The Sekrit Dog Trainer’s Manual Part II–The Pudding is in the Proof

I used to know a dog trainer with focus so intense, he vibrated.

He could take any strange dog, in a park, or street grasp the leash, regardless of what kind of collar was on the dog–in the midst of dogs, jogger, cyclists, any and all distractions then have that dog heeling, sitting, laying down and staying–while gazing at him with rapt attention within minutes. His voice control was impeccable. Dogs “got him” straight away.

Within two weeks he could have most dogs under voice control, only.

That’s not most people. It’s not even most dog trainers. Later he would go strictly Purely Positive training [and that’s what HE called it and he did it without food rewards/lures even when he taught tricks]. Could most of his clients? I assume so because he did a bang-up amount of business long before the internet was popular and worked with me then published a book of protocols to re-condition aggressive and trained protection dogs for home living based on what we’d worked out.

We used to debate. I went by the old saw of “Teach the dog in a quiet place, first. Then start the distractions and increase the levels.”

“Nonsense,” he’d say. “Sit means SIT. Dogs don’t teach each other what to do only in quiet places. Training in a quiet place is done so the handler can manage the distraction levels–not the dog.”

That’s the whole point, I suppose.

The #1 ticket to a well behaved dog is not teaching the dog the command. It’s “distraction proofing” the dog to do it every time, all the time, no matter what is going on around them. Any dog will sit in the house. It’s the second there’s something more interesting going on that it falls apart.

In class last week all the other owners said, “S/he was great in the driveway/backyard/quiet street. Soon as we got past that, all hell broke loose.”

After that class, I thought about what my friend said. I’m still thinking about it. I’m thinking he might be right.

What if it’s NOT the distractions? He had the attitude that the dog, “The Dog Will Do It”. After a few leaps and bounds and misbehaviour–do we stop believing the dog will do it?

He thought operant conditioning was over-rated. “If you want a dog that heels into telephone poles because it’s busy staring in your face instead of truly paying attention–go for it. Eventually it’s going to break down.”

He had one other theory of interest, “The problem with dog training methods is that most are based on the premise that you should be paying attention to the dog to either correct or reward. That’s a fallacy. The dog should be paying attention to you.”

The older I get, the more I see he might have a point on that one.

We’re worried about the distractions to either reward or correct ‘with good timing’ but what is the dog thinking? Why isn’t the dog paying attention to what we want in the first place?

This man, who was the best I’ve ever seen with any kind of dog or problem–and I’ve watched a large number of dog trainers from all schools of thought. He was driven out of the business by a bullying, lying coterie of New Age R+ Clicker Trainers when he dared to tell to say on TV they were full of crap because instinct would overdrive the conditioning–A FACT cited by the very inventors of clicker training, the Brenners. He also said food was a poor motivator because other distractions were far more interesting and turning dogs into pecking pigeons was an insult to their willingness to work and their inherent sense of dignity.

Now how did this man get the dog to pay attention?

He ignored the dog. He grabbed the leash and sing-songed, “Let’s go, Fido!”

Then he would heel the dog like he was dancing up and down the busy street/park. The dog never knew what was coming next. If he accidentally stepped on a paw, he didn’t stop to apologize or weep and moan–he kept on dancing. He looked insane. By the end of a five minute heel–the dog gazed at him in rapt attention to see what came next. THEN he would sit the dog or lay it down.

I think this worked for two reasons. The first is–he had the dog’s wholehearted attention. The dog didn’t know what the hell was going on and had to pay attention to keep up. The second was his attitude, “The Dog Will Do It.”

He had no doubt, no hesitation.

You know, the emotions that plague the rest of us when Fluffykins acts like a putz? He called his attitude, “Controlled arrogance.”

The simple fact is–it takes far more time to teach the dog to ignore distractions than it does to teach the dog to do something.

We might be looking at the wrong end of the donkey here.

The Sekrit Dog Trainer’s Manual Part I

You want a good dog right? Doesn’t everyone? One that doesn’t bowl over the kids, bite people, snarl, snap, jump up, be bratty and act like a knucklehead at home or in public?

You go to a dog training class and the trainer’s dog is awesome. After a month, while your dog now knows a few things, but it’s still not calm and obedient. Everything is a struggle.

You teach Fluffykins “heel/sit/down//stay/stand/come” but that doesn’t help. You can’t afford a private trainer, or you’re discouraged and you don’t know what to do. Why is the dog trainer’s dog well-behaved and yours isn’t? Because they don’t have the time, in one hour a week to cover more than the basics. Most videos etc. are about how to train the dog–not how to live with it.

Here’s some insider tricks that will cut your training work down, make your dog easier to live with and you’ll suffer less “Am I being mean to my dog?” guilt.

Training will go faster and the neighbours will be awestruck by how well mannered your Fluffykins is.

#1 DOORS:

Teach the dog to sit at every door, in and out. First off, it will slow the dog down for when you want to go for a walk, getting it in a good frame of mind and just like video games–rushing the door, for a dog is dangerous. Plus YOU can get hurt. I can’t count the amount of people I’ve known that were injured around stairs and doors with dogs. [I also teach mine to sit at the top and bottom of stairs until I call, for safety reasons.]

Almost all dog trainers train their dogs in the “place” command or at least have a particular spot where Fido stays when they answer the door. This cuts down the door nonsense of over-excitement and leaping on the guests or others coming in the door. Also, the “place” command has saved many a pizza. Remember, a dog’s speed is directly proportional to the amount of slices and quantity of available pepperoni.

Never greet a dog at the door. Ignore it. Every time.  Cesar Milan called it right on this one. No Touch. No Talk. No Eye Contact.

Yeah, I know that happy wagging tail makes you want to cuddle His Royal Cuteness right away but YIELD NOT TO TEMPTATION. You’ll thank me for it in less than a month when coming home with groceries and you aren’t mugged at the door for your gourmet hamburgers.

#2 LEARN TO COUNT:
If you want to teach an obedience command, if you do it 10x every day for the 7 days between classes [or between video lessons etc] then by the end of the week your dog will have done that command 70 times. The time it takes for a dog dumber than a bag of rocks or more stubborn than a cat to learn a command is 35 repetitions. You’ve doubled it and you have a smart dog, right?  Take that dog to its next class and wow your fellow classmates. No excuses–it takes 15 minutes a day a week to learn one new command. In twenty to thirty minutes you can mix it up with all the old commands. All the basics can be done in 6 weeks Now, WHO doesn’t have “time to train”?

#3 THE WEEK OF DOOM

The Week of Doom aka The Attitude Adjustment: This is a game changer for a disrespectful or teenage rebel dog or oooo, the poor rescue dog <weep sob>. Doesn’t matter if you’ve messed it up and spoiled Fluffykins forever, it will still help as long as all the family members abide by it for seven days. Not only will it help the dog–it will help YOU and your family develop good dog management habits.

The marvellous thing about the Week of Doom is that no matter how much you’ve messed up–this is your chance to improve it. Age doesn’t matter. Length of time you owned the dog doesn’t matter.

Even if you are working with a dog trainer over aggression, it won’t hurt and could move things along a lot faster. It will cause a nervous dog to see you as more stable and trustworthy.

One reason dog trainers are more successful in getting your dog to be obedient than you are, is that dogs are their living–they depend on results and they have no strong emotional bond to your animal.

So, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t love Fluffykins to bits. I’m saying that if your dog is treating you disrespectfully or training is a struggle, it’s time for The Week of Doom. You only have to hold out for one week because Fluffykins is likely to be obeying much better by day four but don’t give in. This is as much about who lives with the dog, as the dog.

So, gird your loins, polish your saddle and forward ho!

The dog gets NO freedom. All week. No toys. Take them away. Be firm. Be strong. Be a dog trainer for seven days. Nobody pets. Nobody plays. Nobody gives the dog treats. Just tell them, “Fluffykins is on his Week of Doom.

If the dog has to potty, take it on a leash. No shooing it out into the back yard. If you are inside the dog is either in “place” or laying down at your feet while you keep it down by stepping on the leash. Walk it to food and water–it is NEVER off the lead. If it needs exercise, use a long rope or lunge line and play ball or let it run a bit. Don’t allow any other dog to approach or play with your dog.

It must obey every command it knows, 100% of the time to perfection. Don’t say anything you aren’t willing to back up for one whole week. If you can’t back it up, don’t say it. Make a commitment.

If it’s not with you, or someone else behaving on leash then it’s crated. It can’t sleep in the bed, nap on the couch or receive any other unearned [at this point] privilege. For one week, all privileges are revoked. No treats. In this whole week NEVER raise your voice. Fix problems that occur, don’t waste time yelling at the dog about them. Tell everyone else in the house to stop yelling at the dog, too.  It’s simple but it’s not easy. Nobody is to hit the dog or manhandle the dog–leash work ONLY. That’s the big commitment you have to make.

In my experience, people tend to yell or hit because A) it’s habit and B) they feel powerless over the dog’s behaviour. In the Week of Doom you have full control of the situation because you have your plan laid out before you and it’s as much your Week of Doom, as Fido’s.

Forward HO!

Unless the dog follows a command–it gets no petting. HOLD FAST! BE STRONG! It’s only one week. You’re not going to damage Fluffykin’s psyche by not petting for one week because in actual fact, if it was at a training kennel–that’s exactly what would happen.

What’s the purpose of this? It’s not to be mean or punitive. It’s to open up the dogs willingness to work with you and your willingness to work with the dog. By instituting The Week Of Doom you are saying, in dog terms, without violence, yelling or cruelty “I want to work with you. This is how we work together as a team. I am through with yelling at you, manhandling you, mis-communicating and treating you with a lack of respect.

I want the same in return. Now it’s time we worked as a team.”

If you make a mistake or are inconsistent during your Week of Doom, don’t give up and stop.

Just carry on boldly with your Week of Doom.

I’ve never seen a dog who didn’t improve its attitude exponentially after A Week of Doom. It won’t frighten the dog or freak them out even if it’s nervous because in dog terms, nobody is acting unstable. Quite the opposite. If the dog or you revert to your old habits a month or more after the exercise–go back to A Couple of Days of Doom or An Extra Week of Doom until you both improve. You can do it as many times as you and your dog need [especially if you’re a “yeller” or inconsistent] because it won’t hurt the dog.

Why is it called, “The Week of Doom“?

Because you will smile every time you think “We are working on our Week of Doom“. <Cue dramatic music> Smiling means not yelling and not being unstable in the eyes of the dog. It sounds like something from Lord of the Rings. It’s an adventure that you can handle for a week to improve your relationship with your dog. And the dog will pick up your positive attitude and be more willing to work with you.

Frodo’s quest to Mount Doom, saved Middle Earth.

Your quest on the Week of Doom is to improve your relationship with your dog.

End of Part I.

Stupid Shit That Dog Owners Do

“Never underestimate the dangerousness of a dog’s natural reflexes”–Charles Eisenmann, Dog Educator, Littlest Hobo

Okay, after visiting numerous dog parks, observing at this point over 90 dogs here’s my list of Stupid Shit that Dog Owners Do. And yes, I’ve been guilty of some stupid dog owner moments, too. However, as responsible dog owners we should all be trying to do less stupid shit.

1)  Owners that let their male dogs pee all over the neighbours’ manicured gardens.

2) Owners that walk their on-leash exuberant dog face-first into a dog who is obviously heeling, downing or sitting without asking  permission. How do you know my dog is not a crazed psychopath who eats Flufflykins for lunch? You don’t.

Funny though, when I had Bouviers, nobody ever dared this, due to their reputation as killer guard dogs. With the Drama Prince looking all “Littlest Hobo” they seem to figure it’s okay.

I’m beginning to understand the Pit Bull Lurve. Nobody is walking their FurBaby face-first into a pit bull without asking.

3) Owners that allow their off-leash dogs outside of a dog park to come flying up to other dogs and people. When you tell them “CALL YOUR DOG” they then blame the person who is following the law by asking, “Is your dog aggressive?” WTF?! I can’t tell you how many dogs I had to threaten to kick away from my old arthritic dog over that nonsense.

At least when I am stupid *I* will apologize because *I* am at fault if it happens. I try not to let it happen but hey, I’m human, I slip up and I didn’t see you coming around the corner before I could call/retrieve the dog. But I’ll try not to be stupid about it. Honest.

3) Dog walkers with half a dozen dogs of which too many, go postal at dog parks. More on the stupidity of allowing multi-dog walkers at dog parks, later. It’s a whole other blog. I’ll link it here when it’s written.

4) Owners and dog walkers who have aggressive or badly behaved dogs hauling them around on leashes inside dog parks.. And you’re there with that dog, exactly, why?

5) Owners who feed my dog treats without permission. Owners that think one treat = half a pound of cookies that give my dog the runs.

6) Owners that don’t grab their dog and haul it off when it’s committing a bullying offence such as snarling, mounting, t-boning, toy guarding and gang-banging other dogs.

Some are on cell phones, notebooks or other gadgets while others sit on a bench and yell “Fido! Stop, Stop, Fido Don’t! Fido Come back!” [like the dog is listening] then shoot me dirty looks when a slow old lady with arthritis tackles their dog by the collar and yanks it off. Call out once, if the dog doesn’t obey get off your ass and remove your dog. Otherwise, learn to use a remote collar but DO SOMETHING.

7) Dog lovers who tell me my dog looks “sad” because he’s laying down doing a “head too” [head on his paws].

8) Dog owners that don’t pick up their dog shit. And yes, LITTLE dog shit is still dog shit.

9) Dog owners that bag their dog shit then leave toss the dog shit bag on the ground or worse, hang the bag on a tree branch because a garbage bin is more than three feet away.

10) Owners that tell their kid to wave their hand in a fist under my dog’s nose is the correct way to introduce themselves to a dog. {For the record, the correct way to meet a new dog is to stand slightly sideways, look/speak with the owner and ask if it’s okay to approach then let the dog sniff you. At this point a proper dog owner will usually “sit” or “down” the dog, then tell the kid when it’s okay to pet the dog.}

11) Owners that screech at their dogs or holler commands. And contrary to popular opinion, it’s not only women that think “louder” = more effective.

12) Owners who say, “Let the dogs sort it out.” Guess what–dogs often don’t “sort it out”. Many can’t sort out NOT to hump or play tackle a dog with dysplasia, or joint problems or who are not feeling well or who might be young, nervous or rambunctious. You know what pack animals who are not well-trained do to weak or unstable {and particularly “outsider”} animals? They KILL them. Watch National Geographic for a change, people.

13) Dog owners who tell me that my dog looks scared on the bus because his ears are back and his eyes are closed. I didn’t know scared dogs fell asleep. Thanks for the revelation, Dr. Dunbar’s Lost Assistant.

14) Owners that tell to use their training method is when I didn’t ask their opinion.  Even when their dog is a complete putz and can’t follow a basic command without being told three times, or is growling or leaping at MY dog.

Especially annoying if their dog is over three years of age and the owner is still walking around with a pocket full of soggy dog treats or clutching a toy like it’s the last life preserver on the Titanic. If the dog cannot behave in public without a whiff of liver snaps or waving a toy in its face past adulthood–it’s either in the first stages of training or someone is doing something wrong– no matter what training method is preferred. There’s a reason treats are not allowed in any trials of dog behaviour whether they’re therapy dogs or in the CKC ring.

Don’t believe me? Research sled dogs, protection dogs, guard dogs, Schutzhunds, guide dogs, sheep dogs, racing dogs, hunting dogs and practically any other working dog on the planet.

Sometimes they are successfully trained with food/toys/clickers but they’ll still perform admirably without them.

I just wanna see Fluffykins manage without bribery or correction before I take a stranger’s advice.

14) Owners using extenda-leashes. Most dangerous dog device evar. [http://news.consumerreports.org/safety/2009/03/retractable-leashes-pose-problems-for-people-and-their-pets.html] Just. Say. No.

*********

  • Dogs Observed: 10
  • Dogs Walking Nicely on Leash: 1
  • Dogs Heeling Off Leash: 0
  • Dogs Recall: 1
  • Good Companion: 0
  • Basic Obedience: 0

All Dog Parks Are Not Created Equal

Cougar me Lady Labrador, Cougar me!

It’s more accurate to say that “Not All Dog Parks Are Frequented by Equally Responsible Owners.

So, I was off to meet a friend near Allen Gardens. Seemed like a good fit to take The Drama Prince to the dog park while we were there.

The first thing I noticed was unlike Greenwood, when I laid the DP between the gates to calm him he was not gang-banged before he even got inside the second gate. Obviously, the owners had taught their dogs not to rush the doors. YAY for the owners!

Due to his last dog park experience, DP was hesitant. He wandered alone for the first few minutes until Lady Labrador zoomed by. Then of course, he was in love.

There was a fountain that the dogs drank from and played in. That was a nice touch, too.

Another observation: That although there were many more dogs available, there was little bullying. Occasionally a dog humped and was scolded by its owner. Once I even hauled the Drama Prince off Lady Labrador. Good behaviour and much fun went on for hours until Big Black Dog with a haltie came in. Big Black Dog was young, and very large and again, one of those clueless owners who sits on a bench and does nothing.

I don’t understand those that say, “Let the dogs sort it out.” I hear that sort of thing often.

The last time a man said this,  I asked, “Have you ever broken up a real dog fight? Where one dog is fighting for its life and the other intent on killing it?”

The answer is invariably, “No.”

“Well I have. Humping then snarling are often the way they start which is why pushy behaviour can’t be allowed. Someone has to run the pack and it can’t be the dogs.”

I don’t get it.

Would the same people allow these behaviours if they had five dogs living in their house? Five big, honking, guard-type dogs? I have, with no major fights.

Another pet peeve today is those that, without asking–just let their dog come flying up to mine [leashed or not] while he’s on command. Then when I block their dog from touching him with my arm–they looked at me as if I just punched their beloved FuzzyBuckets in the face.

I had to tell one lady at a bus station of all places, to pull her dog back from crawling up the Drama Prince’s butt while he was laying on the platform. Did she really think it was a good idea for Fluffykins and a big sled dog wrestle and play chase on lead with elderly and disabled people standing all around?

Stupidity abounds.

I didn’t count good dogs at Allan Gardens because my eye was on the Drama Prince.

However I did run into a number of dogs at the park late at night. It was actually a red letter day for good dogs, there.

The Bouvier Sister’s owner took one puppy class with treats for his first Bouvier. With the Bouvier Sisters, he used Martingale collars as well as a sound remote collar to teach recall and to stop counter surfing. Both dogs walk well on lead and will stay with him off lead. Both come when called although only one could pass a Good Canine test. The other barks and guards him from other dogs and people in hats.

Today’s dog survey:
Total dogs Observed: 10
Walked Nicely On Leash: 4
Recall On Command: 4
Could Pass Good Companion Test: 2
Could Pass Basic Dog Obedience Trial: 0