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Old 06-03-2005, 12:33 AM
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CreatureTeacher CreatureTeacher is offline
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Default For Linda and her Furkids!

Hi Linda,

The first thing I need to say is that you are an excellent dog mom. You have nothing to feel guilty about. I see people practicing the type of training you've described almost every day for years; their flaw is in an unflappable belief that the things they are doing are not only okay, but the one and only right way to do things. Training techniques become almost a religion to people--they are right and everyone else can be damned. They're doing something appropriate, wise, and necessary and they won't hear anything different. The fact that you're open to the idea that the way you paid someone to train your dogs may not have been the best makes you a smart, responsible, and selfless parent to your dogs and I admire you for it. Thank you for considering the possibility, no matter what opinion you may develop.

The truth is that the sort of punishment-based training we all grew up with works. If it didn't, we wouldn't use it. But there are a couple of fundamental problems with training any animal with punishment. The first is that by its nature, punishment-based training does not take into account the subject's motivations. "I don't care why he does it, I just want him to stop," or "I want him to sit immediately when I tell him to, no matter what's happening." It's not a cooperative situation. The communication goes one way, from the trainer to the subject. Which wouldn't be a problem if the subject wasn't a thinking animal. But there is no such thing as unmotivated behavior. I'll give you a couple of real life examples:

I worked with a dog named Bailey in Wisconsin. Bailey's mom had hired another trainer to teach him basic obedience. Her problem was that Bailey would only sit when she pushed down on his rear. It really bugged her that he wouldn't just sit when she asked. Her previous trainer had declared him "difficult and strong-headed" and used electric shock to "teach" him to sit. When the e-collar was on, he'd sit on command. As soon as it came off, he developed selective hearing. When I talked to Bailey's mom about the problem, I suggested she take him to the vet. His breed and the behavior she described taken in context with Bailey's day-to-day behavior suggested to me that he might actually have a physical condition that kept him from sitting down comfortably. Sure enough, he had a painful luxating patella (a condition involving the dog's kneecap slipping out of joint) that hurt him every time he sat. The previous trainer hadn't thought to have Bailey checked for a physical problem. They weren't interested in what motivated him to behave in the way they saw. They wanted him to sit so they could get their money and go home.

One more example: Some older folks called me about evaluating their young border collie, Molly. Molly had begun pulling out and eating her own fur. It was causing repeated skin infections and she threw up the fur daily. It was clear to me that she was very distressed, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out why. I spent hours with her family trying to discover the source of her distress. We eventually went outside to examine her environment--I was even considering that she had been eating some toxic plant or another substance that was making her ill. As we walked the property, I complimented the woman on her amazing flower gardens. She said, "Thank you! They sure look better now that Molly's not digging them up anymore." With a little further probing, I managed to discover that Molly had been quite the digger and had been destroying the woman's valuable flowers. A friend of theirs had told them to fill a tennis-ball can half-way up with pennies, hide behind the building, then throw the can as hard as they could at Molly whenever she got near the flower beds. They did it, and she stopped digging. But border collies are intensely intelligent, energetic animals. Denying her digging, although good for the flowers, was denying her an outlet for her almost boundless energy. The can of pennies, which was heavy, loud, and frightening, was causing her such anxiety that she didn't even want to leave the house. She sat indoors and turned her brilliant mind and energy to obsessive self mutilation, like a child chewing his nails in a boring class. We set about working with Molly to repair her self confidence. We built her her own little "sandbox"--just a frame of two-by-fours in the yard--in which she was allowed and encouraged to dig to her heart's content, on the condition that she was not to dig anywhere else. We also taught her to play frisbee, which she did with enormous enthusiasm. We got her some stimulating toys and got her moving on basic obedience to exercise her brilliant mind. The fur-pulling stopped immediately, and so did the infections and vomiting. Again, it came from understanding her motivations.

This leads to another problem with punishment training. Training this way has behavioral "side effects". I would suspect that this is at least partially responsible for Mango's unpredictable behavior. (More about this later.) When you use pain, fear, or other punishments to train an animal for a certain behavior, other undesirable behaviors often develop that didn't exist previously, such as Molly's hair-pulling. Many dogs develop aggressive tendencies from being trained with punishment, because they begin to fear people who may bring pain.

The last problem I'll mention is that animals frequently don't understand what's expected of them when trained this way. Frequently, punishment trainers force a dog into a behavior by cutting off all other options except for the one they want. If you give a dog no choice but to sit, he'll sit. But he's trying to learn through a process of elimination. There's a huge difference between this and actually showing him what you want him to do. It changes a "I think this is right" to an "Oh, I see!"

Positive training is so important to your relationship with your dog. Punishment training is adverserial--it focuses on what the dog's doing wrong and attempts to correct the problems. It "dehumanizes" the dog, if you will. In the trainer's mind, when the focus is on the negative they tend to see dogs in general as "lower" beings, stupid, and belligerent. Positive training is cooperative. It allows the trainer and the subject to focus on what's being done right. It's fun, exciting, and upbeat. Everyone learns faster when they're having fun. We all appreciate being told we're doing a good job when we're trying our best. A little encouragement goes a long way toward motivating us to do well. Dogs are the same way. When you train with positive methods, it shows your dogs that you appreciate them as individuals and respect them as friends and companions. It takes into account their motivations and so opens the communication to both parties. You listen and you teach, and lo and behold the dog learns faster.

You should be proud for second-guessing the methods your trainer used. If you're uncomfortable with something that's being done to your dog, there's no reason to continue. Punishment trainers like to convince you that their way is the only way your dog will learn what you want him to learn. That is absolute hogswallop. There are dozens of different ways to teach or discourage any one behavior. Anyone who tells you differently has little or no knowledge of training as an actual behavioral science. I tell my clients, "I find it works well if you..." or "Why don't we try it this way..." But by no means will I stick to a method that's clearly not working. It only wastes my time and my clients' money, and confuses the dog. This is the rule of thumb: Don't pay someone to do to your dog what you would prosecute them for doing to your child. There is always another way. Anyone that tells you different is full of it. Any trainer you use should consistently ask you: (a) Do you understand exactly what's being done and why? and (b) Do you have any ideas to contribute to what's being done? A good trainer will look to you for nearly constant feedback. Frequently a dog's owner has valuable insights into their dog's behavior and motivation, giving them an essential role in the training process. No one knows your dogs like you do, so no one can train them properly without your input and participation.

(continued...)
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Old 06-03-2005, 12:33 AM
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I believe that Mango's offensive behavior toward other dogs is probably a result of a combination of factors. We have to think, "What reward is she getting when she lunges?" The first is one of the "side effects" discussed earlier that behaviorists call displaced aggression. Mango may be frustrated by the methods used to restrain her in her interactions with other dogs. Since she can't take out her frustration on the methods themselves, she goes for the next best thing--the other dog. When she knows the collar isn't on, she feels free to express her frustration. She won't do it when the collar is on because she wants to avoid the discomfort associated with a "correction". The reward in this scenario is getting an outlet for her feelings. Or, she could be lunging out of simple curiosity. If she's been denied interaction with strange dogs in the past, she may go for the "surprise sniff". She knows if she takes a dive for the other dog, she'll have the opportunity to get some quick information before you have time to react and pull her away. This is her reward. In this case, the behavior didn't develop as an aggressive act, but it may have grown into one over time. Another reason could be just to attain a startled reaction from the other dog. In this case, Mango simply has an underdeveloped understanding of dog-dog social interactions. Depending on her motivations, we can treat her behavior in different ways to get the results we want without pinching and choking, and with a lot less stress to everyone involved. Do any of these ideas hit home for you? Why do you think Mango lunges at other dogs? When we think we know, we'll brainstorm some solutions and try them out until we get it! Let's solve the problem instead of just learning to live with it!

Two boxer pups are a huge challenge. Please understand that you did nothing wrong by attempting to get some help from a professional. You didn't do anything that's irreparable. Dogs are amazingly resilient animals, and love is what counts here. We all hire professionals with the assumption and faith that they know what they're doing. We pay them to know something we don't. But sometimes they don't know what they're doing anymore than we do. It's clear that you love and care about your dogs. That puts you leaps and bounds ahead of lots of owners. You can't learn anything unless you ask, and behavior is a fascinating subject. You'll be an expert in no time!
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Old 06-03-2005, 10:03 AM
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Let me add my unbridled respect for Linda's desire to do the best for her pups! An open mind is a wonderful resource.
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  #4  
Old 06-03-2005, 11:42 AM
LindaRusiecki LindaRusiecki is offline
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Default Jefe and Mango

Thanks for the loads of insight, and encouragement. I'm trying best to be a good dog mom, and your kindness is helpful. I really want to avoid any more techniques that would scare or hurt my pups. I would really appreciate your insight into this situation, so that I may have a way to solve this aggression without the use of the choke (which you've hinted may be the cause of the aggression in the first place).

Here's the full situation.

The aggression when out of the house (or bringing a new dog over to our house) goes something like this. Whether off leash or on a flat collar, Mango will wag her tail and touch noses with the other dog. They'll sniff each other for a few seconds. Then she tries to climb onto it's back and bite the back of its neck and shake her head back and forth while growling. Our neighbor's Eskimo just ran away quickly. Their Australian Shepard just ignored Mango and walked away, and her little incident was over. However, with the other dog's she's met (this has happened with three dogs), they whimper and lay down while she's biting and yipe, as if in pain. In these situations, I've broken it up before the other dog got hurt. She's never broken skin.

There are two full grown Boxers that she does play with. Both she was with at the breeder's house for the first eight weeks of her life. Annie, (her sister; from the same mother and father but different litter...a year older), and her monther, Sandy.

I've noticed that whenever I take Mango to visit EITHER Sandy or Annie, she attempts her mounting/biting business, but the older dog quickly knocks her down. Mango rolls over, exposes her belly, and urinates on herself. The older dog will place her paw on Mango's belly for about ten seconds and growl. Then, both dogs get up and play nice and have a wonderful time. This little ritual repeats itself on every visit. Aside from Jefe (her brother), these are the only dogs that she CAN play nice with.

The trainer I had worked with before (the one who's techniques I'm questioning) brought over her two big German Shephards, but because they just ignored her tactics and didn't act afraid when she mounted, she left them alone and played with a toy instead. Like I said before, that trainer said to always keep her on a choke around other dogs, so that I can correct her if I'm in public and she lunges.

What would you suggest instead? Should I keep introducing her to other dogs, or should I stop?
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Old 06-03-2005, 12:09 PM
LindaRusiecki LindaRusiecki is offline
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Default more questions on the situation...

Is the rolling over and urinating when she's with Annie or Sandy normal? Could it be that she's hoping that the dogs she meets will roll over for her?
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Old 06-08-2005, 10:39 PM
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CreatureTeacher CreatureTeacher is offline
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Linda,

Sorry it took me so long to respond. I promise I didn't forget you! I've had an awfully busy week! I hope you don't mind if I use the quote-and-reply method. It tends to keep me on track.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaRusiecki
Whether off leash or on a flat collar, Mango will wag her tail and touch noses with the other dog. They'll sniff each other for a few seconds. Then she tries to climb onto it's back and bite the back of its neck and shake her head back and forth while growling.
No wonder you get scared! That's a pretty intimidating situation. But not an unusual one, especially for energetic, powerful dogs like boxers. The way you describe the situation sends up an "out of control" flag for me. It's definitely a social problem, and the solutions to social problems always start at home. It's not much different from a two-year-old who hits other children. If you can get control of her at home, you'll have control of her in exciting situations like meeting other dogs. Check out this thread about resource control: http://www.chazhound.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5923 That should get you moving in the right social direction with both your furkids. Doberluv and Renee have some great ideas about teaching pooches to respect your thoughts. It's important that we teach them to look to you when they're in a stimulating situation, and I think that will go a long way in helping them understand who's paying the bills. They need to know that all good things come through you.

Next, I'd start a good, intense obedience program with them at home. I highly recommend "clicker" training--I've used several different methods, and that's the one with which I get the most consistent good results. I don't remember if I recommended any books, but some good ones to get you moving on in-home obedience are:

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Positive Dog Training by Pamela Dennison
The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller and Jean Donaldson
Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor

The first one alone will give you enough to get started. There's no better way to gain your dog's attention and respect than to be her teacher. And I think you'd make a great positive trainer to your kids!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaRusiecki
There are two full grown Boxers that she does play with. Both she was with at the breeder's house for the first eight weeks of her life. Annie, (her sister; from the same mother and father but different litter...a year older), and her monther, Sandy.
This is a perfect training opportunity, because these are dogs she knows and that she can be a little rough with. When you take her over to play with the other boxers, watch her carefully. If she does anything you consider rude or unacceptable when playing with the others (jumping on them, biting, barking, mouthing...whatever you decide is too much), show her it's not okay by taking away her fun. The second you see the improper behavior, go out and clip a leash on her and lead her inside for a "time out" all alone. Don't say anything to her as you do this. Take her to a boxer-proof (is there any such thing?) bathroom or small bedroom where there's nothing fun for her to do and shut her inside (make sure there's plenty of light and ventilation--windows are a must). If she's going to be rowdy, she can do it by herself. After about 5 minutes, go back in, clip on the leash, take her back outside, and let her go. (If you're already practicing resource control, this will be much easier to do.) Then, if she does something cruddy, repeat the whole process. Let her know you're willing and able to show her what play behavior is okay and what is not. The key, as always, is consistency. If something's not okay now, it's not okay ever. And, more importantly when you get her out with stranger-dogs, what is okay now is always okay, unless different understood instructions are given.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaRusiecki
I've noticed that whenever I take Mango to visit EITHER Sandy or Annie, she attempts her mounting/biting business, but the older dog quickly knocks her down. Mango rolls over, exposes her belly, and urinates on herself. The older dog will place her paw on Mango's belly for about ten seconds and growl. Then, both dogs get up and play nice and have a wonderful time. This little ritual repeats itself on every visit. Aside from Jefe (her brother), these are the only dogs that she CAN play nice with.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaRusiecki
Is the rolling over and urinating when she's with Annie or Sandy normal? Could it be that she's hoping that the dogs she meets will roll over for her?
You're not far off the mark. Rolling onto her back and peeing is a perfectly normal--and probably necessary--behavior when Mango has made a pill of herself to another dog. She's probably perfectly aware of where Sandy's and Annie's tolerance ends. I would guess that what's happening involves Mango taking one of the other dogs just to the limit of how much craziness they'll put up with, then quickly "apologizing" so she doesn't actually make them mad. The behaviors you're seeing are a ritual designed to demonstrate Mango's willingness to recognize the other dogs' superior social position. The other dog shows her that she accepts Mango's gesture, then everyone gets on with what they were doing. Submissive urination is a common behavior in dogs that feel threatened with retribution or punishment from another animal. It's sort of a, "Hey, we're all friends here! I've got nothing to hide from you!" thing. Then, when Sandy or Annie places her foot on Mango and growls, she's saying, "Okay, but watch it, kid." That's actually an unusually distinct demonstration of that little ritual. I'd love to see it happen, because signals like these among dogs tend to be more subtle. But of course, you're not going to let Mango get to that point anymore. So I'm out of luck.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaRusiecki
Should I keep introducing her to other dogs, or should I stop?
I would wait until you've gone through some resource control and good, solid one-on-one obedience before you introduce her to any more dogs. You want to make the introductions into a learning experience, and she can't learn if she's completely out of control.

How's all that sound?
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Old 06-11-2005, 11:02 PM
LindaRusiecki LindaRusiecki is offline
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Default control in the house

So far, your advice sounds good...a lot better than the choke-chain yanking business. I'll try to take Mango back to play with her kin a little more often, and do what you said. Question: Since Jefe does know how to play nice with other dogs, is there any way that I could use him as demonstration for her? i.e. take him to the off-leash park and have her watch from the other side of the fence? (I don't dare take her in yet)

As for training in the house, there are only only two situations where the two get out of control:
1. Mango is out of control when company is over
2. Jefe is out of control when left alone inside house.

When company comes over, Mango's first response is to jump all over whoever walks through the door and to try to lick their face, hands, legs...you get the point. She's squirmy, wiggly, all excited, and basically says with her body language "OH MY! YOU CAME TO PLAY WITH ME! I LOVE YOU! I'LL LICK YOU TO DEATH BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!" Cute, but obnoxious. (Jefe is mellow. He likes to lick, but he's not rude about it like she is).

The suggestions that my previous trainer told me to do were to keep her on a training collar and leash when guests came over, so she had no opprotunity to act like that (tried that...worked but she was miserable and said "This isn't fair. Jefe's not on a leash!"), kennel one dog with a kong ball or bone and leave the other out while guests were over and switch from time to time (only sorta worked...the kenneled dog would only put up with not meeting the new guests for about fifteen minutes before complaining.) or to make them both stay outside when guests come over. After all these suggestions only sorta worked, I just have the guests ignore the dogs for fifteen minutes. If I tell the guests to just ignore the dogs (or if the guests don't really like dogs and don't really want to pet them), the dogs get no reward for their obnoxious behavior and the dogs leave them alone. It's the dog lovers that get annoyed. Even if I tell them to ignore the pups, they shower them with attention and pets saying "But they're so cute!", and pretty much get pawed or tongue-lashed and act annoyed.

So that's the one situation where I'm having problems controlling them in the house.

Jefe just LOVES shoes, styrafoam, books, trash, rugs, couch cushions, blankets, lamp cords etc. There is no greater joy to him then removing the stuffing from an old blanket and spreading it evenly around the house. (Mango couldn't care less. She only chews on dog toys). If we're around he doesn't do this, because we tell him "Drop it", praise him when he does, then put the object out of sight.To curb his chewing we bought bones, kongs, cow hooves, pig ears, stuffed animals...and he chews them in front of us, but ignores those things if we leave him home alone. So we just stopped leaving him alone in the house.

They have a huge fenced-in yard with a five foot by five foot sided, insulated, shingled dog house. It has plenty of areas to dig and lots of toys to play with, so they'd rather be out there than inside if we leave anyways. More room to romp and play and wrestle, which they do for HOURS every afternoon. So we just put them outside every time we leave the house. The only problem with this arrangement is that this is Michigan. We have winters. Last winter, I let them stay outside all winter while I was in class and and just had them inside for the evenings and to sleep, but I worry about them being out in the cold.

Aside from these two situations, if they're in the house they obey all basic commands, and generally mind me. If they start to get squirrely or out of control in the house, I assume that they're just bored. I go outside, and they run out after me and box at each other outside. We'll play tug-of-war, fetch, jumping games through hoops. At night, when it's dark, I use a laser-pointer, and they chase it until they're ready to drop. Great fun. They love each other and those kinds of games.

You talked about clicker training. I will read the books when I get back from vacation (we're leaving in two days), and I've looked up stuff about it on your website and links. I like the idea. It seems so refreshing compared to puppy boot camp. I tried the clicker (actually, a shaker egg, but same concept) when I walked them, and they seemed to be very encouraged by it and excited to hear the sound coupled with "GOOD" and a pat on the head. They allready heel because of the choker training, but this seemed...more uplifting. It seemed to reinforce what they already knew, but made them want to look me in the eye and "check in" every few paces. What else would you recommend me using the clicker training for in particular in my situation? Praising them/treats/toys have all been effective in teaching them games and tricks, without the clicking. Should I add that and start the basic commands over?

Just so you know...I REALLY appreciate you showing me a better way to train and taking time to answer my questions.
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Old 06-11-2005, 11:11 PM
LindaRusiecki LindaRusiecki is offline
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Oh...I read the whole thread on resource control. That's never really been an issue. They've always dropped anything we told them to drop, and we can take away their food at any moment's notice, and they don't get mad, they just stare at us. It's actually kinda funny.

If any form of food, people food, dog food, treats, etc. are within their line of sight, they suddenly focus. They become quiet, stare us straight in the eye, and sit, as if to say "I am being SO incredibly good. Maybe if I'm good long enough I'll get some of that food." If only they'd act like this when food wasn't around!
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