How Not To Get Your Dog To Stay

You know when someone just has no control over their dog when you see this sort of thing happen.

I know that my own control over my dog is “developing”, he’s a puppy, but then again…

Well here’s the story, see how many training mistakes you can find.

I was walking my dog through the neighborhood on a quiet back street.  There was someone coming around the corner with their dog, an older medium sized dog.   The two dogs begin to meet and are doing quite well, I explain mine is a puppy so I’ll hold him back and let the other dog gauge if he’s too intense.

Rack absolutely LOVES other dogs, but he gets very jumpy.  McNab Dogs can jump easily 5 feet from a standing stop.  Best not to let him jump.

When we hear a woman shout with a French accent, “No, No, No!  Come Here!  I will have to discipline you” and a wall of other random commands.  

She clearly didn’t have control of the situation.

Lumbering toward us was a middle aged chocolate lab.  Clearly obese from the waddle the dog was trying to pass off as a run, the dog had the leash trailing after him.

I lift my own dog up off the ground so I could better control him.  Dogs off the leash can go any which way from sweet to violent, and we’ve seen them all.

She catches up to her dog who’s leash had been captured by the other dog walker.  All the while saying sit, stay, and other things, the Lab had simply been sitting down acting happy to be around his own kind.

The leash is handed to the woman who is struggling with some packages, when she starts to say “I have to discipline you, I have to discipline you, Sit!”

The dog was already sitting, I don’t really know how much More it could sit, but OK, it made her happy.

Alternating between “Sit”, “Stay”, and “I have to discipline you”, she got to the front of the dog.  Grasping his muzzle from under, she lightly swatted it.   It was clear the dog knew that it was coming because it visibly flinched from the anticipated touch.

Just as quickly, the third dog walker and I begged off and got out of there.

So here’s my take on it.

Perhaps I could have left my own dog on the ground, but he’s a puppy with a LOT of energy.   I know that may have over energized the situation, so with three dogs involved, best to remove one from the equation.  He’s better every day, but he is a puppy.

The other dog was older and much more calm, although smaller than the rest.   It handled itself well.

The Lab simply had no respect for it’s owner’s commands.  Seeing it from the dog’s eyes, no matter what I do, I’ll get swatted on my nose for not obeying a wall of commands.  I’m confused, not sure which one to follow, and from history I know it’s not going to turn out well.   May as well just go on and have fun before the swat on the nose happens.

The owner of the Lab was the problem.  Trying to do too much as it was, loading groceries from an early morning run into the towers at the south end of town, the Lab’s leash slipped out of her overfull hands.   Probably as she opened the doors to the apartment tower, the dog spotted us and decided to join in the fun.

One command at a time.  Let the dog be a dog.  Swatting a dog or otherwise hitting it says more about your own state of mind than the dog’s, plus, let’s be honest, it’s violence against the dog.  If someone held you under the chin and flicked your nose because you wandered off, you would not enjoy the experience either.  It simply does not mean anything to a dog other than pain.

In case you can’t tell, I don’t believe in hitting a dog in the case of training.  It happens, but usually because the owner is too freaked out by what happened because they didn’t read the signs.  I know from my own experience with two different McNabs, all I have to do is bellow one word, “BAD” and the dog caves in and stops what it’s doing.

In my own training, BAD is the Nuclear Option.

There is “The Touch” if you ever follow Cesar Millan‘s shows.  Looking at your hand, imagine a ping pong ball being grasped by the tips of the fingers.   Fingers are stiff, and the hand is used not to slap but to touch the dog on or near the neck.  The dog’s brain interprets it as an Alpha Dog had just corrected it by grasping it by the neck with it’s mouth.  The end result is a dog who has its focus brought back to task when they are doing something that they shouldn’t.  But even this was inappropriate with the situation since she had long lost control of the goofy chocolate Lab.

There is a need for some remedial training there, well before this dog gets out in public again.  If the dog doesn’t come for you, then it doesn’t completely respect your authority.  Nurturing Dominance is the goal, not running across a parking lot screaming a wall of incomprehensible commands like SitStayNoStaySitI’mGoingToDisciplineYou all at once.  But Nurturing Dominance takes something most people don’t have – Patience.

The trick is to work with the dog before it happens to do something “wrong”.  The dog is good at being a dog, but you are asking them to be more.  You have to actually ask them first, before the situation happens.  Gain trust and take the time.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  It’s a lifetime relationship, not a single event.  Take the time and work with them.  After all, you didn’t learn how to walk on your first day, it took quite a few stumbles and falls that you forgot about before you could run across that parking lot screaming like a lunatic.

One aside.  If your dog is overweight, you need to walk them more.  Stop overfeeding them, get them out and walk that medium sized dog at least 2 miles a day, large dogs will need more.  You both will benefit from the together time, and the needed exercise.   Who couldn’t stand to lose a pound or three?

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Leaping Puppies, It’s Time For Training!

Rack is no longer the shut down dog we met two months ago.

Oh sure, he still is timid around people.  He still will leave the living room for the comfort of the crate when the trash trucks come down the street.  Big Rig Semi Trucks are a big “Nope” whether he is in the house or out on a walk.

But fortunately he will just sit down or pull toward a wall now instead of knock me off balance when a bus or truck comes by.  It’s an inconvenience more than anything else, and I can tell when it’s time to go home because I’m being led by the dog and not the other way around.

If there’s a dog on the block he’s excited.   That is the key, and why I know it’s time for training.   It’s not a normal adult dog’s wagging tail and happy look that he’s giving when he spots the other dog, it’s a full on leaping in the air crazy puppy time.

That key is firmly in the lock and turned.  Time for us to open the next door.

When he gets to the other dog, he’s the one who does the sniffing, so I know he’s not completely submissive.  The submissive dog gets sniffed first.  He’s got some boldness in there, we just have to channel it appropriately.

As we’re approaching, that leaping has to be blunted.  What I’m doing now is to hold him back and slow him down when he meets the other dog.  The meetings have been so wild, so frenetic, that it’s a giant barky puppy pile.  It isn’t good for him, and it may not be good for the other dog.

They do go through their happy times and calm down eventually, but that’s hardly good manners.

Remember, “Calm, Cool, and Assertive” is the goal.  Frenetic Jumpy Barky dog doesn’t work, especially when you have 40 plus pounds of McNab bouncing shoulder high at the end of a six foot purple leash.

At this point the Dog Park is out.  He’s too bouncy.  Meeting other dogs is great, but I’m restraining him so that he’s got the brakes on as much as possible.   It’s a great way to drain energy, but that’s the purpose of the walk.  After all that adrenalin hits the system, you end up with bouncy puppy after the play time ends and the walk becomes a bit more of an effort.   Add to it the fact that he gets a minimum of 3 walks, 3 miles a day and sometimes as much as 5 miles, and you can see the issue.

He is definitely learning.  Day by day, or even Walk by Walk, he gets better.  You have to expect that with a Mc Nab.  They’re a
more intelligent breed than most, if not more intelligent than all others, but even with the smartest of dogs, it does take time.

If your puppy is leaping in the air, it’s time to work on that calmness.  It certainly is time for us to work on it.  But my own personal motto here applies:

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint.

Take your time.  If you are frustrated, imagine what is going on inside your dog’s furry little skull.  Get yourself calmed down and simply stop walking and recover if you have to.  The dog will take that as a sign to calm down himself, and meet you half way.

But, it really is a Marathon and not a Sprint.

Say Hello To Rack

Yesterday was a very busy day for the three of us.

We got a new addition to the family.

Say hello to Rack.

“Rack” may be a silly name, I’m already hearing myself saying “Meet Rack” and shake my head, but it stuck.  I’ll write about that another day.

You see, Rack has had three names that we know of in his short life.   He was Jake, and then Les Paul the Shy Dog, and now Rack.  His history before he came into my life is on this page at the Dog Liberator.

We got up early on our end.   Drove up from Wilton Manors to Deltona.   That is a 4 plus hour drive one way, and Florida is a very long and flat state.  I got to see some areas that I had only driven past at high speeds. 

Rack is a Shelter Dog.   We will never know of his history before he made it to the Vet’s.  He was a “Owner Surrender”.   That means that in his 7 months of life, the people who bought him as a puppy came to realize he was a handful and turned him in.  I have my own value judgement about people like that, and any reader of my blog know how I feel about people who discard dogs.

Rack is most likely a dog with significant amounts of Mc Nab in him.   They are a separate breed of dog that looks like a Border Collie but isn’t.   Calmer, smarter, and more mellow than your run of the mill BC, a Mc Nab is an amazing breed.   Luckily, they have not been corrupted by the inbreeding that some of the more popular breeds are, and aren’t well known out of the Western US.   It originated on the Mc Nab Ranch in Mendocino County, California.  Rack is my second Mc Nab, and I’m happy to know him.

Arriving at The Dog Liberator in Deltona, I remembered my training – “No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact” until the dogs initiate it.  I know, I’m quoting Cesar Millan, but when you’re working with fearful dogs, it’s a great start.   I went in to visit with Gisele’s pack of Border Collies and we went back into the room with the dog’s crates.  That was where we first saw Rack, then named Les Paul.  He was hiding in the back of the crate wondering who these two big guys were and why were they there.   Gisele took him out of his crate eventually and we did get to meet.

I learned about his history, his medical history, and we talked about techniques about how we would integrate this shy creature and allow him to blossom. 

I don’t think he’s going to be shy and fearful for long.

Eventually we got him outside, and into the car for the long haul back down the coast to Wilton Manors.  Surprisingly, he’s great in the car.   Really didn’t have a problem.  He didn’t know us so he just sat there while we chattered for the drive home.  Four and a half long hours later we got here.

I may have pushed it a little but it worked out. 

When we got in the driveway, we got our gear out of the car and contemplated the black and white bundle in the big grey plastic crate.   He didn’t seem to mind being there, and didn’t seem to mind being handled so we started coaxing him out.  

You know the saying “Getting there is half the battle”?   Getting him half out of the crate was most of the battle.   At that point we slipped his harness on him and lifted him to the ground.   No sounds, no grumbling like my own Lettie would have, just “Ok, lets go”.

I knew he would have to Go so I let him out on the dark street and walked him out down the block.  Yes, the First Dog Walk is always the most important one, it sets the tone for the relationship.  

“Flying Colors”.   Well ok, Flying Black and White.

We got down the street lifting legs on everything in site, going back and forth between North and South side of the street, and finally going Poo for the first time in a new neighborhood.

I think we did the block twice, then he came to meet Lisa and Billy across the street.  Still flying colors.  We took it on his terms and he did eventually come over for a little attention from Billy.

At that point I got a call from Gisele asking for an update. 

“All’s well”  He’s going to continue to make progress.

And that’s where I’ll end it.   The first picture was from when we got him inside the house after all that.   The crate was closed and the food was eaten.  When he was done, he just plopped down and rested after drinking 16 ounces of water and a cup of food in a burst.

The second one, below, is directly off of Gisele’s page for Les Paul.   You can read his priors there, there’s a lot of healing to do but a lifetime to do it.

Cesar Millan Calls My Dog

Whether you agree or disagree with his methods, there is some truth in the Dog Whisperer shows, and Cesar Millan’s method of training dogs.

When I got my dog around 10 years ago, I was clueless.  The dog I had when I was a child, was raised in a very different manner.  Now we’re more educated about things like click training or whistle training.  Simply whistle and she will come. 

There is usually some sort of music or TV on in the house.  With something on in the background, it is generally a more pleasant place to be – or so I think.  When you have a dog that is trained to come to you simply by pointing at her and crooking your finger up in the common “come here” hand gesture, there can be side effects.

When I have on a program about dog training and mine is in the next room sleeping, this is predictably going to happen.  Whistling on the TV will get her every time.   Granted with a Mc Nab Dog or many other breeds of Collie and herding dogs, the behavior is almost innate or instinctual.  Of course any loud noise will get an intelligent creature to look and some dogs are more intelligent than some people I know.

So while watching an episode of Dog Whisperer, there was a lot of whistling going on.  This sort of thing eventually taught my dog another thing – TV is Not Real.   Good luck teaching some people that, especially if they’re fans of the laughably named “Fox News”. 

You see the whistling happened so frequently that after coming to the TV, having a dog lunge at her and bark, and her retreat, there was no pay off.   So whether it was just that there were no cookies involved with her sitting when Cesar told the dog in the center to sit, or she just put two and two together, reality set in.

On the other hand, I’m lucky that she hasn’t decided that whistles were “not for me”.  I’m able to get her to snap to attention and amble over.  At almost 11 years old, she doesn’t run nearly as much as she used to, and her selective deafness is pronounced.

After all, she seems to have decided that an emergency on your or my part, is not necessarily something for her to be all that excited about.  Especially if a good sniff is involved.

Oh and about that sniffing… can we please find a way to limit that?  This morning’s mile walk took 45 minutes.