External Control, No Self-Control

Monty, a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mixControlled in a dominant, ‘Alpha’ fashion, Monty gets rebellious and angry – and sometimes just a little scared.

He is a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mix. He is a strong dog both physically and mentally.

Doing his best to have his dog under control, the young male owner has been influenced by Cesar Milan, whose extensive TV coverage gives these methods some sort of authenticity. It’s not really suited to the young man’s own personality, but he’s doing what he can to be the ‘dominant Alpha’. Commands are harsh, the shouted word No is frequent and Monty is physically made to submit at times.

The dog isn’t taught what IS required of him and things are getting worse. He now has bitten the father so badly he ended up in hospital simply because the man was doing his best to ‘show who is boss’. In another situation where he ran off with the towel and the mother tried to get it off him, he bit her badly on the leg.

This is the typical and unnecessary fallout of using force and punishment-based methods. This young dog gets all his attention through doing ‘bad’ things.  He gets no reinforcement from being quiet and calm.

The young  owner isn’t happy with his own methods but just didn’t know what else to do. He is taking his responsibilities as a dog owner seriously but has to keep ramping up his own harshness as the dog becomes immune. It totally disempowers weaker members of the family who are unable to do this.

There is just one thing Monty was taught from the start using rewards and that is to go in his crate. It is now the one thing that he does happily and willingly.

Monty isn’t a vicious dog. He is a wilful and frustrated dog that doesn’t have understandable boundaries. Good behaviour, like lying down quietly, not jumping on people, not barking because people are talking and much more, simply isn’t acknowledged.

In my time there we clicked and treated every ‘good’ thing he did. We endured lots of barking in order to reward him when he stopped. When he lay down we rewarded him. When he sighed and relaxed we rewarded him. When he put his feet on the side we waited till they were on the floor and promptly clicked and rewarded him.

We need to turn things on their head – to get the humans thinking completely differently. To start with they will concentrate on’ accentuating the positive’ as the song says and by not inviting confrontation. I want them to drop the word ‘No’. This is going to take time and I hope everyone will be consistent, patient and resist shouting. Monty must be able to work things out for himself.

As our other strategies gradually fall into place, Monty should become a dog with good self-control with absolutely no need to bite anyone again.

Here is a brilliant clip demonstrating the total confusion and frustration that using ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ can cause.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good – as has happened in this case. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Giant Schnauzer Aggressive Around Food

Handsome Giant Schnauzer Ollie lying on the rugOllie the Giant Schnauzer is a wonderful dog to look at. He is also a wonderful dog temperamentally, friendly and confident – whilst being an adolescent who has been gradually becoming a bit big for his hairy boots!

They did choose the breed to be guard dog, but they want a family pet also, and the two don’t go well together.

Ollie’s big problem is extreme guarding around his food. He is now 19 months old, and about nine month ago he started to growl when anyone approached him while he was eating. Initially the gentleman (who does most of Ollie’s feeding) found that Ollie was OK so long as he held his food bowl for him while he ate (like his private butler!). Over the months they have tried scolding, punishment, encouraging him, spraying him with a pet ‘Corrector’, taking his food away, not taking his food away – basically everything that well-meaning friends and family, the dog trainer they go to or the Internet tells them to do. Dominance techniques are dangerous. Ollie is merely getting worse.

The growling has now developed to barking and snarling and they fear he would bite if they got too close. So they wisely leave him alone while he is eating, but now he comes looking for trouble! He will stand over his bowl and bark and then run in to them and bark before running back out to defend his food again!

It seems like he wants to goad the gentleman into a contest over who owns his food. It seems clear to me that they must not play his game which involves confrontation, whilst at the same time working from a psychological approach covering all aspects of their relationship with Ollie. Just shutting Ollie away to get on with his meal may be playing safe, but doesn’t resolve anything. The strategy involves working a bit at a time, probably over several weeks at least, showing that they are in control of all food (and everything else in Ollie’s life also), and that they are the providers and ‘givers’. Never ‘takers’. Oh why do some people advocate taking food away or interfering with a dog’s food while he is eating! Anyway, now he will get his food when, where and how the gentleman chooses, and a humans presence will be accompanied by good stuff – adding to his bowl.

He has another problem that needs ironing out, and that is pulling on lead. He has been going to dog training classes for many months, and if these particular training methods taught were working for Ollie, by now he would be walking nicely without constant correction and being commanded to heel! It amazes me that people are willing to put up with week after week of no progress outside of their training class, but they keep going (and then it’s quite common for people to expect my ‘be a joy to walk with so you have a cooperative and willing dog’ approach to be instant)! Everything takes a certain amount of time and work, but how much better for everyone to appeal to the dog’s psychology than to use force and correction. Especially with a dog of this size, loose lead walking is a must.

Ollie is very ready to be defiant, and the methods used have been mostly to do with ‘training’ and commands mixed with indulgence, rather than allowing him to work out for himself how to make good things happen by rewards for the right behaviours. I also found he was very willing to be cooperative if treated a certain way. The family have a very good sense of humour and can see the humorous side to Ollie, and I am sure will find intuitive and inventive ways of gaining the upper hand by earning his respect and sometimes even outwitting him, whilst actually finding it quite fun!

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.