I have been asked on numerous occaisions what dog breeds and problems I deal with the most. So here it is my top 5 list from this years trend...
1. Jack Russells (and cross JRT) with recall / lead walking problems
2. Small breeds with toilet training issues
3. Staffordshire Bull Terriers that lack manners
4. Male dogs with dog-to-dog aggression (females are just as bad - if not worse - but are not as common for me to be called out to)
5. Rescue dogs with aggression / anxiety
Lots of new dogs and their owners joining Elite training the past month - and they all have one problem in common. They lack boundaries. A common reason for this is some owners see boundaries as a type of punishment - that they are being unfair and unkind to their dog. Example: Percy the Labrador jumps on his owners all of the time but is otherwise a 'perfect' pet. When asked "Why does Percy jump on the sofa?" (which is where he has a frenzy of over enthusiastic kisses for the victim he lands on, often ending in injury to the person who is squashed under 40kg of 'puppy') owners usually reply "Percy likes to be with the family and we like to cuddle up on the sofa together".
There is no problem with allowing a dog on the sofa if you wish. However it must be on your terms. My rottweilers are allowed on my sofa at home with my permission, they simply nudge me and look from the sofa to me and if I say 'ok' they snuggle up. if I say 'no' they go to their own nearby pillow. If allowed on the sofa - as soon as I say 'off' the dog must get off straight away. These boundaries can prove essential. Have a hot cup of tea in your hand? Elderly relative visiting? Last thing you need is Fido taking a running jump onto your lap!
Part of Percy's training is to slow down, listen to commands better (not the 20th time of being asked and eventually lured by a sausage) and to give owners space in every situation when asked. Percy can still snuggle up with the family but he has to slow down, 'ask' and then only if allowed, sit on the sofa (and not use the family as a human bouncy castle).
Boundaries do not have to mean 'unkind' or 'unfair'. You could be asking your dog to:
- sit away from the table while you eat (safer for the dog and can help some behavioural problems)
- walk without pulling on the lead (not nice for the dog or owner)
- leave a toy alone on command (great for households with kids, possessive dogs etc).
to be continued...
"Beware so called 'dog trainers' and 'dog lovers' who think 'alpha rolling' or 'pinning' a dog will solve any problem. The dogs are dragged to the floor by their necks and held down frightened and confused. Pinning is not the answer for hyperactive dogs, dog aggression, pushy behaviour etc. It teaches dogs to be afraid of the handler, encourages dogs to react without warning and worse. If your dog has behavioural problems please do not resort to this so called quick fix. This week alone I've had a sharp increase in desperate dog owners who've found out the hard way. I've spoken to some of the so called 'experts' giving this advice and every dog in their group were literally terrified every time the handler moved their hand towards the dogs!"
I know the 'alpha' technique is very controversial and some people may 'swear' by it. There may be a few people who have physically forced their dogs into a behaviour they want with no repercussions. The sad thing is - people see the 'alpha roll' being used on dogs and they see a dog 'snap out of it' or 'obey'. What people don't realise is what they are actually teaching the dog - that sudden aggression without warning is acceptable. Additionally the problem that caused the behaviour has not been resolved. For example: the dog that was making your dog uncomfortable (so your dog snarled at and pinned) is still making your dog unhappy - but now that you've pinned the dog forcefully to the floor he's scared of you AND the other dog.
A great article written in APDT News Letter explains more...
"Alpha roll advocates often justify the technique because “it’s the way wolves do it,” but that rationalization is weak. As professional dog trainers, we—and ultimately our clients— would benefit from an explanation grounded in critical analysis rather than habit or myth."
The theory behind the alpha roll is based on a research study of captive wolves kept in an area too small for their numbers and composed of members that wouldn't be found together in a pack in the wild. Studies of wolves in the wild show wolves only 'pin' another wolf if the fight is serious (usually with intent to kill) and rarely fight within the pack to that extent. Dominance theory has been justified by some trainers as it can make owners act like they have more control over their dog than they may feel. Hard-nosed, brutal efforts to dominate pets can simply cause fear, anxiety and even aggression rather than creating a stable household. A more accurate way of comparing the domestic dog is to feral dogs that are scavengers who live and mate unrestricted by a 'pack' hierarchy.
' it is a form of cruelty. It may not inflict physical pain, but it can terrify dogs. And it can be dangerous, causing an aggressive dog to react strongly against an owner. Alpha rolls are part of an outdated theory of dog behaviour that’s based on discredited science. ' - Pete Wedderburn (Vet 25+ years)
Pat Goodman, MS, a resident ethologist at Wolf Park:
“I find it is rare for them to forcibly push down and hold down a subordinate, a rival, a youngster. In the overwhelming majority of cases, rather than being pushed down, the wolf who ends up on the ground is already going down in response to psychological pressure."
"I cannot think of many learning situations where I want my learning dogs responding with fear and lack of motion"
So what are you telling your dog by being a bully? That you are unpredictably aggressive and should be feared of. So instead of showing him that you are a calm, trustworthy leader, you are demonstrating very effectively through aggression that you are a threat, and you’re doing so in much the same way a highly insecure domestic dog would.
A brilliant article on why aggression based alpha techniques have a negative and sometimes dangerous outcome (using a celebrity 'dog trainer' you may well have heard of as an example)
- Click Here -
*please note some of the footage used of the 'celebrity' dog trainer may distress some viewers. Footage is from the 'celebrity' DVDs
On my journey to ever expanding my knowledge of positive dog training, I regularly attend lectures held by other dog trainers. Todays seminar seemed to use similar methods to my own and the room of 40 or so 'dog trainers' attending seemed relatively happy with the seminar. This seminar is focused on dog aggression - mainly dog-to-dog.
The trainer firstly observed and passed judgement on a pre-trained dog. A border collie who had been working with the trainers for years and knew the simple exercise inside out.
The second dog was more to my interest. A 7year old male rottweiler. Working with many large breed dogs, especially rottweilers I was interested to see if the seminars 'trainer' had any new advice. I'd observed the dog and his trainer prior to the seminar practical and they did brilliantly at simple exercises. The dog was invited into the hall. the silent 40 people all stared at the clearly nervous rottweiler. The dog showed many signs of insecurity but was ignored. The seminar went silent. The group continued to stare at this dog. The trainer ignored the dog.
Knowing rottweilers, particularly insecure dogs I could see the next part coming. The rottweiler turned to face the crowd, from which it had no escape, and gave out a deep territorial bark. The sort of bark my rotties do if they suspect there is danger but are not certain. The class froze. The dog was allowed to continue. A few people looked away. Most of the 'trainers' seemed scared. The seminars trainer asked the dog to leave and come back in after a break. The same thing happened again when the dog entered. The dog was told to leave the seminar. No further work was done with this dog.
Firstly, that is not training. No issues were addressed at the 'dog aggression' seminar. The dog was set-up to fail from the start. The seminars 'trainer' did not address the situation early enough. The questions from the group were then answered poorly. The 'trainer' was advised to 'Stop training with the dog immediately. The dog is too stressed.' when the rottweiler had shown he was most comfortable and focused when he could turn to his trainer for guidance - which on entering the hall he received none. When asked 'Is the dog aggressive because of its breed?' - the 'trainer' tip-toed around the answer but agreed it was. I've seen rottweilers as guide dogs, P.A.T dogs, agility champions and much more. I have seen Pomeranians sink their teeth into another dog and 'lock' their jaw. I firmly believe it is not the breed, it is the dogs experienced and training that make the dog the way it is. Sadly for rottweilers their size and appearance make them a target for this kind of attitude. If a chihuahua had walked into the seminar and started barking, I am convinced the trainer would have allowed the seminar to continue.
At this point I'm considering leaving. I've attended the seminar to see training. So far I've seen a 3hour long slideshow on basics and a border collie that could run an obedience club of his own. There had been NO training. The seminars 'trainer' then had to dig himself deeper into my 'ridiculous ideas' book. 'This dog needs medication.'.
SSRE - Selective Serotonin Reuptake Enhancer or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). 'SSRE medications are antidepressant drugs that exert a mood elevation on the patient by altering the level of the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin within the brain. Prozac for dogs.
Ok. So we're going to give up training and drug the dog so that it's unable to react? THAT IS NOT TRAINING. THAT IS INADEQUATE AND LAZY when the dog had actually made considerable progress with his owner trough training (the 'trainer' failed to get the full background of the training history and jumped onto the 'drug' wagon). Some of the many possible side effects are: cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), urine retention, dizziness, fatigue, seizures, aggression, constipation, vomiting, diarrhoea and strokes. A common cause of treatment failure is when medication is used as a stand-alone therapy, without behaviour modification. No medication is a replacement for training and behaviour modification. Pets will not change behaviours overnight while on the drugs and regular blood tests are required to check the dog keeps healthy while on the drug (hey rottweiler, if you weren't stressed enough, multiple trips to the vet to be restrained and have a needle forced into you will do the trick!). I have known both dog and cat owners who have used this drug as a last resort for different problems - some with great results. I fail to see why in this case, with what was actually a straight forward case, the 'trainer' decided he would recommend this treatment.
I've worked with many dogs. From tiny to giant. From puppy bites to 'red-zone'. I have a special interest in rottweilers. I've worked with many owners with the same problems with their dog and with consistent training I have never failed a client. I would have enjoyed working with that rottweiler and his owner. The owner was heartbroken to hear 'rehome your dog', 'put him on drugs'. The dog had NEVER in his life been at all aggressive towards people. As usual, the crowd of 40 'trainers' mostly followed like sheep and agreed that drugging the dog was necessary and the dog was too dangerous to work with. There were a handful who had doubts. I spoke to the organisers after the seminar. They were shocked that somebody would question their methods and had NO ANSWERS OR UNDERSTANDING of SSRIs or actual training advice. NOTHING. How can you advise something you have no knowledge of? I wouldn't want my dogs on potentially harmful drugs that have no scientific proof of having ANY affect when I've found natural remedies can have the desired affect without the side affects.
On leaving the seminar I felt saddened. Those 40 'trainers' would go away and tell their clients the same advice and calling themselves 'trainers'. I've only met a handful of GOOD dog trainers and only a special few are GREAT dog trainers. I advise people to research their trainers at length and ask questions before meeting the trainer. I've met clients who have had 'trainers' say 'have one dog put down' or 'teach the dog to jump up, then we'll teach him not to jump on somebody'. I've witnessed 'trainers' try to work with dogs who attempt to 'choke', 'kick' 'touch / punch' or 'scream' at dogs to force them to behave when they claim they use positive methods. I respect REAL trainers. People usually come to me after a handful of 'trainers' prove incompetent and cruel in their methods. My job is to help dogs and owners work through problems happily. I love my job :)