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Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Personal Protection Dog

   Not too long ago, I was doing a “meet & greet” for a pet store that used to refer allot of business to me. They had a German shepherd puppy there and a man approached me. Now understand that my town is very affluent and many of the people there are fairly educated.
  This guy wanted to buy this dog and train it in protection work to look after his wife and kids when he was away on business. He was an IT professional. When I told him what was involved in training a personal protection dog in time and money, he almost had a heart attack.
  In any case why not train a dog for personal protection. I can do it, and have done it with my own dog; however I turn down many clients who ask for it.
  First of all it takes the right dog. Temperament and ability are absolutely essential here. Many so-called guard dogs are weak nerved dogs with fear aggression issues that will lash out at any one or any dog that gets close. Many police dogs are trained to bite by using defensive drive instead of prey drive. It looks impressive but it is not making a strong nerved dog. Secondly, a great deal of training. About 3 years’ worth. Most of these dogs go through Schutzhund training and are “titled” dogs.  And third, a handler who has the knowledge and is capable of handling this kind of dog and keeping up the training. It has been said: It’s easy to teach the right dog to bite. But teaching the same dog to “out” requires lifetime upkeep.”
  Most dogs will naturally “alert”. My Miniature Long-haired Dachshund “Fritz” is great at this. When the doorbell rings you can’t shut him up. If a mosquito fly’s by in the back yard, he knows about it. That is what most people need. They just need to be alerted of a potential threat.
  My recommendation is a good temperament German shepherd dog that puts on a good show. Meaning, when someone comes to the door or near the backyard fence he barks with a deep scary bark. He may look menacing and play the part, but is a pussy cat inside.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Are You Killing Your Dog With Kindness?

  Sound crazy, it’s not. As a professional dog trainer, the things I see are unbelievable. Matter of fact I wrote a book about it, “Tails From The Barkside”. A book about my experiences as a dog trainer and some of the craziest clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with. If you send me an email, I’ll email you a free copy.
  There are some people out there that bring the word “anthropomorphic” to a new level. That means “humanizing” your dog. Now don’t get me wrong. My dogs Heidi and Fritz are the king and queen. Fritz sleeps in my bed and they both eat home cooked meals. I love them dearly. But I always let my dogs be dogs. I don’t try to make them human and I don’t treat them like a human. That is one reason they are “balanced” dogs.
  I had a girlfriend once that had two small breed dogs. She had more different outfits, raincoats and such than you could shake a stick. Now that stuff is ok as long as you don’t lose perspective. I guess sometimes that stuff is kind of fun. Fritz has a shearling coat for really cold days. But other than that, he gets treated like a dog. Now that doesn’t mean being mis-treated. That simply means you must maintain the human/animal relationship balance.
  One big deal in the dog world is security, in the human world as well. That is one reason why dogs jump on people. Because the want to feel secure through dominance. When you over humanize your dog, the dog may interpret that as a sign of weakness on you part and start to lose its confidence in you as the “pack-leader”.
  Also some accessories people put on their dogs are outright dangerous. I have a client with a Shih Tzu. I saw them the other day and they had just gotten the dog back from the groomers. The dog had a small bow on top of its head. While looking cute these things can come off. The dog can ingest these things and can either become lodged in there throat or swallowed, causing blockages.
  One more thing. Many people who own dogs just give the dog love, with no discipline at all. This is a problem. When we train protection dogs, many times the decoy will act afraid and retreat when the dog barks and acts aggressively towards him. The reason why he does this is when the dog makes advances he will act afraid to give the dog more confidence and make them more “powerful”. I have a client with an aggressive Shih Tzu. He told me that several times he approached the dog and tried to put his leash on, and the dog growled at him. I then asked “how did you respond” and he said “I back off”. Now what is that telling the dog? The natural progression here is he will continue to make this dog more and more powerful if he doesn’t discipline the dog. This will reach a point of no return and eventually the dog will end up in a shelter. Now these are nice, well intentioned people. All they want to do is to give this dog love. But if you really love them, treat them like the dogs that they are.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who Me, Jumping?

 Why do dogs jump on people? There are many reasons. One is dominance. Also there are scent glands in your face, which the dog uses to identify you. The main reason is security. The dog wants to be secure and feel safe. One way they accomplish this is through dominance.
  It is annoying and rude. Personally I don’t think it’s cute at all. If their paws are dirty, you get dirty. If their nails are not cut, they are sharp and can scratch you up. If they slobber, well you get it by now.
  So how do we stop this behavior? There are several effective methods. When I first meet a dog in a client’s home, and they are not leashed (I always request the dog to be leashed) but if they are not, I ignore the dog and turn when the dog jumps on me giving him my side profile. Also, I bump him off with my knee. Be very cognizant here about turning this into a game. I don’t “feed the beast”. And what I mean by that is I don’t play into his game. I become dominant by being boring. So now I’m in control, not the dog. The dog is probably used to people coming over and greeting him on his terms. Most people when they meet a new dog reach down to pet the dog. They use a high pitch voice and are very friendly. This tends to raise the dog’s energy level and encourage the jumping.
  I do just the opposite. I am stoic, boring and non-engaging. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mean-spirited guy. However we must train the dog to engage guests with manners.
  Another way is through corrections. Put the dog on your favorite training collar whether it is a martingale or a prong. Invite a friend over and let them in on the deal. When they ring the bell and the dog’s energy level goes ballistic, put the dog in a sit or better yet a down. When your guest enters and the dog goes to jump on them, give a sharp correction followed with a stout “no”.
  Still another way is give your guest a small bag of treats before he comes over. When he enters the house and the dog is in a sit or a down, and only if he is still, have your guest reward him. Now be very careful that the dog ONLY gets rewarded for calmness.
  Last but not least, when your dog jumps up on you, grab hold of his 2 front paws and “dance” with him. Hold his paws firmly and no matter how much he objects don’t let go. We want to create an “unpleasant” experience for him.
  In any case I’m sure some of you have your own little tips for stopping this behavior and I’m eager to hear them. So be sure to comment on this article.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Is "Crating" a dirty word?

  Is” crating” a dirty word? Some people think it is. How could you be so cruel and put that cute little puppy in a cage all alone. Puppy jail is another way some people describe it. Once more people are becoming “anthropomorphic” when it comes to canine behavior. They are “humanizing” their dogs.  Bad idea.
  I am the first one to agree that positive methods in training are the way to go. That being said, for the first two years of a dog’s life, you have to save them from themselves. In the words of Caesar, “rules, boundaries, and limitations”. Every time you interact with the dog, it should be a positive experience for both of you. That can’t be if you have to reprimand the dog or correct him for some wrongdoing. In the dog world, you either condemn something or condone it. There is no middle ground. Let’s take a real life scenario; I just got off the phone with a client, and this is what prompted me to write this piece. His 4 month old German shepherd just ate the bottom of the stair railings. Well if the dog was supervised, that couldn’t have happened. Now the dog has to be corrected for that behavior. See what I mean.
  Now you can’t keep a dog crated all the time. That is just ridiculous. However, there should be regular “play time”. Then you can supervise his exercise and activities. Once the dog becomes mature, usually 18 mos. To 2 years old, than he can have more freedom. By that time he will have outgrown some bad habits that puppies engage in. And your interactions will be almost always positive without having to correct them for doing destructive “puppy stuff”. Too often people make the mistake of expecting adult behavior from an immature animal. Don’t make the same mistake.