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Is Your Dog Sick? (You May Not Even Know)

Dog trainingDog Training- Many Dogs are Sick

There is a principle of dog training that I often talk of with our clients.

That concept is of illness vs. symptoms.

When I’m sharing this concept I’ll often tell someone to picture that they’ve got pneumonia.  They’ve got a fever, their nose is running, they’re coughing, and they’ve got pain in their chest and their head.

Now imagine that the doctor sees this person and says, “Alrighty, let’s get you some aspirin.  That will fix you right up!”

What would your thoughts be?

I’m no doctor but a simple google search tells me that pneumonia is caused by bacteria, virus, and even fungi.  If you’ve got a serious case of pneumonia and the doctor sends you home with a bottle of aspirin you may get some temporary relief from a headache or body pain but the underlying illness isn’t touched at all by this regimen.

How does this compare to your dog?

This exact same concept applies to your dog and your dog training efforts.

When you’ve got a dog with aggression problems the aggressive behaviors are simply the symptoms.  The underlying cause is typically a need for leadership that is more clear, a need for better understanding of structure and obedience, and a willingness to work within a system.

When you’re dealing with some serious dog destruction the fact that your dog chewed up your slippers or your couch is the symptom.  The illness hiding beneath the surface is often a lack of supervision, not enough mental or physical stimulation, or other issues.

When you’ve got a ‘dog who doesn’t listen’ what you’ve really got is an underlying disease of you, the dog owner, not knowing how to clearly communicate what you want from your dog.

So what is the best way to treat a disease?  Is it wrong to treat the symptom?  I personally don’t think so.  In the case of pneumonia perhaps you take the aspirin for short term relief AND you take antibiotics to kill the underlying illness.  Herein lies the problem for most dog owners.

The problem for the average dog owner

The problem is that the average dog owner typically wants to treat the symptom.  The questions we get often include:

‘How do I get my dog to stop acting aggressive to other dogs/guests/people/etc.?’

They aren’t asking- ‘How can I help my dog not feel the need to be aggressive?’

People will ask:

‘How do I punish my dog for chewing or digging?’

The question they fail to ask is- ‘What needs of my dogs are going unfulfilled so that he’s being destructive?’

I always encourage our clients to start asking different questions.  The questions need to be asked from a foundation sense; what part of my dog’s foundation is incorrect such that he or she is displaying this behavior?

Instead we’ve trained ourselves as people to look for the quick fix.

‘Tell me what to do to stop the dog from doing this now!’ is the common mindset we get when people email us through our website.

Most people want to hear that super-special word, or look, or thing you can do with your hand so that the dog stops being aggressive RIGHT NOW!

Or they want to know the secret formula of gross sauce they can put on their shoes to stop the dog from chewing TODAY!

The irony is that if you work on treating the root causes of your dog’s ‘training illnesses’ you’ll often overcome your problems much faster than if you tried to treat the symptom.  In nearly every case we come across treating the root causes entail:

  • Solid obedience training.  No, I’m not referring to ‘sit for a cookie’.  I’m talking about a level of training where your dog is obedient in the face of distractions.  Without treats.
  • Good exercise.  Being a member of the animal kingdom and not getting exercise can be a recipe for disaster.
  • Proper supervision.  Dog owners are too quick to want to give their dogs freedom before their dogs have earned that freedom.
  • Common sense.  Not everyone has to be dog savvy.  But do try to think of potential outcomes and prepare for them with every scenario with your dog.

Treat the root cause of the illness and the symptom and your training efforts will be rewarded.

Integration Dog Training- (Video)

Integration Dog Training

At my Salt Lake City dog training company we work with hundreds of dogs per year.  One thing that is almost a universal constant, though, amongst our dog training clients is that they have little time to get their dog trained.  Life tends to get in the way.  Whether it’s work commitments, family projects and activities, hobbies, or other time users it is uncommon that we have a client that has hours a day to devote to their dog training efforts.

What we’ve done over the years is develop a unique, yet simple, system that we call ‘Integration Dog Training’.  Although it’s simple in concept it’s a game changer when it comes to getting the results you want from your training efforts.

What it entails is simply ‘training as you go’.  It means being ready for training moments as they present themselves and being prepared and proactive enough to recognize those moments and train them.  Let me give you an example with a video below:

Integration Dog Training- Video

Integration Dog Training on Youtube

This is just a quick little video but the concept is very meaningful to you as a dog owner.  Let’s examine just a few things that are going on in the video:

  • On the way into the home our trainer, Joe, is working on off leash heeling.  He had taken them out to the bathroom which means they were already outside.  He merely was integrating the training and taking advantage of the short walk back to the house to work on their off leash heeling.
  • Going into the home he took just a quick moment to have the dogs wait.  Why not?  You’re already going through a doorway with your dog.  Take an extra 5 seconds, integrate your dog training efforts, and have them wait before coming in.  It’s an easy time to train and it helps the dogs come in with a calm state of mind.
  • Coming into the house Joe didn’t let the dogs go nuts and run around.  He kept them on point and on task.
  • Finally, before sitting down to eat dinner Joe had the dogs go to their ‘place’ command.  Dinner time is a great time to train because you’re sitting down, you might as well integrate your training and have the dogs stay put while you eat.

Was there anything super-profound in this video?  Not really.  Yet I’ve rarely met the dog owner who has decided on his or her own to start integrating their training.  When you integrate your training into your daily life:

  • Your dog gets trained to a higher level.  Think about it.  Most people picture training as putting the leash on, grabbing the bag of treats, and going to the living room or backyard or park to work on specific skills.  Dogs are smart, though, and soon know your ‘game’.  They’ll likely comply during training but, who cares?  I don’t need my dog to be obedient when nothing is going on.  I need my dog to be obedient when someone rings the doorbell, when we encounter other dogs on the street, or when I’ve got guests over.  By integrating your training you train for real life and the dogs get trained to higher levels.
  • Your life gets easier.  All those hours of training that need to happen in order for your dog to become fully trained just got easier by making them fit in while you watch TV, eat dinner, walk through doors, take your dog out to the bathroom, etc.

So how can you do Integration Dog Training?

Integration Dog Training- Simple Steps

There are a few simple things you can do to for this type of dog training:

  • Leave a leash on your dog.  In the beginning stages of ANY training program I like to leave a leash on the dog even around the house.  This makes it simple to grab the leash were I need to guide or correct.  Most people make the fatal mistake of attempting to train their dogs verbally.  Dogs don’t learn that way.  Leave a leash on your dog so you can teach rather than tell.
  • Always back up your commands.  Fatal mistake #2 is giving commands that you aren’t able or willing to see through.  Your dog will see through you on this and will not obey.
  • Make it easy.  Don’t try to kill yourself getting tons of training done every day.  Simply let your day flow and allow the training to happen around that.

Video- Dog Training Reader Question

Dog Training Reader Question:

The following is a question from one of our clients:

I am looking for some personalized advice from Ty about one of my dogs.  Overall, everything is going great, and I am making great strides with the basic obedience using Ty’s methods in the DVDs. I have a 4 year old Am-Staff mix named Lucy who is obedient about 65-70% of the time. When she’s not is when she gets into trouble with other dogs. I’ve done a lot of reading and research on aggressive behavior, and I stumbled across Ty by accident while reading a rescue blog. I am so glad that I did because the way he teaches is exactly what I was looking for. I have some experience training, as I trained my now 14 year old yellow lab to do some competitive obedience when I was a teenager. He was a breeze to train because he was willing to learn and eager to please. Lucy is absolutely the love of my life, but she is stubborn and has a mind of her own. She isn’t a terrible aggression case, but she gets snippy from time to time when around new dogs, especially if those dogs are acting out (for example, when another dog excitedly tries to get to us while passing by on a walk). I’m tired of being embarrassed by her occasional outbursts, so I’ve been scouring the internet and books for a solution. Already, things in the videos are working to get her much more consistently listening to me. We have a long road of practice ahead, but her heel command has already come a long way.

What I wanted to ask Ty about is more specific to Lucy’s personality. I rescued her at about a year old. She came from an inner city shelter and was clearly not taken care of before I got her. She seems to me to have been beaten at some point. She’s naturally fearful, and is specifically very fearful of objects touching her. If you approach her with anything in your hands she jumps away or cowers. I have never, in the 3 years I’ve owned her, hit her with any object. She came to me with this behavior already engrained in her. She’s also suspicious of unknown things. For example, it was my husband’s birthday recently, and I brought in a bunch of helium balloons, and she’s terrified of them. She’ll co-exist with them when they’re up by the ceiling standing still, but if I move them, she runs away and hides. I can coax her out and make her lay near me while I hold them near her, but she is clearly terrified the whole time. In the past, I’ve tried to work on this issue, but the training methods I came across were very treat based, and it frankly just hasn’t worked at all. For example, she is very afraid of being touched by a frisbee, and the manuals I was using say bring the frisbee close to her and give her a million treats while slowly moving it closer. It does little to nothing for her. She remains just as afraid no matter how many treats I give her in the presence of a frisbee. I did this exercise many times with little improvement. She will pick up the frisbee and play with it on her own, but if I hold it and bring it near her, she’s very afraid.

This suspicious attitude also comes across when we’re training. I have done lots and lots of the crazy man method with her, and overall, it has tremendously improved her heel command. When there are little or minimal distractions, she’s basically 100% at my side now, and when there are distractions, she’s about 60-70% obedient. This is a big step up for us, and it’s improving every time. What I’m still struggling with is how hard it is to get her to be eager about listening. My other dog, who I’m also using Ty’s methods on, is naturally EXTREMELY eager to please. Crazy man has worked wonders on him, and he heels like a champion no matter what now. It’s really fun to walk with him because he is so absolutely in sync with what I want from him. He would also sit or lay down on hot coals if I asked him to. He has that trainability factor. Lucy on the other hand, is reluctant and stubborn. When doing the crazy man, she tends to hang back a little bit, and isn’t snappy about changing directions. She does it, but it isn’t eagerly. She’s the kind of dog that when I ask her to sit, and the ground is wet or cold, she half sits and hovers above it. She’s very stubborn.

Basically, my two questions are 1. What is your suggested approach to her fear behaviors? and 2. How do I make her more eager to learn without treating her to death?

I really, really appreciate any personalized advice. I love my dogs more than life, and I respect Ty’s methods wholeheartedly.

Thank you again,


Dog Training Video Response

Press play below to watch my response to her question:

Watch Dog Training Video Response On Youtube

Dog Training Response Summarized

1- You are correct about treat training, it doesn’t inspire change because it doesn’t challenge a dog to challenge it’s boundaries.  It only challenges the dog as far as he or she likes a treat.

2- I always think in terms of mindset meaning; what is the dog’s mindset or state of mind when it encounters that distraction.  If I don’t like the mindset how can I change it?  I often find that a dog’s mind follows the body so we need to train the body to just be and to relax.  A down stay or a place command while you have balloons around does not allow the dog to go into the flight response.  A dog, when stressed, has only three options; fight, flight, and avoidance.  Flight is like mental atrophy and if we can get rid of that response through a down stay then the dog must stay around the object that caused the fear and learn to adapt.

3- It may sound contradictory at first but I also like to introduce stress while moving.  If you had her focused and on a walk and just started holding the frisbee and then graduated to getting it closer, etc. you could see some results.  The point I want to get at is that a dog is not a multi-tasker.  She can’t be thinking of many things at once.  So if you oblige her to walk properly it doesn’t give her room to be thinking hard about other things which allows her mind to then accept those things.

4- As far as more eager a few ideas I have are: 1- Over exaggerated with praise.  For example, when she’s lagging a bit while walking pat your leg and really ‘up’ the praise.  2- Continue focusing on obedience overall.  The adage that dogs want to please their masters is true, but only if they see you as the master.  The better your obedience becomes overall the more bonded you’ll become and the more her desire to please you will increase.  3- Watch your timing.  Make it very clear that a correction is a corrrection and praise is praise.  A lot of dogs are hesitant and that can be confused for stubborn.  When you make the boundaries incredibly clear for them it allows them to trust you and trust the system much easier and you’ll see a dog ‘lighten up’ as a result.

Dog Training Case Study

Dog Training Case Study- Aggressive Behavior

The other day I sat down with Glenn Sherrill of TrainPlayLive to talk with some of his dog training clients about some fairly extreme cases of aggressive behavior.  You can see the first dog training discussion we had at my previous post.In this second conversation from the same day we sit down with the owner of a rescue dog.  The dog is either a Pit Bull mix or an American Staffordshire terrier mix. Unfortunately, the dog is displaying some very odd cases of dog aggression including biting people seemingly without warning. Listen to the entire call here:

Dog Training Case Study- The Call

Press Play to listen below:

Dog Training Case Study- Conclusion

To be honest, this was a difficult dog training call for me.  All behavior follows patterns and rules and precedents.  Even when dogs are displaying horribly anti-social behavior and aggressiveness those behaviors STILL follow rules.  There are rules that govern fear and aggression, etc.  Granted, these are dogs who are acting inappropriately but they are doing so in a way that follows patterns. In this case I found it hard to identify causation for the bites.  My gut and my experience tells me the problem could be originating from two different areas:

  1. Medical issues- I have run across very odd aggression that seems to not follow rules a few times in my dog training career.  On a few of these occasions it has been determined that there was a medical/hormonal/disease that was the underlying cause.  Not being a veterinarian I wouldn’t know exactly what to check for but I’d definitely look for tumors, hormonal imbalances, amongst other problems.  It’s definitely possible that this is an issue that will need much more than training in order to overcome.
  2. There is an underlying need for more structure, rules, leadership, etc.

Throughout my career I believe I’ve become very good at pinpointing the issues behind inappropriate behavior in dogs.  Every now and then a case comes my way, though, that reminds me to be humble.  For as much as anyone can understand a subject there are plenty of times when you realize how little you know.  This case was one of those and will be an interesting listen as you discover the precise thought process that we dog trainers go through when diagnosing cases of extreme aggression or other such problems.

Enjoy and happy training!

Dog Training Brainstorm Session- Aggressive Rottweiler

Dog Training Brainstorm- How To Solve Aggression Issues

As dog trainers we often like to get together to talk and remind each other how smart we are.  I had the privilege recently to get together with Glenn Sherrill of Train Play Live  and some of his clients to talk about dog training issues.

Glen has been running a successful dog training company in North Carolina but we often find it helpful to talk about dog training issues just to see if there are other perspectives that may be helpful.

In this first call we are talking with the owners of a Rottweiler.  The dog is quite dominant and displays that personality through growling and other dominance related behaviors.  The dog has also upset the balance with the other dogs in the family and it has led to fights and other problems.

Listen below to this short call and see if there are training key points that you can take from the call that can help you with your own dog.

Dog Training- Listen To The Call

Press play below to listen in:

Dog Training- Keys To Solving The Problem

When dealing with any aggression issue there are key points that must be considered that apply here:

  • We must correct the aggression but we want to do it in a way that doesn’t escalate the aggression.  Correcting the dog while getting him to move, instead of challenging the owner, can be helpful.  The movement will change his frame of mind and allow him to accept and learn from the correction.
  • Obedience is key.  I preach this to all of my clients regardless of the dog training problem they are experiencing.  If you have great obedience training that means that you have a dog who is calmer, more respectful, and sees you in a leadership role.
  • Remember with dog aggression that you can’t just treat the symptoms.  I often compare aggression to a disease where you have a root cause that allows symptoms to manifest themselves.  The symptoms are the growling, the fighting, and the other dominant behavior.  The root cause, though, is a lack of a proper relationship, a lack of structure, a lack of understanding of what should be the rules.  From those ‘lacks’ we see aggression develop.
  • Give this dog ‘checks and balances’.  That means that he should be ‘working’ throughout the day.  He should be waiting at doors, staying off furniture, sitting before eating, heeling properly on leash, coming when called every time, etc.  These are frequent and constant reminders of the expectations he has.

Case Study Update- Aggressive Dogs At The Pet Hotel

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.

A Dog That Won’t Come When Called

A Dog That Won’t Come When Called

A dog that won’t come when called is one of the biggest obedience challenges that people have.

The following question comes in from one of our readers:

HI Ty,
I REALLY LIKE YOUR TRAINING.  My puppy, Jewel, is 11 months old and she is part Shepherd. I rescued her from Southern Jewel Rescue.  She is a very sweet puppy and smart.  When we are in the house she will come when I call her, but outside, when I say” here” she thinks I am playing.  She is very fast so I put her on her leash and let her run in the big yard, she runs in a circle like a horse and when I call her she grabs the leash and starts pulling it and me all over.  Then I tell her to leave it!   She takes a while, finally she lets go.  I know she is still a puppy and all she wants to do is play.
I did buy your dogbehavioronline.com about 4 years ago, but my computer broke down now and  I can’t get it back.  So if you could please send a video on teaching her to come when called I would really appreciate it.  I miss having the program.
Thank You,
The following is my response:

A Dog That Won’t Come When Called On Youtube

A dog that won’t come when called- Key Points

  • First you need to train the dog to stop grabbing the leash.  It’s tough with a dog that won’t come when called if you can’t even use the leash to train.  I recommend getting a 20 foot long line and a pinch collar.  When she goes to grab the leash give quick leash corrections to get her to stop.  If needed, you could try vinegar or hot sauce on the leash to get her to stop grabbing it.
  • During the training stages with a dog that won’t come when called it’s important to always be ready to back up your commands.  If you can’t back it up, don’t say the command.
  • Now that the dog isn’t grabbing the leash and pulling you around it’s important for you to start training the ‘here’ command.  Give her the command and if she doesn’t immediately come then give a quick pop on the leash as a reminder.  When she does start to come praise her heavily.

A dog that won’t come when called- Resources

We’ve got many resources on this site for helping you with training a dog to come, obedience, aggression, puppy training and more.

If you’re looking for our new programs that include working with a dog that won’t come when called, extreme behavior problems, advanced obedience then check out the link for more information.

Case Study- Aggressive Dogs and Pet Hotels

This is one of the rescue dogs, aside from the dogs with aggression problems, that we’re working with at the Pet Hotel.

I started working with a new ‘client’ today.  Her name is Andrea and she is the owner of a Pet Hotel here in the town where we’re living, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Andrea has been a dog lover her whole life.  For a long time she’d been helping out friends with their dogs when they went on vacation.  She told me that she finally got so tired of helping for free that she opened up her Pet Hotel.

I met her at the library recently and found out she is living right down the street from me.

Andrea has two dogs that have to stay next door at her mother’s house because these two dogs are aggressive towards other dogs.  She’s also got a few rescue dogs that she’s essentially adopted that live at the pet hotel and interact with the dogs who come to stay with her.

She’s frustrated because she can’t have her two pit bull mixes around the other dogs and she’s even had situations where these two dogs have attacked other dogs.  We sat down today and I outlined for her the prescription that I want to apply to her and her dogs over the next couple months so we can see some progress.

Here is the plan I laid out for her:

  • We first need to establish some great obedience.  Obedience comes from a calm state of mind and aggression comes from the opposite.  The more we get solid obedience the more we kick out the aggressive state of mind.  Also, obedience leads to solid leadership and a dog that sees it’s owner as a leader is much less likely to be aggressive.
  • Once we’ve established great obedience we need to start applying that obedience to moments where the dogs are likely to be aggressive.
  • I need to show Andrea how to properly correct the dogs when they are acting aggressively.

This is the plan that I set out for her, it’s the same plan I outline in detail in my dog aggression course, and I’ve got years of experience showing that this is going to help her start to see progress with her dog aggression issues very quickly if she does what I lay out for her.

Today we started working on some obedience exercises like proper leash walking and how to stay.

I foresee a few challenges that we’ll have to get over if we’re going to see the progress she wants:

  • These dogs are mostly loose in the yard at her mom’s house.  They don’t get a lot of structure and giving them structure is going to be a challenge.  There is no fence and the dogs are sometimes tied out but sometimes just end up wandering in the jungle and the surrounding neighborhood for hours.
  • The female is the worse of the two dogs and she is very lazy.  What that means is that she doesn’t pull on the leash, doesn’t jump on people, and doesn’t cause too many problems outside of the moments when she’s around other dogs.  It’s my experience that a lot of dogs like her can ‘float under the radar’ a bit.  Because they aren’t causing a hassle, except in specific moments, a lot of owners find themselves less motivated to get out there and work on leash walking and other behaviors.  What is important is that she gets a lot of training, even though it may not feel like she needs it as much.
  • The male is not fixed.  He ends up wandering off their large property and finds himself in trouble.  He’s still young, about a year or so, so I think that getting him fixed could help a bit with fixing his aggression issue.
  • Andrea spends all of her time at the Pet Hotel so leaving the property to go to her mom’s to work with the dogs will be difficult.  I’ve run into this situation many times where the owner isn’t living with the dogs and it can make things very hard.  Luckily, the dogs are only 50 yards away but it still will be a challenge.
  • The female is incredibly dominant.  I pushed on her rear end just a bit to get her to sit when I came to a stop with some leash walking and she was so upset that someone was trying to tell her what to do that she tried to bite me.

Overall, we’ve got some big challenges but I’m hoping for the best.  I’ll keep you posted as the weeks go on.

There Is A Difference Between An Obedient Dog And A ‘Not Disobedient’ Dog

Obedient Dog vs. Not Disobedient

Okay, I know when you first read the title of this post it may seem a bit confusing.  ‘Obedient’ and ‘Not Disobedient’ basically sound like the same thing, right?  I maintain that, no, they are entirely different.

The difference that I’ve seen in these two descriptors can mean the difference between aggression problems and no aggression issues at all.  A destructive dog and a dog who is safe to leave home alone.  A dog that runs into traffic and a dog that stays by your side.

What Is An Obedient Dog?

Let me get a bit deeper into my meaning.

Throughout my career I’ve met hundreds of dogs who are, overall, good dogs.  They don’t typically chew things, they don’t typically get in fights or act aggressively.  People meet these kinds of dogs and generally comment on how nice, friendly, and well mannered they are.

Out of these dogs, though, I’ve met many that, with little change in their life, have developed aggression issues, destruction issues, and overall manners issues.

You see, there are many dogs that just aren’t prone to doing that much wrong.  They are calm dogs, perhaps house trained easily, and are generally more laid back.  As a result, their owners didn’t take much time or put in too much effort into formally and properly training these dogs.

What that means is that a lot of these dogs don’t really have much of a foundation in learning, discipline, cause and effect, etc.  Many dogs can go their whole lives and, because they don’t create too many problems, can essentially hover beneath the radar when it comes to their need for training.

The Hidden Danger In A ‘Not Disobedient’ Dog

I refer to these dogs that don’t have much training, but don’t do too many things wrong, as ‘not disobedient’ dogs.  If you asked this dog to sit and stay for 5 minutes he probably wouldn’t.  If you asked this dog to come when there were heavy distractions she most likely wouldn’t return.  If you wanted this dog to heel off leash it likely isn’t going to happen.

Based on those standards you can’t really call them ‘obedient dogs’ but because they are overall good dogs you can call them generally ‘not disobedient’ dogs.

Like I say, many of these dogs can go a lifetime and not cause heartburn for their owners.

Where I’ve met MANY of these dogs, though, is when there is a change in the dog’s life.  I’ve met many of these dogs when a new dog is introduced to the home.  The primary dog has generally got on well with dogs during his life but suddenly doesn’t like the change of a new dog and turns to aggression.

I’ve met many of these dogs when a life event occurs like a divorce, child being born, or the family moving to a new home.  In the face of change the dog turns to destruction, house training problems, or other anxiety related behaviors.

You see, these dogs didn’t have much of a foundation in structure to begin with.  When there is a change, big or small, the dog has nothing to fall back on.  The dog and owner likely have a good relationship but it also likely isn’t rooted in solid leader/follower protocols.

In the absence of this even small changes can send a dog into a tail spin.  That’s why we always recommend solid obedience training to all dog owners, whether their dog is a holy terror or simply a ‘not disobedient’ dog.

What The Amish Can Teach Us About Dog Training

Dog Training & The Amish

I was recently watching a show on television.  The show was about a group of Amish and Mennonite youth who left their homes in rural, small town America and went to live in the Big Apple.  The show was chronicling what their lives were like once they got so much freedom.  Freedom from rules, freedom from supervision, etc.  The whole point of the show was to marvel at cultural differences and to study the characters of those who are raised in one setting and then dropped in another.

The show reminded me of another show that I once saw about Amish Rumspringa.  Rumspringa is a time when many Amish youth leave their homes and some of them become very rebellious and wild and depart from the values they learned growing up.

You may be wondering what, on earth, this has to do with dog training.

First off, let me start out by saying that I have no opinion on the Amish faith.  My comments here are not directed towards their doctrine, their beliefs, or their ideals.  What I want to comment on, however, is what I call ‘Canine Rumspringa’.

You see, many people understand the value of supervision when it comes to their young puppies.  They get this 8 week old bundle of trouble and they set out on a program of supervision, care, and training.

Dog Training- ‘Canine Rumspringa’

Unfortunately, though, many of these same dog owners find that it is difficult.  In my company we get many new clients when the dogs are six months old to a year.  At this time these dogs are on their ‘Canine Rumspringa’.  The dog owners, once diligent with training and supervision, have essentially stopped and now they find their dogs rebellious, insolent, disobedient, and worse….just like many of the Amish teenagers who leave a sheltered life for the first time.

Now, I don’t pretend to know how to raise an Amish teenager.  Is it a good idea to raise a child with structure and rules only to abandon those rules in one fell swoop?  I doubt it, but it’s not my culture so I’m not going to judge.

I will tell you this, though, with 100% certainty.  Dog owners who give their dogs too much freedom too quickly will almost always regret it.

Dog Training- Too Much Freedom

When I talk about too much freedom too quickly what I refer to are actions like:

– Allowing a puppy free reign of the house when the puppy isn’t fully house trained or doesn’t have complete understanding of what is okay to chew and what isn’t.

– Taking a dog off leash in the front yard, park, dog park, or trail without having first off-leash trained the dog.

– Leaving a young dog in the back yard all day while the owners are gone at work.

– Allowing a young dog the freedom to play with children or other dogs without supervision.

These types of activities, amongst others, tend to lead to dogs with aggression issues, house training problems, destruction, obedience deficiencies, and more.

Raising and training a dog is all about going one step at a time.  A dog masters one thing and you move on to the next.  Too much freedom too quickly and you end up with a rebellious, disobedient dog.  Proper dog training requires a plan that you stick with long term.

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