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.

Advertisements

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?

picsea-357041-unsplash

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. 

My $20,000 Pit bull story!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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!

alert

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 

It’s not the dog!

 

fuji-bac_137

While walking a clients dog yesterday, I heard these words coming from my neighbors garage, ” Trixie come here, come on , come on Trixie, You want to go bye bye don’t you? GET OVER HERE NOW!!”

This brought to mind the numerous times in our dog training business we have heard people say , “My dog does not listen to me.” Our response to this statement is always, “It’s not the dog.” Actually, the majority of training issues are not the dog. The real reason for many problems is lack ( of the human) teaching the dog to listen. Another reason is that people assume dogs understand the human language without ever teaching them this language. Lets break down the above scenario to better explain.

1) “Trixie come over here”

Mistake number one: The dog is not on leash.
Putting a leash on the dog gives you control and stops the dog from running away. The leash allows you to guide the dog into position.

Mistake number two: Too many words used.
“Trixie come over here” Is not a command. The dog clearly was not taught what the command “come” means. If the dog is not taught a command, she will not comply, she cannot perform what she was never taught. Even if she was taught the word, the man coupled it with a series of other words which confuses the dog.

Mistake number three: No motivation.
The man had nothing to reward the dog with and therefore no motivation for the dog to come to him. All the other fun things in the garage are much more rewarding to check out than the human who is saying words the dog doesn’t understand.

2) “Come on, come on Trixie”

Mistake number one: As stated above, coupling too many words together confuses the dog

Mistake number two: Repeating a command.
Repeating a command without motivation for the dog to comply. By repeating a command, the dog is taught to ignore your words because they mean nothing.

3) “You want to go bye, bye don’t you?”

Mistake number one: Humanizing the dog.
Assuming the dog knows what this statement means is humanizing the dog. When we speak to our dog in this fashion the dog hears, “wa, wa, wa, wa”
again, this teaches that words mean nothing.

Mistake number two: Putting a command in the form of a question.
Dog’s do not understand questions and commands should never be given in the form of a question. This statement is not a command as stated above.

4) The final and most devastating command, “GET OVER HERE NOW!” in an angry tone.

Mistake number one: Yelling at a dog.
Yelling at the dog to come to you is the most detrimental thing a person can do to the learning process. The person is teaching the dog NOT to come to him. You should never yell at, spank, slap or punish your dog in any way once he comes to you. By yelling at a dog after he comes, you are punishing him for coming to you. By yelling to get the dog to comply, you are creating a negative association with your dog coming to you. The dog will be less likely to come in the future.

Mistake number two: Again, not a command. Too many words used that the dog clearly cannot understand.

There are three stages when training a dog.

1) The learning stage
2) The reinforcing stage
3) The proofing stage

You have to complete one stage before you can move on to the next. Many training issues come from mistakes made in the learning stage of training.

The correct way for the man in the garage to handle this situation was to first properly teach the dog a solid recall and work on it daily. A dog without a solid recall should never be off leash. The man should be wearing a treat pouch, Rewards should be readily available when teaching a dog anything. If the man wants the dog to learn that the command “bye bye” means go to the car, he should teach the dog by saying the word “bye bye” and guiding the dog with a leash to the car, rewarding when he jumps in.

So you see, it is not the dog, it is the person who is failing the dog. Once you teach a dog to ignore your commands, You will have a more difficult time teaching them to listen in the future. Often times you will need a dog trainer to help. Remember the saying “Don’t blame me if you don’t train me”

By properly teaching your dog what words mean, and rewarding when the dog performs, you will have a dog that happily listens to you no matter what you say, in any situation.

The next time the neighbor wants his dog to go to the car it should sound like this,  “Trixie come” (dog comes) ,  “bye bye” – (dog jumps in car!)  4 simple words, no frustration.

To learn more training techniques and to keep from making common training mistakes, visit our website and purchase our book Puppy Montessori!

http://www.supermutts.com/puppy-montessori.html

Cindy Quigley is the Owner of Super Mutts Canine Retreat. She is a dog trainer, dog groomer, and author.  She has 19 years professionally working with dogs.

The truth about dog parks

DSCF3737

As dog trainers, we often get asked about dog parks.  We always tell people that in general they are a not a good idea.  Yes, dogs should be socialized with other dogs but only in a structured environment.

Many dogs are taken to the dog park to burn off pent up energy. The dogs at dog parks are generally out of control and in a “frenzy” type of play style.  If your pet gets accustom to this kind of play, he will think it is normal and will greet all dogs he meets with this play style which could cause a fight.

If a problem does ensue, most owners are not paying attention to their dogs at dog parks as they are socializing with the other humans and rarely assess what their dogs are doing.  Many people also do not know the subtle signs dogs give that signal a fight is about to ensue.

Puppies should never be socialized at dog parks.  If you have a young puppy and it gets attacked or mauled by an out of control dog (or dogs)  at the dog park, your puppy most likely will become dog aggressive and will never be able to trust other dogs again. All socialization for puppies should be kept positive.

Many people take their dogs to the dog park to socialize with other dogs regardless of if they are good with other dogs or not.  The problem again is that at a dog park, not all socialization is good.  Dogs play rough at dog parks, which often time leads to a fight.  If this happens to your dog, you may be creating a dog that becomes fearful of other dogs or becomes dog aggressive.    Socializing a timid or fearful dog at a dog park is never recommended.  If you try to socialize a fearful or timid dog at a dog park, the chances are that the dog will become overwhelmed and become more fearful and timid.

Not all dogs at the dog park are vaccinated.  Some dogs may be carrying diseases such as Parvo, Canine cough or Canine flu.  When you socialize your dog at the dog park you are potentially putting him at risk for these diseases.

After viewing our posts on Facebook of our doggie daycare, many people ask us how all of the dogs  seem so well-mannered regardless of size.  The answer is twofold.  First, we evaluate all dogs that come to our daycare to see if they are a fit for our establishment.  We do not allow non socialized, aggressive  or bossy dogs participate.  Second, we establish ourselves as leaders of the pack from the beginning with rules, boundaries and limitations.  This creates harmony within our daycare pack even though the participants change every day.

When dogs are put in a “pack” situation be it a dog park or a daycare setting, they will immediately set out to create a pack order.  If dogs sense no leadership, that is when trouble ensues.   In trying to establish pack order, dogs will try to mount each other, bully each other and play rough with each other, all of which will usually lead to aggression.

There are several more appropriate ways to socialize your dog than going to a dog park.  Taking your dog to a daycare that has experience with dog training is one. Generally doggie daycare requires that all dogs be vaccinated which reduces the risk of possible disease transmission.  When looking for a daycare you should question about the size of the groups, how they evaluate the dogs and should find out if they allow bossy or aggressive dogs in their groups. Some daycare allow and sometimes encourage rowdy play and others have more structured play groups and encourage manners.  Choose one that best fits your dog.

If you have friends or family with well-mannered dogs, you can socialize your dog with them. The key is to keep it positive and not let one dog bully the other.

Obedience classes are also a great way to socialize your dog in a structured environment. Not only will you and your dog benefit from the training but the dog will also learn self-control and how to be mannerly when around other dogs. Puppy classes are a wonderful way to socialize puppies. Look for a class that allows short periods of structured play time rather than out of control play.

One instance that it would be appropriate to go to an off leash dog park is to proof your dogs training in a high distraction environment. Dog parks are not the place to train a new behavior however. All dog training starts in a non distraction environment. As the dog is trained, you increase distractions slowly until you finally work the dog in a high distraction area. This is only done after the dog has maintained his training in areas with fewer distractions. If you are training your dog to a high level of obedience or service work, then a dog park could serve as a high distraction environment.

There are some dog parks that are “leash only” dog parks in which all dogs must be kept leashed. With all dogs being leashed, the dogs do not get far from the owners and are under some form of control.  The owners can decide to let their dog play with others or not.   If you are set on taking your dog to a dog park, we recommend finding a “leash only” dog park or find a dog park that is not to populated. Fewer dogs equal fewer chances for problems.   We also recommend giving your dog a good long walk before you go to the park to drain any pent up energy.  A tired dog is less likely to get into trouble.  If you take your dog to a dog park it is imperative that you control how your dog responds to other dogs and how other dogs respond to yours.  By providing your dog with leadership he will always look to you for guidance and protection.