Dogs We Don't Work With

When I am in social functions, people will ask me dog-related questions as soon as they find out I am a dog trainer. I used to get police questions when I was a police officer, but I defer them to my wife these days. She’s a detective sergeant at a local police department. She is also on a Task Force with the FBI for Human Trafficking. I am very proud of my wife. The longer I am out of police work the more I have forgotten, so she takes all the police questions.

One question I am often asked is, “Are there dogs you will not work with?”

I think the question is usually more breed specific, but we work with any breed with one exception – wolf-dog hybrids. Wolves are wild animals and I will never work with a dog-wolf mix. Wolves are meant to live in the wild and be admired from a distance. They should not be caged or domesticated. Wolves are wild animals, dogs are not.

We train all breeds of domesticated dog. We train big dogs, little dogs, fat dogs, skinny dogs, nervous dogs, aggressive dogs, and happy-go-lucky, everybody-loves-me dogs.

But sometimes, there are exceptions.

Most of the dogs we see that have aggression issues are exhibiting dog-on-dog aggression. We make pretty good progress with this type of issue. One thing we do explain to the owners is – don’t expect miracles. Do not expect your dog to go to the dog park and play nice with other dogs. Accept the dog is the way he is, but he should behave himself when he sees other dogs. He should be able to go for a walk and ignore other dogs. He should be able to go to the veterinarian and behave himself.

Just recently we got a nice compliment from a veterinarian about a dog we recently worked with. The dog had a bad issue with barking, lunging, and growling when he saw other dogs. The owner had to take the dog in to see the vet through the back entrance and avoid the waiting area. Now he goes in the front door like every other dog, minds his own business, doesn’t bark, and waits his turn with his owner. No more disruption from this guy. The vet complimented us and was impressed.

Human aggression is more problematic. First of all, I require the dog being trained to wear a muzzle before we will work with it. Typically, we have the muzzle off after a couple of training sessions. It’s about building a rapport with the dog. There was this one time, a family brought the biggest Rottweiler I have ever seen for an evaluation. They rolled up in a loud, rusty old pickup. The dog was in a huge cage in the truck’s bed.

They brought this giant out that had a head of a lion. The walked into our lobby and this thing was foaming at the mouth, barking, growling, snapping, and trying to get to me. The guy’s wife had the leash and I told him he better hang on to his dog. I asked if he had a muzzle because I certainly didn’t have one to fit him. He said he did not. I said, I honestly have never seen a muzzle large enough to fit your dog, but if you can find one and condition him to wear it I’ll see if I can work with him.

I then gave him the “I don’t want to train this dog” price. He about had a heart attack when he saw the price and went on his way. That dog is dangerous, and I wish they would have come to see me when he was 4 months old. Not 18 months.

Julie, my wife, told me I better stop giving people the “I don’t want to work with your dog” price because one day someone will take me up on it. If I think a dog is dangerous I will not work with it.

Another behavior we will not work with is dogs that bite children. I used to work with dogs that bite children, but I stopped after a dog I trained severely bit the owner’s child in the face. All done.

Here is the thing. Dogs need to be monitored when children are around. They should never be unsupervised. Especially toddlers. It makes me sick when I hear a dog mauled a toddler. When the dog bit the owner’s child, I asked what happened. She could not tell me because her toddler and child were in the other room together. I cannot control dog owners once the dog goes home, so I no longer work with dogs that bite kids. I recommend re-homing the dog.

One other dog I will not work with is the dog has an owner that is not willing to make changes. They coddle, spoil, and carry the dog and then wonder why the dog wants to bite people. I tell them no more sleeping in bed, on furniture, or on your lap. If you are not willing to change don’t waste our time.

Some promise to make changes but they don’t and guess what – the dog continues to be out of control. For me and my trainers, that is very frustrating. We are all dog lovers at Adams K-9 and after working with a dog and seeing them perform so well and change only to see them regress when they go home is very disappointing.

We don’t turn people away very often, but it does happen. I am up-front and honest during the evaluation, and If I feel the dog will regress when it goes home I will tell the owner so. Dog-on-dog aggression with dogs that fight and live together is typically not fixed. They do great at our facility but once they go home they fight again.

I believe that’s due to weak owners. Not physically weak, but not firm with the rules. They treat one dog differently than the other and don’t understand dog psychology. They fail to lay down the law on fighting. In my home, dog fighting is not allowed. Nip it in the bud the first inclination of an issue and they will learn that it is not a good decision.

My dogs have a pecking order. My female, Bracha, is higher in the dog hierarchy than my male, Titus. She can take a bone away, he cannot. She heels just a little ahead of Titus. Bracha also heels next to me, and Titus is on the outside. Knowing this, I do things in a specific order with them. Bracha gets a treat first, and she is also fed first at dinner time. Titus goes second.

When I walk the dogs I don’t put Titus on my side, that is Bracha’s spot. They get into the car in a certain order, and they go outdoors in a certain order. By maintaining the hierarchy we have no dog fights. Most owners don’t get this and that is why they have dog fights.

The first step in getting help is setting up an evaluation. Evaluations are free. A lot of the time, the owner thinks their dog is a lot worse than it really is. We see a lot of issues and that’s normal for us. We are used to seeing reactive, leash pulling, barking, jumping, food stealing dogs. We can make a lot of progress in just a couple of weeks and its money well spent.

Call or email the West Michigan dog trainers at Adams K-9 today to learn how we can help your dog.

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I would like a quarter every time someone came in my training facility dragged by their dog in a harness or gentle leader. If they work for your dog, then great! However, we see a fair amount of people asking for help because their dog still leash pulls or is reactive on lead.

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