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Walking Your Dog Aggressive Dog

Walking your dog aggressive dog should not be frightening or even down right disastrous. But for some it is. It doesn’t have to be that way any more.


Before You Walk Your Dog Again

 

Walking Your Dog Aggressive Dog
Before you walk your dog aggressive dog again and really shatter your confidence, here are 3 “Management Principles” to follow for a more controlled and pleasurable walk with your dog.


Principle #1: Manage Your Dog


If you’ve been walking your dog with the wrong equipment, change it. This is especially critical if you have a large dog that is barely manageable on the leash, which is part of your problem.

“What’s wrong with my equipment?”. If you’ve been walking your big, reactive dog on a flat buckle collar or harness (leash attached top-back) you have no control. Even walking a dog on an Easy Walk harness may be difficult for some owners.

The discomfort of choke chains and pinch collars often cause pain or discomfort when correcting a dog for pulling.

Yanking and jerking on the leash to keep from being pulled might very well cause a negative association with the very dog(s) you want your dog to like.

Change your equipment. Walk your dog on a Gentle Leader. Manage your dog by controlling his head. I have seen big dogs easily managed by small owners with the Gentle Leader. I have also experienced a significant reduction of arousal and anxiety in many dogs while wearing the Gentle Leader.

You must read the instructions and watch the DVD that comes with the Gentle Leader so that you can desensitize your dog to wearing it before using it on a walk. This is not a long process. He’ll be good to go in a day.

Managing your dog also means don’t leave home without high value food treats to make a positive association with other dogs. Also do some obedience training on walks as well. Be prepared!

Be smart too. Invest in a bait pouch to hold your treats so that they are readily available. Don’t be stuffing them in your pocket or have to fumble with a zip-lock bag trying to reach a treat when you need it handy now!

The last thing for now on managing your dog is managing your own emotional energy. Staying calm will help your dog to feel calm on walks with you.

Principle #2: Manage Your Distance to Other Dogs


You’ve heard the saying, “Too close for comfort!” Well that holds true for working/walking your dog around other dogs in the beginning.

Every dog, yours included, has a proximity or distance to a distraction that will cause him to pay more attention to the distraction (dogs in your case) than to you when you are closer than you should be. Stay at a safe distance and work on sits and walking while praising and treating your dog for good behavior.

Backing up a few steps and asking for a sit using a high value food treat for attention is a good exercise. Praise and treat for a job well done. Repeat as often as you can whether you see dogs or not. Practicing on walks with no dogs in sight will help you improve your game when dogs are present.

Only get closer when your dog is under control and listening. If he becomes reactive, simply move back and keep on practicing.


Principle #3: Manage Your Leash


Most trainers know that a dog’s natural instinct is to pull or push against applied pressure. I’ve seen and felt it with our lab, Sammy. He’ll push against me with his body and as I use my hands to push back, he resists by pushing back.

You probably have experienced that with your dog as well. The same thing occurs on a leash walk. When you pull on the leash, your dog instinctively pulls in the opposite direction. That direction is usually towards the other dog.

The lesson here is to keep your leash slack to prevent your dog’s urge to pull. No doubt this will take time to master but including the other principles (managing your dog and the distance) makes all this possible in time.

Do your part for your dog with good management on walks. Keep these principles in mind and make them work for you and your dog. You’ll both be glad you did.

Also remember, the more your dog listens to you inside your home because you have taught him proper manners and boundaries, chances are he will listen to you better outside your home.

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me. Do you deal with this situation with your dog?

Comment below with your frustration and fear with this.


Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell has been Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 10,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and makes it work in your home with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog.

It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Dog Training: It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Dog training is critical in successfully managing your dog’s behavior. But, does it seem like your dog doesn’t really care what you say? Does your dog ignore your requests when asked to do certain things?

If your dog has reached a point in his dog training with you where he seems to think any command you give is optional and subject to how he feels right that moment, then just maybe it’s time to take a look at where to begin to regroup your thoughts and your approach to your dog training.

I have found that for most dogs like that, everything in life is and has always been, free for them. Their toys are on the floor accessible for play and with a demanding nudge, love and affection is available on demand 24/7.

Unlike their ancestors who had to forage for food, most domesticated dogs just keep one eye on the door and the other on the clock just waiting for your return so they can do the one thing that may be the highlight of their day: EAT. Worse yet they may not even have to work for their food. Some dog owners even free feed.

It’s no wonder that dogs don’t find their human owners “relevant” at all. And when it comes time for them “do what you say,” they just don’t “care what you say” enough– to really do what you say.

This can be very frustrating, can’t it?

It all starts with a Primary Resource

So let’s start with the basics and that’s a scheduled feeding. Food is instinctively thought of by most all dogs as a “Primary Resource.” Even if you think your dog is a finicky eater, it’s still true.

Controlling your dog’s food is an excellent way to become relevant to your dog. And it’s a really great way to teach your dog that listening to you and obeying your commands like sit and down is a good way to earn his food. If you are consistent with your feeding ritual twice a day, it can teach your dog that good behavior matters.

You are now relevant to your dog!

If your dog is a finicky eater, then you’ll have to spice things up a bit. Let me explain because it all depends on how serious you are about becoming that relevant force in your dog’s life.

If every morning for breakfast your mom put a box of cereal on the kitchen table and said, “The milk is in the refrigerator,” that’s not very appealing, right? And you probably would care much about breakfast.

On the other hand, if you knew your mom was in the kitchen cooking a hot breakfast every morning and each morning she surprised you with something different, WOW! Your mom would suddenly have relevance and you would know that she cared.

For the finicky eater (that’s also a trouble-maker by not listening) spice up his meal. Add some canned food to his dry kibble. Put some beef or chicken broth (warmed from the microwave) over his food. Or, add a dollop of yogurt to his food. Keep it interesting. We add chopped spinach, chopped broccoli or sometimes a piece of sweet potato to our dog’s food to make it interesting and they love it. Leila and I do have relevance at our house, do you? Well, you can!

On the other hand, if your dog is highly motivated by food then count your blessings. You have a highly trainable dog.

 It’s Like My Dog Doesn’t Care What I Say

Other benefits to a scheduled feeding program

 It’s easier to monitor whether he feels well. You’ll know the instant your dog goes off his food as a possible indicator that he is not feeling well. It’s impossible to do that with free feeding.

Food guarding opportunities are kept to a minimum. Picking up his bowl after each meal helps to eliminate the possibilities of food guarding. Continuous feeding allows your dog to develop guarding instincts of his food bowl and the surrounding space. Don’t forget to pick up the bowl after 15 minutes.

A scheduled twice a day feeding also keeps your dog from running on empty for half a day and helps to stave off hunger tension which could create other behavior problems.

Everyone wants a dog that listens because they know you have relevance and well, they just care about you and what you say. Try it I know you’ll like it.

So, come tell me on Facebook what you think? I truly hope you found answers and hope for helping your dog. Did you think the fix would be this easy?

 

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have easy, step-by-step process to helping your dog. Your dog must and wants to understand what you expect of him. But you have to empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you must empower him to be successful at living in a human home. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.

 

Dog Aggressive Doberman

Review: Dumped Doberman learns to live in a home

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This poor dumped doberman dog was on his third owner. The dog was very hyper and would not listen

and appeared to be a very anxious dog. He also displayed dog to dog aggression We did dog training lessons in his Houston home and worked

on structure and obedience training with him. He’s now much better and in his forever home.

my dog owns me

My Dog Owns Me. Help!

My dog owns me! “Help!” is the plea by many dog owners, even if it’s not those exact words. This particular distress call explanation usually sounds pretty much like what Barbara, owner of Big Boy, said: “I was greeting my friend with a hug and my wonderful, loving dog literally jumped off the couch, sailed through the air and before I knew it he had his mouth on my friend’s arm.

Wow, you’re thinking, that’s really scary- how could that happen?  How did Barbara’s dog go from the nice loving, dog he was initially, to this mouthy – almost aggressive side he showed that day. A dog who in his mind, owns her!  But here’s the kicker – come to find out it wasn’t the first time this had happened.

my dog owns me

But just how did Big Boy get so possessive of Barbara? The circumstances around Big Boy’s rescue and early life with Barbara are not uncommon. It happens everywhere – every day.

Here’s Big Boy’s Story and Rescue

Before being rescued, Big Boy didn’t know where his next meal was coming from – in fact he hadn’t had a decent meal in weeks – just eating scraps wherever he can find them. With his backbone and ribs showing, his face had the look of “hopelessness.”

Barbara appeared just when things were so bad Big Boy probably would not have made it. Now Barbara had had rescue dogs before – all found on the street just like Big Boy. All had passed on except for one medium sized female who she still had. It took her a while to get Big Boy leashed up but once he got used to her, he was in the car in no time. Then it was off to her vet.

All seemed right in Barbara’s world. Barbara’s rescue girl dog now had a brother to play with. Settling into his new digs gave Big Boy a taste of the good life.
There was no shortage of food or love and affection – not to mention plenty of room on her king size bed for him – right next to his sister. What else could a guy ask for right? I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this very same story.

Big Boy was spoiled to no end. But because Barbara’s female dog was easy going – Barbara was ill-prepared for what happened next.

The Honeymoon Was Over

Three months later, the honeymoon was over. Big Boy had sized up his situation and had grown accustom to all this love and affection, having Barbara cater to his every need, jump to his every wish. She wanted to make sure he knew he was safe and loved. All wonderful things to do.

BUT  His disobedience first began to surface in small things like:

Not holding a sit/stay for his food at meal times,

Counter-surfing,

Jumping uncontrollably when Barbara got the leashes out for walks or

Busting through the back door into the yard for playtime.

He has also started to bully his sister and, while she can take it and give it back, he escalated the play to a scary intensity that Barbara had a hard time stopping and was actually making Barbara very anxious.

His antics had escalated to humping Barbara when she is sitting in her easy chair. He would put paws up in her lap in an attempt to sit on her any way he could and he just stare at her face. It was all she can do to muster the strength to un-wedge this 85 lb. lover dog and get him grounded again – all four on the floor.

His people possession didn’t stop with Barbara.  Anyone who came over got humped and climbed on – even if they are standing up! You don’t want to know what he does when they are sitting at eye level. It was pretty intimidating and quiet scary.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the incident I spoke of earlier where he did the unspeakable – placed his mouth on her friend’s arm.  Had she not intervened, it would have been more than just bruises.

 

What Went Wrong?

Barbara had the best intentions of maintaining structure with her female dog but that dog was just an easy going, no problem dog so all structure and routine slipped and went by the wayside. And when Big Boy came along, her strong, female nurturing instincts took over and before you know it, Big Boy’s thinking, “I’m here and you’re mine!”

Solutions At Work

I guess that’s why they say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” So in retrospect, Barbara should have done many things different – okay, everything different.

We started with throttling way back on the love and affection. No, we didn’t omit it. We have our dogs because we love them so how can you not be affectionate with your dog. But she now gave the love and affection in a way that she controlled- not him.

We also implemented rules for Big Boy with expectations of what to do and when to do it – every single day. That’s called structure and routines that happened every day.
We worked on exercises to teach Big Boy to respect personal space – “Don’t come into my space unless you are invited.” Barbara has her space back. We are now working on respecting the space of visitors too.  As pushy and over-bearing Big Boy was, he had a lot of insecurities too, so we also started him on confidence-building exercises like down staying across the room from her.

Working Big Boy on obedience training gave him a strong sense of working for Barbara rather than her following his lead all the time. She had been used to catering to his every need.  We have also doubled his exercise by bringing in a dog walker twice daily followed by another walk when Barbara gets home from work.

At four weeks into our program, Big Boy is shaping up nicely in his new structured life. It was just what the “doctor ordered.”

With Big Boy’s stress management program in place, it became much easier to work on his issues of guarding Barbara. He is now much more comfortable following her lead – as he no longer views her as his property to guard.

Have a similar dog problem? Fixing it does not mean you don’t get to love your dog, just love your dog in a way that’s healthy for him. Think about implementing your own Ground Rules for your dog, you’ll be glad you did.

What Do You Think?  Let us know your thoughts on today’s issue by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.

 

 “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

my dog bit my friend

Yikes! My Jeykll and Hyde Dog Bit My Friend

“My Jeykll and Hyde dog bit my friend and I am beyond embarrassed!” This is, as it should be, a serious concern for my clients and their adolescent Boxer mix, Gus, who is about 18 months of age.

my dog bit my friend

They said that, “Most or a lot of the time Gus is a baby – real sweet. You know, nudging you for attention. He loves to get petted.”

That’s why Bob and Sue were having a hard time understanding why Gus, who was seemingly sweet most of the time and then, like a Jeykll and Hyde personality, he would strike and bite a visitor.

In these types of lessons, I always make it a practice to have dogs on leash and controlled by the owner when I first arrive. During our first visit – once we were seated – I purposely leaned forward and gestured with my hand as I began to ask a few questions. Gus moved forward to the end of the leash and snarled at me. Since Gus was on leash, no harm, no foul.

Bob quickly and gruffly pulled Gus back to him. Gus’ tail lowered, his ears went back as he softly whined. Bob remarked, “See, he’s really a baby at heart, but don’t try to pet him. He bit my best friend a couple of weeks ago. That’s why you’re here.”

About that time Gus turned his attention to Sue, jumped up with his two front paws on her lap and began to lick her face. Bob pulled him down and Gus rolled on his side.

 

Here’s what was very apparent

 

Gus was being cleverly submissive with Bob.
Gus was dominant with Sue—- and don’t forget,
Gus had made an aggressive threat to me – the intruder.

Because Bob and Sue are not giving Gus consistent structure within the pack dynamics, Gus is getting confused about who is controlling the relationship.

So Gus began to try his best to take control of his owner’s activities with almost artful manipulation.

No Owner Control

That’s only part of it. Much more was lacking in Gus’s life.


Let’s take a look

 

No consistent obedience training
Free feeding dog food with cheap carbohydrates
Lot’s of lap time while Mom and Dad watch television at night
Not enough dog walks or “healthy interaction” via games of fetch, etc.
In the back yard all day while they are at work (allows Gus to rehearse territorial aggression by barking at mailman and others passing by.)

Along with the concerning and growing aggressive threats towards outsiders, I also saw that Gus had some dependency issues noted by his licking Sue (care seeking attention) – possibly carried over from his time with his litter mates.

A Solid Foundation is Critical

Gus’s story is why it is so critical to develop a solid foundation with your puppy or dog. Without this critical foundation, Gus is struggling to satisfy a need to function as part of their pack. His way of doing this is to begin controlling the pack. Without a strong foundation providing clear guidelines, Gus does not have any way to function as a part of the family or pack.

Gus is also over-dependent on Bob and Sue’s affection towards him. He cannot be left alone without problems nor can Gus tolerate visitors as they interfere with his interactions with the family.

He considers the family – Bob, Sue and their daughter his property which he does not want to share with anyone.

Sue confessed later in the lesson that it was also difficult to talk on the phone because Gus barks constantly for her attention.

 

Ground Rules for Great Dogs

It was clear to me what to recommend – Ground Rules for Great Dogs. Gus desperately needs a way to function in and for the pack. Ground Rules will provide him with the following:

Consistent rules to follow
Boundaries to respect and,
Expectations of what to do and when to do it

I pointed out to Bob and Sue that they have had, all along, the capability of “controlling” all the elements that have caused all of their problems with Gus – his food, your personal space, love and affection, activities and more.

It is time for them to re-take control by providing Gus a road map to success on how to function within the pack. I told them to take their time and enjoy the ride. Don’t focus so much on the outcome. Focus on the journey with Gus and his understanding of your relationship with him – more importantly, understanding his new role.

What Do You Think? Let us know your thoughts on today’s issue by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.

 

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.  

Dog Bites Reporter

Dog Bites Reporter. Who’s at Fault?

I caught a minute of the news mid-week and learned of a terrible accident involving a Colorado news anchor that was bitten in the face by an 85 lb. Argentine Mastiff. It happened during an interview with the dog’s owner and the firefighter who rescued the dog from an ice pond. If you have not seen the news spot, click here.

 

Dog Bites Reporter

 

Last week, when this happened, I posted it on my Facebook page and asked folks what they thought the reporter did that put this dog in a no-win situation.  Lots of folks gave pretty good answers on what the reporter did, but not many were able to tell me what signals the dog gave that were a clear message to the reporter to back off.

It is disheartening to see that even today, so many people – adults and kids alike – assume that all dogs want to be hugged, petted, kissed and are okay with this kind of behavior by humans. If there was one extremely clear message to the contrary, this unfortunate accident in Colorado spelled it out with no if’s, and’s or but’s.

Let’s take a quick look at what happened to create this terrible incident. Are you aware of what mistakes did the news anchor lady make with the Argentine Mastiff resulting in a bite to her face?

 

 Here’s a short list that I noticed just with the short clip aired by that station

  1. She didn’t know the dog
  2. She didn’t read the dog’s body language signals – warning signs that he was stressed
  3. She got on her Knees with the dog cornering him between her and his owner
  4. She made constant direct eye contact up close – almost face to face
  5. She constantly petted him overhead and then under his chin with the other hand
  6. And I think I saw another video with her kissing him on top of the head

A dog’s body language signs can give you a lot of information and save you or someone a lot of pain and heartache.

Let’s take a look at the “distance increasing signals” the dog was giving that expressed his concern about this stressful situation – but no one tuned in to the dog:

Here’s what the dog did to try and tell her he was uncomfortable and for her to back off.

  1. His ears were flat against his head
  2. He was licking his lips
  3. There was tension in his face
  4. His lips were drawn back looking long and showing teeth – incisors, canines and molars.
  5. Ridges of muscle evident at the corner of his lips and near his jaw
  6. Wide-eye look with fleeting glances away from her – then back to her

When a dog gets stressed, anxious and concerned about his environment and potential threats, some dogs will put distance between themselves and the threat by leaving. If leaving is not an option, biting becomes their only other option to create the distance by “making the threat go away.”

Now, let’s take a look at other contributing factors that “kicked that dog into defense drive” resulting in this terrible accident:

  1. The dog was in a new and strange environment
  2. His owner had a tight grip on his dog’s collar – eliminating the dog’s flight option
  3. The dog was pinned or cornered between the owner and the news anchor on her knees and on the other side of the dog further eliminating all flight options
  4. Any stress/anxiety the dog experienced in the last 24-48 hours can sometimes carry over and impact the current stressful situation pushing the dog to his bite threshold.

This dog was set up to fail. Pushed to his bite threshold with all other options eliminated, he simply bit.  Many people and children hug dogs or puppies too tightly and expect tolerance but instead get growled at, snapped at or worse – bitten. Dog gets the blame.

 Is there a lesson here? What good can come of this horrible accident?

Educate your self and your children about dogs. Learn about how they think and relate to this human world around them – which is like a dog. We bring them into our homes and expect them to be “Lassie.”  Not every dog is Lassie. The responsibility falls on you to:

  • Socialize your puppy or dog.
  • Desensitize your dog to people and other dogs to avoid dog behavior problems
  • Train your dog – enroll in a dog obedience training class
  • Educate yourself about dog body language and how to read any dog.
  • Teach your children how best to interact with your puppy or dog.
  • If you don’t know hire a positive reinforcement trainer
  • Set rules to follow and boundaries to respect in your home and elsewhere

No person or dog should be put in a situation that causes injury or harm to either.  If it does happen, it’s probably the fault of the human but the dog will get the blame.

What Do You Think?  Let us know your thoughts about what went wrong here by commenting below and remember “Sharing is Caring.

 “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

Dog is Aggressive on Leash

dog aggressive on leashDisclaimer:  When working on leash aggression, Make sure to consider all options carefully before deciding on how to begin working on your dog’s leash aggression.

Following is a reader inquiry to one of my blogs about her dog that is aggressive on leash.

Hello, my name is Mary

I am in need of help with our 75lb hound mix. She is 5 yrs old and we have had her since she was 4 months. Within the last year, she has demonstrated aggression when on a leash, toward other dogs. She is not aggressive toward other dogs when off leash.

I need suggestions on how to walk my dog.  I don’t walk the dogs much anymore because I am afraid of what the Hound will do as she can pull me and, more than a couple
times she almost got really close to the other dog and it was very unnerving.

Any help or direction you can provide to stop her aggression on leash, is appreciated.  I am thinking of getting a shock collar to use when she displays this behavior, but would like to find an alternate training mechanism/technique before I resort to the shock. Thanks so much and look forward to hearing from you.

Dear Mary,

Thanks for your email regarding your dog’s leash aggression issues. My advice is to not get a shock collar to correct your dog when she gets aggressive on leash.

It is a specialized tool that requires knowledge/experience, finesse and timing. If you correct your dog without conditioning her first, it would, most certainly, cause her to associate the correction with the dog(s) to which you are trying to desensitize her and that will make everything worse.

Instead, here’s what I would recommend:   Use a gentle leader which can significantly reduce arousal and anxiety in many dogs.

Develop a stronger leadership role with your dog putting your dog on an earn-to-learn program – everything your dog wants from you she must earn by performing at least
a sit and down.

Set aside 2 minutes, 3 times a day to work on sits and downs – it should be easy to carve out 6 minutes of obedience training each day.

This work will begin to help her know that you are in charge of situations when you go for a walk and she need not be concerned.

It will help you build focus and teach her to listen to you better when other dogs approach or pass you by.  The last thing I would say is to not get her too close to
other dogs.  Get good at sits and downs beyond her threshold distance before getting closer to other dogs on leash.

Gradually get her closer to the other dog and redirect to a sit, down or both. Don’t forget to praise/treat for doing a good job. Also pack along plenty of patience. It won’t
happen over night.

Sharing is caring, if you liked this article please share by clicking on the Facebook thumbs up button.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks.  Join me on FACEBOOK now!

Review: Fearful Dog

My story starts in November 2010 with the search for a dog.  What type of dog and do we want a puppy or a rescue.  We decided on a rescue Miniature Australian Shepherd.

She was shy and barked for a long time and then she warmed up just a bit.  The foster mom said she was not ready for adoption yet.  To make a long story short, I just thought about her all the time and in April we saw her again and brought her home to Houston to see how she would fit into our lives.

She is a sweetie and well mannered.  She is a fun dog BUT, walking was almost impossible. – she is fearful of strangers and especially other dogs.

We had a high energy dog before – a Jack Russell Terrier and I thought for sure that we could handle her – wrong!

In walked Jim Burwell into our lives.  He helped me get on the right track with her training and was very supportive during the first month that we had Chelsea.

It was like bringing a new baby home – NOW what do I do?

He gave me all the essentials handling skills and knowledge to get her started on the right track to being a less fearful, aggressive dog.  The weekly homework helped both Chelsea ME  make huge improvements with Chelsea AND me!  The homework was very doable and clear.  Jim’s email support was invaluable.  He simply had me take step by step till until both Chelsea and I lost our fear and could go on walks!   YES!

With his help we have made big steps in that direction.  We can now walk Chelsea.  He is very kind, and knowledgeable about dog behavior.  He is so tuned into dogs and good and patient in helping us learn how to help Chloe

Rescue or puppy he IS a great asset to have on your side when raising a dog.

Dog Behavior Training: My Dog is on the Couch and I Can’t Get Him Off!

Can allowing your dog on the couch change his good dog behavior to bad dog behavior?  Maybe.  Some dogs begin to own and guard the couch.

Having your dog on furniture could lead to growling, snapping or even biting to guard what they think is their space – but, it’s your couch.

Some pet owners are oblivious to how their dog may be viewing their couch or bed space as they sit for hours with their dog on the furniture, head in the lap, watching television. In most cases the relationship becomes emotional for the owners as they continue to allow the dog on the couch more and more.  I mean, it is a warm cuddly feeling to have you most loved pet so near to you.

When it comes to this “sometimes” touchy subject of allowing dogs on the furniture, I am okay with having them up on the furniture.

Yep, you heard me right, yes to,  dogs on the couch!. However, knowing how space can influence a dog’s thinking about ownership and resource guarding, I would present the following  training rules with which you really should be consistent, assuming you’ve decided that your dog can be on the furniture:

The Rules for Dogs on the Couch:

  • If you are sitting on your couch and you want your dog on the couch with you, at a minimum, require your dog to sit first and then command“Up!” as you pat the couch seat.  It’s that simple, but sends the correct message: your terms, not his.
  • If your dog is on the couch and you want to sit on the couch, simply make your dog move to the floor,  and then sit on the couch where your dog was lying.
  • Require a sit first, then command “Up!” as you pat the couch seat. The bossier your dog, the more important the rules.

Exception to the rule:   If your dog is on the couch and you are not, no rules apply.

You should teach your dog a “relocation command” (another place to go other than the sofa) and train this frequently.  Examples would be to teach your dog to go to his bed once off the couch or just place your dog in a down by your feet in front of the couch by you.

Train this multiple times, every day. It will take no more than 5 minutes out of your day!

If your dog has a tendency to guard the sofa or any other space, doing this exercise frequently would help to minimize any *resource guarding that might develop.

Keeping a leash on your dog while you can supervise him in the home will make this task easier. It will also provide you with a safe way to remove your dog from the sofa – especially if you have a visitor that doesn’t want your dog it her lap.  There’s nothing like a well-mannered dog.  You do this until there is no more growling etc. and you’ve practiced the above exercise, then take the leash off the dog.  It’s really a very simple tool on how to train a dog to get  off the couch with no confrontation.

Why, you might ask, do I hear the growl when my dog’s on the couch?

Historically, dogs expended a lot of predatory energy to get food thereby developing a high propensity to guard their food (a high value resource)

In today’s dog, they don’t have to hunt for food, so  resource guarding has expanded to space (beds, sofas or chairs) toys (yours or theirs-whatever they possess in the moment) and your love and affection.

Dogs with strong leader type personalities or temperaments would have a greater tendency to resource guard space. The stronger this tendency, the more I would tend to limit time (if any at all) on the furniture.

You should also look for any other signs of guarding of food, space, toys or your love and affection.  If you see any red flags like growling to protect space, its time to get to work on dog training. Put your dog on an earn-to-learn program. Here’s how you do that to train your dog:   everything your dog wants, you should require a sit and/or a down. Also begin teaching “Up!” and “Off!” the couch so that your dog can be removed anything you need the furniture. You’ll be surprised how quickly your dog will begin to comply.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

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My Dog Growls

My Dog Growled At MeMy dog growled at me.  Here’s why:  I was massaging and cleaning our black lab Sammy’s ear canals and I heard a kind of “back of the throat” growl. Sammy closed his eyes; he leaned into me and my dog growled.

I thought to myself and wondered— how many people have punished their dog for hearing the exact same growl and didn’t know about a dog’s automatic and natural reflexive growl.   Have you ever wondered exactly what your dog’s growl means?

Or another natural reflex that is also a similar is where dogs will, as a natural reflex, growl as it simultaneously gives its owner a teeth baring “submissive smile or grin.” Our greyhounds used to smile at us and have that guttural growl when they were asking for their favorite treats or to go on a walk. They meant no harm.

BUT, what if your interpretation of this type of dog body language is incorrect?  What if you’re not reading the rest of the dog’s body language?

What if you consistently punish your puppy or dog in either of these two examples?

Doing that can put some dogs in defense drive where they will either:   freeze, run away, or bite as his natural defense mechanism kicks in. When that happens things go sour quickly and then:

  • The puppy or dog to gets no relief from his owner’s constant punishment and/or,
  • Owners become fearful of their biting puppy or dog.

At this point, the relationship between dog and owner is stressed and most likely will bring up a host of other behavior problems. To make matters worse, if an owner is given wrong advice as to “why,” the dog is reacting; the relationship with the dog could go even further south.

Unfortunately many owners have learned not to tolerate any growling yet are totally unaware of these natural and harmless growling/teeth showing reflexes. Some bad corrective measures given to these naïve owners are to:

  • Shake the puppy or dog by the scruff or,
  • Alpha-roll the puppy or dog causing him to growl

Constant negative corrections could continually keep the puppy or dog in defense mode because the dog never knows what might happen next.  Even passive puppies or dogs could react aggressively in the future when a child lungs or tries to hug it, and what about being handled at the vet?

While growling or teet showing should never be ignored, you owe it to your dog and your relationship with your dog to read up, educate yourself  and understand the behavior,  as it applies to each context in which your dog might growl.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog, as you are the teacher of your children.  And remember:  “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2011