Adam and Banjo fooling around in the kitchen. This is a demonstration of the “trained retrieve” … not a “play retrieve”. The difference is that with the “trained retrieve,” the dog will continue holding the object until I tell him to release it. This is the same approach used with hunting dogs and service dogs.
I got kicked out of a herding dog trial today… and I wasn’t even in the trial. LOL.
They told me I couldn’t have a remote collar on my dog– even though I was sitting in the audience, far behind both the gate and the barrier. That should have been my cue to leave. So– 10 minutes later, my dog spooked when he saw the cattle come out and barked. Big whoop. As I’m trying to correct my dog back into a sit-position (using the buckle collar) a woman approaches and tells me I need to put my dog away.
Excuse me? I thought this was a dog event, not a library???
What are they worried about? The cattle getting spooked and running away? Isn’t that the whole point of training a stock dog?
Perhaps you’ve adopted a dog that is either: High drive and super-intense; has a genetic basis for aggression; is pushy and dominant beyond your wildest imagination; has displayed “red zone” aggression that has you fearing death, dismemberment or a very unpleasant lawsuit.
Regardless– you’ve already made a decision to make the best of it, and now you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Here’s what to expect…
Owning An Extreme Dog Is Not The Same As Owning A Sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever
You need to be brutally honest with yourself about your dog and your chosen lifestyle: You cannot live with an extreme dog the same way you would live with a soft or sensitive Poodle or Golden Retriever. It doesn’t matter, “how good your last dog (from the same breed!) was.” You can be under no illusions: The entire experience is going to be completely different. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with your dog and enjoy the many benefits of dog ownership. It just means that you’re going to need to invest more time, energy and training into your dog– as well as having a level of situational awareness whenever your dog is not in a crate or a kennel run.
Extreme Dogs Require A Structured Lifestyle
Let’s suppose that you own two super-dominant dogs of the same sex. For example: German Shepherd dogs from strong working lines, and you know from experience that these dogs will not get along, no way… no how.
First, you’ll need to establish a strong foundation of obedience training on both dogs, so that they’re under voice control when in the presence of all types of distractions: Food, tennis balls, cats and other dogs. This will give you some level of confidence that if they, “get into it” with each other that you’ll at least have a chance to get them apart. But more importantly– with a solid foundation of obedience training you will have the tools to prevent such an incident from happening in the first place.
Nothing In Life Is Free
I’ve written before about my approach to Nothing In Life Is Free. When you own an extreme dog, the dog needs to be working for everything. There’s no more milling around the kitchen while you prepare dinner: Your dog needs to be holding a down-stay. When you play with one dog, the other dog will need to be on the “place” command. All interaction must be structured and controlled. The dog cannot be left to make hardly any decisions for himself; He must look to you before deciding to do something… especially before interacting with another dog.
A word on having two extreme dogs in the house together: Yes, it can be done. But no, the dogs are not allowed to socially interact with each other. The dogs need to be taught to keep a wide berth around the other dogs. This becomes a show of respect, as both dogs need to be taught to respect the other dog’s space.
The dogs can never be allowed to be together, alone. Never. If you cannot keep one eye on the dogs and one eye on whatever else you’re doing… then at least one of them needs to be put in a secure kennel run or kennel-crate. You must be vigilante about this.
The Down-Stay Exercise And The “Place” Command Will Become Something You Use Frequently
When we sit down to watch TV, each dog has his own cot or pillow. The dogs are not allowed to choose where they lie down. Why not? Because you are the Alpha Dog/Pack Leader… not them.
When the dogs get fed, one dog is fed after the next and the dog that isn’t eating is kept in a separate room, in their kennel-crate.
If we’re preparing a meal for ourselves, then the dogs are put in the down-stay position. If a carrot is dropped on the floor, then (at our instruction) one dog is allowed to get up and get it while the other dog is made to stay in the down-position.
If you’re not at the point where you can keep your dog in the down-position (or on the place board) — then you’ll need to alternate which dog is allowed to be with you in the kitchen until you’ve proofed your obedience commands.
“If I Only Have One Dog In The House… Is This Type Of Extreme Training Regimen Necessary?”
Yes it is. An extreme dog needs structure and discipline in his life. Otherwise, it’s too easy for him to assume the position of pack leader. Without a “Nothing In Life Is Free” structure supplemented by obedience exercises where the dog is made to listen to commands around high value distractions, you will never achieve any level of peace in your household.
Have hope: You can do it. It’s a lot of hard work, but eventually your dogs will adapt to their new routines and learn how to properly fit into your lifestyle.
I adopt a lot of dogs. I train them and then place them in good homes. If it’s a truly exceptional dog, I’ll keep him for myself. When I first bring a new dog into the house, my objective is to teach the dog good manners as soon as possible. Here’s how I do it:
First, many of the dogs I adopt have a lot of raw potential: They have intense drive to chase a ball and they have high food drive. They may be cast-offs from a potential client who finds it easier to give me the dog than to work through the problems, themselves. Or it could be a police dog wash-out.
Needless to say, they almost never come to me as nice, well-mannered dogs. They come as high drive, obnoxious, rude dogs. Good dogs with bad behavior.
So, since I need to live with these dogs first-and-foremost and I may not be able (in some cases) to start formal training right away, teaching good manners immediately is necessary to get through those first few weeks. Here’s what I teach:
Crate Training: Teaching a dog to sleep quiety in the crate is the first order of business. This helps with house training and gives the dog a quiet place where he can de-stress. It also allows me to know that the dog is safe and not getting into trouble when I can’t keep one eye on him.
The Recall Command: I don’t want to be in a position where a momentary lapse of attention means that the dog is out the front door and running down the block. Been there, done that… too many times. So, teaching a rock-solid recall command (Come!) is top of the list.
Boundary & Perimeter Training: The dog needs to know where he’s allowed to go in the house and where he’s not allowed. For example: We don’t let our dogs up on the furniture or in our bedroom. We also insist that all dogs wait for a “free!” command before going out the front door or the back door. This also includes learning to keep paws off counters and not jumping up on people.
Good Manners Around Other Animals: Because we raise working dogs, I don’t let the dogs play with each other, willy-nilly. Play is an activity reserved for me and each of our dogs. It is a relationship building activity and something I want my dogs to look to me for, not to the other dogs or animals for. This creates a deepr bond between dog and owner and it also teaches impulse control around other animals. We also insist that our dogs either ignore the chickens until we tell them to actively help us “round ’em up” when it’s time for the chickens to go back into the chicken run.
Most people would probably say, “Wow! That’s what I’d consider a trained dog!” — but let’s remember that this is all just taught in the initial first few days. After that we continue on with formal obedience exercises like the sit, down, heel, loose leash/attention getter exercise, formal ‘come’ and off-leash proofing in a variety of environments.
As many of you know, I recently acquired a one year-old Dutch Shepherd named, “Petra.”
Since Petra had only a minimal amount of training, I’ve been scrambling to get her “up to speed” so that I can use her as my demonstration dog.
A client recently asked me to write out a typical day’s schedule with Petra, from morning to evening. As you can see– getting fast results with your dog is not about spending three hours a day training; Nor is about waiting for the weekend to get out to the park to train. Instead, it’s slipping the training into your everday rituals. Of course, it’s much easier when you work from home. But even if I had a job that required me to work in an office, I’d want to incorporate the training into my lifestyle, before and after work and on weekends. The trick is to make your dog work around your lifestyle… and by work, I mean “train”:
5:30 AM – Wake up, let Petra out of the crate. Petra must hold a sit-stay while I put the e-collar or prong collar on– depending on what I’m planning on training for during the day.
5:40 AM – Let dogs out to potty. Practice recall when it’s time to come back inside, usually with the e-collar.
6:30 AM – We have breakfast while Petra holds a down-stay (commonly called, “duration work” or “impulse control”) on her place-cot.
7:30 AM – Get ready to take dogs for a 1 to 1.5 mile walk. Petra is required to hold either a sit-stay or a down-stay while I get the leashes organized, put on my shoes, get my jacket out of the closet, etc…
7:35 AM – Wait at the front door (even though the front door is now open).
During the walk, she is required to walk alongside our Golden Retriever without pulling on the leash. At various times throughout the walk I’ll make her do “sits” and “downs”.
8:05 AM – As we return from our walk, Petra holds a sit-stay while I get the mail, then Petra’s job is to carry some of the junk mail back to the house.
8:10 AM-8:20AM – Play fetch in backyard.
8:20 AM — Feeding; Petra must hold a sit-stay while I scoop food into her bowl and she waits for the “free!” command.
8:30 AM – Back out to the yard to potty, then into the crate. Or she loads up into the car to go meet with clients.
10:30 AM – 11:00 AM – Formal training if working on a specific exercise. (See video below)
11:00 AM – Back in the crate.
12:00 PM – Potty break.
1:30 PM – Petra practices the “Load up!” command and then rides in the back of the car while we run errands– if I’m going to a dog-friendly place. For example: Today we went to Home Depot and Lowes. Yesterday we went to “Julie’s Signs”. Everybody loves to see such a beautiful dog and it’s good socialization for Petra. In addition, we’re able to practice impulse control and duration work by using the sit-stay and down-stay commands around distractions. Or if we’re meeting with clients, she’ll come with me depending on what we’re teaching. Even if I don’t use Petra during the session, I’ll pull her out of the truck and work with her for five or ten minutes while I’m waiting for my client to show up.
3:00 PM — Back at home, I’ll usually do a quick session working on positions while in the kitchen for 5-10 minutes. Or Petra will hold a a place-command while I do computer work in the office. Alternatively: Meeting with clients where she is expected to either participate as the “distraction” dog or sit quietly.
4:30 PM — Let the chickens out. We practice the recall command around the chickens and when we’re done, Petra loves to wrangle the chickens back into the chicken run. (She’s getting really good at this!)
5:00 PM — Back in the office where she must stay on her pillow and chew on her bone or sleep. She’s a snorrer!
6:00 PM — Dinner, same as breakfast. Then immediately back outside for a potty break.
6:30 PM — Petra again must stay on her place-cot while we have dinner.
8:00 PM – 8:25 PM — Tug toy play: This is productive play where she must go into a different position (heel, down, between legs, spin, circle) and her reward is to tug on the toy
8:30 PM – 10 PM — Petra must stay on the pillow in our home office.
10 PM — Potty break and then into the crate for “bed.”
Don’t lock your dog in a back room for the holidays. He’s part of your family, so he needs to be included in the festivites. So, take advantage of holiday distractions to socialize your dog and work on problem behaviors.
My approach to dog training works so well because it forces you to train your dog around the type of real world distractions you’ll actually want to have your dog with you to enjoy.
Here’s a short video (3 minutes) we did of Halloween 2013. In the video, you can see I’m using a “place board” to give the dog an area to target. This makes it easier for him to understand where he’s supposed to be.
Note: I could have used the down-stay exercise, too. But the place board leaves it up to the dog as to whether he wants to stand, sit or lie down.
Get “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer” today with immediate access and talk to author Adam G. Katz in the Master Dog Trainer Discussion Forum– that includes five full length Dog Training Videos!
How do you know if you’ve got a good dog? Is it because he listens to you? Is it because he comes when called, even around distractions? Is it because she sits like a perfect little angel while you’re sipping your latte in front of a seaside cafe overlooking a beach in Sicily?
You may have a well-behaved dog… but whether he’s a really good dog is dependent upon your own personal taste in dogs and what you’re looking for in a companion.
Owning a dog is a lot like being married. And in marriage, there is a courtship process you go through before deciding to spend the rest of your life (or in this case, the dog’s life) with each other.
This rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Otherwise rational individuals who might take months or years of dating a person before committing to sharing an apartment together… somehow instantly fall in love with the first dog who crosses their path.
And just like with love, there’s nothing wrong with that, I guess. (Unless it ends up making you crazy).
You can change a dog’s behaviors. You can’t change a dog’s personality.
Do you like to cuddle? Some dogs love it. Other dogs hate being touched.
Do you feel safer when your dog barks if somebody (or something) is prowling around the outside of your house? Some dogs are very protective. Others could care less and will sleep through a home invasion.
Do you have a lifestyle where having an outgoing, sociable dog is required? Or do you prefer a dog who is more reserved and aloof with strangers?
So… how do you know if you’ve got a good dog? A good dog is any dog who’s personality you really like. Bad behaviors can be unlearned, quickly. But personality is something– for better or for worse– is unique to your dog.
Either you love your dog’s personality or you don’t.
If you don’t, then find him or her a good home with somebody who does. Life is too short.
It took me a long time to learn this lesson. I always felt bad about placing a dog that wasn’t a good fit with me, in another home. But inevitably, I started getting feedback from the new owners about what “a good fit” the dog was, in it’s new home.
In summation: You’ll know you’ve got a good dog for you when you get past the honeymoon phase and you still can’t imagine yourself living without the dog.
There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Even the best dogs have problems.
Talk to any dog owner and they’ll admit that even their favorite dog has a few “quirks.”
Either the dog will have those quirks when you first get ’em or they will develop some sort of behavioral problem over time as they mature. Just like human teenagers… it happens. You work through it.
For some dogs, they’ll develop more extreme behavioral “quirks”. For other dogs, it may be health or digestive problems.
Every dog owner must decide for themselves whether their dog’s problems are worth dealing with.
Sometimes the problems aren’t actually problems but rather a result of a poor marriage between dog and owner. A bad match, if you will.
But more often than not it’s usually a matter of the dog owner not having enough knowledge about how to deal with the problem.
That’s the difference between an enjoyable life-long experience with your dog versus a complete disaster.
Fortunately for us, most of the people who download my dog training book, “Secrets of a Professional Dog Trainer!’ are committed to their dog. They want to be educated and knowledgeable about their dog.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a good dog that they want to turn into a great dog… Or a royal pain-in-the-neck of a dog who needs to learn manners: For the most part, the dog owners we help are committed to working through their dog’s problems.
We generally see two things start to happen once a dog owner begins their journey:
1. They start to develop a more satisfying relationship with their dog.
2. Their dog becomes happier, calmer and less stressed.
So, while even the best dogs have problems… sometimes those problems can be a blessing in disguise that motivates the dog owner to dig deeper and ultimately make their dog happier.
By enhancing the communication between dog and owner and giving the dog more freedom, even the best dogs can overcome those little behavioral “quirks” to become perfect companions.
The Summer of Love. Woodstock. Free love. No Boundaries. No Rules. No Limitations. The hippies had it all, or so they thought.
An attitude of “do your own thing,” and “do whatever feels good,” eventually gave way to drug overdoses, single parenthood and societal burn outs. “Turn on, tune in and drop out” evolved into the “Me Generation” that eventually led to the excesses of the eighties.
We evolved. We grew. We’ve learned and we’ve become more mature and less idealistic as a society. In essence: We became more balanced.
But not the dog training community. Apparently, dog training is still stuck in the psychedelic sixties and is rapidly moving toward it’s own form of self destruction.
“Purely Positive” dog trainers– the dog training community’s hippie element– are now running the asylum and setting the agenda. Advocating an approach that views boundaries, rules and limitations as absurdly “abusive” to dogs, they have been quietly moving into positions of authority within animal shelters and dog training associations– both here and in Europe.
Their entire hippie attitude of, “Just give warm fuzzies” when the dog does something right and ignore bad behavior is one that didn’t work for the children of the hippie-generation and it doesn’t work for their dogs, either. In the name of the Beatles, “All we need is love,” more dogs are euthanized each year than saved because somebody running the local animal shelter would rather put a dog “to sleep” than (gasp!) safely and humanely correct a dog with a leash and a collar.
“What? Surely they must be objecting to more than just using a leash and collar to correct a dog’s bad behavior, right?”
Unfortunately, no… they’re not. It sounds absurd that anybody — much less a movement of “Purely Positive” trainers– could be so dead-set against a balanced approach to training. (Telling a dog, “Good boy!” when he makes the right decision and, “No!” when he makes the wrong decision).
Making matters worse, they’ve co-opted terms like, “abuse” and “violence” to now mean tugging on a leash and collar.
Except that it’s not. It’s a bastardization and perversion of common sense.
This unbalanced hippie-dippy approach to dog training is hurting dogs. By bastardizing and perverting the use of language, the “Purely Positive” hippies are dooming hundreds of thousands of dogs to an unnecessary death.
“Yes, but our approach is ‘force free.’ Can you dig it?”
No, I can’t. What you’re really saying is that you’re not willing to make your dog do anything. You’re giving all of the power to an animal with a three year-old’s intellect and the physical attributes to kill a person. Brilliant.
Dogs need instruction. They need leadership. Like any other animal they do not always make decisions that are in their best interest. Nor can they be bribed into making the right decisions if they find something else more interesting.
“But Purely Positive training is based on science, isn’t it?”
Yes… hippie science. Junk science. It’s the same pseudo-science that told us that the world was flat. Or that ephedra was a safe diet supplement. Or that hormones in our chicken and milk won’t make our kids have tits and mustaches by age six.
I’m skeptical about the “science” of psychology in the first place. But then these hippies take it one step further by trying to apply their so-called, “science” to a field where the skill set of any one practitioner is variable at best, even from dog to dog. Never mind that they usually start with their end in mind, a highly un-scientific practice. Introduce a couple of loud-mouth PhDs into the discussion with a library of dog training dvds they’re trying to hock and you’ve got a recipe for a hippie movement that is using junk science to prove a theory of dog training that is more intent on making the practitioner feel good about themselves than it is about saving dogs.
There’s no doubt that the remote electronic training collar (commonly called an “e-collar” or “shock collar”) has been one of the greatest advancements in the dog training world over the past thirty years. If you use an e-collar intelligently, it is a safe, humane and highly effective way to train a dog.
In fact, there are some dogs that you will need to use an e-collar on because nothing else will work reliably. For example, certain types of aggression or whining in the crate, the e-collar provides such a marked advantage that I’m grateful that we’re living in a time when we have such technology. Older methods simply aren’t as effective.
Modern e-collars can be adjusted to perfectly match the temperament of the dog you’re working. There’s something about the texture of the correction that cuts through the dog’s focus on other things and allows you to get and keep attention like no other training tool. I’m not talking about a shock, either– as this can be observed with very low levels of stimulation.
The e-collar allows you to work a dog with precision at distances that simply aren’t achievable with a long line. For example, directional send-aways, or flushing birds from bushes. (Although such distance work may be of dubious value for the average pet owner).
“Another Dog Trainer Asked Me Why I’m Not A 100% E-collar Trainer…”
No doubt, the e-collar is a remarkable tool. In the hands of a competent trainer, one can achieve competition-level obedience in days rather than months or years.
At a recent dog event, another trainer asked me why I’m not a 100% e-collar trainer?
Here are the following reasons why I’m not a 100% e-collar trainer, and under what circumstances I might consider being one:
I own an electric screwdriver, but I still use my trusty old-fashioned screwdriver, too. Sometimes, being able to grab a screwdriver out of a drawer is much easier and faster than having to go find my electric screwdriver, make sure the battery is charged, replace the bit and then lug it through the house just to tighten one little screw. The e-collar is the same way. When your dog is in the house with you, you’d better make sure you have that e-collar transmitter nearby. Even when you’re eating dinner. Even while you’re watching television. Even when you run out with the dog to get the mail. Set it on the table next to you and when the dog runs out of the room, you’d better remember to not immediately chase after; If you do, you’ll have to… go back and grab the transmitter. It’s a hassle. Just like an old-fashioned screw driver, sometimes having your dog wear a prong collar and tab is just-so-much-easier. You can go straight to the dog and immediately correct the behavior because he’s wearing the tool you use to correct him. Did the dog you’re working with jump up and nip at you? Just grab the tab and give a tug. Done. No fumbling for your e-collar. No flipping it over, making sure it’s on and trying to figure out which button to press. Did you forget to charge it? Tough. Yeah, yeah… I can hear my detractors already: “It’s not that hard, it’s just pressing a button.” I agree. So is using an electric screwdriver. It’s just that sometimes it’s still easier to use a good old-fashioned screwdriver. Call me a Luddite.
Sometimes your dog needs to know that the correction is coming from you. Training is about establishing a relationship with your dog. Sure, there are many, many times when the inpersonal nature of an e-collar correction is incredibly beneficial to reaching your goal, especially with behavior modification. However, to achieve a balanced relationship with your dog there are times when your dog needs to respect your authority… even if he’s not wearing an e-collar. It’s reasonable to expect that– sometime during your dog’s 15+ year lifespan– there will be a time or circumstance when he is not wearing an e-collar. Your dog still needs to listen to you. 100% e-collar trainers will reply by taking the e-collar off their dog and showing that– yes– there dog still responds to commands. That’s because he’s conditioned to respond to commands. (And that’s a good thing!) But put the dog in a new circumstance around new distractions and he may not respond. This is not a criticism specific to the e-collar, either. It’s true of all training devices. This is why sometimes it’s important to physically make the dog do an exercise, so that he learns you will make him listen, regardless of the tool you’re using. This way, the tool (the training collar) becomes an adjunct to your relationship with your dog, not a crutch. “I’m going to make you do the behavior/stop doing the behavior, regardless… this tool just makes it easier for me.”
There are some people who will never, ever use an e-collar but they ** will ** use a mechanical training collar. I don’t typically cater to people who come to me for advice… and then tell me what tools I can or cannot use. If you want my help, then you’re going to use my tools. And there’s a good reason for that: I know what works. But if a client prefers to use a prong collar instead of an e-collar… and I know that e-collar will work just as fast… I’ll do it. For example: When a dog owner wants to teach their dog to walk on a loose leash… I can teach the dog to walk without pulling by using a prong collar just as fast as I can with an e-collar. Sometimes faster, actually. Is it worth losing a potential client because, “when all you’ve got is a hammer…” You know the rest.
For some dog owners, there’s no point in buying a $200 training collar if a $15 training collar will work just as well. I sell Do-It-Yourself dog training information products on the internet. Sometimes, a dog owner is looking for a way to fix one simple behavior. Like jumping up. Why do they need to buy a $200 tool (an e-collar) when a $15 tool (a prong collar) will work just as well? It doesn’t make any sense to spend the $200 when the dog owner is happy with everything else about their dog.
So, with that being said: Under what circumstances would I become a 100% e-collar trainer?
If/When I open another brick and mortar dog training company. When I have the luxury of working with a dog owner face-to-face, I will promote a 100% e-collar training system. Why? Because when you have a local business, each and every client is a salesperson for your business. I want to know that if they’ve gone through my in-kennel program and they’re walking around town with a t-shirt advertising my company name on their back… that there dog will be better behaved than any other dog training school in town. And if a dog owner is looking for a one-shot fix? I’ll still recommend they get one of my dog training books. But if they want to work with me in person then their dog will be a representative of my school and must be able to sit/down/heel/come/stay in any off-leash setting. Sure, you can do all of this with a traditional training collar too– but the e-collar makes it much faster and easier. And when time is money and I’m there to show them how it works… the e-collar usually makes more sense.
If I Was Training Dogs Exclusively For Competition Or For Working Dog Applications. It’s much easier and faster to get the type of high level consistency and flash when using the e-collar than with any other tool. When training high drive, hard temperament working dogs, the e-collar is par excellence.
When I Train My Next Demo Dog. Same reasons as above: Just like I did with my current dog, the e-collar is too powerful a tool not to use. The trick is to not use it to the exclusion of other tools.
If I Was Training Dogs Exclusively For The Handicapped. The e-collar is especially useful for those with physical handicaps. It’s much easier to simply press a button than to manipulate a leash.
Do I recommend that you get an e-collar? It’s not necessary. Neither are electric screwdrivers in most cases. But they sure do make life easier.