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).

Controlled Using Dominance. Mixed up Dog

He was controlled using dominance

Dads

They said at the rescue, ‘if you can hold him you can take him’.

I feared that huge American Bulldog Dads may be a 9-stone time-bomb waiting to go off (but the story has a very happy ending – see end).

Controlled using dominance

The young man already had 5-year-old Dads for a year before his partner moved in with her gentle but nervous Labrador/Springer cross, Jamie. Dads’ owner uses dominance-based methods without which, frankly, Dads would probably have been uncontrollable without an expert, and he has certainly improved over the past couple of years, whilst the lady with her Springer Jamie has undoubtedly spoilt him whilst training him positively using a clicker.

The dogs have been fighting – with Dad’s kicking it off. The lady is eight months pregnant and they are worried. Understandably.

The gentleman is very firm with them and uses dominance techniques to get them to do what they are told.

Dads and Jamie

Dads only recognises a strong, authoritarian approach – the man with confrontational body language will click his fingers and point in order to be obeyed. This must have come as quite a shock to Jamie. If the lady tries it, Dad’s not happy! She is dis-empowered because he simply doesn’t respect her.

Both dogs have lost too much

Just as big a problem is that both dogs have, in a way, lost everything over the past few months. All toys have to be put away because Dads may become possessive and it could start a fight (and Jamie loves his toys). They can’t be given bones or anything to chew unless they are separated which may cause problems afterwards (and bones could be something to occupy and de-stress Dads).

Since they moved in together Dads isn’t walked much any more, and the lady can’t do it. Not only is she pregnant but he’s just too strong and pulls like a train. Neither dog gets the long walk that he used to. In order to make the house better for a baby, the dogs no longer have access to the garden – just a small paved yard for toileting. Consequently the dogs no longer play together, there just isn’t room in the house without causing chaos. Jamie will be missing being his lady owner’s ‘baby’, with her all the time.

Redirecting his frustration onto Jamie

Unsurprisingly, Dads has been redirecting his frustration and anger onto Jamie. Tracing back, and not surprisingly, it seems that these occasions follow a build-up of stressful incidents. Dads is also eyeballing Jamie – Jamie knows not to move. Sometimes Jamie stands up for himself. So far there has been little blood drawn but it’s only a matter of time unless their humans dramatically change their approach.

Dads appears to be slow and calm, but I fear he is a seething mess inside. He could also be depressed. He has simply no way of venting and no freedom to make any decisions of his own – little exercise, no brain games, nothing to chew and too much being controlled.

The couple can now see the connection between stress and inactivity, and the attacks on Jamie – along with Jamile’s own instability.  Hopefully they will have the stamina to to turn things around.

I am so THRILLED to have just received this email: Yes our little girl arrived on the 3rd 🙂 We have been getting used to a new routine and sleepless nights!
The dogs have been absolutely amazing since the day we brought the baby home.  For the first couple of days, I stayed upstairs with the baby. The dogs seemed to know something was going on, yet they were so well behaved, not even baking when our parents came to visit us (upstairs). When I did come down stairs a couple days later, the dogs gave me a good sniff and Roxie a little sniff, then that was it!!
Dads takes no notice of her what so ever, he doesn’t even wake up when she’s crying lol, he might come and give her a sniff ‘hello’ in the morning, but that’s only if he can be bothered to get out of his bed 🙂 Jamie is very gentle when he comes to ‘snoze’ her with his nose (snoze = kiss)
Both dogs have been brilliant with all the visitors we have had. They wait in the dining room, with the stair gate open still, and once our guests have been seated, the dogs are invited in, they give our guests a sniff them settle down on their beds in the living room with us all.
We have brought a door bell that chimes a tune which has stopped all the barking as no one knocks at the door now and the dogs haven’t connected the door bell tune to the arrival of visitors yet lol
Keith had been taking both dogs out for their walks, but now I am able to potter round the village, I have been taking Jamie, I tie his lead to the pram. He only got run over by it twice lol but now he walks beautifully by the side of it. He then gets to play ball on the green on the way home.
Keith has been taking Dads up the field for a run and a game of ball, he has however started to put him in the back of the truck to take him to the field, which Dads is getting a lot batter at. (He used to be a nightmare in vehicles!) Dads also loves having his feet bathed afterwards (he’ll do anything for a biscuit!) Keith also used biscuits to allow him to put drops in his eye.
So overall, the dogs seem happy and have accepted our new arrival. We are just taking everything one step at a time as Roxie won’t stay this small and motionless for long!! But so far so good!

‘Possessing’ Objects and Growling

Jack is a good natured, affectionate and very energetic young Cocker Spaniel Fourteen-month-old Jack is a good natured, affectionate and very energetic young Cocker Spaniel (and I know what that’s like with my own Working Cocker, Pickle!). However Jack does have a problem and it is getting worse. He steals things and runs off with them, then hides under the kitchen table guarding them and growling. He will do the same with bones and toys. He may growl if someone simply walks past when he is possessing something.

Without realising it, the owners have unintentionally encouraged this. In addition to giving Jack a great deal of attention for it, the gentleman held the view that if he was going to be the ‘Alpha male’ then Jack had to give up the item. Consequently, he will corner him under the table and forcibly open Jack’s mouth to remove the object. All the time Jack is growling.

A dog can’t talk, so he growls. The danger is that if the growling is ignored Jack will soon feel it’s pointless giving this warning and move on to the next step – which is to snap. He has already done this to a lady who wanted to touch him when he was tied up outside a shop. In general, when Jack is approached and loomed over he will go over onto his back, an indication that he finds it a little threatening – as do many dogs.

When I was there Jack was given a new chew toy. The gentleman found it very hard to totally ignore Jack as he paraded it about! Jack’s antics have no power if the humans refuse to play his game – and ignore the whole thing.

Meanwhile, work needs to be done on getting Jack to willingly exchange things. They should never be simply wrenched off him. If the item’s not important, then they should deny him any pleasure in the form of attention and totally ignore it – maybe even walking out of the room. I suggest for now his guarding spot under the kitchen table is blocked, and that all his toys are lifted. They can be issued to him one at a time – and used for a ‘Give’ game before finally being handed over to him.  He has already been trained, as a gun dog, to ‘Give’ the dummy, so this shouldn’t be too hard.

The regular gun dog training Jack has had isn’t sufficiently reward-based for my liking. He is being told ‘No’ without being shown they do want from him. It’s much fairer if he can be called away from things and rewarded or given alternative behaviours that are incompatible with what he is doing. He quite vigorously humped me when I arrived (not helped perhaps by my own dog Zara currently being in season), but being told No and Down and being dragged off only prolongs the situation. If he is given an alternative like ‘Sit’, he can’t hump and sit at the same time!

He’s a cracking dog and with consistent rules and boundaries, with his humans ditching ‘dominance’ techniques and using a bit of psychology, with less use of the word ‘No’ and more rewarding in terms of attention for the desired behaviour, I feel sure Jack will mature into a trustworthy and well-mannered adult.