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.

Advertisements

When Is a Dog Trainer “Too Nice”?

High stress dog training…

“If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”–Sun Tzu

Of course, The Drama Prince aced his class again!

What I saw last night makes me wonder why I’m not back at dog training. Hopefully, it will get better and I DID learn something interesting that might help the DP’s “come” command but the dogs?

OH. MY. GOD.

First off, most of them are on harnesses or the wrong collars. You can’t train a dog on a harness unless it’s very tiny and very very submissive. And that doesn’t describe this crew of reprobates.

One little fuzzy white dog is a terror. I wondered why such a well-groomed owner had such a sloppy looking dog. The little fart is “handler aggressive”–meaning it bites the person on the other end of the leash. I’d have slapped that brat on a check chain, martingale or mini-prong [even a flat would have worked better] and put an end to the tantrum post haste. Just getting it to sit, without biting, took up 15 minutes of everyone’s time. Obviously the owner can’t groom it–because it’s attacking her. I couldn’t believe the power struggle. If the trainer had used the pressure point in the dog’s thigh and lifted up with a collar, that brat would have been sitting before you could say “milkbones”. It’s not about “outwaiting” the dog in a power struggle IMO–it’s about outsmarting the dog.

I really like one big black dog, C–but he’s ‘way too big and muscular for the owner–add to that, she was wearing thong sandals, about the most dangerous foot gear ever to dog train in–he’s rambunctious and silly but she hasn’t got the collar correct fit for him. I can SEE that C is trying to learn, he’s not mean–but he’s just not getting the message of what she wants because she’s having to “muscle” him which is dangerous for both of them if he drags her into a crowded street. She was waving one of those plastic dog bone bags that was tied to the end of the leash and I pointed out to her that the plastic wonking him in the face was freaking C, out. Did she take it off the leash? No. Poor C just kept getting wonked.

One is a nice dog, a Rhodesian ridge-back but the owner has her on a flat collar. So, again, the communication is messed up. That dog is really TRYING to be good. While I have, and can train a dog at some levels with a flat collar, that’s not something I’d recommend to someone without a fair bit of experience.

What I’m NOT understanding about this class is why the trainer is not telling the owners that it’s not about the dog behaving in the backyard–it’s about the dog behaving everywhere. It’s not what you train the dog to do–it’s about doing what its asked when there are distractions around.

Nor has the trainer said, even once, what I always told owners and what most trainers I’ve met tells owners, “You must work with this dog a minimum of 15 minutes, twice per day, every day, in all kinds of circumstances while we are working together and you will have a good dog in 6 weeks.” [actually I used to train for 5 weeks].

Nor did she teach a release command. Sheeyit.

I guess I’m a bit frustrated. I know the instructor only has an hour to get her point across to 7 dog owners and I can only hope it gets better.

I guess I don’t understand it. Maybe I’ll understand more about her ideas, later.

My first and only formal CKC style obedience class at 20 would NOT have allowed all this useless gear [all dogs had to be on check chains and proper 6ft leather leashes] nor were the dogs allowed to sniff and leap around and act like hyperactive stooges at ANY time.

I didn’t allow owners who called me because their dogs acted like crap, to decide what gear to use on the dog. They had one week to purchase what I told them to–or I wouldn’t train the dog. And it’s not asking a lot–we’re talking here about a collar and a proper leash–$20-$30.

I don’t ‘get it’?

She’s a lovely person, the instructor. She’s been in business a long time.

I’m all for “encouragement” and “motivation”.

For me, the one thing I am getting out of it, is it keeps me focused when I’m bored or distracted. It’s forcing me to commit to working with my dog on a daily basis. I’m not sure it’s doing a whole lot for the Drama Prince. We’ll see if her recall trick works well. It might be the solution I need before I fork out for an e-collar.

Is a dog trainer “too nice” if they don’t demand a level of performance, owner engagement between classes and basic training tools?

Or am I being unreasonable?

Bragging Rights

Okay I can’t help it.

I get bragging rights.

So last Tuesday I took the Drama Prince to his first obedience class.
He aced it.

If dogs could show off–I’m pretty sure he was strutting it.

While other dogs were leaping, barking and generally acting up, he laid quietly while I listened to instructions.

The instructor, Dorothy, started with “heel” so people could walk their dogs without ripping their armpits out, from week one.

One dog owner was seriously struggling with a leaping, joyous, overly friendly, Big Black Dog.

I really liked that dog. The sad part was that the owner looked defeated. Now her BBD did quite well for his first try. So, at the end I explained to her that the Drama Prince was much like that when I got him and if she stuck with it–BBD would soon improve. It didn’t seem to help.

I could see the problem. A slender, gentle, polite woman with 80lb 6 month exuberant puppy. Hopefully she’ll “firm up” and her BBD will calm down.

Mind you, Dear Reader–I “cheated”. When the instructor was talking, I stood on the Drama Prince’s leash much of the time as he laid there, so he couldn’t bounce around from distraction and I could pay attention without being distracted by him. By the time I “heeled” him–he’d already calmed himself from the long down.

Hahaha Dog Trainer trick 101. “Down” the dog, stand on the leash and the dog will create the pressure if it tries to move. It will also get bored and go to sleep, eventually.

The class was awed by the Drama Prince’s good manners.

Tonight is his next lesson. I assume it is “heel/sit”. He should ace that, as well.

Do you think I should “let the cat out of the bag” on this?

100 Random Dogs Survey

Sooooooooooooooooo

I finished observing 100 random dogs.

Yes, this post might be a bit boring as far as consisting of mainly numbers until I add a few observations.

I was fairly lenient in my criteria.
Walk Nicely On Leash: a dog that didn’t pull the owner regardless of distractions.
Walk Off Leash : a dog that stayed within 6 feet of the owner without a leash regardless of distractions.
Recall: A dog that came within 4 feet of the owner the first time it was called regardless of distractions.
Good Companion: A dog that could walk nicely on leash, recall and did not jump up on people, growl, snarl, bark at people or dogs.

Basic Obedience: From basic behaviour would either qualify for, or could be “touched up” to pass a basic obedience trial.

For “walk nicely” I also walked my [heeling, leashed] dog near the leashed dog, if it was not pulling when I observed, up to 4 feet away. If the dog didn’t pull at that distance I passed it.

For recall, my dog was nearby laying down. About half the dogs were good enough that they recalled even with my dog running loose. If I did not see the dog recall–I didn’t count it. So, there may be some dogs that recall that weren’t counted in. Also, if the dog was on lead and the owner did not walk it off leash in my presence–there may be some dogs that would qualify as “off leash” as well.

Some dogs may be better or worse in circumstances other than what I saw them in. This was not a laboratory–it was in real life on the streets and in parks. I did not count behaviour I saw in dog parks.

Dogs Observed: 100
Walk Nicely On Leash: 15
Walk Off Leash : 13
Recall: 13
Good Companion: 11 [off leash heel not required]
Basic Obedience: 4

Since obviously, most of the dogs fell into ALL of the categories [other than nicely on leash] the amount of decently trained dogs in this city is pitifully small.

I have to wonder who the dog trainers are training–if 96% of dogs can’t make it past a basic obedience test. And I have to wonder why, in the day and age of dog trainers all over YouTube etc. why so many owners won’t even do the basic minimum training to ensure the dog’s safety in a city environment.

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

The Great Dog Training Debates–An Open Letter To Dog Trainers

Dear Dog Trainers:

Please. Just. Shut. Up.

I don’t visit dog forums any more. They’re a quagmire of the worst in human bullying behaviour. I keep getting invited to Dogster and other boards because I  Eisenmann educated dogs and it’s a dying art, sadly. I’ve been on enough dog forums now to dread them. My blood pressure is low and I’d like to keep it that way.

Here’s the standard post:

Average Dog Owner: Fido jumps on people at the door. How do I make him stop?

Sensible Dog Owner: I taught mine the “place” command. I laid down a little piece of carpet and no matter what, he’s not allowed to leave it [Alternative version] I taught mine by putting a leash on him and making him sit quietly while I greet people. Practise. Be consistent.

Immediately after this, the entire post is swarmed by professed dog trainers [and it’s the intertubz, the owners have no idea how many of them are or have been, legitimate professionals] most shilling some brand of psychobabble while they one-up each other. Buried in there somewhere might be a whit of common sense.

It goes on, sometimes for hundreds of pages. Flame wars erupt.

Poor Average Owner is overloaded with conflicting information, guilt, shame, cookies, clickers, check chains, head halters, prong collars, remote collars vs. shock collars, operant conditioning, R+ vs. 4 quadrants of conditioning, balanced vs. purely positive, corrections, marker words, aggression vs. fear biting, superstitious behaviour, possible secondary behaviours, probable outcomes, distraction, proofing, redirecting, positive rewards, negative rewards, withholding rewards, pressure, pack leadership, dominant dog theory, reactivity, co-operative pack theories, scientific surveys conducted in sterile laboratories, junk science research, unsubstantiated observational research–YOU GET THE PICTURE?

After a few pages of this nonsense Sensible Dog Owner and Average Dog Owner leave the thread.

Here’s a revolutionary concept.

Just. Shut. Up.

First off, anyone so stupid they can’t teach a dog, with whatever method, how to lay down in one place or sit beside them, which is pretty basic stuff–isn’t likely to have a dog in the first place. A ten year old can figure this out and if they can’t I’m sure they can point their parents to a few YouTube videos. Short of pounding the stuffing out of Fido which most dog owners won’t do, chances are they can teach “place” or “sit”. They just needed to make the mental leap to get from “making Fido stop” to “what could Fido do instead?” and being consistent.

Average Dog Owner doesn’t care about your method, or your theory or your conflicting research studies.

They just want Fido to stop jumping on Grandma THIS WEEK and preferably TODAY. They’re not being lazy–just like everything else in life, results talk and bullshit walks.

It gets even worse if some poor owner says, “Fido bit the neighbour.”

Good thing the intertubz doesn’t depend on paper because there wouldn’t be a tree left on the planet from reams written about what to do because Fido chomped the guy next door.

Just. Shut. Up.

If you can’t write it on a post-it note, save it for dog theory discussion forums, not owners.

You know what I tell people on this one?

“This can likely be fixed. Find the closest place that trains police dogs. Call them. These trainers have vast experience with biting dogs and are familiar with the equipment to help. Meanwhile, whenever Fido is outside muzzle the dog and keep him on a leash at all times. Here’s a video link on how to fit and use a muzzle properly. If you can’t afford the rates or such a trainer’s not available let’s find you a suitable alternative.”

No matter what advice someone gives in this scenario, obvious problem is obvious.

If Fido bites again not only will Fido be homeless, so will Average Dog Owner and family from the resulting lawsuits. Never mind the fact that Fido is now a societal risk. Average Dog Owner at this point is scared. Solve the immediate problem. Alleviate the panic with something proactive and sensible they can do NOW. Average Dog Owner wants results. Average Dog Owner doesn’t care about your pet theory. Average Dog Owner just wants to save Fido’s life, keep everyone safe and not lose their house.

No matter what the ensuing dog trainer howling is about–a dog trainer with experience in fixing dog biting problems needs to look with a practised eye at THIS dog and THIS owner and THIS environment before Fido becomes a public menace and is euthanized.

I’m going to let dog trainers in on a little secret. For free. For the betterment of dogs everywhere.

According to my survey which is almost 90 average city dogs at this point, the vast majority of people are NOT training their dogs to be good canine citizens.

So while you all are arguing theory online, less than 10% of owners actually train their dogs to a basic level [walk nicely on lead, come when called, don’t snarl, bark, lunge or bite at other people/dogs] –-90% of your potential customer base are doing nothing productive regardless of your methodology.

I have to wonder how many of them are paralyzed with guilt because they read so much conflicting advice and so much nonsense about “that method will mess the dog up” that they’re terrified to try anything at all.

Average Dog Owner isn’t on the intertubz forum for days on end. They’re busy being dragged down the street by their dog. Just look out your front window.

So who are you selling to? Each other? People who are addicted to dog training? Only those owners who are now in the midst of a crisis with their out-of-control dogs?

Your time might be better spent convincing those 90% of dog owners that their dogs could contribute far more to their lives, their families’ lives and the general public if they were better behaved then telling them in plain English how  you can help them accomplish that goal.

NEWS FLASH:

  • Dog owners don’t want to be talked down to, patronized or academicized.
  • Dog owners don’t care about theory.
  • Dog owners don’t care about methodology.
  • Dog owners with a problem just want a solution. They want to be heard.

Dog Owners want reasonable results, for a reasonable price, in a reasonable amount of time.

Which is reasonable.

*****
Today’s Dog Survey
Dogs Observed: 7
Dogs Walking Nicely on Lead: 3
Walks Heeling Off Lead: 0
Recall: 0
Good Companions: 0
Basic Obedience: 0

Are You Hiding Your Dog’s Light Under a Bushel?

Shining the Blues On Everybody

You think Fido is wonderful. He’s lively and cute. The whole world should love him and see his inner awesomeness, right?

Or, he had a pitiful rescue story and everyone should feel sympathy for your poor dog, right?

Wrong.

Are you hiding your dog’s light under a bushel?

Dogs are smart. They learn what you teach them. Even adult, freaked-out rescues.

When a dog jumps all over me, or interrupts our conversation, or barks insistently, or craps on your floor when I visit, or bangs me with toys, or we can’t walk and talk strolling down the street because Fido is dragging you, or snarling at my dog… children can’t pet him because he; nips, growls, snarls or jumps up and knocks them over, just where is his awesomeness then?

He’s either awesome or he’s not. Like people, first impressions, count.

Lots of dogs are cute. They can all pour on the big-sad-pound-puppy eyes, cross their paws, leap at the treat bag, sleep on the sofa, snore, chase their tails and make you laugh. They can all dance in exuberance.

Your dog is not special. Yet.

S/he’s not your furbaby or your furkid.  Respect its nature. Don’t use a dog to get your own childhood need for unconditional love, met.

Love is acceptance. Accept your dog for being a dog.  Love is in the actions you commit, not your feelings. Teach him to be the best dog s/he can be.

Have you ever seen  a whole bus load of people light up with smiles when they see a well-behaved dog trot on the bus? Or a group of children grin and giggle when they see a dog that is calm and gentle they can run up to pet?

A child shouldn’t need a PHD in dog behaviour to know how to approach a dog correctly. While it’s good to teach a child this, without it–a child who doesn’t know any better should always be safe with your dog.

I met a little boy with a ripped open face full of stitches. His neighbour’s GSD tore his face open less than a week before. The GSD had been left chained in the hot sun with no supervision. The boy felt sorry for the dog and wanted to fill it’s empty water bowl on a sweltering day. The kid knew the dog for years. He’d filled the water bowl before.

Trembling, the boy told me the story, and asked, “Can I pet your dog?” Now a half a dozen dogs were being walked around the park. Did he want to pet those dogs? No.

Some of them were little, less threatening-sized dogs.

I laid the Drama Prince down and the shaky boy started petting at the end with no teeth, eventually working his way to ear rubbing. It ended with some left paw/right paw handshakes with a sitting dog.

I thought “what a brave boy!” and told him so. Would that child have approached a leaping, bouncing dog that he worried the owner could not control?

That is “letting your dog’s light shine”. If you are a religious person, that would be the moment where your dog did “God’s work”.

What happens if you die, or become too  ill to care for your beloved dog? Is your dog trained enough that any dog lover in the neighbourhood might want your dog so s/he isn’t hauled off to the shelter? Can your big dog be walked by someone who is young or disabled or elderly? Could practically any dog lover home take him and be proud to have it?  Does your vet like to see your dog come in the door–or dread it?

Is your dog cute to the world at large or only cute to you?

The world is not forgiving of dogs who cannot behave with socially acceptable manners. Not everyone is shilling you dog products so they won’t make a fuss over the terrorist dog, Fluffykins. People and other dogs sense if your dog is unstable or untrained.

One thing I learned working with guard dogs is that all dogs are potential weapons. Even small dogs attacking a working dog can be costly in terms of veterinarian bills, liability, doctor bills and time off work.

Most people wouldn’t hesitate to take a firearms safety course or practise at  a gun club before firing a weapon. They keep the safety on around children. They don’t leave their loaded weapons lying around for children to find. Nobody is born knowing firearm safety.

Yet many people don’t have that attitude towards their dogs.

Training your dog brings out your dog’s light.

Training is not “mean” it won’t “change his personality” or any other such nonsense. It allows the whole world see the awesomeness that you see in your dog.

Your mission as a dog owner, if you choose to accept it–is to teach your dog to shine its light and improve the world.

************

  • Dogs Observed: 12
  • Dogs Walking Nicely on Leash: 0
  • Dogs off leash: 0
  • Dogs that Recall: 1
  • Dogs that could pass Good Companion: 0
  • Dogs that could pass a basic Obedience Trial: 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

In Search of Lassie

DAY ONE:

First Trip:
I saw seven dogs in the park and down at the ravine.

All but one of them pulled on lead.

I did have a momentary chuckle at a friendly English bulldog who threw himself on the ground fifteen yards away inviting play with the Drama Prince. It was only a few days ago when I was dealing with the same thing. The fellow’s other dog, a black Labrador mix, was not pulling on the lead.

I let the Drama Prince play off leash with a dog that was a golden colour with blue husky eyes. They had a blast racing around and leaping in the creek to swim. Her friend with the seemingly friendly pit-bull couldn’t let it off the harness, she stated due to “an inability to play nicely”.

As the golden dog and DP played, the pit-bull on its harness dragged the woman hither and yon. When play time was over the woman couldn’t get her golden dog back as she called “COME” over and over. Now the Drama Prince doesn’t have a consistent recall so I got within a few yards and said, “SIT”. He did. Then I told him to “DOWN” and he did, right in front of her [still playing “catch-me-if-you-can”] dog. Then I heeled him away.

She asked me how I did it. I told her the truth. I trained the dog to understand the commands, and when he couldn’t manage other dogs as distractions, I put a prong collar on.

She snorted in disgust at me then her dog dragged her home.

I am the Evil Dog Lady now, I guess.

******

THE NUMBERS: {if you’re easily bored you can skip this bit and drop down to the bottom results}

  • Dogs seen: 7
  • Dogs Walking Nearby Off Lead: 0
  • Dogs Not Pulling On Lead: 1
  • Dogs with Strong Recall: 0

Later that day:

  • Dogs Found: 12
  • Dogs Walking Nicely: 0

Evening:

  • Dogs Found: 6
  • Dogs Walking Off Leash: 2
  • Dogs Walking Nicely On Lead: 2/4
  • Dogs with Recall Under Distraction: 2

Here’s the story of the two off lead dogs.

OPA–Chocolate Labrador–10 years:
The owners got as 10 week puppy. The breeder had taught her to ring a bell and come when called.  From the start, Opa was offlead in the park, coming when called and friendly to other dogs. The owners took Opa to a Petsmart puppy class for pulling where they put a haltie on her head. Opa hated it. They switched her back to a flat collar after a month and she stopped pulling. Walks leashless within 1/4 block of owners. She waits on the corner while they put her leash on to cross the busy streets. Friendly to all dogs and people.

Kayla–Sheltie–12 Years:
Got as pup. Walks offleash everywhere with owner. No training classes. Comes when called. Owner took her off leash after first year. Snarls and snaps at dogs that get too close.

SUMMARY:

  • Dogs: 25
  • Dogs Not Pulling On Lead: 3
  • Dogs That Recall: 2
  • Training Classes Taken For Dogs Off lead: 1
    • Dogs that Could Pass as Good Citizens {Come on Command, Walk Nicely on Leash, No aggression}: 1
    • Dogs That Could Pass a Basic Obedience Test {Heel on and off lead, Down, Sit, Stay, Come}: 0

      Where have all the Good Dogs Gone? Long time passing…


      TODAY’S QUESTION:
      I’m going to ask dog owners their training methods when they are being dragged around.

Thy Name Is “Guilt”–the Dog Training Industry

Yes. I’m sitting on command at a dog beach with 30 dogs flying around.
Yes, my owner is holding the leash as I learn not to leap at other dogs.

I’m mired in guilt  I’d love to hear from other dog owners struggling with the same guilt.

Here’s some dog training advice:

Don’t train the dog when you’re cranky.
Train the dog twice a day whether you feel like it or not.
Give the dog treats.
Don’t give the dog treats.
Fade the treats quickly.
Fade the treats slowly.
Use a clicker.
Use a marker word. You might forget your clicker.
Don’t use a training collar. They hurt the dog.
Use a training collar. They don’t hurt. {I can attest that training prongs do NOT hurt. I tested them on bare skin on myself and a friend. There’s only a sense of pressure akin to squeezing your hand. We did not wear extra fur coats to test the theory}
Dogs are pack animals.
Dogs are not pack animals.
Dogs live in a hierarchy.
Dogs are communal.
Be your dog’s friend.
Be your dog’s parent.
Be your dog’s leader.
Use this toy/treat/device/system that costs hundreds/thousands of dollars to train/exercise your dog.

That’s just a small portion of the contradictory advice given by professional dog trainers. The scary part is how many of them can’t train their own dogs and in some cases, don’t even own one. Or they have hundreds of videos training their own dogs–often easy-to-manage breeds and often brought home as puppies. Those that rehab dangerous/difficult dogs often won’t videotape how they succeeded in saving the dog’s life because the PETA nuts would rather kill dogs than see them uncomfortable for a few weeks while they learn to behave in civilized society. Just look at the Caesar Milan uproar.

The so-called “science of dog training” is often a myth. Dozens of so-called scientific dog behaviour studies under hard questioning fall apart or are so limited in focus group and lack of owner involvement as to be patently useless to the average dog owner. Some of them, on greater inspection, turn out to be entirely fictional.

The advice handed out is often so overly complicated as to be useless to us common folk.

Most people don’t want to ring train a “heel” for six weeks. They want to take the dog potty today without getting their shoulder ripped out of the socket three times in the next 24 hours. They don’t have time to grab the clicker, fish cookies and look online for days to wade through buckets of conflicting advice when the dog is nipping the children NOW.

The dog needs exercise today or the owner can’t train it because its too hyper. However, New Dog can’t “come” consistently, yet. It’s dragging the owner to the local park. They don’t own a swimming pool or a pack of dogs to run its energy down. The local dog park might be miles away. What to do?

These are the questions that average dog owners go through every day.

So, I’m committing to a small project.

I am going to ASK dog owners that I see with well-behaved dogs–how they did it. I want to see the dog come on command in a distracting environment. I want to see the dog off lead. I want to see the dog not pulling on the lead.

If it’s a service dog–I want to question the owner as to how they maintain the training and what agency trained it in the first place.

If it’s a harder to train breed of dog or an adult rescue then we can be doubly wowed dear guilt-ridden dog owner friend, in this journey of dog discovery.

Whenever I find a well-behaved dog, I’m going to ask the people how they did it. Since most people love giving dog advice, I’m hoping they’ll answer.

I’m not looking for dog trainers–I’m looking for average owners. If I had a video camera I’d tape it, the dogs in live action, mistakes, slow “comes” and all.

I’m not believing anything online because it’s overwhelmed with people shilling their own favourite style of dog training.

Then I’ll keep track on this blog.