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Old 08-09-2006, 05:31 PM
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Adrienne Adrienne is offline
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Default Needs some positive training tips for aggressive dog

I am really interested in finding out how positive trainers deal with aggressive dogs.

Some of you may know about Katya already. She is a six-year-old Caucasian Ovcharka, (very basic breed info can be found here http://www.i-love-dogs.com/dog-breed...ntain-Dog.html)

Basic background. Katya was in obedience training at a very young age. She is very responsive to commands in certain situations, excluding ones that include suspicious people/animals. She is well mannered with her family and those she knows. She is not play motivated and has very little intrest in food rewards. Katya has been raised by my mom for the majority of her life. While under my mom's care Katya has bitten four people and consistently aggressed moving vehicles, bikes, adults, children, other animals. While under my care for over a year I never once had a problem with aggression, she was properly introduced to people and other pets on my terms. When she first met someone new and would aggress she was given a verbal correction first and if that was not enough she was given a collar correction on a buckle collar(we always use a prong on walks for everyone elses safety). If that still was not enough she was placed into a seperate room for the visitors safety.

Question. How do you positive trainers teach a dog proper behavior without corrections when the dog has no interest in rewards during their high payoff behavior of lunging and aggressing? Desensitization has been attempted but under the right circumstances (everyday run in's on walks, etc.) no matter the length of time the dog has been allowed to become desensitized (honestly tried for months) the behavior continues. When Katya goes into guard mode there is no stopping her with treats/reward, she has absoulutly no interest in anything except getting to the perceived threat.

During Katya's time here she went on daily walks with me, whenever I saw a person approaching us we stepped off the walk to the side, issued a sit command and made sure she was not looking at the person. If she aggressed she was given a firm correction with the leash. Within two weeks time she ceased to exhibit aggression on walks at any person or moving object.

Now she is back with my mom, next door to me. We walk all four dogs daily for approximately 2-4 miles. My mom uses Cesar's methods of implementing exercise, correct discipline, and then affection. This has been working well for her and she is finally confident enough to walk Katya on her own (took about six months). We both are honestly curious to hear how a NRM and only positive enforcement would be used with a dog of this caliber with no interest in rewards.

How would you initially approach the dog and what type of response would you issue when the dog lunged, ready to attack? How long of a desensitization period would you use to condition the dog not to aggress every moving object/person. How would you build up to the moment of the introduction, keeping in mind everyones safety?

I would really appreciate a breakdown of the methods you would use in this type of situation. I have been planning to try some new methods even though the ones I used with her were successful to a degree that she is not a threat anymore.

This thread is not intended to spark any arguments or debates, I am all for using whatever techniques work for you and your dog. I am just really interested in having the techniques broken down so I can attempt a new angle with her training.
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Old 08-09-2006, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Adrienne
When Katya goes into guard mode there is no stopping her with treats/reward, she has absoulutly no interest in anything except getting to the perceived threat.
i think that's the key to it right there- you need to step in and act BEFORE that little switch flips.

a lot of positive-method training to deal with aggression/reactivity is about preventing the dog from popping off. if the dog goes bananas and self-rewards, it's a big set-back to training. so you start small and far away, rewarding the behavior you want in a place where the dog is able to respond to you, where the dog is NOT aggressing.

it's hard, especially if your dog has a lot of triggers, and it can take a very very long time, but you end up with a more trust-worthy dog than one who has just been subdued with corrections.

a book that might be of interest to you is bringing light to shadow by pamela dennison. it's her journal of rehabilitating an aggressive border collie through only positive methods. she's also got another book called how to right a dog gone wrong but i've not read it. her website is http://positivedogs.com/
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Old 08-09-2006, 07:28 PM
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If Cesar Milan's methods are working for you and your dog is no longer aggressive toward anyone at any time, why not stick with those?

Positive method trainers don't use punishment, as in collar yanks or scoldings for aggression because the premise is that you're associating a bad thing with the people the dog is lunging at. So, instead of making the people into good things....friends, you're making them seem even more rotten. This is how dogs think....they make associations between things, tie things like that together.

When you say your dog is not interested in food, doesn't your dog need to eat? How does it stay alive? There are ways to make sure the dog has motivation, reinforcement and reward. A couple of books I recommend highly: Culture Clash, Jean Donaldson and Don't Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor. Sometimes people say positive methods don't work. But they do. It's often that they're not being implimented properly. They work because there's proof all over the place that they do. They use clicker training, for instance in all kinds of venues with dogs and they use it with other animals, tigers in zoos have been clicker trained to accept medical procedures like drawing blood without the former necessity of anesthesia. If you're interested, I'd find a trainer who is well versed in this and look into it. It's fun, makes for a more thinking dog, a happier dog than one who obeys in order to avoid an unpleasant consequence. It's so much more fun to work for a pleasurable one. And it's been shown scientifically that working for a reward is more effective than working out of avoidance. A dog is less apt to shut down, become submissive, become aggressive and is just plain more willing to work when bad things aren't happening to it.

When the dog is acting out toward somone, there is some moment where he is not. He has to breathe. He has to take a breath between his barks or snarls. You can shape this behavior into longer periods by use of clicker training along with a properly carried out desensatization process to get him so he is indeed more comforatable around people.

It is impossible on the Internet to do much. There would need to be known a lot more about this dog as far as it's history, it's experiences, socialization, how it's dealt with in day to day interactions.

Dogs do what works. If it works to keep people away from him by his lunging and barking, then that is reinforcement for him. Also, jerking his neck and using aversives tends to cause aggression and/or aggravate it.

Since this is the Internet, it is not really a great idea to base your training plan on it since no one can really see or know what is behind this. It's different when it's something like food or toy guarding aggression. That one is usually more basic. If you don't like the method you're using or it's results, it's longevity, it's reliability....if you think Cesar Milan's ways might be supressing behavior, but not getting at the source of the problem, whereby it may turn up later or in some other problem, I would suggest you find a certified behaviorist who uses and specializes in operant conditioning/motivation and reward based methods.

A book which I recommend would be "Click to Calm...healing the aggressive dog." (Emma Parsons) Other authors to look for would be Jean Donaldson, Ian Dunbar, Karen Pryor.

But in addition to reading more, I really think in this case, you need some hands on help. Good luck.
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Old 08-09-2006, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Doberluv
If Cesar Milan's methods are working for you and your dog is no longer aggressive toward anyone at any time, why not stick with those?
Alright now, I'm really getting sick and tired of this almost blinding support of Cesar. Don't you realise that there is also a correct time and place where positive reinforcement works wonders?! Geeze!

I start with Cesar's methods to address (not supress) behaviors and stabalize a dog - there is a difference. And, to help a dog understand their place and relationship with their owner. So, most of it IS working with the owner, and the dog's stability will follow. I usually find behavior problems in the dog to be a symptom of the relationship with the owner and/or household environment.

Once a dog is stabalized in the relationship with the owner, I incorporate training methods which are largely positive reinforcement based. Corrections are mostly replaced by verbal boundaries and communication about what I want before the behavior happens or escalates, so I am also directing and instructing rather than simply reacting to the dog's behavior with a reward or punishment.

I believe a dog finds great reward and a relief of stress in the stability and safety of good leadership and knowing their place with their social group, too.

IMOAE, dogs clearly understand direction and instruction and respond far better in addition to reward, rather than when only receiving a reward or unpleasant consequence after the fact.

I'd say your mom sounds like she has done well with this dog so far. I'd support the program she is working with the dog, and add in training as you go.
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Old 08-09-2006, 11:07 PM
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Alright now, I'm really getting sick and tired of this almost blinding support of Cesar. Don't you realise that there is also a correct time and place where positive reinforcement works wonders?! Geeze!
Huh? I don't get it. I wasn't being sarcastic. I meant what I said. The op had an aggressive dog and now it's not or at least it's better and this is what they've been using. So...if they're happy with everything, they think they've got it licked.... that's great. Why look for something else? If they're uncomfortable about anything, then I suppose that would be a reason to look for another way.
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Old 08-09-2006, 11:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Doberluv
Huh? I don't get it. I wasn't being sarcastic. I meant what I said. The op had an aggressive dog and now it's not or at least it's better and this is what they've been using. So...if they're happy with everything, they think they've got it licked.... that's great. Why look for something else? If they're uncomfortable about anything, then I suppose that would be a reason to look for another way.
I'm just teasin' you in good fun, Doberluv!
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Reward the good, ignore the bad, and always remember to duck during the temper tantrums!

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Old 08-09-2006, 11:37 PM
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Of course people should stick with what works, but I think Adrienne just wants to know if there is a more positive approach that she can take to training Katya. I know that using physical correction is working with one of my dogs who has occasional issues with people, but I'd prefer to use positive methods if possible.

Is there a way to build up a dog's motivation and drive? I know I've seen people working young dogs/puppies to be more drivey, but is there anything that can be done to build food/toy drive with older dogs?
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Old 08-09-2006, 11:44 PM
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I'm just teasin' you in good fun, Doberluv!

Oh, duh...I'm a little slow witted. Oops. .
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Old 08-10-2006, 12:12 AM
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Is there a way to build up a dog's motivation and drive? I know I've seen people working young dogs/puppies to be more drivey, but is there anything that can be done to build food/toy drive with older dogs?
Well, I'm getting the idea that people don't want to hear about it, but since you asked, here's my opinion. The most motivated dogs I've ever seen are trained with positive training methods, void of collar corrections and most forms of punishment...etc.

Using only positive methods, they are working toward earning something rather than away from, or working to avoid a consequence. IMO working toward something or forward builds momentum and drive. They also use their own heads more, are more mentally stimulated because they're not being forced to do something, but are given a choice....to think about. OF course, they're set up to make the "right" choice. But they still become more thinking animals. I think that punishment in the way of collar yanks etc tend to not only stop the behavior you're aiming at, but also other behavior which may be happening at the same time....so that the dog shuts down to some degree....tones down. This is not what you want if you want a drivey dog.

Drive, I believe is in part....a part of the individual dog's personality. I'm sure it can be modified with a lot of encouragement and good management, but a lot of that is what a dog is born with, I think.

Also a little deprivation will increase the value of rewards. But you still need to find what motivates your dog. Something does or the dog would lose the will to live. (IMO) If a dog is happy about anything, find out what it is which floats his boat. Deprive him of it a little bit and it will be more valuable to him yet.
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Old 08-10-2006, 12:46 AM
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I agree with you, Doberluv. I know part of it is personality and breed, but my dog who was trained with positive methods is much more motivated by food and toy rewards than my dog who was trained with aversive methods.

However, is there something wrong with my dog when he goes to sniff the ground instead of getting his food reward? He knows what behavior is wanted, but there is still something more rewarding to him about smelling the ground. I've tried fasting him for three days, and only when he reached the peak of his hunger did he stop paying attention to distractions and look at my hand with the food in it. I really do think it's odd that he doesn't value food very much; has he just been spoiled and taught that food will always be available to him twice a day? Or does he have no survival instincts whatsoever?
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