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This is Toots after she got attacked at Wychwood Barns the other day when her owner took her there for an evening romp. Severe bite, several stitches, one requiring drainage. Not exactly an ideal puppy play session! According to the owner, Toots was playing with another pup when an older dog approached, she turned on her back and then he attacked her. The owner was in shock after it happened and just grabbed Toots and took her straight to emerg without getting any information from the owner of the offending dog. Wow – I’ve been walking dogs for a long time and thankfully I’ve never seen a dog attacked with so much damage. An attack without warning (or so it seems) and a bite without inhibition – what was this dog doing in a tiny OLA? According to the owner of the offending dog, this was the first time his dog attacked. Sounds suspicious… And what will happen to the aggressive dog? Most likely he will be harshly punished for his aggression and will become a repeat offender. And Toots? My guess is that she will be fine. We have built up positive socialization experiences and luckily she’s a confident pup. Scary stuff though for an average dog owner at a popular OLA… not knowing what dogs are coming in to play or BITE!
This is the best video demonstrating wave. This trainer makes it look easy but here’s a little behind the scenes review:
• Notice the dog is not moving forward while they are working. Clearly the dog has been reinforced for working on a mat and knows the he will get his reward for maintaining that sit position (his default position). Even when she sets him up farther from her, he maintains that sit position. He’s also not trying to touch his paw or his nose to the target.
• Notice how she’s working in a corner. If you work a dog in a corner there’s less opportunity for him to move anywhere. Distractions are minimized.
• Notice the trainer also ‘clicks’ the dog just for sitting. The trainer explains “this is to reinforce the default behaviour. If the dog is not reinforced for “doing nothing” when there is no cue, then they cannot learn to discriminate when the cue is present, and when it is not.”
• Notice when he offers a wave that’s not high enough, she uses the target to get the better version and then clicks. She doesn’t click a less than perfect wave.
• Notice the verbal cue ‘Wave’ comes before the target comes out. If you put them together the more salient stimulus (the target), would block the verbal cue and the dog wouldn’t learn it. You need to present the verbal cue before the target.
By the way if you want to know who this excellent trainer is, her name is Sachiko Eubanks, and she’s a graduate of www.learningaboutdogs.com
I’m training a new dog walker (Emma) to join our crew. We were walking into the park with our leashed up k9′s when I alerted her to an approaching dog and his owner. Armed with our toy (for Sunny) our treats (for Tyson), we were able to maintain focus and reward as they passed without incident. Behind us was another dog walker that I know. Seconds later there was a scuffle and I heard her say “DUUUUDE….WTF!!!!!”. I hate being smug but why did I know that something was going to happen with this approaching dog/owner if we didn’t take precaution? So I proceeded to describe to Emma what she should look out for. She coined it the MACHO MAN SYNDROME. Here’s the 10 ways to identify a MACHO MAN and his unfortunate dog.
1. He has his dog on a choke collar or prong collar.
2. His dog is always over 50 lbs.
3. His dog has been transformed to look scarier. In this case it was a Dobi with cropped ears. Dobi’s with floppy ears are much cuter.
4. He is male and between 20-30.
5. He has an off-leash dog in an on-leash area.
6. His dog is obviously intact.
7. He never picks up his dog’s poop. According to him, it will melt(?) when it rains, or oops, he forgot a bag.
8. His recall to his dog involves yelling.
9. If his dog misbehaves he gets pinned.
10. His dog has a ridiculous name like Punisher.
There’s nothing you can do when you have a run-in with this kind of owner. He can’t be educated. So your strategy is to avoid him at all costs. By the way I seriously regret ever naming my dog Tyson. My next dog will for sure have more of a pansy-like name and hopefully a more gentle disposition.
Even though it was Saturday and I typically don’t do group walks, I had 5 dogs to walk today. The huskies need a lot of space to run. Winnie takes off in forested areas after squirrels and Tyson prefers forested areas where he can chase balls. So where did I end up? Bronte Creek. The tall grass is great for Tyson to retrieve but I can still see Winnie if she chases a squirrel, and Kaiya and Dahla had plenty of space to run. Oh it was so nice there this am. It’s 35 minutes away and $16 to park! But it was worth it.
As commercial dog walkers fight for off-leash turf, local owners start to get scrappy.
My story not only made it to the Globe and Mail but got a heading on the front page! The story was pretty good. Of course it played all sides. The negligent walkers, the big company with 23 employees, and me
I’m trying to get a copy of the wonderful photo.
I love this video!!!!
As the colder weather approaches I’m starting to feel creative about training indoors. So today I decided to work on object identification. I foresee hours of entertainment figuring out how many words they can learn and if they can discriminate. I started first by working with their kong. I fill up their kongs everyday with delicious stuff and so they are happy to bring them to me. With a kong on the floor I asked Tyson to get his kong. He picked it up and brought it to me. Then I put both a ball down and a kong and asked him to bring me his ball. If he brought me the ball, I clicked and treated. If he brought me the kong, I took it away and then asked him to get me the ball. He caught on quick. Then I put down a rawhide chewy (they are made by purina and called alpos) and so the dog’s know them as ALPOS. So when I asked Tyson to get me an Alpo he got very confused. Typically when I put down one of these bones for Tys he either goes to chew it on his bed or decides that it’s not really that interesting and leaves it there. So in this case, the Alpo wasn’t that interesting so Tyson couldn’t understand why he should pick it up or bring it to me. Finally Delilah just went over there and picked it up. I clicked and treated her and we finished the session. So I realized I needed to step back and work on retrieving with some atypical objects. Anyway, it proved to be a fun exercise with much potential to keep up busy especially on the colder days ahead.
I’ve had Duke now for two weeks and I’ve gotten an excellent opportunity to get to know him and work with him. Still no sign of serious leash aggression. We walk hands-free on a loose leash and pass by dogs. He does get mildly aroused but by teaching him an Autowatch- to look at me automatically when he sees a dog or cat, has been super easy to train and very effective. Watch the video with the cat which I would consider a very high distraction and Duke is still turning and looking at me for his reward. So before I delve more into Duke’s training for the last two weeks, here’s my explanation for why I think Duke was reacting with his owners and not with me. In the excellent book, Feisty Fido – help for the leash aggressive dog, the author’s writes, “one explanation for dogs who bark and lunge at others is a learned association between seeing another dog and the aversive feeling of getting choked by the collar”. Unlike Tyson, Duke actually likes dogs and really wants to go over and say hi. So in his case, he gets excited, gets a series of leash corrections which is what his owners were taught to do, which only perpetuates the intensity of his reaction, working Duke into a frenzy. These feelings of frustration get taken out on Jasmin, his sister.
While his leash aggression has been easily manageable (Duke has been nothing compared to how reactive Tyson was), I have seen Duke get over-aroused in other scenarios. Him and Delilah got into a scrap and Duke would not back down, he turned into a tasmanian devil. Even after we tore them apart, he kept wanting to continue fighting and was directing his aggression at my husband who was holding him back – it was very scary. So this over-arousal stuff – is not just happening on leash which his owners, it’s happening in a bunch of situations. So here’s Duke’s preliminary training to deal with the on-leash aggression:
1. Loose Leash Walking – Duke needed to learn to walk with a loose leash and be aware of the person at the other end of the leash. I worked on the following exercises:
• Using a hands-free leash and teaching him to keep it loose.
I taught Duke how to keep the leash loose by rewarding him every time he naturally moved into heel position. I then started challenging him by changing directions, doing left turns right turns, automatic sits. Anytime he followed into position, he was rewarded with a treat. He tends to forge ahead, so left turns are particularly effective. Anytime, he lost attention, I either stopped and waited, changed directions, or stepped backwards away from the distraction. This worked really well and he even figured out that when I stopped, and he was ahead of me, to turn and come into heel to get me to move forward.
• I desensitized him to the gentle leader so I could walk him with it. I wanted to avoid activating that learned response of seeing a dog and feeling his collar tighten. Also, because we haven’t worked yet with Duke’s sister Jasmin, who he is directing his frustration at, I figured it would be a great tool to get him used to especially while his owners are learning the techniques.
• I also bought him on the EasyWalk harness which also works beautifully. Once his owners get their techniques down pat, I think he will be fine walking with the harness.
2. Eye Contact and Focus.
• I captured and rewarded Duke for any eye contact. Two weeks ago he hardly ever gave me eye contact. Now every time I stop, he turns and looks at me.
• Eye contact and control exercises – I always enjoy playing this game with dogs. Put a treat in your hand or on the floor. The only way the dog gets his reward is when he turns his focus away from the treat and looks at you. This is a good way to start teaching a dog, an appropriate behaviour for when he really really wants something. Instead of grabbing or pulling towards it they learn to look away from it and wait for permission to ‘take it’, ‘get it’, ‘go see it’, etc.
• Eye contact when he sees other dogs. These are the exercises in the book Feisty Fido, previously mentioned, and highly recommended if you dog has leash aggression.
3. Basic Commands- Sit, Down, Stay
All of Dukes basic commands were slow. He really wasn’t into training. Which makes sense. Why would anyone do anything with enthusiasm unless it’s fun and Duke’s owners weren’t taught to train with rewards.
• I re-taught him his commands using tug as a reward.
Overall, I think one of the hardest parts of training Duke was trying to change his mind about ‘work’. He kept looking at me, like lady are you serious…am I really gonna get a piece of chicken for doing that? And to that I answer, yes, Dukee, because you really are such a good puggle.
In Part 3, I will talk about long term goals for Duke and strategies for the other scenarios where he exhibits aggressive behaviour.