Last week I met with a new ‘client’ here in Costa Rica.  (I say ‘client’ in quotations because I’m not really getting paid.  We’re doing some trade work)  You can read the first part of the case study here- How to fix an aggressive dog, case study.

Initially I told you that I was working with a few dogs there.  Primarily, we were working with Cleo, a Pit Bull mix, who was aggressive towards other dogs.  We were also working with Canela, a friendly little mixed breed who had obedience and manners issues.

It’s only been a week and a half but we’ve already seen some nice things, and also some new challenges, pop up.  Here is where we are:

Canela- Canela is about nine months old and is a sweetheart.  Here are the key points on her progress and notes on what needs to happen at this stage:

  • Leash walking.  We worked on my ‘Crazy man method‘ and she’s doing great.  She was a bad leash-puller but is now walking like a champ.  Truthfully, this is normally the easiest thing to fix.  So, while I’m thrilled with her progress I’m not patting myself on the back too hard.
  • Sitting, Lying Down, and Staying.  She’s actually doing really well with this as well.  Her owner will ask her to stay while she goes and grabs something or goes to get something and she does just great.  We are using this method to teach her to stay.
  • Today we started working on teaching her to come when called.  This is a big deal as they live on an acre and most of it isn’t fenced.  The owner was doing the thing that most people do wrong.  That is to say:
  1. She was calling the dog with no way of ‘backing it up’.  Most people attempt to train their dogs verbally by telling them to come.  Dogs don’t learn well verbally.  If the dog didn’t come she had no way of seeing it through.
  2. She was angrily calling the dog.  Many people get tired of their dogs not coming when called so they call them in an angry tone.  If your dog didn’t want to come before, it sure as heck doesn’t want to come now.
  • So we’ve started working on what I call a ‘casual recall’ and what I call a ‘formal recall’.  We’re using some simple methods for these exercises: Train your dog to come when called, Come when called
  • Overall, Canela is doing really well.  I’m surprised the the owner has had enough time to work with her as it’s only been a bit over a week and her Pet Hotel is getting busier with Christmas closing in.  I don’t think we’ll have any problems in getting her obedience to continue improving.

Cleo- Cleo is the Pit Bull mix.  She is about four years old and is incredibly dominant.  Here are the key points and notes for how she is doing and what she’ll need to work on to become trained.

  • This dog is incredibly dominant and doesn’t like to be told what to do.  She tried biting me once during the first session and she even tried a little growl at her owner today.  Mind you, these were situations where we were simply shifting her a bit and she didn’t like it.  It wasn’t as if we were pushing her hard and retaliation, although not okay, would have been understandable.  It’s obvious that this dog needs much more obedience work.  Obedience is the key to getting the right relationship with a dog.
  • The owner has actually done a good job of integrating some of the initial obedience we’ve been working on.  She took Cleo on an on-leash walk yesterday and other neighborhood dogs were walking off leash near her.  This would have made Cleo go nuts before but because we’ve been working on control work the dog’s mind was more focused and she did fine.  The owner also mentioned that she’s had Cleo on leash on the other side of the fence of barking dogs.  I like to see this.  I always say that it’s one thing to work on obedience.  It’s another thing entirely to apply that obedience to everyday life.  That’s what she has been doing and it’s been paying off.
  • Today we started working on step three of my aggression formula, which is how to correct aggression when it starts.  I taught her what I call my distance method (outlined in our Dog Aggression DVDs) which is designed to help the dog focus AWAY from their aggressive trigger.  It worked well.  In one session we were able to get the dog to stop focusing on a neighbor dog and be just inches away from her.  I was assured by the owner that this was a big deal, she would normally be trying to attack.
  • We’ve seen nice things but we’ve got a long way to go with this dog.  She’ll need to be around dozens of other dogs and improve her obedience a great deal in order to get over this aggression problem.  If you’re dealing with aggression note that you can see quick improvements with my methods but long term character change takes a bit of time.

Other notes:

  • As a side note, I’ve mentioned that she runs a Pet Hotel.  At any given time there are 5-10 dogs at her house hanging out.  She was having issues with barking dogs, jumping dogs, dogs getting out of control, etc.  I recommended she keep a spray bottle with her to use on the dogs when they start getting out of control.  She’s reported back that it has worked amazingly.  One of the problem dogs that spends months at a time is now quiet and not jumping, not rushing the gate, etc.