I was at a local Chow Hound store for an Ask the Trainer event and ran into a client I had worked with a while ago. We had a long discussion, and she stated that she was thrilled with how well her dog was doing. I love hearing feedback from pet parents. The most rewarding part of my job is hearing how my team has helped fur parents have the dream dog they always wanted.
I met this particular client and her pup six months ago, and the issue was Reactivity. Her dog would lunge, bark and growl at some other dogs. She didn’t do it to all dogs, only some of them and there seemed to be no obvious rhyme or reason.
The owner said that she trained in rally (obedience competition), but her dog’s occasional aggressive behavior disqualified her at times. She had worked with All Positive trainers, but it was just not getting any better.
When I do evaluations, I begin observing as soon as the vehicle is parked in our lot. With this particular dog, she walked next to her owner through the parking lot on a loose leash. They stopped for a potty break; then the dog waited at the door before following the owner into our lobby. The dog then sat and waited as I spoke to the owner about her issues.
This is not typical. Most dogs with behavior issues lack obedience, structure, and discipline. But, not in this case.
The owner went on to say she had worked with an All Positive trainer, but the reactivity just wasn’t getting any better. She said she was ready to try anything. I continued the evaluation and worked my own dog around her, and her dog. Her dog did well but my dog is very focused and calm.
I got out a tug and rough-housed with my dog a bit, and Boom. The reactivity occurred.
After working with her dog a little, I told her I could help her in two lessons. Then, after the lessons, she had to start coming to our group polishing classes.
The issue with her dog was that she was only giving him half of the information. The total dog training package is clear communication; the yin and the yang. The owner was saying Yes all the time, but never saId No. She signed up for her two lessons and we got started.
I introduced a remote collar to her dog and worked her through some basic concepts to teach the dog remote collar literacy. The dog did not know the Place command, so we taught her using the remote collar. We also taught a Leave It command for whenever her dog was focused on another dog. There are no quick fixes in dog training, but after two weeks she started seeing some consistent improvement.
After six months, her dog performed in the rally ring while another dog barked his head off at them. Her dog ignored the distraction and worked flawlessly. Another happy ending.
With reactive dogs, the scenario usually goes more like this.
The owner gets dragged by the dog as they come directly into our building with no potty break for the dog. The owner’s only complaint is the Reactivity because the dog is “really well behaved.” I ask about leash pulling and they tell me their dog doesn’t leash pull. I then point out that the dog just dragged them from their car to our entrance. Of course, there is some kind of an excuse for the leash pulling.
As I speak with the fur parent, the dog is pacing, leash pulling, and won’t settle while the owner says Sit fifteen times. The dog is barking and whining, and we proceed to our training room where I do a little demonstration with our personal dog. We show how our dog is ignoring their dog, will heel while off-lead, Sit, Down, Come, and Place on command.
We explain that behavior starts with structure, rules, and obedience. As we train and teach the language of the collar, we address the behavior issues. Even though the dog is totally disobedient at our facility, the owner is in denial and just wants the aggression fixed.
Ninety-nine percent of our fur parents are on board with what we have to say. They sign up for training and we see a lot of improvement with their dog. This particular fur parent believed that there was just a magic pill to help her dog with the aggression. She wasn’t sold on our program, so she left with the dog leading the way – barking and whining, and dragging her down the hallway to the lobby. When they opened the door, of course, the dog went through the first.
The dog knows who’s in charge.
This particular family was not communicating with the dog, except to tell the him that he runs the show in that household. There was no other communication whatsoever.
Dogs are simple animals. They don’t reason, and you cannot have a conversation with them. Gently saying “Please stop growling, you are scaring our guests” sounds the same as “blah, blah, blah, blah blah.” It’s music to his ears and might as well mean “we love you and you’re in charge.” Talking, and even yelling at him can be viewed as affection by the dog.
Attention = Affection.
If your dog has some sort of reactive issues, please seek out professional help. If the trainer makes you uneasy, thank them for their time and find another professional to help you. Go with your gut and please take their advice. Dog trainers are dog lovers and want to help the dog overcome their issues so they can live a long and happy life with their family.
At Adams K-9, we offer free evaluations at our facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We don’t have any magic pills, but if you are having issues with your dog we can often help just with some basic skills and clear communication.
Please contact us today to discuss your dog’s needs, and yours too. Love your dog, love your dog’s behavior.