Kinds of Training: Aggression
In-house dog fights might be the most difficult thing to experience; having dogs who live together fight is incredibly stressful.
Rucca and Bentley
Rucca and Bentley's owners were dealing with their dogs fighting for over a year before they worked with me. During that time they'd worked with other trainers and most recently their veterinarian who suggested removing Rucca's teeth, which they did, but it didn't stop the fighting.
Four months pregnant with their first child, the couple felt a sense of urgency to resolve the situation. With that urgency came a resolute commitment to make the changes necessary to create harmony in their home -- after all, there was a baby coming in July.
After training with me for 3 weeks, the dogs returned home in March and for the next 3 months their owners changed everything about their relationship with each dog and between the dogs. I do not think they'd say it was easy, but I do know they'd say it was worth it.
As often happens when you address a behavioral issue with your dog, you end up experiencing improvement in every other respect of your dog: calmer, more relaxed, listens readily, and simply more fun to be around. Rucca and Bentley are enjoying all the benefits of strong leadership from their owners, and vice versa!
Trusting their dogs to move freely & unsupervised around the house was a big milestone for Rucca and Bentley's owners. This didn't happen over night but as their mom says, she saw small moments between them that helped build her trust that their state of mind was no longer one that would cause a fight.
When dealing with aggression, it's important to have realistic expectations of the rehabilitation. Each dog, and frankly each dog and owner combination, is unique and greatly impacts how "far" the rehabilitation can go. That an aggressive dog could become "bomb proof", 100% trust worthy in any situation, is probably not the case. But it is fair to expect that an aggressive dog can be rehabilitated and live successfully and happily with his family as well as enjoy outings where his exposure to various kinds of pressure is well-managed.
The Vizsla, Benson, arrived for training as a 2 year old fear aggressive dog to both humans and other dogs. Especially tricky for his owners was that his initial greeting seemed fine and then a moment later he would snap at the person or dog. His aggressive behavior towards the mailman got his family a federal letter of complaint... they were headed in the wrong direction.
To add insult to injury, this dog who loved to run couldn't be trusted off leash because he would absolutely not come back when called.
With a 3-week training program followed by a 3-week boot camp at his owners' house, Benson's confidence grew by leaps and bounds. The anxiety that had plagued him earlier was certainly part of his DNA. But it grew strong and out of control in a home environment that gave him 100% affection without the balance of rules, boundaries, and structure.
His training happened in February of 2015 and I'm still seeing updates of his new normal which allows him the freedom to be off leash with a terrific recall and the ability to be among dogs and people alike -- including the mail man -- without barking, lunging, or biting.
This two year old Japanese Spitz arrived showing lots of aggression to strangers and since I was the stranger taking the picture, I got the brunt of it. The fact is as soon as the owners left, as is often the case with even severe behavioral issues like his, Xing Xing calmed down.
That didn't mean we didn't have a lot of work to do, but it did highlight that although very loving and affectionate with him, his owners hadn't been showing him leadership which would allow him to feel comfortable and confident around them.
Leadership can be as simple as telling a dog "no" when he does something wrong -- which for Xing Xing might have been the first time he gave an uneasy, low growl towards a stranger. It's really just guidance, feedback on what's okay to do and what's not.
He also developed strong impulse control while he was here. It's that impulse control that lets a dog think about their response to stimuli instead of just reacting. When a dog is clear headed enough to think they are able to listen to the input you're giving them and eventually they're able to make the right choice on their own.
The final piece of the puzzle is giving the owners information on how to establish a new, leadership relationship with their dog. For Xing Xing, this was critical as the first two years of his life he was given lots of affection and soft energy but no rules and boundaries. His owners experienced the beneficial impact of giving him structure, rules, and boundaries, not only on his behavior but also his state of mind that allowed him to be calm and relaxed.
Two year old pit bull, George, arrived with some serious dog fights under his belt. Not only was he getting into fights with dogs that were in his close personal space but he was charging across dog parks to attack dogs at the other end.
Before working with me, his owners had some success with other trainers and had invested in a lot of the same tools I use: prong collar and e-collar. However, what they hadn't tried before was getting George into a calmer, more relaxed default state of mind and at the same time creating a leadership relationship with him,
This two pronged approach worked well for George and his owners. He learned solid impulse control which fed into his ability to be much more relaxed in all kinds of high distraction environments. His owners invested in changing their relationship with him. They embraced the notion that George actually felt better when they provided him rules and boundaries -- they certainly felt better about his behavior!
What Does Leadership and Discipline Look Like?
One of the things I see owners struggle with is differentiating between love and affection. Love takes many forms and only showing it through affection is shortchanging your dog. Giving leadership and discipline are powerful ways of showing your dog love that will also greatly improve his behavior.
I encourage you to shift your thinking from training as a finite activity to something more akin to how children are raised. Kids are expected to do a myriad of tasks every day -- from sitting respectfully in class at school, to sitting politely at the dinner table, to getting their homework done. Expecting equivilant behavior from your dog provides him discipline and structure. Just as we reinforce our expectations of our kids' behavior, we will have much better behaved dogs if we both expect and reinforce our expectations of their behavior. Having a well behaved dog is practicing little acts of leadership and discipline every day. It's the little things, and they're cumulative.
7-month old, Rambo, is living up to his name in attitude, if not in stature. At 8 pounds, this (adorable!!) Pomeranian may not be a danger, but he is a menace. Not realizing he got the golden ticket with owners who want to take him everywhere, including into the office, he has developed the bad habit of telling people to back off... with his teeth! Granted, 90% of the time he's happy to get any and every human's attention, but that other 10% is wreaking havoc. Although he's got a bite record and some separation anxiety to boot, the plan is he'll stay here just two weeks instead of a longer 3 or 4 which that behavior might typically warrant. At 7 months old and after hearing the kind of daily routine he's had so far, I think introducing structure and boundaries to his young psyche will go a long way in improving his state of mind and then consequently his behavior. His owners -- very awesome & dedicated to giving him what he needs -- are ready to make some changes to the way they interact with him to make sure his new good behavior lasts with them. I'm confident they've got what it takes and soon his name will be 100% ironic. □ □ #pomeranian #dogsofinstagram #dogtraining #dogbehaviormodification #sanfranciscobayareadogtraining #sanjosedogtraining #ecollardogtraining #balanceddogtraining #oliverstravelsdogtraining
A photo posted by Virginia Dickson (@oliverstravelsdogtraining) on