Dog Whisperer

Doberluv

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So, in other words, in regard my 2nd to last post, I do not believe that dogs living in our homes have it in mind to raise their position in a hierarchy-like status, to become as an alpha wolf in a wolf pack when they live with a different species. I do not equate misbehavior, including aggression with dominance. Dogs do what works and if it works to achieve what they want, whether it's to pull on a leash, to be pushy about food, to bite someone to make them back off.....it's not status seeking behavior because they don't need it. Its about reinforcement. Naturally dogs want to hurry and go for a walk. We walk too slowly. They're hungry and want their food in a hurry. They have a fear or defensiveness, so they bite. If all the responses they've gotten for these behaviors have worked...they've been reinforced for them, they will be repeated. If doing those things does not work for them, if there is no reinforcement or payoff, those behaviors will cease.
 

RD

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This is kind of off topic, but Cesar reminds me of this . . .

My new puppy is going to be a working sheep dog. It's the general opinion of a lot of top sheepdog trainers and breeders that the "cold" way of training by shaping behaviors with food and then applying one specific cue to those behaviors will interfere with the dog's ability to think on its own. Sheepdog people want their dog to see what their intentions for the dog are, rather than simply perform a trained behavior in response to a cue.

I resisted this for a long time. The training methods I’ve used, on my own dogs and a number of shelter dogs, work for me. I set the dog up for success, the dog succeeds, the dog learns. I didn't think that dogs had a very deep understanding of our intentions, but this example that Eve's breeder sent me really brought things into perspective for me:

The most striking example I can cite is Roy Johnson. A farmer and very successful trialer (when he can get away to do it) on both sheep and cattle, he is not what I would call a very good dog trainer. He knows stock and he connects emotionally very strongly with his dogs. To hear him say to his dog, "Sonny, over yonder." and then watch Sonny go to the perfect place to do the task, realizing that "over yonder" is a different place and direction each time Roy says it, is to understand what I'm trying to explain. But maybe just reading it will help. As an aside, Roy has no arms. They were cut off in a hay baler years ago. He truly needs and depends on his dogs to help him. Perhaps this strengthens the bond.
After a great deal of research and observation on this, I really can't say I believe that the behaviorism model (very little attention paid to the mental/emotional state of the individual) fits dogs to a "T". Some dogs, yes it does. But in the case of this breed, in working sheepdogs, there is a lot going on inside the minds of these animals that science cannot explain.

Anyway, I guess I apply all this to Cesar by observing that the people who raise sheepdogs to be beautifully behaved, extremely responsive, spirited freethinkers have a very natural approach to things. They do use corrections in daily life, they do give dogs a lot more credit for emotion, bonding and understanding than most behaviorists do, and they often are vague and demanding of their dogs. However, when a dog makes a mistake, it's just that - a mistake. If a dog has been conditioned to display aggressive behavior, if a dog pulls on the leash or jumps on people or shoves its way out the door, it is under trained - not dominant.

This is where I feel that Cesar's "theory" falls completely apart and why I believe he hasn't a clue about dog behavior or how they learn. The man is so hung up on dominance that he makes dogs out to be overly ambitious creatures that will gladly take over our lives if given the chance. They really aren't power-hungry; they just do what works for them. Cesar certainly has some points about exercise, that dogs are dogs (not people), etc. However, I tend to disregard whatever he says and advise others to do so as well, because I feel that the entire basis of his theory is flawed.

Dogs can be trained to be beautifully behaved without the use of a clicker, treats, choke chains, "TSST" or, in Roy Johnson's case, arms. There is a very natural approach to raising, living and working with dogs that works off the bond and connection between the dog and handler . . . That, IMO, can be likened to true “whispering”, and it DOES work. Cesar is just a brute who pushes dogs around and interprets shutting down as compliance. He has no credbility whatsoever as far as I am concerned, and I would *love* to see a competing show with someone like Karon Pryor or Ian Dunbar who can teach pet owners how to have a well-behaved companion without coercing them into a confused stupor.
 

Doberluv

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Cesar is just a brute who pushes dogs around and interprets shutting down as compliance. He has no credbility whatsoever as far as I am concerned, and I would *love* to see a competing show with someone like Karon Pryor or Ian Dunbar who can teach pet owners how to have a well-behaved companion without coercing them into a confused stupor.
Exactly.

RD, I enjoyed reading your post. I know what you're saying about dogs understanding "more than meets the eye." I see it too in my dogs all the time....little things that you wonder, "now how did you know what I mean?" I do not think that behaviorists or scientists discount what might possibly be in their minds that is ambiguous or unverified. There is no way to know positively what is in a dog's mind or what his motivations are. All we can do is learn what we can by research and our own observations and experiences. There are in fact studies which demonstrate just how phenomenally dogs read human signals. It may be that when that man said, "Over yonder," he gave off some near microscopic (to us) kind of signal that his dog picked up on. We know they have marvelous senses and there are probably oodles of tiny nuances that we don't realize that we send out which dogs can read or sense. Dogs send out minute signals too, that most people are oblivious to, Cesar being a prime example, only he doesn't recognize the signals that are the size of a Volkswagon.

Anhow, I don't believe that science is in any way blind to the possibilities that dogs know more than we sometimes think....not at all. Good scientists have procedures that make them good scientists. Leaping over steps in logic to come to a conclusion is not good science. That is what I also find to be so wrong about CM's approach to dogs. He's not using parsimony. The only things that can be quite conclusive are things which have gone through the process, which can be backed up. Perhaps some of the unexplained phenomenon in dogs has not been put into a "box" yet because it is as yet inconclusive. It doesn't mean it does not exist. But science is science and jumping to conclusions without first going through the steps.... is just not the way it works.
 

Groch

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RD, I thought your discussion of sheep dogs and "intension" was fascinating and I would sure like to see a clip of the dogs you reference in action.

The part of your post that I have real problems with is this:

...Cesar is just a brute who pushes dogs around and interprets shutting down as compliance. He has no credibility whatsoever as far as I am concerned........... teach pet owners how to have a well-behaved companion without coercing them into a confused stupor.
Caesar does not believe that interaction among dogs, or between dogs and owners is a never ending struggle for dominance that starts with the daily morning leash wrestle and ends with a bloody alpha roll each night.

He believes that in dog and dog/human families dominance is determined once and is not generally changed unless a new member joins the pack or old age/infirmity intervenes. He believes humans can be taught how to take the alpha position using a minimum of force (mostly blocking) and that once this position is established it results in dogs that are balanced, calm, and living happy stress free lives knowing their place in the pack.

One of the first episodes this season revisited of the 2 most highly aggressive dogs he has rehabilitated...both Chihuahuas. These tiny dogs were originally extremely stressed and violently aggressive, even against family members before Caesar taught the owners to be calmly assertive. The families reported the dogs much happier (even cuddling and sleeping with family members they previously had attacked viciously) once the responsibility of guarding their master was lifted from their shoulders and they took a submissive role in their family pack.

I do understand that many people here with far more training and experience than I have (yourself included) disagree with his theories and perhaps with very good reasons.

However, I do not think that it forwards the discussion to reduce his views to a simplistic caricature...it convinces no one.
 

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I'd love to see that too. I thought that one was in the works with NGC but haven't seen anything about it lately. I think that Cesar's popularity has the seeing $$ instead of the big picture...it's a shame really.
According to the recent article on CM in People, the channel is still considering a show with a more positive trainer to show the other techniques. I don't know if that is true, or if they are just trying to get people to shut up (;) ).
 

RD

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That's a good point, Doberluv, and I agree with you. I appreciate that scientists recognize that there might be more to dogs than science has proven so far.

Something I didn’t address in my last post, which I think I should – I wasn’t bashing behaviorists at all. I hope nobody takes offense, because I didn’t mean it to put anyone down; just wanted to explain that there is another way of doing things that can work, too (and note how badly Cesar has twisted this into a power struggle instead of mutual understanding, as it should be.)

When I look at it logically, behaviorists are doing the right thing by not suggesting to novice owners/trainers that their dog has the potential to understand exactly what they want, without any real training. It's a potentially dangerous statement to make, and it's what Cesar Milan says all the time - whether it's verbally, or through his actions.

Science has proven that reward-based methods (classical and operant conditioning) are extremely effective with dogs. These methods are safe, humane and can be utilized by virtually anyone without dreadfully negative reactions from the dog. Anyone who has seen someone yank an angry dog one too many times with a choke chain will know what I mean. You never see attacks caused by provocation during clicker training sessions. ;)

And I'm rambling horribly. Sorry!

What I was getting at, is I completely agree that people like Cesar Milan are doing far more harm than good. That little warning at the beginning of the show aside, suggesting that people who can’t even SPELL “dog” should alpha-roll their aggressive dogs, shove them around for being dogs (not dominant, just dogs) and get into a very macho position of “pack leader” by way of force is extremely foolish and dangerous. I’m not going to argue Cesar’s right to be on television, but I really do wish that the truth could be spread to the poor people who have no clue and want to try his “methods” on their own troubled dogs.
 

Doberluv

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Good post RD and you're not rambling. (not compared to me anyhow. LOL) Yes, mutual understanding, partnership between dog and owner instead of one having dominion over the other is what its all about. Dogs and people are hardwired by evolution and domestication to work together.....not against.
 

RD

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RD, I thought your discussion of sheep dogs and "intension" was fascinating and I would sure like to see a clip of the dogs you reference in action.

The part of your post that I have real problems with is this:



Caesar does not believe that interaction among dogs, or between dogs and owners is a never ending struggle for dominance that starts with the daily morning leash wrestle and ends with a bloody alpha roll each night.

He believes that in dog and dog/human families dominance is determined once and is not generally changed unless a new member joins the pack or old age/infirmity intervenes. He believes humans can be taught how to take the alpha position using a minimum of force (mostly blocking) and that once this position is established it results in dogs that are balanced, calm, and living happy stress free lives knowing their place in the pack.

One of the first episodes this season revisited of the 2 most highly aggressive dogs he has rehabilitated...both Chihuahuas. These tiny dogs were originally extremely stressed and violently aggressive, even against family members before Caesar taught the owners to be calmly assertive. The families reported the dogs much happier (even cuddling and sleeping with family members they previously had attacked viciously) once the responsibility of guarding their master was lifted from their shoulders and they took a submissive role in their family pack.

I do understand that many people here with far more training and experience than I have (yourself included) disagree with his theories and perhaps with very good reasons.

However, I do not think that it forwards the discussion to reduce his views to a simplistic caricature...it convinces no one.
Unfortunately, I don't have any clips on hand of dogs doing actual farm work. I have, however, seen this firsthand with my own pup's mother. She was working some rather flighty, excitable sheep and was asked to hold them in one position. One sheep, backed into a corner, was preparing to break off from the group and make a run for it. Her handler noticed this and very quietly said "Kate . . .” – that was it. Just her name. Kate slid over to that corner, got the sheep under control, and went back to her balance point. You bet she understood.

Perhaps you're right that taking a simplistic view of what Cesar does isn't particularly convincing. I do feel the need to vent about him sometimes, because I see people all around me trying to force his methods (which they don't even fully understand. Wow, that's a handful. A man who doesn't fully understand behavior, teaching people who don't fully understand his misconceptions = YIKES!) On their dogs. I over-simplify Cesar's methods because that's the only way I’m able to get the point across that the man really is not a revolutionary dog trainer. He’s not a dog trainer at all. He’s not a dog “Whisperer”. There is very little about him that is logical or genuine, and it does take some over-simplifying to get past the way he appears on TV.

I'm 17, and while I do love learning about dogs I am a far cry from being “knowledgeable” in the same league as people like Doc and Doberluv. Most of my opinions are just that - opinions. I don't have significant evidence to back them up; it's just what I think.

Until Cesar goes to college and learns about true dog behavior, I'm not going to take him seriously. He doesn't have the natural talent to be a dog whisperer, and he isn't working on building any skill as a dog trainer. He's a self-proclaimed genius who preaches misconceptions and has already done a great deal of damage to the way uninformed people treat their pet dogs, IMO. I suppose I'm too stubborn and dominant to be of much use in this conversation :D but I had to throw my .02 in. As usual.
 
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RD, I thought your discussion of sheep dogs and "intension" was fascinating and I would sure like to see a clip of the dogs you reference in action.

The part of your post that I have real problems with is this:



Caesar does not believe that interaction among dogs, or between dogs and owners is a never ending struggle for dominance that starts with the daily morning leash wrestle and ends with a bloody alpha roll each night.
One alpha roll is one too many and have you forgotten that he's doing this for all the world to see and possibly mimic??

He believes that in dog and dog/human families dominance is determined once and is not generally changed unless a new member joins the pack or old age/infirmity intervenes. He believes humans can be taught how to take the alpha position using a minimum of force (mostly blocking) and that once this position is established it results in dogs that are balanced, calm, and living happy stress free lives knowing their place in the pack.
Again, his blocking and confronting methods are pure bunk. I wouldn't last 1 day doing this with 1/2 of my private training clients, not that I'd ever resort to it anyway. There is just no need and certainly no scientific basis for this nonsense.

One of the first episodes this season revisited of the 2 most highly aggressive dogs he has rehabilitated...both Chihuahuas. These tiny dogs were originally extremely stressed and violently aggressive, even against family members before Caesar taught the owners to be calmly assertive. The families reported the dogs much happier (even cuddling and sleeping with family members they previously had attacked viciously) once the responsibility of guarding their master was lifted from their shoulders and they took a submissive role in their family pack.
You just described my session last night with a Chi/Papp mix. Not once did I try to dominate her, flood her or block her from anything. This little creature was way past the typical bark and retreat that you often see with small breeds who have been coddled. She was full out fury (all 11 lbs. of her;) ) and she would without a doubt have bitten me had I tried to use any of the usual methods that Cesar employs for such cases. Instead, I worked with the owners on a fairly straight forward "say please" program and showed them how to desensitize her to strangers....yes with a clicker.
I spent about 2 hours with them restructuring their routine to include consistency with training, increased expectations (allowing her to be a dog), and setting up a desensitization schedule to follow. I can guarentee that with owner compliance, this 1.5 year old terror will become the happy, well adjusted dog that they have always wanted. Oh, and by the time I left I was holding her leash and clicking a treating for behaviors and her owners were picking their jaws up off the living room carpet...NO DOMINATING REQUIRED!:)

I do understand that many people here with far more training and experience than I have (yourself included) disagree with his theories and perhaps with very good reasons.

However, I do not think that it forwards the discussion to reduce his views to a simplistic caricature...it convinces no one.
I'm still confused as to why you or anyone finds it their duty to defend him and his clearly unsound practices? I will absolutely call em like I see em, please don't mistake an educated observation for a cheap shot.:)
 

Groch

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RE:dr2little

You just described my session last night with a Chi/Papp mix...... This little creature was way past the typical bark and retreat that you often see with small breeds who have been coddled. She was full out fury (all 11 lbs. of her ) and she would without a doubt have bitten me had I tried to use any of the usual methods that Cesar employs for such cases. Instead, I worked with the owners on a fairly straight forward "say please" program and showed them how to desensitize her to strangers....yes with a clicker.

Dr. I will sure Tivo that episode when you get your show. I do think often the most aggressive dogs are the very small ones. It's got to be scary for them to be that small and have to make your way among all the human and doggy giants.

In the cases I mentioned the issue was not just with strangers, but with family members as well, any one approaching the owners. Caesar's explanation (which I do not think is overly convincing) was that the dog considered the owner "his women, he owns you". I have seen (including on Caesar's show) clickers used for teaching new commands but not for desensitizing aggression. I do hope that the fact that a dog training show is #1 on NGC does open the door for other shows with a more mainstream approach.
 

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DanL said:
A dog wouldn't hunt deer. It would scavenge just like it is programmed to do. They aren't going to turn into a pack of wolves and have an intelligent hunt to bring down a large beast.
Actually they do. Wild dog packs hunt deer if it's available.

DanL said:
Personally, I'd love to see a TV show with Ian Dunbar or some other positive only trainers.
He has one, Dogs With Dunbar, on the BBC in the UK. They use outtakes from it to form his video series. Why on earth they're not showing it here in the US I don't know. It's not even on the BBC America channel. It's been running since the early 90s though I'm not sure how many episodes were made or if Dunbar is still interested.
 
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RE:dr2little

You just described my session last night with a Chi/Papp mix...... This little creature was way past the typical bark and retreat that you often see with small breeds who have been coddled. She was full out fury (all 11 lbs. of her ) and she would without a doubt have bitten me had I tried to use any of the usual methods that Cesar employs for such cases. Instead, I worked with the owners on a fairly straight forward "say please" program and showed them how to desensitize her to strangers....yes with a clicker.

Dr. I will sure Tivo that episode when you get your show. I'm not sure if that was a dig or not??? I do think often the most aggressive dogs are the very small ones. It's got to be scary for them to be that small and have to make your way among all the human and doggy giants.

In the cases I mentioned the issue was not just with strangers, but with family members as well, any one approaching the owners. Caesar's explanation (which I do not think is overly convincing) was that the dog considered the owner "his women, he owns you". I have seen (including on Caesar's show) clickers used for teaching new commands but not for desensitizing aggression. I do hope that the fact that a dog training show is #1 on NGC does open the door for other shows with a more mainstream approach.
I was called to the home after the dog bit the man of the house. Most of these cases are not purely stranger aggression. Often times, I'm called in because the dog bit a stranger but I quickly discover that the family members have also been on the recieving end of the little princesses chompers. This dog was resource guarding his wife. He came in for a kiss and got bitten in the chin. He had previously punished the dog for growling (something that Cesar is famous for and totally wrong in doing) so of course the man got no warning prior to the bite, at least not one that he was able to read.
 

tempura tantrum

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He had previously punished the dog for growling (something that Cesar is famous for and totally wrong in doing) so of course the man got no warning prior to the bite, at least not one that he was able to read.
This is the one that absolutely KILLS me about Cesar Milan. I have seen him pop leashes and correct for growling COUNTLESS times, and in all honesty, I think it's the most dangerous thing he does on the show.

People watching are so conditioned to thinking "ooh growling is bad!" That they never stop to realize that a growling dog isn't BITING you, it's WARNING you. The growl is a CUE. It tells you the dog is uncomfortable, and should you choose to proceed with your current course of action, you're very likely to get hurt. Growling doesn't HURT. It might scare you, but that's GOOD.

It's exactly like a rattlesnake. People often consider them "polite" snakes because they give you a warning. If I were faced with any kind of a potentially deadly snake you can BET I'd want it to be one that warned first and bit second, not an animal that simply strikes out. Why would we see it any differently with dogs?

Yet you've got a host of people watching his show that are UNDOUBTEDLY correcting this behavior, and simultaneously destroying their ability to predict future bites. The dog's mind connects the punishment to the action actually being corrected, he doesn't think to himself "ooh, Mom doesn't like my aggressive behavior." He simply stops growling because he realizes that when he does, a correction results.

I never correct my dogs for growling. Generally they have a **** good reason for doing it- and if another dog or a person is pushing the boundaries, I think it's only fair that said dog or person is TOLD so, rather than being bitten out of thin air.
 

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It's exactly like a rattlesnake. People often consider them "polite" snakes because they give you a warning. If I were faced with any kind of a potentially deadly snake you can BET I'd want it to be one that warned first and bit second, not an animal that simply strikes out.
The irony is that in the American southwest where they still have rattlesnake roundups, humans are changing this behavior. The snakes that rattle when threatened are found in cracks and crevices. They get pulled out and destroyed. The snakes that don't rattle or are missing rattles are the ones left behind as the humans don't find them and now herpetologists, and unsuspecting people, are coming upon rattlesnakes with no rattles or aren't rattling when disturbed thus making them even MORE dangerous.

Leave it to humans.
 

tempura tantrum

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The irony is that in the American southwest where they still have rattlesnake roundups, humans are changing this behavior. The snakes that rattle when threatened are found in cracks and crevices. They get pulled out and destroyed. The snakes that don't rattle or are missing rattles are the ones left behind as the humans don't find them and now herpetologists, and unsuspecting people, are coming upon rattlesnakes with no rattles or aren't rattling when disturbed thus making them even MORE dangerous.

Leave it to humans.
Siiiiigh. And you can bet the same kind of idiots are the ones teaching their dogs not to growl. And then they'll be surprised and mortally offended that their dog nailed somebody after getting sick of being poked in the eye or what have you. "He never showed any siiiiiiiigns that he was going to bite!" They'll whine, and all the while, the rest of us who managed to do just a little bit of extra study will be rolling our eyes thinking "And who taught him that???"

Honestly, I just don't see how this is a hard concept for most human beings to understand, but I guess that just means I'm giving Homo sapiens too much credit. No surprise in a world that values star power (Cesar Milan, Paris Hilton), over brains and study (those unglamorous scientists devoting their lives to improving knowledge...psshhh).
 

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FOLKS COME ON, are you serious???! :yikes: Why would he try to find homes for dogs that are perfectly happy and healthy and well taken car of where they are??? Wouldn't that just leave one less home for one more dog that is in need of a home before it gets put down??? I have a feeling that some of us are really running out of things to slam this guy on and had to resort to pointing out something that not only isn't a problem, but a great thing for those dogs. Dogs love being with other dogs...that is why they are pack animals. I digress....:rolleyes:

and yes they are pack animals still....come to Detroit where there are wild dogs running loose...you will find them together like a bunch of scruffy coyotes...we just domesticate the dogs that we take to evolve into our families with or without other dogs around...but given their choice, they would most definately pack up.
I was only asking a question. :(
 

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A dog wouldn't hunt deer. It would scavenge just like it is programmed to do. They aren't going to turn into a pack of wolves and have an intelligent hunt to bring down a large beast. They are going to be the opportunists that they have been for generations.
Ooops, I'm going to have to disagree with the quote above. Domesticated family dogs DO bring down deer. I have seen the results with my own eyes.

Two of the lawyers in a law firm I used to work for had many dogs. They were always picking up strays. They had a couple of dogs they used to bring to the office regularly, a boxer and a mutt of some sort. The mutt was old and boxer was about 2. The office is on the river and in that river is a historical island. Well the 2 dogs thought they'd swim the mighty Ohio to the island. Even the old dog made it which surprised us when we finally located them because when they got loose we didnt' know where they'd gone. We looked everywhere. Never in our wildest imaginations did we think they would EVER swim that river but they did. BUT they had the presence of their doggie minds to know they wouldn't try and swim back. The DNR called the office one day (because of their collar tags) and said they were on the island and the groundskeeper witnessed the Boxer running down the deer and killing it for food. The groundskeeper told us that the Boxer would chase the deer and the old dog intercepted the deer as the deer came at him by barking and jumping around and made it turn back toward the Boxer and they did this until the deer was tired and the Boxer killed the deer and they ate. By this time they had not eaten in four days.
 

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Doberluv, The more I read your posts, the more I respect you.

Your posts are logical, accurate and to the point and I totally agree. Your dogs are lucky to have such a knowledgabel owner who doesn't treat them, think of them, or try to train them like wild animals.

I have seen (including on Caesar's show) clickers used for teaching new commands but not for desensitizing aggression.
I'm not sure if your just claiming that you've never seen it done, or if your displaying skepticism about it being possible. But regardless I would like to point out to everybody here who doesn't already know this, that you can literally do anything with a dog using positive reinforcement and clicker training. Corrections are not necessary at all unless the dog is in danger and there's no avoiding it. I have not only taught new commands using a clicker, but also reversed slight to moderate dog aggression, food aggression, posessiveness, aggression/preydrive towards cats and other animals, and fear aggressions. All with positive reinforcement.

In order to train a dog, you have to think like a dog and be smarter than the dog. This is what rehabilitation using a clicker is all about. Clickers are not limited to dogs either BTW, I have also taken an abused and neglected jenday conure who was on death row because nobody could tame his severe aggression or cure his screaming and turned him into a perfect pet using a clicker.

There are a few wonderful books out there on this issue, The Power of Positive Training by Pat Miller and Outwitting Dogs by Terry Ryan and Kirsten Mortensen. I have also heard great reviews from fellow clicer trainers about the book Click to Calm.

One final thing I must say.....If you have never trained and raised a dog using all positive reinforcement, then you honestly have no clue what your missing. You think you have a great bond with your dog now, take that and multiply it by about 10....That is the bond I have with my GSD that I have raised from a 9 week old pup who has never been corrected or punished.
 

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Let me expound on my deer comment. I don't think a pack of dogs would bring down a deer as it's 1st choice of food. I shouldn't say they would never do it as obviously they do, but I imagine that a group of 30-40lb feral dogs is looking to scavenge before hunting.
 

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I would agree with that.

There are also breeds who were created to chase down and kill deers. Especially the large sighthounds like Scottish deerhounds and borzois. They will take down a deer all by themselves. A friend of mine has borzois and they will actually tree the black bears that live around their house.

It makes me curious though as to wether a group of dogs would still retain the skills necessary to cooperate and work together to hunt a large prey item.
 

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