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Pit Bull Mauls Four Year Old and Internet Explodes With Stupidity

If you are a dog lover and travel the virtual halls of Facebook it’s likely you’ve read the story, Pit Bull mauls four year old in Phoenix.   The story is tragic.  As the father of four young kids I ache for this young boy who will be forever traumatized and will go through excruciating pain.  Since this story came out, though, I’ve been asked several times for my opinion.  In thinking about the case and reading the information that is available online I came up with several thoughts.  They don’t form a narrative, essay-type response.  Rather, my thoughts are formed in bullet points, random thoughts strung together.  I’m not a guy who uses foul language.  So understand that my following language is about as rough as I get.  In other words, I’ve got some strong opinions on what is going down:

  • What the FRACK is wrong with you people?  By ‘you people’ I’m referring to the thousands of people who have rallied in support of…the dog!  I love dogs, I think that goes without saying.  As of the last reading (this may have changed) the public had raised more money to save the dog from being put down than had raised for the boy who was sitting disfigured in a hospital bed.  How is this possible?  Now I know that you can advocate for saving the dog, Mickey, AND have full sympathy for the poor kid.  These aren’t mutually exclusive sentiments.  But the fact that the dog is raising more money than the kid is the public’s way of voting with their wallets and saying that saving the dog is more important than helping the kid.  It’s shameful.
  • Yes, you can train the FRACKING dog.  So what?  I’ve seen many people commenting online that ‘hey, we can train the dog and fix the problem!  Don’t put him down!’  Let me get this clear.  I am 100%, unequivocally in favor of putting the dog down.  I don’t arrive at that conclusion lightly.  I am typically the last guy jumping into the swimming pool of ‘kill the dog!’.  In fact, at my company we’ve successfully trained hundreds of dogs who have bitten in the past.

But look at the facts here.  The kid approached the dog.  There may or may not have been a bone depending on the report.  The dog attacked the kid with some insane intensity.  Tell me…what amount of training will make you feel comfortable ever putting this dog near a child again?  As a dog trainer I’m hugely confident (read: massive ego) in my ability to fix aggression cases.  As a father, however, there is no way this dog is ever coming near something I love no matter how much training.  I’m not mad at the dog.  I don’t wish to kill the dog in revenge.  I simply recognize that there is no amount of training on this green earth that would ever make me feel comfortable with this dog.

  • Pit bull apologists.  What the FRACK, guys?  Let me be clear.  I’m a fan of Pit Bulls.  I like them.  I think they’re fun.  I defend them when given the chance.   But here’s the problem.  Those of you who are Pit Bull apologists are often doing more harm than good.  You’ll say things like:

“It’s not the breed, it’s the owner!”  What about all the great Pit Bull owners who have Pit Bulls with aggression problems?  You know there are a lot of them, right?  We get plenty of dog owners who come to us with Pit Bulls that have aggression problems.  You want to know the common denominator with every single one of them?  They’re all good dog owners.  If not, they wouldn’t be coming to a trainer and paying through the nose to fix an aggression problem.  Could they have done things better?  Sure.  Everyone can.  But these are not bad dog owners.

“Pit Bulls only do this when they’re trained to be aggressive/neglected/abused/beaten/etc.”  Bull crap.  I’ve worked with dozens of Pit Bulls who have aggression issues.  None of these dogs have been trained to be aggressive or have been beaten and most haven’t been abused.  (Side note, I’ve also worked with dozens of Labradors, German Shepherds, Dalmatians, and Chihuahuas who were aggressive who also weren’t beaten or abused.)

Every time you apologists pretend that the Pit Bull isn’t an insanely powerful breed, with a propensity for strong drives, with an intensity that other breeds don’t always have…and you pretend that all of them are sweethearts until some jerk of an owner comes along and turns them bad…YOU. AREN’T. HELPING. PIT. BULLS!

Your heads are in the sand.  Yes, I’m fully aware of the statistics that other breeds bite with more frequency.  I’m not saying that a Pit Bull is any more likely than a Labrador to bite someone.  But I am saying that a Pit Bull is infinitely more likely than a Labrador to maul a kid and put him in the hospital… or kill a dog (which this dog Mickey has also done)…or cause some real damage to another pet.  Does that make all Pit Bulls bad?  Or most of them?  Or even a decent percentage?  Not by a long shot!  But stop pretending that you are doing your favorite breed a favor by pretending that they aren’t capable of mayhem.  They are.  They’re capable of it when they’re treated poorly.  They’re capable of it when they’re treated well.  So is any dog.  So stop thinking that all other breeds have their warts and the Pit Bull is a saint unless provoked.  Recognize that your breed is a powerful animal, often with powerful drives, who has often been poorly bred and comes to the table with a weak nervous system.

  • What the FRACK is wrong with these dog owners?  I do not understand the mentality of someone who buys a dog and puts it on a chain in a yard where someone has access to that dog.  This should never happen.  Ever.  Not ever.  Not with a Pit Bull.  Not with a Samoyed.  Not with a Saluki or a mixed breed or a jungle cat.

If you put any dog on a chain it becomes infinitely more likely of attacking.  I won’t get into the deep psychology of what I’m referring to but there is something I’ll call ‘barrier aggression’ that makes a dog more likely of attacking.  Even very sweet dogs can do something really stupid when they are tied out.

So I haven’t seen the set up at this person’s house.  I’m not sure how it looks, where the yard is, where the dog was tied up, etc.  But I will tell you this.  If you EVER have reason to tie your dog out (and if you do, consider why you have a dog in the first place) you had better tie that dog out where you are 100% guaranteed that no one can ever come up to your dog.  Period.  Are we clear on that?

  • What the FRACK is wrong with all of these online commentators?  I recognize that I am awfully hypocritical at this moment.  I’m harping on online commentators while being an online commentator.  The difference is, though, that I’m right.  I always am, after all.  (Side note, my wife always gives me a hard time saying ‘you always think you’re right in any argument!’  My response is ‘of course!  Who walks around thinking they are wrong?’)

Let me be a bit more specific by calling out a few comments I see on a Facebook page for saving Mickey.  The page has over 40,000 likes, by the way.  Maybe we should see if every one of them could go give that poor kid a $5 note.  Here are some comments:

“I can’t believe his family just gave up on him without a fight! Dogs are loyal and would never betray their owners! Shame on you Mickeys family shame on you!”

What the FRACK does loyalty have to do with this?  The dog did kill a dog and nearly killed a kid.

“I am thinking positive!! We will Save Mickey, he has done nothing wrong & he deserves to have true unconditional love for the rest of his life!! xo”

Nope.  He doesn’t deserve trust for the rest of his life.  He has killed things and almost killed others.  If there was ever a dog not deserving of trust it’s this one.  Seriously, what kind of mindset creates such an ignorant, idiotic statement?

If you head over to this Facebook page (no, I won’t link to it here) you’ll see thousands of comments.  Most of them follow the vein of ‘the kid never should have been in the yard, it’s not the dog’s fault!’

The sad thing is I agree.

The kid never should have gone into the yard.  And in a sense it’s not the dog’s fault that he was put in that position, not supervised, not trained, not socialized, or whatever.

But fault or not the results are the same.  He ate this poor kid.  And no matter the fault why is there such an outcry to save this animal who has proven to be dangerous on more than one occasion?  Why isn’t more of this energy going to help this poor child?  I’m an advocate for dogs but I’m also smart enough to realize that I don’t advocate for dogs by pretending that some dogs aren’t insanely dangerous.

This is an awful situation for everyone; dog, dog owner, child, children’s family, and anyone who cares about this situation.  But willful ignorance is not the answer to tragedy.

What is Your Dog’s Baseline?

Dog TrainingYour Dog’s Mindset

When I first got started training dogs in the mid-90’s I was a young guy.  At that time I really had a black and white view of dogs and behavior.  Generally my thought was ‘this behavior is bad, let’s correct it’ and ‘that behavior is good, let’s reward it’.  It’s worth noting that this isn’t an incorrect style of thought seeing as a basic rule of behavior is ‘that which is rewarded is more likely to reoccur and that which is corrected is less likely to occur.’

Now, the reason I thought the above was THE RULE TO DOG TRAINING was because that mindset is what worked for me.  In other words, with my own dogs and dogs that I was training, I could simply correct bad behavior and reward good behavior and I was able to train some really amazing dogs.

Fast forward a couple decades and I’ve worked with thousands of dog owners.  I’ve realized it’s not as simple as correct the bad and praise the good.

I’ve realized it’s all about creating a ‘baseline’ for you and your dog.

Dog Training Baseline?

You see, I realized after some time that I could simply correct bad behavior and praise good behavior because, without realizing it, I had already created a solid baseline for my dogs.  By baseline I mean a state of being where my dog’s minds were generally calm, where they were generally rational, thinking beings.

In that state of mind the dog is highly receptive to new learning.  He’s much less likely to ‘act out’ or ‘disobey’.

But I was creating this baseline without realizing it.  In fact, most good dog trainers and a lot of good dog owners do this as well.  It’s nothing they’re necessarily thinking about doing.  It’s something that just happens.

For example, at our Salt Lake City dog training company we get some really challenging cases of dogs with major aggression problems, heavy anxiety issues, etc.  With very few exceptions we can take that dog and by the next day he or she will have made a complete turn around.

And often this is with very little training, period.  It’s simply a case of us creating an atmosphere, or baseline, where the dog’s mind can finally calm down and be receptive to new learning.

Now, let’s say we take that same dog, turn him around in one day, then give him back to the owner.  He  will almost IMMEDIATELY go back to his negative behaviors.

It was realizations such as this that helped me understand that it is far more than simply correcting the bad and praising the good that gets us to a trained dog.

What does the baseline look like?

Dog Training SpectrumLook at the image here.  It was created by a famous artist, don’t make fun of it’s rudimentary appearance.

This is an image of what I’d call a dog’s mindset spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum you’ve got complete control/obedience/structure.  We don’t want your dog living in that extreme of the spectrum.  That’s a dog who is a robot.  Is always under command.  Doesn’t have any fun.

We also don’t want your dog on the other extreme.  On the other extreme is where fear, anxiety, aggression, destruction, and other bad behaviors live.

Now let’s picture we divide that spectrum in half.  Most dogs I meet for the first time are living in the left half of that spectrum.  In other words, the baseline their owners have created is one where the dog’s mind isn’t right.  He’s prone to anxiety and stress.

If you take a dog living at that baseline and add a simple stressor the dog is so quick to jump to the complete extreme and become aggressive, fearful, highly anxious, etc.

Picture this in your mind.  Picture the dog who is on a walk and simply SEES another dog and flips out.  That dog is living in the left half of the spectrum and one small thing is too much to handle.

Or picture the dog who SEEMS normal in every day life but suddenly gets aggressive or anxious or fearful with a guest in the house.  That dog is living on the left half without the owner realizing it and all it took was one stressor and the dog is having a fit.

I want to reiterate this point.  Many times dog owners don’t even realize this.  More often than not our clients will talk about how their dogs are normally so good, normally so well behaved, normally such good pups….it’s just that when such and such occurs the dogs act poorly.

They think that all we need to do is train the dog during those moments when the dog acts poorly.  They don’t realize there is a baseline created where the dogs live all the time, and that is what needs to change.

In reality, we need to change the entire baseline.  We need to change the dog’s mindset when things AREN’T going wrong, and there are no stressors, such that when the stressor presents itself the dog is already living in the upper half of that spectrum.

Look at the image again.  When the dog is living in the upper half, ideally the upper 1/4, it is literally such a huge mental jump for that dog to turn aggressive or anxious or fearful.  It becomes next to impossible to get that dog out of sorts because his mind is already right.

I always tell dog owners to think about someone they’ve known in their past.  You know, it’s the guy or girl who always seems to be in altercations.  It may be a fist fight, an arguing match, or explosion of temper.  However their anger/stress presents itself it seems as if it’s always right there at the surface ready to explode.

Dog trainingNow ask yourself, is that person just unlucky?  Do they somehow get dealt a bad hand and bad things happen to them?  Or is it that the person shows a pattern of bad decisions dealing with impulse control, perhaps addictions, and a lack of desire to change?  They could try to address the moments when they lose their temper, and they should.  But they’ll get so much more mileage out of creating a life that has better discipline at ALL TIMES, not just the stressful ones.

Would you agree?

How do you create a dog training baseline?

When I’m presenting these ideas to dog owners in person it’s usually at this point that I’m getting a lot of nods and ‘that makes sense’.  If this isn’t making sense write me a comment below with a question.

But, of course, this line of thinking leads to ‘okay, how do we fix our baseline?’

Bad news.  I don’t have a definitive way.  There are a lot of people who have a lot of ‘dog sense’ or are ‘dog savvy’ and they’re going to find that many things they do are naturally calming and naturally establish the structure their dogs crave.

That doesn’t mean that if you aren’t dog savvy that you can’t create this.  It just means that you’ll have to be more conscious about how you’re raising your dog and the interactions you have.  I don’t think there’s an exhaustive list I could create on how to create the right baseline for your dog but the following points can definitely help you.

Note: this isn’t to say that everyone must do all these things.  It also doesn’t mean that if you aren’t doing these things that you aren’t creating the right baseline.  Heck, I’m not doing all of these things with my own dogs.  These aren’t hard and fast rules, simply guidelines and they are in no particular order:

  • Be careful of the affection you give your dog.  Many people are using their dog to fill an emotional void.  I’m not saying that’s incorrect, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not the guy to go around giving emotional advice.  But what I am saying is that many people use affection towards their dog to fill a void in their own life.  They are constantly touching, talking to, treating, thinking about, worrying about, and searching for the affection of their dog.  This is WAY too much responsibility to put on a dog and this will create an enormous amount of stress.Dog Training
  • Make your ‘comings and goings’ neutral.  When you get too excited when you come home and too regretful when you leave this creates an association that your comings and goings are emotionally saturated.  Don’t do this.  That makes it far too exciting when you’re home and far too sorrowful when you’re gone.  We want your dog on an even plane, not in constant emotional upheaval.
  • Many dog owners are going to need to keep their dog off the furniture.  This isn’t the case with everyone, but for dogs living with a lot of stress or on the wrong end of the spectrum this can be a necessity.
  • Don’t let your dogs do crap.  Stop letting them pull on a leash.  Stop letting them bark at everything.  Stop letting them rush through doors.  Stop letting them be destructive.  Just stop it!  Inevitably I get the question with this of ‘well…well…how?’  Nope, sorry, you don’t get to ask that question.  There are literally volumes of material at your disposal to help you with this.  You don’t get to claim ignorance.  My entire dog training website is full of articles and tips, we’ve created an entire line of dog training videos to help you, and you can even email us to see if we know of a dog trainer in your neighborhood not to mention the scads of information from many other great trainers out there.  When you claim that you don’t know how to do something it’s simply because you haven’t taken initiative yet.  Stop that.  Get to work.
  • DO teach your dogs to do good crap.  Why doesn’t your dog hold a ‘down-stay- for a half hour?  Why doesn’t he come when called?  Why doesn’t he ‘listen’ or ‘obey’ or ‘mind’?  Because you haven’t taught him to!  Stop that.  Get to work.
  • Have a calming presence.  Yes, you can play wild.  Yes, you can run around and get goofy with your dog.  But there is a season for everything.  Don’t allow your dog to take the initiative and monopolize your time with play and requests for play.  Instead you initiate it and dictate what play is okay.  When you aren’t doing that, be calm with your dog.

I could go on and on with various other iterations of these ideas and concepts.  I’m hoping, though, that you’ve got the picture now.  I’m hoping that as you’ve read this you’ve thought of things that you can change with you and your dog’s relationship.

Now go and do them.

How to Train a Dog Who is Afraid of Men

cane corsoThe following question comes in from a reader of our site:

We just got a Cane Corso who has been very abused. She is 7 months old and great with females and children. She still barks when we come in the door but for the most part she is very welcoming. However with men she is frantic and barks growls runs away, pees. After what seems to take a couple hours she will allow them to touch her but barely. She stays at my side as much as she can and whines when I leave her. My dad is trying to show her he isn’t bad but she just growls and barks and pees when he tries to give her treats pet her or talk to her. What would you recommend?

We are desperate to help this girl and want her to be a great dog for us and I know she can work. I just don’t know the proper way to train her and what to do. She will sit, lay, roll over, is house trained and is fine with women and my son. Just as soon as a man comes over she is so scared and I need help. I have no clue how to fix this and reaching out to any trainer who can help me or give me ideas. 

My response:

Thanks for the question.  Unfortunately, this is an issue I see all too often.  In fact, in many cases, this didn’t even result from an abuse story.  The dog is simply afraid of men and that’s that.  Dogs who are fearful of men aren’t always that way because of abuse.

Here are a couple key points I would consider:

  • Tethering.  Tethering is the act of putting a leash on the dog and keeping it there.  You want to keep the leash on the dog in the house, outside of the house, etc.  Where that comes to play with men is that I would have the dog on a leash and have your dad, or another man, simply be the one who controls the leash.  No, don’t pay her any attention.  Simply hold the leash and go.  She’ll resist, she’ll fight.  But have the man on the end of the leash simply ignore her and go about his day.  What you are describing with his inability to give her treats is all-too-common.  A dog in your dog’s state of mind isn’t going to give up intense fear simply because someone has a cookie.  I’ve done the tethering method dozens of times over the years and I’ll tell you that for the first day it can be a bit ugly.  The dog doesn’t want anything to do with me.  But after a day or two the dog, needing to adapt, suddenly realizes that the guy isn’t half bad.  Don’t try to coddle her out of her fear with treats and soft cooing.  Simply have her be a constant companion of your dad and let her learn to work through that.
  • Work on obedience.  Obedience is a calming and clarifying exercise.  You mention that she’ll sit and lay down.  Does she do them reliably?  Does she stay doing them?  Does she do those behaviors under distraction?  If not, you’ve got some work cut out for you.  Anxiety and fear aren’t solved through basic and introductory experience with obedience.  You’ll need more advanced levels of obedience for that.

Best of luck and happy training.

How to Correct Dog Aggression

In today’s dog training climate there is a growing trend amongst dog trainers to only use treats and clickers and avoid any type of correction.

The problem is that such methods tend to be far less effective and lead to more dogs in shelters and more dogs being put down due to a lack of success in training.

Dog aggressionThe best way to effect change with dogs is with a stabilized approach to dog training.  In other words, an effective dog training program should include tons of positive motivation stabilized with humane and proper correction.

In this video I show a simple way for you to think about correction as it relates to dog aggression.

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Check out our dog training DVDs

Where is your dog on the spectrum? Dog Training

 

One of the things I’ve learned throughout my years of training dogs is that dogs are quite often the product of their environments.

NO.  I’m not going to sit here and say that aggressive dogs or bad dogs always come from bad dog owners.  They sometimes do.

Dog TrainingBut more often than not, dogs with some serious behavior problems come from good dog owners who simply don’t know how to keep their dog on the proper end of the spectrum.

If you can maintain the proper state of mind with your dog then you can find that it becomes quite easy to rid yourself of unwanted behavior problems.

After watching the video above, ask yourself where your dog fits on the spectrum.

The truth is that it’s very difficult for many dogs and many dog owners to stay in the proper half.

We’re here to help.

If you live in Utah or would like to send your dog to Utah for our award winning training then click here to get a spot on my calendar.  We can talk about your dog and programs that can help put your dog in the right spot.

If that isn’t an option, check out the different dog training DVDs we offer.

Watch the Full Case Study- Dog Aggression

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Case Study for Solving Dog Aggression

How To Stop A Barking DogHow to Solve Dog Aggression

Over the years our business has evolved a great deal.  While we work with plenty of puppies and dogs who need obedience and manners help we’ve become known around the country for solving some of the worst aggression cases.

Our proprietary system taps into the dog’s natural styles and patterns of learning to help them overcome the fear and anxiety that leads them to act aggressively in the first place.

A short time ago we started working with a new case.

This is a dog that has attacked other dogs and is one of the more intensely aggressive dogs we’ve seen in a while.  We decided to turn this case into a case study to show everyone just what it is we do to help these dogs.

I wasn’t planning on releasing any video until we had the entire process filmed.  But sure enough, within the first five minutes of training we already had some great results.  I wanted to show it off, press play below.

Our Aggression Formula

Our aggression formula is the process we use with dogs to overcome any type of aggression.  The three steps are:

  1. Achieve high levels of obedience.  I always tell dog owners that we aren’t going to solve aggression with basic obedience.  Only advanced obedience carries the power to help a dog overcome their aggression issues.
  2. Apply that obedience.  Once your dog learns higher levels of obedience you need to apply that obedience to your dog’s ‘aggressive triggers’.  Your dog can’t lunge, chase after, or attack if he or she has great obedience that allows you to have your dog stay, come, and heel no matter the circumstances.
  3. Correct the aggression.  You must correct the aggression in a way that makes complete sense to your dog.

Stay tuned to the site.  When the training is complete we’ll be posting the full case study.

In the mean time, check out our Curing Dog Aggression DVD program.

She Just Needs More Socialization!

Dog socializationThe call goes like this…

The owner is describing the dog’s anxiety, aggression, or otherwise nervous or anti-social behavior.  I’m hearing stories of attacks, lunging, barking, running away in fear, or other such symptom of aggression or anxiety.  The owner is at their wit’s end as the issues are causing them to hate going out in public, dread encounters in the street, and fear any interaction with other dogs.

Invariably the next, self-diagnosed, cause of action is blurted out,

“My dog just needs more socialization!”

The typical course of action that the owner is considering typically falls along the lines of:

  1. Going to the dog park more
  2. Going to group obedience classes

Folks, forgive me as I get frank.  If your dog is scared to the point of anxiety or aggression in the company of other dogs…what good will it serve your dog to be tossed in with other dogs?

If your dog acts aggressively around dogs and you keep throwing him or her around piles of other dogs at the dog park how on earth will your dog learn the skills for dealing with this stress in the company of everything that is making him stressed at a dog park?

If your dog has anxiety that manifests itself in anti-social or even violent ways, how will your dog benefit from being surrounded by a group of other dogs who are trying to be obedient and are likely a wild bunch themselves at a group obedience class?

Picture this.  This may or may not be true but go with me.

You are TERRIFIED of public speaking.  The very idea of it  gives you cold chills and standing up in public brings on bouts of immediate vomiting.

Now imagine if your well meaning spouse or significant other simply required you to keep getting up on that stage day after day to make you get over your fear.

What do you imagine the results would be?  Would you learn to get over your fear and deal with it?

Actually, that might happen.  It would depend, of course, on the setting of the public speaking, the level of inner strength you had to recognize inner anguish and compartmentalize that emotion enough to overcome it, and more.

Guess what, folks?

Dogs don’t posses those self-actualizing realizations of ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem.  I don’t feel good.  What can I do to change this?’

No, dogs are much more instinctual animals.  They are going to look for a coping mechanism for their stress and ‘dealing with the stress in a healthy and rational way’ typically isn’t in their holster.

More often than not the ‘fight or flight’ instinct will kick in and each successive return to that dog park is more terrifying than the last leading to a quicker draw from that holster into the fight or flight response.

You see, the person on stage in front of 1000 may eventually figure it out and get partially or entirely over their fear.

Or they may simply grow to dread their obligatory nightly presence in front of that crowd and simply learn to cope by public speaking, but public speaking in an awful way.  Perhaps, in this imaginary scenario, their adaptation method is to simply blurt out a few unintelligible words as they quickly run off stage, therefore completing their obligation to ‘publicly speak’.

This is one of the paths I’ve seen the dog take.  In the scenario where the owner insists that the dog simply needs more socialization and takes the dog to the dog park multiple times per week more often than not the dog simply keeps getting worse and quicker to make bad decisions.  But in scenarios where the dog doesn’t appear to get worse more often I see them learn coping mechanisms which, plainly put, just suck.

I see that dog slinking around the dog park, doing his very best to simply avoid contact with other dogs.  He’s not growing or working through a problem.  He’s simply replacing one problem with another.

So what is the solution, you may ask?  No more socialization?  What about if that guy NEEDS to get on stage because his job depends on it.

Very good question.

The answer is not, NO SOCIALIZATION.  Simply, the answer is socialization in a way that is healthy and positive.

This requires a few things:

  • Preparation.  If that guy is terrified to get on stage don’t you think he’ll benefit from some extensive training on how to deal with stress in groups?  Don’t you think some instructive training on proper ways to construct a speech, how to gesture, intonations, and breathing exercise would benefit him a ton and send him into his scary scenario with learned skills?  Of course.  Sadly, most dog owners don’t do this.  They’ve determined that the answer is simply ‘socialization’ so they throw their dog into the proverbial lions den without having taught him any skills for how to deal with the demons that reside there.  Preparation means training.  Teaching the dog how to relax.  Teaching the dog impulse control and self control.
  • Pacing.  If that man is terrified of crowds of 1000, how about starting him with a crowd of 3?  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a terrified dog be thrown into the Thunder Dome that is the average dog park only to find him or herself completely overwhelmed by second 2.  Now, in the past I’ve never been shy about my distaste for dog parks.  Even if you have a well adjusted dog I think you should avoid them like the plague.  But wherever your dog is right now in his or her ability to tolerate stress that is a threshold.  If your dog’s threshold is no dogs, get him to one.  If it’s one, get him to two.  If it’s two get him to three and so on.
  • Structure.  I’ve mentioned that pacing is pretty important.  Having said that, if you are skilled or are working with a skilled person you can often speed up pace if you have structure.  For example, we’ll often have a dog who can’t handle the presence of one other dog and we can often introduce that dog into a training group of a dozen almost immediately.  We can do this because we can create structure within the group of dogs and within the dog that is entering.  I’m not saying that you SHOULD pace things quickly.  I’m simply saying that at whatever pace you go make sure that you are creating proper structure within the group and the new addition.
  • Obedience.  If you want to get your dog’s ‘mind right‘ in order to have successful socialization the best way to do that is on the back of solid obedience training.  No, I’m not talking about sit for a cookie or shake or roll over.  I’m talking about solid obedience that can be relied on even when your dog is distracted or off leash.  As I’m prone to say, you aren’t going to solve aggression or anxiety issues with good obedience.  You need excellent obedience.

Folks, socialization IS important.  But socialization is NOT throwing your dog into a group of other dogs to hope he or she works out those stress issues on his or her own without having been taught skills for dealing.  Those skills for dealing are not going to be learned at the dog park and they are not going to be learned in basic obedience classes.  Happy Training!

Reader Question- Overcoming Dog Aggression (Video)

Overcoming Dog Aggression

The following question about overcoming dog aggression came in from a reader of our site-

Thanks for the quick reply, Ty!

Banzai is only aggressive toward other dogs, but absolutely loves every person he meets.  We got him as a 7 month old runt from a breeder who didn’t think he would sell but then changed her mind because of his sweet nature and wanted him to have a family. He lived outside, there were other dogs, and what sold us was he was so very friendly! We also had an 8 yr old min pin (Batgirl, who we just put down @16, sniff, sniff), and thought she could use a playmate and it would help to keep her young, and they got along great! Banzai went thru his obedience class at PetSmart, and passed, and there were trips to the vet for vaccinations where he was always friendly to other dogs. Then on one particular vet visit, we were in the waiting room (we’d only had him about a month at this point) where he was friendly to other dogs, then a bigger dog comes in and he goes ballistic out of nowhere-this other dog did nothing! He had seen and been friendly to other big dogs before, so I’m not sure what precipitated this. And ever since then, it’s been ‘guard dog’ aggressiveness toward other dogs (except Batgirl!). We tried to socialize him on our own, but our attempts scared us into trying further for fear of injury to another dog (should’ve been the motivator, I know). Banzai did have TPLO surgery at 2yrs of age and there were several complications, which finally resolved in time. It explained why he was never a good walker, but even after the surgery he still will stop on a dime and lie down in the middle of a walk, but he pulls and pulls so we don’t take him really anymore. We have a huge yard but I know now that is no excuse. He sees the vet as needed as well as yearly, and takes arthritis meds regularly.

Banzai does bark at people walking by our fence, and once he was barking at a girl on her phone (we live next to a park) and she stuck out her palm, face up, and he just licked it! She laughed and petted him and shared the story with her friends (I was watching from the upstairs window, knowing she was not in harms way). A few years back a Chow Chow that lived up the street would get out and literally attack Banzai over the fence. Yes, Banzai would bark at him, but the dog was running loose and came up to our fence and Banzai was just protecting his territory.  Banzai received puncture wounds from the fight and got antibiotics for his trouble. The Chow and his family moved away shortly after that, thank goodness. We have since built up the fence so this wouldn’t happen anymore.

Batgirl was the alpha for several years until her senses started to fade, but there was no aggressiveness, just ‘rudeness’, I’d say. Banzai would barrel past her running up the stairs or going into the house, sometimes knocking her aside. She would learn to step aside or hold back if she knew Banzai was coming. We would correct him or try to hold him back every time but he still did it. He would growl on their giant pet bed if she got too close, but she couldn’t hear so he just didn’t take it farther than that. They still licked each other and played together fine.

Banzai is not the most obedient– usually comes when you call him, and will chew things if not supervised, but he is very loving to all he meets.The fault lies solely with me, I take the blame for not pursuing his training further, and am ashamed of that. Why now? Well, Banzai seems lonely since Batgirl died (it’s only been 1 month), and I know that Banzai helped to keep Batgirl young and I’m hoping we can get another dog so he can stay young, too. We always respond to our pet’s medical needs, feed quality food, and play with them a lot. We also have 3 parrots, and a 100 pound tortoise who lives outside but has a shed he goes in and out from. Banzai just accepts these other animals with friendly avoidance. He never has potty accidents (sorry so random, just thought of that!).

I will follow your program to the letter, and carry on the training with our new dog, as well. Already I’m so happy to have found your program!

Sincerely,

Cindy

The Following Video Outlines Some Strategies for Solving Dog Aggression

Overcoming Dog Aggression on YouTube

Ideas for Your Aggression Problem

Here are a few ideas for helping him as a starting point:

  • Think about putting him on a raw diet
  • Look into getting his thyroid levels checked.  Ask the veterinarian to check his T3 levels
  • Work on proper leash walking.  A structured walk where your dog is paying attention to you doesn’t leave room to be thinking about other dogs.
  • Work on ‘checks and balances’ around the home.

Dog Training- Two Female Dogs Together

Two female dogs lounging together

Two Female Dogs- Aggression Problems

At my Utah dog training company we get several clients per year who have two dogs, sometimes two female dogs other times two male dogs, who are fighting in the home.  In most of these cases we actually find that the dogs were getting along for months or even years at a time.  In most of these cases there was some sort of ‘aggression trigger’ that started one initial fight.  These triggers have been varied, it could be a fight over food, over a toy or over and object in the yard.  In other cases we’ve seen it happen when two dogs were hooked together.

Regardless of how it started we often see that the initial fight quickly leads to other fights and other problems.  In many of these cases we’ve seen how the relationship between the two female dogs was one where there was an obvious dominant dog and an obvious submissive dog…but now the submissive dog is no longer willing to take the domineering attitude from the more dominant dog.

In any case, this is a common scenario that we run into several times a year.  There can, at times, be variations with some of the variables.  It’s not always two female dogs or two male dogs, perhaps it’s a mixture, or perhaps there are three dogs, but often the other elements remain the same.

The Case Study

While this is a common scenario we see in our training company in Salt Lake City, it’s also a common reason why dog owners invest in our dog training DVDs.  One such person is Tiffani in Illinois.  She invested in our training DVDs but also ordered our dog training with Skype.

A few weeks ago she and I got to work through Skype.  She told me a similar story to one I’ve heard many times.  She has two female dogs who aren’t getting along and she’s even had to resort to keeping them entirely separated throughout the day.  I wanted to take a minute to share this blog post on exactly what protocol I take when dealing with aggression under one roof:

  • The first thing we need to do is start getting the relationship in order.  Whenever I see dogs fighting in the same home I also see dogs who aren’t terribly respectful to the owners.  These things go hand in hand.  In order to solve relationship issues obedience training is the name of the game.  If a dog listens to obedience commands it means that the dog is putting the owner’s will first.  The more that occurs the more we see the calming influence of the obedience enter into the dog’s life.
  • The first obedience item I recommended is proper leash walking.  When I say ‘proper leash walking’ I refer to a dog who is paying attention and walking right next to the owner’s side.  This has a huge effect in getting a dog to see the owner in a leadership role.  In fact, focused walking tends to have what I call a ‘collateral effect’.  The better the dog walks on leash the better behaved overall the dog becomes…even with behaviors that aren’t even related to leash walking.
  • When we’ve got two dogs in the same home fighting we need strategies for even getting the dogs near each other.  I had Tiffani start working on the ‘place’ command.  We need to teach the dogs to be in the same room and under control.

Aggression Case Study- The Current Results

We’ve only just started the process but so far so good.  You can see in the upper left hand corner of the article how the dogs are lying in ‘place’ close to each other.  This placing in the same room will be big in helping the dogs learn to re-acclimate to each other.

Additionally Tiffani tells me, “We went on a walk this morning and we passed a dog for the first time without any noise or reaction – Yahoo!”  Previously, before working on our ‘crazy man method’ for teaching proper leash walking her dog would ‘flip out’ when she saw other dogs.

She also says, “Thank you so much for working with me, it is great…. I don’t think I can ever get too much teaching in this area as I have realized that I need more work on my timing and praise.  I was correcting a lot of the time but forgetting to praise when she did it right.  I’m growing with her.”

The reality is, folks, that there is no need for lots of trial and error.  Anything you are dealing with has already been dealt with.  I wanted to share this brief case study as two dogs fighting in the same house can be a very stressful thing to deal with.  We’ve got a long way to go with Tiffani and her dogs but in short order, with the right tools, the right techniques, and some good work from the owners, we’re already seeing nice results.

You can see this, too.  There are always formulas and protocols to work on whatever issue you are dealing with.  The key is finding the right techniques and getting to work.  I encourage you to set aside any excuses that you may have previously had in not getting the right results with your dog and getting to work!  Happy training.

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