforcement can be positive or negative. In either case, we are increasing the likelihood the behavior will occur again. Positive reinforcement means that by adding something the animal wants, you increase the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, if you teach your dog to come to you by giving him a treat when he comes, you’re using positive reinforcement. By giving him food, which he likes, you’re increasing the likelihood that he will come to you the next time too.

Negative reinforcement means that by removing something aversive, something Fido dislikes, you increase the likelihood the behavior will occur again. For example, you decide to teach Fido to come by putting him on a leash and choke chain. You pull on his leash until he takes a step forward, and as soon as he comes forward, you release the pressure. That is using negative reinforcement. By removing the pressure as soon as he starts coming, you increase the likelihood that he will come the next time in order to avoid the pulling.

Another trick for remembering negative reinforcement is to think of it as nagging. When I was a child and my mother wanted me clean my room, she often had to keep telling me until I cleaned it. I would finally clean my room in order to avoid her aversive nagging.

Positive and Negative Punishment

Punishment can be positive or negative, too. In either case we are decreasing the likelihood the behavior will occur again.  It seems odd, but when we talk about punishment, we’re usually talking about positive punishment. Positive punishment just means that by adding something aversive, we decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, your dog raids the garbage can when you’re not looking, so you booby-trap the garbage with mousetraps. The next time Spot sticks his nose in search of a snack, he gets a mousetrap surprise, which scares him. This booby trap decreases the likelihood that he will raid the garbage can again; thus, it is positive punishment.

Negative punishment means that by removing something the animal wants, we decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again. For instance, when dogs greet us by jumping, their goal is to get our attention. If we remove our attention every time Spot jumps by holding perfectly still and even looking away, eventually he will stop jumping. By removing the attention that he wanted, we decrease the likelihood that he will jump again.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of  Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

 

Ask the coach – What breed of dog is hypoallergenic?

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Dear Super Mutts, I have a 6 year old son who wants a dog but has allergies to dogs and cats. I would like him to experience the joy of having a pet, he likes bulldogs but I have read that they shed a lot and are not good for people with allergies.  I also do not want to purchase a dog only to have to rehome it if he is allergic.  What breed is  truly hypoallergenic?  Thanks for any help, Amy

Thanks Amy, this is a great question.  Children love pets and when they have allergies to them it is no fun at all. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, as much as 10% of the U.S. population is allergic to dogs. Pets are great for children not only for the companionship and joy they bring but also to help teach responsibility of caring for another living being.

There is a lot of talk about “hypoallergenic” breeds out there today but in fact no pet is 100% hypoallergenic. Many people assume that it is  pets fur that cause allergies, when in all actuality it is pet dander, not fur that causes allergic reaction.  Pets that shed considerably such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Dalmatians, and Labrador retrievers , shed dander along with the fur so produce a more allergic response in allergy sufferers.  Generally, the curly coated breeds and some hairless ones, that shed little to no fur, shed less dander so produce less of an allergic reaction but all pets have dander.    It depends on how allergic your son is to the dander as to what breed is best for you.

My suggestion is to research the “less” allergenic dogs and pick one with the size, temperament, grooming requirements, and energy level for your family.  You can find a list of the common breeds here https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/hypoallergenic-dogs/   Keep in mind, curly coated breeds have extensive grooming needs that will require time and a monetary budget on your part.  Some breeds have a better reputation with children than others, so keep that in mind as well.

Most breeds have a rescue group associated with them, find a rescue group of the breed you are interested in and contact them.  Explain your situation and ask if you can do a “test drive” before you adopt, which most rescues require anyway. Don’t be afraid to consider mixed breed curly coated dogs as well.   If your child has a reaction, you can give the dog back to the rescue without any issues.  If he doesn’t have an allergic reaction, you get a new family member and a dog that desperately needs a home gets a new family!   Win/win! 

For more information on how to care for your new furry friend, visit our website www.supermutts.com I wish you luck on finding a new buddy for your son!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of  Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

Ask the coach -What age should you start grooming your new puppy?

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Todays ask the coach question comes from Kathy and she asks,

“At what age should I have my new Shih-tzu puppy groomed?  We just adopted an 8 week old male shih-Tzu and have been told he will need grooming. His fur is currently short and doesn’t seem to need grooming yet.  Someone also said we should wait until he has had all of his vaccinations before we have him groomed by a professional.  What is the best age to start grooming our puppy?

This is a great question and one that we not only get asked frequently but also one that creates confusion for new puppy parents. The short answer , and this is critical – “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!”  The key is to find a groomer that is experienced in how to socialize the puppy to the grooming process in a positive, low stress way.

Regardless of the breed, all dogs need some form of grooming.  To maintain good health and coat, all dogs need at least to be brushed, bathed, and have their ears cleaned and toe nails trimmed.  Ear infections are common in dogs and are very painful, keeping your pets ears cleaned will help prevent this.  Nails that become too long may deform the feet, make it hard for the dog to walk, and will curl around and embed in the skin, causing pain and infection.

That being said, some breeds need more grooming than others and need to see a professional groomer every four to six weeks.  It is also a good idea to send short coated breeds to the groomer regularly as well, even though they do not need their fur trimmed, having a professional groomer clip the toenails, clean the ears, and bathe your dog is beneficial.   Professional groomers have professional products and equipment that will help with your pets skin and coat and even help with shedding.  Many times a groomer will identify problems that you could be unaware of, such as ear infections, fleas or ticks, lumps and skin problems.

It is a common misconception that you should wait to have your puppy professionally groomed until it is around 6 months old.   Reasons cited are that the puppy’s fur is not that long and they want to have all vaccinations before sending their dog to the grooming salon. I can attest, groomers everywhere cringe when they look at their schedule and  see a 6 month old puppy coming in for the first grooming.

Years ago, the advise to new puppy parents was to keep their puppy at home until it had its final set of vaccinations which is around 12 – 16 weeks old.  Most veterinarians, dog trainers and pet professionals have changed their view of this in the recent years.  The evidence is that the risk of your puppy developing a behavioral problem from lack of proper early socialization far out ways the risk of them contracting a fatal disease if you socialize them before the full set of vaccinations.   The key here is “proper early socialization”.  You do not want to take your new puppy to places where the health and vaccination status of other animals is questionable, like a dog park or a pet store, or where there are known sick animals, however puppies need proper socialization to become stable adults.  Lets take a look as to why this is so….

From seven to sixteen weeks of age your puppy enters the socialization stage which is a critical stage and the most important stage in his development.  This critical stage, and what happens to  your puppy during it, will determine how behaviorally sound he will be when he becomes an adult.  Puppies that are socialized properly during this stage become stable adult dogs with minimal issues of fear or aggression.  Puppies that are not socialized properly at this stage, can develop fear, anxiety, aggression and behavioral issues. Many behavioral problems in dogs are due to the lack of proper socialization during this imprinting stage of development.   During this stage of development, puppies also go through a fear imprinting phase or “fear period” which means whatever the puppy comes into contact with that causes fear or pain, can stay with him for life.  This is why it is important that everything you expose your puppy to be kept positive.

If you wait to expose your puppy to the grooming process until he is older, he will not have been exposed to all  the sights, sounds, smells, and required handling during this critical phase,  therefore will become fearful and anxious of the new experience, which often times will lead to aggression on the grooming table.   Many dogs go through a second fear period during adolescence (six to eight months) and if taken to the grooming shop for the first time during this period, may become so frightened that it will be hard to desensitize them to the grooming process later.

Sooner is better than later when it comes to exposing your puppy to the grooming process.  Many show- dog breeders start grooming their puppies at 3 weeks of age, before they are even weaned.  This early exposure leads to a dog that is extremely comfortable on the grooming table as he has done it his entire life.

Another reason waiting to groom your dog is so detrimental is because, unless you are very good at thoroughly brushing your dog, he more than likely will develop matted fur. Matted fur is painful to remove, which in turn will cause negative associations to the  grooming process, which in turn will contribute to problems on the grooming table.

When it comes to grooming your dog, the key is to find a groomer that understands and is familiar with puppy development and how to create a positive experience for your puppy.  Make sure the salon requires all adult dogs be fully vaccinated, and the puppies at least have one set of puppy vaccinations.  The first grooming, most likely, will not be to remove much fur from your puppy. Generally, the first grooming consists of a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, blow dry and trimming around the eyes, feet and sanitary area. The key is to keep the interactions as short and as positive as possible. If the salon requires your puppy be there for the day or if your puppy will be put in a kennel during the process, it is a good idea to take a toy or chew for your puppy to play with while he waits.  You may also request that they take the puppy outside for a bathroom break or two while he is in their care.  At Super Mutts, since we are also dog trainers, we always provided these things for the puppies in our care because it is the right thing for the puppy, but many salons do not.  Always ask if the salon has a protocol for puppies, if you are not comfortable, don’t hesitate to find another salon that does.

There are a number of things you can do at home that will help your puppy before he goes to the salon.  Many salons have pamphlets on things you can do to help socialize your puppy to the grooming experience.  Take your puppy to the salon ahead of time just for a meet, greet and treat!  Ask if they have any handouts for you to get started at home. A good salon will appreciate you taking initiative in your puppies grooming needs. They can also show you how to properly brush your dog at home and may have handouts on specific breeds and grooming requirements.

Our book Puppy Montessori is available on Amazon.com and is a great resource for new puppy parents. The book goes into further detail about developmental levels, socialization, and things you should do before your puppy goes to the salon.

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, and pet stylist. She is the owner of Supermutts.com and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 23 years’ experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. 

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

My $20,000 Pit bull story!

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The recent headlines regarding the legislation in Montreal which passed the breed ban of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull type dogs is the subject of considerable controversy.   As a dog trainer who has worked with and owned Pit bull breeds, I feel it is my responsibility to not only explain breed bans but also expel some myths about this very misunderstood dog breed.

So what is Breed ban legislation?  Breed-specific legislation is a law passed by a legislative body pertaining to a specific breed or breeds of domesticated animals. In practice, it generally refers to laws pertaining to a specific dog breed or breeds.

According to the A.S.P.C.A. and other animal welfare groups,  there is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals.  The CDC strongly recommends against breed-specific laws in its oft-cited study of fatal dog attacks, noting that data collection related to bites by breed is fraught with potential sources of error (Sacks et al., 2000).   To learn more about why breed ban legislation does not work  click here .

We agree that banning an entire breed or mixes of that breed will not solve the problem of vicious dogs and will only cause more problems.  We cannot judge an entire breed on one or two vicious dogs, if that was the case we would be euthanizing all dog breeds.  Almost every breed of dog has had one that bites at one time or another. Many bites occur not due to the nature of a particular breed or that the breed is vicious but rather to the circumstances surrounding the bite. All dogs can bite, will bite, (given the right circumstances) and can be taught to bite (police/personal protection). The larger the dog, the more damage is done regardless of breed.  Once breed bans are put in place for one breed, they can easily be modified for other breeds.  Many dogs are mixed breeds or have a certain look, may not be the breed that is banned, but will be deemed as such.

When it comes to the Pit Bull breeds there are two types of people in the general public, those that hate pit bulls and those that love them.  The problem is, those that HATE them, REALLY hate them and are reluctant to educate on the breed. Those that LOVE  them, REALLY love them and are reluctant to educate on the breed. This leads to common misconceptions on both parts.  One group states all are vicious and unpredictable, the other group says they are all wonderful, it is just the way they are raised.  Neither is true.

When talking about Pit bull breeds, I speak from experience not only from a dog training perspective but also having owned a dog aggressive Pit bull.  Yes, me.  You see, before I was a dog trainer, I was a Pit bull lover and believed it was how they were raised that caused the problem, mean people doing mean things to make the dog mean…. right?  If given lots of love, and toys ,and beds, and pillows, and kisses, and puppy training and…….you get the idea. I could prove the haters wrong, right?

Her name was Bailey and the first mistake my husband and I made was getting a puppy from a backyard breeder in whom we did not know, but was referred to us by a friend.  They kept the male and female separate because “they would fight at times.”  We adopted Bailey at 8 weeks of age.  We had two adult dogs at the time, a Dalmatian and a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who  had a lot of love and little training.  We enrolled Bailey in Puppy class as soon as possible.  She excelled and was the star of the class.  She was quick at picking up commands, exuberant when performing tasks, very engaged and passed with flying colors.  We were so proud.

We noticed that the puppy was rough when playing with our other dogs or when coming out of her kennel or from behind a door. We also noticed scrapes and cuts on her after she was playing with the other dogs even though she would lie with them and play nicely as well.  It concerned us so we brought it up to the trainer of the puppy class.  We were told to just let them “work it out” on their own, which we did.  Bad advice from an inexperienced trainer.

She got into her first fight with our Dalmatian shortly after the conclusion of the puppy class. She ended up at the vet, had sutures and a drain put in and a cone on her head.   This was the first of many fights she had with our dogs over the 5 years we had her. They are too numerous to describe every one in detail.    One fight ended with me at the hospital due to a partially amputated fingertip from a dog bite. In case you’re wondering,  it wasn’t her, it was the Ridgeback.  I got in the middle of a dog fight and in the midst of the chaos was bitten.   Bailey was never aggressive toward humans  and was very loving toward people and was a big cuddle bug but she was innately dog aggressive.

The older she became, the more reactive she became despite training efforts.  We consulted trainers and a dog behaviorist.  The sad end result was that we had to euthanize her for the safety of our other dogs. We estimate over the 5 years we spent with her, we spent about $20,000 in vet bills from fighting and hospital bills from my finger incident.  This dog is the reason my husband and I became dog trainers.  We wanted to learn about dog training and give educated advice to people so they would not have to suffer as we did from bad advice.

So here is the truth about Pit bull breeds and what I know for sure;

Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog. Formal breeds often considered in North America to be of the pit bull type include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Bulldog is also sometimes included. They are called “Pit” bulls because they are breeds that were bred to fight in a fighting ring called a pit.

Pit bull breeds are  high energy level dogs that do everything 100%. Whatever they do, they give it their all. Rather it be obedience, play, exercise, loving, snuggling or fighting, they are in it to win it.  They also have a high prey drive which can make them reactive to quick-moving objects.

The myth that Pit bulls are aggressive because of how they are raised is true to an extent but is contrary to what you are probably thinking.   Yes, there are bad people who do bad things to dogs which make them aggressive or vicious. However, we have seen many Pit bull owners that love and care for their dogs and  still have dog aggression problems.  We have seen many dogs that have been given only love with no leadership which also become unstable and aggressive toward humans as well as other dogs, regardless of breed.  Dogs are pack animals and need stable leadership. Without leadership a dog will try to assume the leadership role.  A dog that is not a born leader will not be confident. A dog that is not confident will become unstable and can exhibit behaviors such as separation anxiety, fearfulness,  or aggression.  If a dog senses clear leadership he can relax because the leader has everything under control. Dogs that have a lack of proper exercise, training, or mental stimulation can also become aggressive and unstable due to pent-up energy.

Another reason that a Pit bull breed can be aggressive regardless of how they are raised is in the lineage;

Pit bull breeds were originally bred and raised to fight for sport. The ones that were best at the sport would bite, hold and kill their opponent. They were originally bred by combining an English bulldog with some form of terrier.  The English bulldog gave them the strength, the terrier gave them the tenacity and high prey drive.  The English Bulldog  was also used to fight and kill other dogs but this has been bred out of them for over 200 years.  This is why you see much less dog aggression in the English Bulldog breed however it occasionally occurs.  Even today, Pit bulls are being bred for dog fighting sport in underground dog fights and gambling organizations.  Since Pit bulls are still being bred for dog fighting some are “hard-wired” to do the job they were bred to do.  Just as cattle dogs chase cattle, sheep dogs chase sheep, bird dogs flush birds, Pointers point……you get the idea, Pit bulls fight other dogs.  Therefore, without knowing the breeding past of the dog you adopt, you will not know how close to fighting stock he/she comes from.  The closer to fighting stock, the more likely the dog is to do that job.  It is innate, something you cannot control regardless of how much love or how much training they receive and it has nothing to do with how they are raised.

Pit bulls are generally not human aggressive as this was bred out of them from the beginning.  The handler had to be able to go into a fighting ring and pull the dog out of the ring without being bitten.  Those dogs that would turn and bite the handler, were destroyed.  This explains how, when a pit bull attacks another dog, he generally bites, holds and shakes the prey.

Many dogs will be dominant over one another but generally, if one shows submission, the other will not attack. Dogs in a dog pack will go through dominance rituals on a regular basis.  Fighting Pit bulls are bred to ignore cut off signals from other dogs, in other words, they will attack regardless of what signs of submission the other animal is giving.   This, along with high prey drive, the ability to bite and hold and the prevalence to do everything 100%  give way to the myth that Pit bulls have “locking” jaws. They do not, they are just willing, capable and good at what they were bred to do.

The myth that Pit bulls are all aggressive or untrustworthy and can “turn” at any time is also untrue and not a fair statement for the breed.   Many Pit bulls and Pit bull mixes are not hard-wired to do the job their ancestors were bred to do. Many live in loving homes, have loving personalities, have never had a bite history, and are true ambassadors of the breed.

So what do you do if you are thinking of adopting a Pit bull?  There are a few things that will make the decision easier and more predictable. First and foremost ask yourself why you want a Pit Bull.  Is it because you are an active person, love the look, exuberance and stamina of the breed, or is it to make a statement or to  prove a point that it is not how they are raised.  Second, do your research and decide if this breed is the right fit for your family.  Pit bull breeds have high energy requirements and need to be stimulated both mentally and physically.  If you are a couch potato, work long hours, live in an apartment or want a low energy dog, the Pit bull type is not the dog for you.

If you want to adopt a puppy only adopt from a reputable breeder.  Reputable breeders breed for health and temperament of the breed, have been doing so for many years even decades and can provide you  with the puppies lineage. If you buy from a backyard or inexperienced breeder, you will not know how close to fighting stock the puppies are from and will possibly be contributing to the problem.

If you want to adopt from  a rescue or shelter, pick one that can give you as much information as possible about the individual dog you are interested in.  It is a good idea to have a dog trainer go with you to help evaluate behavior and temperament.

When you adopt a Pit bull, provide consistent leadership, training and exercise.

If you have a Pit bull and it is exhibiting dog aggression or aggression of any kind, consult with a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist to decide the reason for the behavior and if it can be modified.

If you have a Pit bull that is dog aggressive and you have put training in place and have come to the conclusion that the dog is innately dog aggressive, the only responsible option is euthanasia.  We do not take euthanasia lightly and it is the hardest decision a dog owner will make.  As dog trainers euthanasia is never the advice we like to give but have given it. As a Pit bull owner it was the last decision we ever wanted to make but made it.

The answer to breed banning and to the pet overpopulation problem in general is not breed specific legislation but breeding legislation and spay/neuter policies.   Breeders should be licensed and proven to be reputable with strict guidelines.   All pets should be spayed and neutered unless a person is a licensed breeder. Individual dogs of any breed deemed and tested to be vicious should be euthanized.

A dog aggressive Pit bull and the owner of one suffer greatly.   Managing the problem means keeping the dog away from others ( which often makes the problem worse), always walking on eggshells, and hoping nothing goes wrong.  You will also be contributing to the problem and giving haters and proponents of breed ban fuel for their fire. You will be putting all of your effort and time keeping an unstable dog alive, when many other loveable, stable dogs, Pit bulls and otherwise are being euthanized daily due to lack of shelter space.  Sadly, we have to sacrifice the few to save the many.  If you love the breed and hate the breed ban, it is the responsible thing to do and the only thing that will save the Pit bull breeds.

It isn’t the breed, it is the humans because we created it, we have failed it, and it is time to be responsible and do all we can to redeem the Pit bull breeds.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. As boarding and daycare facility owners together with her husband Kenneth she has cared for thousands of dogs and has thousands of hours observing, studying and modifying canine behavior. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator and a professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 reasons dog obedience doesn’t work!

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Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend ~ Corey Ford

When it comes to training your dog, many people think of or have taken their dog to obedience classes.   Obedience is great in that it builds a common language between you and your dog. Obedience builds trust and respect between you and your dog. Obedience can help control a dominant dog and create confidence in an unsure dog. Obedience can also help keep your dog safe.  An obedient dog is more enjoyable in that he can join you on adventures outside the home and will listen to you in any situation.  Many people are involved in competition obedience which can be fun for both human and dog.

So, if obedience does all this, why is it that we have heard many people say, “I took my dog to obedience class but it didn’t stick.” There are three reasons why obedience classes do not work for some people.

  1. Most people will work with their dog during class and will do the homework for the six  weeks that the class is scheduled for.  After this time however, many people do not work with their dog daily if at all.  People assume that the six-week program is all their dog needs to learn how to be a “good” dog for the rest of its life.  This thinking is comparable to saying  children only need to go through kindergarten.  A dog’s training goes on for its entire life.  Basic obedience teaches a dog basic commands that you then use daily for their entire lives in many different situations.
  2. People are not consistent with the training.  They may do obedience “drills” with their dog but do not work the dog in other situations such as in public, when guests come over etc.  The dog quickly learns that the human is not consistent; he only has to do these obedience commands during the drills but at no other time. Dogs are contextual which means you have to work your dog in every situation that you want him to be obedient in.  Obedience should be used in every aspect of your dog’s life; when  you go to the park, to a friend’s house, out for a walk, in your neighborhood, or to the veterinarian.  Anywhere you take your dog , obedience should come into play.  This is how you get an obedient dog in any situation
  3. Leadership or behavioral problems, not obedience.  Obedience classes do not solve behavioral problems and sadly people wait until they are having behavioral problems to start an obedience program.  Obedience helps with leadership and behavioral issues but alone does not establish leadership. Obedience with a solid leadership program is what helps solve behavioral issues.

Case Study:

Several years ago, on a camping trip, was a woman that had rescued a large dog that she brought with her.  The dog was tied out on a corkscrew ground stake.  On two occasions, the dog lunged and tried to bite two people, one being a child.  Upon bringing it to the woman’s attention, she put her dog on leash and proceeded to do obedience drills to show “how obedient her dog was.”  The dog performed the drills as expected.  Despite the dog understanding obedience, the owner clearly used obedience improperly.  It was also clear that she did not establish a leadership program with the dog.  The dog has an aggression problem that obedience can help if used in the right context.  Most importantly, the owner needs to put a leadership plan in place in conjunction with obedience.

The proper way to handle this dog was first to never put the dog in a scenario in which he could potentially harm someone or behave in an aggressive manner.  You cannot change a dogs behavior if he is tethered thirty feet away from you.  The dog should have been tethered to the owner.  At times when this was not possible, he should have been kenneled.  While on leash, the human could work on sit/stay and down/stay while the dog was tethered to her and around other people.  She would have the ability to reinforce good behavior, create positive associations with people, and also the ability to correct unwanted behavior if necessary.  She could have taught the dog what is allowed and what is not allowed around people.  Instead, the dog learned nothing accept that after an outburst he had to do obedience drills.

Obedience can create a trusting bond between you and your dog. Obedience is a great way to teach your dog what behaviors are acceptable in your home and in society especially if started early, practiced often and in the right context.

So, the next time you find yourself or someone you know saying that obedience didn’t “stick”, stop and consider these three possible causes and adjust accordingly.

 

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com 

How to be a pack leader

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A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. ~John C. Maxwell

 

By becoming your dogs’ pack leader, you will set the stage for a more enjoyable life with your dog.  You will be giving your dog what he needs and in turn he will be much easier to manage and live with. Dogs that live in a dog pack do not develop the same behavioral issues of those that live with a human pack.  The cause of many behavioral problems  are from people “humanizing” their  dog. Humanizing a dog is one of the most detrimental things we can do to our dogs psyche.

When we compare a dog to a human, we cease to give him what he needs to be a dog.  We believe he thinks like a human so should act accordingly.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A dog is an animal, he thinks like an animal and cannot rationalize like a human or understand what you are thinking, it is impossible.  You would not bring a wild animal into your home (such as a Mountain lion or Grizzly bear) and expect it to understand anything you said or thought, yet people do it with the dog every day. Dogs are domesticated and capable of learning words but are still an animal and need to be respected for what they are.

Becoming a pack leader will make a dominant dog less dominant and give a fearful or anxious dog more confidence.

Below is a list of what the term Pack leader means and how you can become your dogs’ pack leader.

There are two positions in the pack–  1) Leader 2) Follower.  In the eyes of your dog, if you are not one, you must be the other.  A dog that senses no leadership, and is not a born leader, will try to become one.  This can cause problems such as aggression, dominance or anxiety.  A dog that senses a clear leader can relax because he is not responsible for the life of the pack; someone else has everything under control.

The pack Leader is calm and assertive –  A dog will only follow calm assertiveness.  If you are angry, fearful, anxious or nervous your dog will not follow your commands.  Pack leaders are never unstable.  If your dog is not performing or paying attention to you, ask yourself what state of mind you are in and change it if necessary.  Never work with your dog when you are angry.

Pack leaders are dictators but are fair and consistent – The rules of the pack are set by the pack leader and never change. Everyone in the pack knows what is expected.  Do not give your dog one set of rules today and change the rules tomorrow.

Examples include:

  • one family member does not allow the dog on the furniture and another family member does.
  • You make the dog wait before going out of a door one day, and allow him to push his way through the door on another day.
  • You enforce proper leash walking in your neighborhood, but not in other places such as a park or on a trail.

All these things are inconsistent and will confuse the dog. BE CONSISTENT. All family members are part of the pack and everyone should maintain the same rules for the dogs.  All rules apply to all dogs in the pack.  There is not one set of rules for one dog and not the other.  Everyone is treated equally.

All canine relationships are built on 2 things –  1) Trust 2) Respect.  If your dog does not trust you, he will not listen to you. If your dog does not respect you, he will not listen to you.  If your dog is not listening, ask yourself if it is a trust issue or a respect issue and change your training accordingly.

Never do anything to break your dogs’ trust.  For instance – Never Call your dog to you to discipline him or do something he doesn’t like.  If you do this, he will be leery to come to you because he cannot trust that coming to you is in his best interest.  If you punish him for not coming, once he does come to you, you continue to break the trust.  Dogs will not follow someone they do not trust.  If he cannot trust you, you cease to be the pack leader.

Pack leaders do not negotiate and are confident in their decisions.  – If you are on a walk and are afraid of what your dogs might do when a person, animal, bike, car etc. passes by, you are not confident, the dog will sense this and will react accordingly. In a dog pack the lead dog makes a decision and sticks with it. He does not worry about what is ahead, nor does the rest of the pack.  They trust the leader to do what is in their best interest for the survival of the pack.  Know what you want the walk to look like and focus on that, not what you think the dog will do.  This will build both trust and respect from your dog.  If your dog knows you are in control, he can relax.

The Pack leader always protects the pack – Your dog needs to see that you control the situation so he does not have to.  If another dog is acting out or a child or new puppy is being too forward with your dog, it is the pack leaders (YOUR) responsibility  to stop the others from bothering or injuring your dog.  No bullies allowed. Again, if your dog sees that you are controlling the other pack members, he does not have to.

Pack leaders do not give unnecessary affection – Do not give your dog unnecessary affection.  Dogs need to earn affection.   Too much affection is not good for their psyche.  For instance – do not pet your dog and kiss your dog just for being in the room.  He must work for affection by obeying rules, walking on leash properly and being obedient.  If he is misbehaving and still getting affection, you are rewarding the misbehavior and he will continue to do it in the future.

The pack engages with the pack leader – In a dog pack, the pack members are always engaged with (watching)  the pack leader, regardless of what they are doing.  If the pack leader moves, they move. If the pack leader growls, pack members listen. Many problems people have with their dogs are due to lack of engagement.  The dog would rather sniff a bush, chase a bunny, bug, piece of grass , whatever, than look at and obey his owner.  If a dog does not engage with you, he neither trusts nor respects your authority. Engagement is built through leash work, obedience, rewarding good behavior and disagreeing with bad behavior.

Your dog is a reflection of you –  If your dog is misbehaving or not obeying, ask yourself “what am I doing that is creating this situation and what can I do to change it.”  You are a human with higher intelligence DON’T BLAME THE DOG and DON”T BE LAZY! Do the work!

If you apply these principles when interacting with your dog, soon they will come naturally and you will create a new way of being with your dog.  You will see that your dog will become more relaxed, happier and less anxious and with that, so will you!

Cindy Quigley is a Canine life cycle coach, owner of Super Mutts Canine training and author of Puppy Montessori. She has 20 years experience professionally working with dogs.  She has worked in grooming shops, boarding facilities and veterinary hospitals, all of which taught her how to read canine body language and understand dog handling. She is an  AKC/ CGC, CGCU, Community Canine and S.T.A.R. puppy evaluator.

You can read more or purchase her book at www.supermutts.com