Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Going Straight to the Dogs

"It wasn't until I wrote this post that a giant chunk of who, why and what I am as a trainer fell into place.

Horses, dogs, any animal ( or child for that matter) that gets passed around from person to person in life, needs to be given every chance they can to be safe from the Mr. Hitts in the world.

If I have the ability to shape them into pleasant, adaptable companions, then that is what my job is. The rest is icing on the cake. Cream cheese icing. Yum.

That is where I'm giving thanks today. For this chunk of light and this blog." - Mugs

I have been in horse limbo. Not just because I've gone from riding 6 - 10 head a day to my two broke horses once or  twice a week. Not because I am so itching to mess with a young one, or three, but don't have the time or resources. Not because I am now spend 24/7 a day with a man I love but never shared more than four hours a day in the past 16 years, MUCH LESS EVERY FRICKING WAKING MOMENT.

No, it's none of those things.

It's because I just adopted Brockle. A dog. Not just any dog. He's a genius. He's beautiful. He's really large. He's a pound dog, who ended up there because he decided to stop being housebroken, start humping family and friends and ate a couch. From what I understand, it was the entire couch.

There were many reasons adopting Brockle was a bad idea. We have three dogs. We live in a suburban neighborhood, and we're already labeled as the weird old couple on the block. We don't have much money. He ate a couch. He is roughly 10 times the size of my other dogs.

But I reeeeaaaalllly needed a project. I feel safer with a big dog, and what's one more, right?

My husband did not want another dog. He did agree however, that we needed some life and action in the house. Why it had to be a 1-year-old German Shepherd Collie cross he didn't know, but he said okay.

Boy, do we have action.

Don't worry, I know this is a horse blog. I won't be regaling you with all my dog stories, although I have lots, because I do like my dogs. But two days ago I had this incredible Well Duh! moment on the way to the barn. It came because of the studying I've been doing on dog aggression. Yeah, well, nobody mentioned one more teeny tiny problem of Brockle's.

He became very attached, very quickly. We have become conjoined twins. He's gentle with the tiny dog, kind to the elder dog and wisely, very respectful of Charlie, my rat terrier. He is very careful not to jostle my unsteady husband. When my close friend came to visit with her very sweet, well behaved, low maintenance female lab, he attacked her. First the dog, then he threatened my friend.

He wants us to stay as a cozy family unit and keep everybody else away. Forever. At any cost. I have adopted a crazy stalker dog.

Now, don't get me wrong, we dealt with it, in ten minutes everybody was mellow, by the end of the night all of the dogs were racing in crazy circles around the yard, best friends forever. I am very aware though, that this aggressive response came from a dog who's essentially a big dumb puppy. When he matures around four or so, this behavior could become extremely dangerous. So I know I need to nip it in the bud.

Here's the crux.While I'm a competent horse trainer, I am not a dog trainer. As a matter of fact, my dogs tend to be more my roommates than something I have control over. We come to agreement on how to get along and then that's how we lead our lives. Life with my dogs is kind of like a big frat party.

Brockle is going to take more than a bandanna tied on the door knob to get the message across.

I hit the Internet and started to read up on dog trainers, especially those who specialize in aggressive behavior. I read up on GSD, even though Brockle is half collie, he moves like a shepherd,  looks like an escapee  from a GSD Krazy Kolor Breeder farm and I'm guessing, is protecting like one. And he's been through the kill shelter experience. So I've been reading.

When I'm trying to learn something new, I try to grasp the forest before I start climbing individual trees. I'll read several opinions, theories and so forth, then I'll look at facts, studies and experiments, and then get into personal opinion.

The concept I've been picking up is dogs needed to be accepted as dogs. Understanding their body language and knowing how to respond to it is key to gaining control. Being able to communicate our desires in a clear, concise manner comes from understanding what they're trying to say to us. So, they're not kids? Huh. Sounds reeeaaaallly familiar.

I got immersed in the pack leader vs. companion argument for a while, again, it was ringing some very familiar bells and I quit worrying about it.

Call it what you will, I need my dogs, which if I am honest, now are definable as a pack, to get along, with each other and whoever I choose to invite into our space, and to not bite, maim or kill anything other than their chew toys or the various vermin that raid my garden  in the summer, my basement in the winter and my barn year round. Period.

I want my house to be peaceful and safe. I don't want to trip on a dog,worry about getting knocked into by a dog, have a dog take over my space or refuse to get out of my way. Same rules apply in how they treat my husband, who is definitely part of the frat party mentality, but needs to be safe. I also want it to be quiet and calm in my house. No fighting or charging the door, no wild greetings that end up with somebody getting knocked over.  Barking when something needs to be barked at, but not just because it's fun to make a bunch of noise at nothing.

If it takes me being pack leader to accomplish this, so be it. I buy the dog food and pay the vet bills. they can deal.

So, I've been learning. About body language, taking control of space, making my requirements known and appreciating the needs of each dog, so they can, as a pack, pay attention and follow through with my expectations.

The two dogs who have been my mainstays for several years are Charlie, the rat terrier, and Dinah, the corgi/jack russell mix. These two dogs grew up as working barn dogs and my best buddies.

Horse training is, for the most part, a solitary and intense job, combined with lots of hard physical labor. My dogs were/are my daily companions, work partners and friends. I have talked about how smart they are for years. I never really trained them, they just do what I need, as I try to do for them and that's been it. Yet they are often complimented on their good behavior. They are polite, non-threatening, always within ear shot, and when we walk, they walk at heel when needed, leave livestock, people and other dogs alone, and are simply, very pleasant to be around. Although they are both breeds (or mixes) known to be yappy and hyper, neither one of them are. As a matter of fact, they are kind of serious and preoccupied.
I have felt very lucky with my dogs.

They are different at home. Dinah is bossy and cranky. Charlie is kind of sneaky. Both of them are jealous and needy.  They fight once in a while. Dinah is a revenge pooper. They like to fly at the door when someone knocks, yowling like the Hound of the Baskervilles. They do the same when a doorbell rings on TV, if Jim calls from another room, or if I say "Hello" for any reason. When we're going for a walk, the second they see my walking shoes, they swirl around my legs, wrestling and growling, leaping and racing, non-stop Tasmanian devils until I open the door and let them out. Same thing at dinner time. They beg too. I call them idiots and a few other choice words, nothing changes, and we go on with life.

Now that we have worked our way up to four dogs, I've been hit with an "Oh my God, what have I done," sense of desperation. I've started thinking about what I want from my pack, and started studying on how to get it.  I've begun seeing some HUGE holes in my non-training program, to evaluate how I relate to my dogs and how it effects their behavior.

The ideas I've grasped and been chewing on is the difference between training my dogs and our general sense of being. Expectations of how things just are, vs. sit, stay, go fold the laundry. When I first get on a concept like this, I acknowledge what I'm searching for, then lay it to rest, shove it to the back of my very messy mental closet and let it ferment. Sooner or later it comes back with some kind of understanding and I chew on it some more.

I was driving to the barn a few days ago and thinking strategy for Brockle and how I need him to be at the barn. It turns out he had no idea such delicious smelling, scary to look at creatures, existed on the planet. Horses, cattle, donkeys, turkeys, all doing their thing right in front of his highly motivated, very energetic self. Just waiting to be barked at, chased, killed, eaten, SOMETHING. What drama! What fun! What chaos!

Ahem. So I was making some vague plans on one level, and on another, wondering why Dinah and Charlie had never been this crazy, even though they too, are bred for action, and wishing I had another cup of coffee when it hit me. BAM!

Energy. Direction. Focus. I had trained my barn dogs, I just didn't know it. They weren't perfect and had started out way below it. We went through the sneaking away from the barn phase, the chicken phase (very bad), the barking at clients grandma's phase. The chasing stock phase...but each problem had been dealt with during my very busy work day, and had ended up with the competent, resourceful, happy and reliable dogs I have now. I have rarely raised my voice and could count on my fingers (which are half as many as yours) how often they've been hit over all the years.

So what was it? My horse trainer brain. The deep, consistent sense of calm that is always with me around horses, the clear, orderly expectations, the fact that time means nothing, only the task at hand matters. These things are so much a part of me when I'm working, I accept them as who I am. And my dogs did too. Without training them to sit, stay, heel in the conventional way, without conscious thought, my horse trainer brain (only engaged at the barn) explained what was needed and expected from my dogs too. And they fell over themselves trying to comply. Son of a gun.

I wasn't born with trainer brain. It took years of struggle, thought, learning from the smarter, wiser, more talented trainers I was lucky enough to meet along the way. It took lots of really dumb mistakes.

Trainer brain doesn't engage at home. Many times, there is no brain activity emanating from me at all when I'm home.

When I was a kid, we got our first dog, years before I ended up with Mort. I was an awkward, lonely, shy 4th grader, wrapped up in daydreams, writing, and drawing stories when we got Linus, a Samoyed and our first puppy. There were six kids in our family, but Linus was mine, not by designation, but by his and my mutual choice.

He was my best friend. I didn't train him, Dad did, we simply hung out together. He didn't listen to any commands from me, or do a single trick, but he always heard my secrets, my fears and my plans. I was his favorite friend, he was always up for an adventure or snuggling together in his doghouse so I could read a book in peace.

Our next door neighbor, Mr. Hitt, poisoned him when he was a little over a year old. Linus was wild, rowdy and uncontrolled unless my Dad had him, and he didn't like our neighbor. I found him dead, foam covered teeth bared and his head thrown back in agony. Vomit was spewed all over the corner of our fenced yard that paralleled the neighbors driveway. I could see the little pieces of half-digested meat drying in with the grass.

Dad couldn't prove Mr. Hitt did it, but we all knew. It was two long years, when we were transferred to Colorado, before we got another dog. This time, there was no wild, back yard bred Samoyed. This time, we got a nicely bred, registered field type Golden Retriever. Dad made sure Jud had manners, he trained him to hunt, to work a field, to retrieve up to ten wooden blocks in the order they were thrown in.

He was my Dad's dog, protected from the Mr.Hitt's in the world with solid discipline and good breeding. Jud and I had a secret though. He was mine and I was his, by choice. We shared secrets, hopes, fears and lots of adventures. There was another difference. Dad taught me how to work the dog. How to train him to quarter a field or jump off a dock on a retrieve. How to hold a pigeon so gently, with so much calmness, the bird was relaxed and not struggling. He showed me how to teach a puppy, afraid of running water, to swim in a stream. This time, maybe because I was older, maybe to make sure we kept the Mr. Hitts away, he taught me how to teach my friend to be productive, to have purpose, to be safe.

Here I am, forty some years and many good dogs later, still living in this dual world. My dogs are my friends,  but they need to be trained, they need to be liked, they can't frighten or anger the people around us. I have to keep them safe.

My Eureka moment came when I understood that Dinah and Charlie were happier, more productive and safer when they lived with my horse trainer brain. Even though they were my buddies, they had jobs that directly related to their breed, lots of exercise and clear expectations from me. It wasn't about teaching them tricks or commands, it was about being.

At home, at the frat party, they felt like they had better take care of things, direct the action, and protect me, because I was off somewhere in Gomerville, with my muddled thoughts and Saturday morning cartoons outlook. My anxieties, fears and health issues were making things even worse, because they took me even farther from the thinking they could understand. At home, we were all about feelings and sensations. Scary, stagnant ones.

How about that?

I'm not far enough into my conscious learning about training my pack to be more specific. My body language is awkward, I can see Charlie and Dinah laughing at my attempts to talk to them on their terms, but I think they appreciate it.

I have made a list of expectations.
No dogs get to claim space, it's all mine. If I want it, I take it.
Dogs don't get to harass each other or me and Jim. No stealing food, no shoving into another dog when I'm paying attention to them, no intimidation tactics about who comes through the door, etc.

The great big goof ball Brockle cannot tease, torment, or whack with his feet, 14-year-old Dinah or 9-year old Sonocone, my husband's 8 lb. Maltese.

Dinah is boss, she eats first, and goes in and out the doors first (after the people). Charlie is my right hand man and pounds on Brockle when he gets out of line. Charlie is not, however, allowed to actually fight, scare or hurt him. Snocone, who just doesn't get life, may not be harassed by anybody, ever, and doesn't have to obey any rules at all.

What is amazing to me, if I put on horse trainer brain, I don't have to point or yell, I just expect, and so far have simply blocked bad behavior with my body. It's working. Brockle is getting some intense socializing, I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, but he is figuring out he can be calm and I'll keep him safe through the introductions. He has made three new dog friends so far, no attacks, and went on his first trail ride two days ago. Off leash, and happy.

My house is calm. My dogs are happier. I am happier.

Call it trainer brain, call it calm, assertive pack leader, call it whatever. I'm thinking it's all about clarity, purpose and balance.

I'm thinking my whole life my be about to change.


  1. First, I love Brockle's face. Those eyes say a lot.

    Second this: looks like an escapee from a GSD Krazy Kolor Breeder farm -- made me laugh out loud. I thank you.

    I would be very happy if you did go ahead and blog about the dogs some. I'm a big time dog person besides being horsaii. I hope you do.

    My current dog is the most mentally challenged fellow I've ever encountered. He's "simple". Kinda like Rainman. My mother-in-law had him for the first 5 years of his life (she's shows this breed and has bred, very selectively, a few times.) when she told me it took him 2 years to learn his name, I thought she was kidding. Turns out she wasn't.

    I've had him for 3 1/2 years and he's actually learned some things. Repetition. Lots of it. And consistency. That is key for my Brad.

  2. You glossed over the part I was most interested in:

    How did you introduce him to the horses? And how do you keep him away from their legs so he doesn't get kicked?

    I'm going to introduce Artemis as soon as she hits 16 weeks (not risking parvo beforehand), and I have no idea how to do it the right way.

  3. Joy--I'm dying to know, what breed is Brad?

    Becky - He got kicked. Not hard, just a very clear warning.

    I'll talk about this more later, but we're not done yet.

  4. I was so excited to read this blog post. My husband and I own and foster Siberian Huskies, a very challenging and independent breed still closely genetically related to wolves. We live and die by the pack rules at our house, because if we didn't reinforce them, we would start to lose control. Like you discussed, they are never allowed to go through doors before us, to eat before us, and they are required to move if they are in our way. This post was a good reminder to me that my animals need the same behavior out of me in all situations, regardless of what's going on in my own world.

  5. Hooray! I was afraid you were going to say something like "so I bought Cesar Milan's books" or "read about doing rollovers in the Monks of New Skete". Both bad strategies if you're looking for a good working relationship with a dog.

    One tip I will offer: if there's a behavior that you can't seem to stop, show him something he CAN do that will be rewarded. Example with my silly dog: he loves to jump up on visitors, so the drill with new people to the house became they wouldn't touch him until he sat, then would scratch under his chin, and would take their hand away if he got up. Works wonders.

    Becky: I would not wait to socialize a pup until 16 weeks. Pups have immunity from their dam that will overlap their shots. The timing of shots is meant to ensure catching the window when the passed-on immunity wears off. Unless parvo were prevalent in an area, I wouldn't take the chance of giving up any of the puppyhood "new things are great!" window.

  6. Focus. So many things are cured with some of it.

    Our dogs have all the same rules. Sometimes it feels like being the cop on the beat all the time, but a pack needs that discipline or no one is happy, including the dogs. They are just frantic.

    Seriously, he ate a couch? Good thing dogs don't colic.

  7. One thought on his protectiveness: he might be protecting his interest in you as much as protecting you. I've seen that in dogs that went through being given up and adopted by a new family. They're afraid that other people/other dogs are going to steal away their new family.

  8. Joy - got the terror thing down, mine might be jacks and rats, but it's the same vibe.
    Darcy Jane--Ah, but I am reading them. Already knew the monks. I read everything. Like I said, forest first, then the trees.

  9. yes, terror, I mean terrior = terrior from yorkie to jack rusell to bull. they are all terrors.

  10. Darcy Jane - there is definitely a couple week window in between when the puppies protective immunity from mom wanes and when a vaccine is not yet effective (because the protective immunity from mom interferes with vaccination, but it not enough for protection). During that couple weeks, a puppy IS susceptible to catching parvo depending, of course, on the prevalence in the area. Though you are right that a puppy should be socialized before 16 weeks, but in an environment where they are not likely to catch parvo. Parvo is scary, and fatal. A barn visited or inhabited by dogs with unknown vaccination status could be a bad place.

  11. We're a Siberian Husky family too, but I'll disagree just a little bit with Jen. Once you establish dominance, you can make limited exceptions for some of the things the books say you should do to maintain dominance. In our family that would be letting the dogs go out the door first (which really became untenable when we installed the dog door!).

    If you're consistently the boss in lots of other places and ways they quickly figure out that these one or two things don't equate to you being a pushover.

    Another endorsement here for the Monks of New Skete.

  12. Oops, I see that Darcy Jayne isn't a fan of the monks. Which is cool - different approaches work for different dogs and different families.

    Our Brazen Husky completely, utterly ignored verbal scoldings. If I grabbed her by the throat, hoisted her front end off the ground, and shook her, she'd give me the "oh, you're actually annoyed" look and trot off. My husband did end up rolling her a couple times, and she was still HIS dog. No damage to the relationship. Another of our dogs, OTOH, melts if you scold somebody else, I've shaken him once or twice in a dozen years, and I don't think I've ever rolled him.

  13. Drat. The kicking happened to my other dog, too (also a warning kick), and I was hoping there was a secret recipe to teach them respect other than that.

    It sounds like you have everything well under control, and you gave me a lot to think about with this post.....

    but if you do run into any trouble, I have a Genuine Milk Bone Leash, certified by the best internet trainers, available at a special price for you at three easy payments (per month, for several months) of only $9.99. If you walk him with this Genuine Certified Leash twice daily while praising his inner puppy, you won't have any troubles.

    PS: I didn't realize until you wrote about it how much I correct with my voice - I'm kind of embarrassed about that. I didn't even know there was any other way.

  14. Thank you Becky -- I knew there had to be another way!

  15. Oh Becky!!! I seriously laughed my butt off about your Milkbone leash!

    Still relatively new to this blog, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

    I think it pretty much goes hand in hand that we have horses and we have dogs. So all posts about either are welcomed in my book.

    I have 3 labs, and 2 of them are literally out of control. (the other one came to me perfectly trained) They each weigh about 110 lbs and I really have to be careful about who I let them around. They aren't mean but they surely don't realize how big they are when they hit you with the propulsion of a bucking bronc! Little kids and the elderly do not stand a chance, and if you fall down you will be licked to death!

    Its funny that you posted this, because lately I find myself (without real planning) trying to do little things around the house to bring order back to my pack. Things like cookies in my pockets through out the day to teach the one that can hear to come when called. My hope is that since the deaf one looks to his "bro" for guidence, when one comes the other will too. Also trying to teach him that toys are better to play with than my bra's, although I have to admit when he goes racing through the house at mach 9 with straps streaming behind him, and he is so darned proud of his "find" it is so hard not to laugh. But I have to be stern in my voice.

    To me they are just like kids, they need rules and guidence to be happy. They need a leader, and since I am the one who makes the rules, I have no choice but to be the leader. Luckily they are pretty smart and learn quickly, but I can't ever take my training hat off, not even for second because if I do I end up with a Victoria's Secret puzzle scattered all over my house.

  16. I just absolutely love your writing. It's make my day when I see a new post. Something I will give thanks for tomorrow.

  17. Add me to the list of people who wouldn't mind posts about dog training. It seems that horse training and dog training can have very similar points. My rescue GSD was also aggressively protective of me when I first got him, but soon learned that when I allow people inside, he greatly benefits.

    I'm also sorry about Linus. My sister and I's first dog, Punkin, was stolen out of our backyard a few months after we got her.

  18. I wonder if your guy could be part Central Asian Shepherd (CAS) or Caucasian Ovchartka (CO)? Big intense livestock guardian breeds with lots of color and fluff. They often get dumped at shelters as young adults when they become too much for the average owner to handle.

    In your training library you should definitely include "Eminent Dogs Dangerous Men" by Donald McCaig. It's not a how to manual, but a philosophical look at working dogs and their training.

    I think if you wrote a book about horse training and trainers it would resonate in the same way as this one does for dogs.

  19. He's so gorgeous, and I'm glad that things are working out for you. I grew up with the same cross - my parents dog was whip smart and wonderful with two kids, but easily bored and prone to hyperactivity. The more exercise you can give these guys, the better. he'll make a wonderful trail dog.

    Good luck!

  20. 1) blowing my mind
    2) I love dogs, I hate unruly rude nasty dogs
    3) My Pug is really good at some things and really crap at others; he will never round up cattle or go on a trail ride but he's an awesome foot warmer
    4) we often get what we expect
    5) your blog keeps expanding my brain
    6) 6-10 horses a day. I can't even get three horses ridden once a week each these days. Arrgghh.
    7) I still have stuff to say about the last thing you wrote but you just keep posting stuff and I'll try to keep up
    8) That dog is gorgeous.
    9) Sounds like life in your house can be kinda fun!
    10) I wanna know how to order the magic leash there...

  21. Yes! I've been working this out in reverse to you. I am a competent dog trainer, though I've never done it professionally, I have trained numerous dogs, mostly shelter fosters with various issues. We became known at the shelter as the place to send their "behaviour" cases. I don't talk much when working with them. Sure, I teach them verbal commands because that's what their forever homes will want, but the real readjustment is all about body language, energy, whatever you call it.

    I've been trying to work out how to apply my natural ability for training dogs to horses for the last few years. I'm finding it hard, to be honest. Somehow, I just never saw horses in the same way in terms of learning ability.

    I think I was a rider only for so long, it's hard to see horses with a training brain. The last 2 horses in my life definitely required my training brain to develop. Fortunately I've had some good success just acting based on my instincts but I still feel I have a long way to go when it comes to horse training. I'm refering to behaviour here, I've had coaches for the riding part.

    I went and bought a 3, rising 4, year old this week so I am definitely thinking hard about creating a good equine companion.

    Brockle is very cute! You've figured out what you need to do. There will be some resistance, that's how you know it's working in the begining...I'm sure that sounds familiar too!

  22. Hmm, I love the Monks and Cesar. There are some things I don't agree with with each approach but that's like all good training - read it all, pick what works for you and develop a consistent approach. I have absolutely worked with dogs for whom the Monks roll-over was necessary and the kindest, most humane way to make them understand they couldn't kill people/dogs. Like all training methods, the extreme approaches are there for extreme cases. It's not like it hurts the dog in any way, except maybe hurts their feelings of dominance, which would be the point!

  23. I have 2 dogs. One is a Genuine MUTT...You name it, she has it in her. Reba is kind of a pain in the butt and yes she was socialized around horses at a young age. About 2 years ago, she got kicked, I believe it was a warning kick but I wasn't here when it happened. Know what she does now?? She goes after the horses HARDER now, so I am putting up hot wire to keep her out of the pastures. My other dog, Bob, is an Australian Shepherd. He was given to me by a lady that showed them in confirmation and obedience. He was trained to do Agility...BEST DOG EVER!! I believe, sadly, that he was abused by the previous owner because he runs and hides when you pick up your foot to rub his belly, or if you move your hands too fast near him. He does NOT trust very easily, but once you touch him, he relaxes and lets you rub him all over. He also has a thing about men, He runs from them, but if I tell him its ok, he will walk over to them(very slowly) and let them pet him. My Boss absolutely loves Bob and wants me to bring him to work every day. I do, but not when its really busy. I let him go with someone out in the hallway and another customer walked up and wanted to pet him, and someone was walking in the front door...guess where he went...OUT the front door!! FREAKED me out because I didn't know where he went...Luckily the person he followed out into the hallway went after him and he went back in with her. I made a new rule...NO ONE takes him anywhere, but ME!

  24. Strength to you Jim with the 24/7 togetherness and the hard work of being a caregiver.

    I've got a pack of 3 dogs and have appreciated and used the body language I learned from watching Cesar. My Corgi mix and Chow mix read my horses and get out of Dodge when necessary, but my latest allergy ridden Papillon just lolligags around the horses, walks between their legs and has no clue at all. Thank goodness the horses must think he's a cat or something and never mess with him.

    I get a LOT more out of my dogs when I quit telling them with my voice.

  25. I just recently put my white GSD to sleep. He was the most loyal and intuitive dog I ever knew but he was also very protective and we had to be very careful around strangers. I couldn't take him camping or to public places, but he was at my side when I was home, 24/7. He knew what I was going to do before I did it. He was that smart. Besides his stranger aggression, he chased the horses. Not when I rode, but when I went to get them. It was the "herd" instinct and it was pretty strong.

    As much as I wanted to go out and get another GSD when he died, I couldn't do it. I know I would never find another one with his good attributes and feared the negative.

    Losing him, I lost my riding buddy. We'd go miles and miles and miles down our roads; he would never tire. I miss him so.

    I did get a new puppy. Something totally different. A Standard Poodle. So out of my character but I've learned they are bred for hunting and endurance; not the foofoo dogs we associate with them. So far so good.

    But if I lived in the mountains with no worries of people and strangers, there would be a white shepherd by my side for the rest of my life. I miss that dog.

    Good luck. You won't find a more loyal partner.

  26. Thank you Steph. It wasn't until I wrote this post I had a giant chunk of who, why and what I am as a trainer fall into place.

  27. MaryDVM - I don't think so. I think he is what he is.
    In defense of his former owner and "dumping" -- she was his only person from babyhood.
    He has had some lovely, solid training and he seems extremely sensitive. She did a great job of bringing out his confidence while giving him some manners.
    The back story was he came from a home with people, a doggy door and a yard.
    Things went south, and Brockle was living in an apartment, with only his owner and she had two jobs.
    Given how lovely this boy is, I'm saying she's heartbroken.
    I can't condemn when I don't know their circumstance.

  28. Heidi - and sometimes we get exactly what we need. I still can't figure out how Brockle reached through the Internet and grabbed me by the throat.

  29. Ruckus Butt -- Boy do I hear you. So much the same, so much completely foreign.
    I'm definitely picking up on some of the reading selections I'm getting from you guys. Hmmm, maybe we're needing a revival of the book club?
    Behavior, body language, positive, negative training....? Horses and dogs?

  30. Boy did this resonate. I have 5 Pomeranians (the inmates who run the asylum) and a 3yr old GSD that I got a year ago when she was returned to her breeder (my friend) for, supposedly, aggression towards men. Breeder called me, knowing that as a single female with a farm, I was Belle's best shot. While she has made great progress (no aggression, just fear, likes some men, fears others), it also seems as though as soon as I fix one thing she finds something new and novel to do wrong. Lately, she has been snapping at the horses heels whenever I am near them. This after a year of happy trail rides. At this point I think I want her to get kicked. That and the cat chasing are making me bonkers. She's great with the little dogs though.

    Baby steps. I do find that the calmer I stay the better she listens, if I yell she goes into shutdown and cower mode, which makes me feel like a shit.

    I hope mr. hitt died in agony.

  31. Wasn't allowed to have a dog when I was still at home (older brothers' dogs wore out the welcome), so my second year at college (after a year in the dorms) I purchased, for all of $20, I think, a German Shepard-Collie cross (both parents definitely known). Except for a slightly long nose, Kate looked like a cream colored GSD. She was one of the two BEST DOGS I've had (the other was an Aussie). She attended and completed college with me (my department gave her an honorary degree), and helped raise my two kids before we lost her at 15.
    My success with training Kate to be respectful and well-behaved was probably the only reason I thought I should have kids (one out of two of those also turned out respectful and well behaved...;-D ), but there's definitely correlations between training dogs, horses and children (though I usually hesitate to mention that to the parents I deal with as a school counselor!).

  32. You can write about the dogs any time. I also have two who are my constant companions. I love that photo of Brockle. He must be a good dog inside.

  33. I'm mostly a fan of the Monks - they advise clear expectations, consistency, and relationship building. The bit of their advice that I'm not a fan of (and they have admitted it's not a good tool) is forcing a dog into a submissive posture.

    Milan talks a good game, but in practice he appears to be all about submission, no partnership. I've seen enough of his (proudly and publicly posted) videos to know that he doesn't read dog body-language well. I saw him yank and kick at a dog for "aggressive" behavior when she was offering playful behavior. I've seen multiple situations where he ignored appeasement and warning signals from dogs, and got bitten because he kept pushing. In horse terms, he applied pressure but never let the dog know how to get away from the pressure.

    On parvo and vaccines - of course you don't take a dog (any dog, really) into a situation where you know parvo is prevalent or there's been a recent outbreak. That is some really scary stuff. My remarks were intended to remind folks that following the suggestion for "no exposure to until all vaccinations are done" has a price.

  34. I've used the wolf roll on our female dog, we've had dominance issues... I was trying to get out the door and she was trying to barge her way in. I tried to stop her and squished her in the door way so she didn't trample my toddler and 7 month old baby behind me. She clamped down and bit my leg.... I flipped her and pinned her right there.
    She screamed and struggled, but I just held her there, told her "now you smarten up" in a deep growl... She quit and laid there in submission, I let her go... Not my proudest dog training moment... It turned out to be a misunderstanding, her leg got caught in the door when she was trying to push her way in... That's why she bit me... Not that that's really an excuse I guess, but it's still a bit different.

    After that incident things have been better, so I think the rolls have their place. The one I use more is a pinch and a tug on the scruffy stuff around their cheeks. It's what she uses on the other 2 dogs to get her way. Posturing, growling, bite the cheek or muzzle... Never hard enough to draw blood. Just enough to prove her point.

    That being said if you can avoid physical corrections it's better. I got her over her food aggression by sitting with her and praising her while she was eating. I'd toss a handful in, praise her for eating it, toss another in, if she growled... I didn't get mad but I waited for her to get back the right frame of mind before she would get more. Do what works.

    Best of luck mugs :)

  35. I had a strange experience with my treasured Kelpie/Rottie cross. As you can imagine, as a Rottie cross she's muscular and looks like she can bite. She came from a shelter at one year old. It took me a week or so to learn that this dog was excessively submissive (she had submissive urination.) The dog training book I was reading, by our RSPCA guru Hugh Wirth, was all about Teh Dominance and Being the Alpha dog. It took me a while to work out that behaviour which is appropriate and necessary for most dogs don't work with this category - and I'd never met one before! Once I realised that and googled some submissive dog strategies, we've never looked back.

  36. Even though I've never actually commented, I read your blog religiously.

    I'm fairly new to horses, but I've learned that both with horses and dogs its all about energy.

    You correct, and then you go back to normal. If needed you correct again.

    Like you said so eloquently, body language is the key. Calm (but firm when needed) at all times.

    You will never get a good response out of anger. It's a weak state of mind and doesn't accomplish anything.

    That is what I took away from Cesar Millan. He's not a dog trainer to me, he shows people some great basics to teach a dog manners. And I've found that when they know what is expected of them they naturally relax and become more friendly.

    Before you can start training a dog you need it's trust and respect, without it you won't really accomplish anything.

    I would love to hear more about your dogs.

  37. Weird to read this post since I just adopted my sister's dog. We're getting there in the training aspect...come is still an issue at time. She had a "talk to the hoof" moment that did knock some sense into her. Missy is trying so we're sticking with it.

  38. Thanks greenie - I love your approach, to your dog and me both. You keep your eyes and mind open to whatever works best for you and your dog (and I'm guessing the rest of the world around you). Your method or somebody else's, doesn't matter as long as it works to your satisfaction, and you shared your common sense approach with me, without treating me like an over-stimlated second grader on the first day of class.
    Thank you for assuming nothing about my knowledge or lack there of, and for still sharing what you know!

  39. Interesting post (as always). Like RuckusButt I think dog training started more easily for me and now am trying to apply the principles to both. One thing this post made me realize that something I appreciate about my good old dog (he'll be 12 in March, badly bred Golden and has absorbed many tears with his fur) is that we have this intuition about each other and a faith in the other to do their portion reliably - partnership. Lately I've started to appreciate that same relationship with my big thoroughbred. Now to get that to carry over to our riding as we start taking lessons again. Also interesting about the lack of verbal stuff when we're In The mode....

    Wanted to tell you that here's another member of the ADD club (undiagnosed). I practice medicine and it was the biggest, brightest lightbulb moment when we covered ADD/ADHD back in school. Yes! Yes! There are other people whose brains work like mine! I've been blessed enough to be successful because I have always found areas that fascinated me and Allowed for that blessed hyper focus. Wonder why so many of us are animal people......

  40. Yes. The Deep Calm.

    Or Trainer Brain.

    If you are so inclined: Folks that show this in training dogs are Michael Ellis - awesome with working dogs like yours, and Sophia Yin - who works with housepets.

    They both have this calm center and expectation of success that dogs thrive on, and they both have a large web presence.

  41. Thanks Jenn - I'm already on Michael Ellis and will check out Sofia Yin.

  42. Have to correct myself. I said I hate ride nasty dogs and that's not really fair. It's rarely the dog's fault. Sometimes it's not even the person's fault. It usually comes down to misunderstandings, I think. We forget animals aren't people, they're not like us, we forget how to be clear with them.

    I love these discussions.

  43. About 3 years ago, after losing my elderly *obedience trained* 90lb malamute (yes, they can be trained!) and my elderly Pembroke corgi, I agreed to foster short-term a German Shephard/Shar-pei mix for a rescue group.

    He had been caged at the shelter, was on his last days, and was fear aggressive, and neurotic. I told the rescue group I'd keep him for two weeks until they came up with a spot in a foster home for him.

    First time he snapped at me, I rolled him and held him, aka Cesar, and he never snapped at me (or anyone) again for control. He needed someone to tell him he did not have to be leader anymore (not his personality).

    I feel that Cesar, like Parelli, has a good basis - fix the people first, then the animals. Stand back and actually see what is going on. Isn't that what it's all about? Humans cause most of the issues...

    Turns out this dog was totally off-leash obedience trained. Trustworthy, my grandson is all over him, and he just flops over and sighs. Doesn't chase horses, cats, or guinea fowl. Actually listens to my voice and body signals.

    Not my type of pretty (he's pretty dorky, tiny shar-pei ears and curly tail on a shephard head & body)just a brown dog, he *bounces* and runs everywhere, is protective (barks when someone comes to the house), and has been here for 3 years and will be the rest of his life.

    I still want another mal someday...but this guy will do for now :)

  44. I love your philosophy, Mugs. I see too many people who refuse to deal with their children, dogs, or horses in the way that they need. All of them cry out for boundaries, instruction, and information.

  45. For understanding the differeence between dog and people body language, I recommend Patricia McConnoll's The Other End of the Leash. And she has a booklet on managing multiple dog households-it boils down to 'be polite'.

    Please, post all you want about dogs! Just from reading this post I've noticed great big holes in the youngest dog's behavior. (Who I have thanks to the jerk that dumped a <6 weeks old puppy in the middle of nowhere.)

  46. Love hearing all the stories about everyone's dogs. Had to send my girl across the Rainbow Bridge begining of Sept. and I miss her every day.

  47. Not a dog person here (had very bad experiences with the neighbors' Goldens as a little kid), but since I got back into horses, I had to get used to dogs. And yes... most dogs are good, if trained to be. Because they usually live in the house with us, unlike our horses, this is really, really important.

    (Says the person whose in-laws, now in their 70s, own a basically untrained Komondor, a guard breed. She's 120 pounds of do whatever she wants to, and now that she's older and having some problems that need the vet, the lack of training is really an issue. Some vets have banned her from their offices. I "made friends" early on by setting boundaries; she tried to jump on me, she got kneed in the chest, so she has some basic respect for me that she doesn't have with a lot of other people. My father-in-law hated me for a while after I did that...)

    Luckily my horse was raised with dogs (including loose dogs running through the breeders' property occasionally), so when we encounter a dog out on the trail, I check to see what her behavior is. She absolutely hates small yappy dogs and they seem to be by far the worst behaved... I think people treat them like (human) babies because they are small, and they don't really get trained.

  48. Hey, I can't believe we've never met...I live in Gomerville too!

  49. This post has gotten me thinking about dogs again. Our border collie is kinda typical of his breed, high strung, brilliant, neurotic, amazing work ethic, nervous about strangers.... With him the best thing I ever did was getting him into obedience classes and agility. It built up his confidence and helped him learn how to deal with the big scary world outside of the farm. He loved clicker training and in our agility classes he really blossomed into an amazing, fearless athlete. I haven't been able to go on with agility which is too bad. (babies + full time job= no time)

    In our world today most dogs are just pets, they don't have jobs anymore and lack purpose. For the working breeds that can be really hard to deal with... Hence the anxiety and couches eaten.

    I've been working with dogs since I finished high school, first at a shelter, then at a kennel and currently as a dog groomer. So far I think the amount of time and consistency you offer matters more than anything else. So don't overload on too many training methods. Just cherry pick the ones that work best for you.
    Keep us posted :)

  50. I'm a dog person too. Loved to read about your dog experiences, Mugs.

    I like your approach to learning - digest as much as possible and then build your personal approach to your unique situation. I really don't understand people who throw the baby out with the bathwater and disregard anything and everything Cesar and Clinton (or whichever trainer is controversial at the moment) have ever done. It is just information. And information is never bad. What a person chooses to do with the information is the important thing and that is a very personal decision based on circumstances only they know.

    I've had two very difficult dogs so far in my life. One was an extremely independent, protective Lab/LGD (livestock guardian). LGD's are bred to live with a flock and protect it, mostly independent of humans. When calling him to come, he would look at me, then look the other way - I could tell he was deciding whether or not to obey. So, when he looked the other way, I would growl "NO!", and when he looked at me I would use my happy voice "Good BOY!", and if he started walking towards me I would get really excited, then he would look the other way, "NO!", "Good Boy", "No", "Good Boy", over and over. I sounded completely nuts-o to everyone around, changing my tone of voice and body language by the moment based on his reactions. And he still was only mostly-reliable once he hit the age of 5 or so. It was a struggle like this for everything I ever tried to teach him. I never worried for my protection though. That dog would have died for me, I have no doubt.

    The other very difficult dog was a Lab/Dane that had been abused as a puppy. She never recovered, and was neurotic and had EXTREME separation anxiety. She was very destructive her entire 10 years of life. I mean, she ate a hole the size of a foot-long Subway sandwich in the bumper of our new Honda Civic! EXTREMELY destructive. She was also very dog aggressive. After watching Cesar a few times, it dawned on me that she needed me to take a much stronger and more active leadership role because she thought that she had to be the leader and worry over everything. Once I took a very strong, active leadership role a lot of her symptoms improved. She never was "normal", but she was more manageable. And yes, I did roll her and pin her a few times. Once after pulling her off another dog she was attacking. She improved dramatically after each time. I think, used sparingly and in certain dire circumstances, it is much like laying a horse down.

    Right now, we have two dogs. Another Lab/Dane and a rescued Boxer. Both of them are very mellow, laid-back, well-behaved dogs and are very easy. We don't need to take such an active leadership role because they don't require it. They know I'm the boss, but I rarely need to "prove it". We all just go with the flow for the most part.

    So, I wrote all of this to just simply say: All animals (dogs, horses, humans) are different. Different animals require different training techniques and different leadership roles from their owners/trainers. Laid-back animals can generally roll along with little input from owners/trainers. More difficult animals require more input from owners/trainers and they had best be as well-informed as possible on how to deal with the type of difficulties experienced, or you end up with the "bad dog/horse" scenario.

    I also agree that training dogs/horses/kids is very similar. It all boils down to teaching manners really! My little 6 year old daughter has been begging me for a puppy because she wants to "teach it manners"! LOL!

  51. This is a fascinating post, Mugs. "Trainer brain" is a cool concept, and such a valuable one. It sounds like you instinctively help the animals around you to have purpose, do well, mind their manners and learn stuff, all of which is training, of a sort, but it is also loving them and enriching them. Thanks for sharing this!!

  52. This is a fascinating post, Mugs. "Trainer brain" is a cool concept, and such a valuable one. It sounds like you instinctively help the animals around you to have purpose, do well, mind their manners and learn stuff, all of which is training, of a sort, but it is also loving them and enriching them. Thanks for sharing this!!


  53. Anyone out there with experience with working dogs (stock dogs) ?

    I have had horses all my life and have come late to needing working dogs to earn a living. I started by getting some very expensive fully trained dogs. They are hard to get though and I am having to learn how to train dogs from puppies. Im not translating from horse training to dog training all that well as I never owned dogs much before and I dont think I understand training a predator. Too used to horses where a reward is to leave it alone. Horse training I feel comfy - dog training ??!!%% ?? I dont know how to do right and it is hard to find good stock dog training DVDs.

    I need the dogs to follow the horse but not work it.

    I want them to head and heel cattle on demand and when they see fit - but not horses.

    Should I introduce them as puppies ? How? at what age? If I introduce a number of pups to horses they just pack up and bark and work them - so singly? As little pups alone they are scared and run so do I drag them around the horses on a lead?

    I have already made one promising pup badly vehicle phobic forcing it on a quad bike - I presume I can make them horse phobic easily - any tips - is there a more appropriate forum for this question? As I might be off - topic.

  54. I am a dog trainer.

    I also don't support or advocate CM's methods. Alpha rolls and dominance methods are archaic. There are far better, faster, more humane methods to teach your dog what you want them to learn.

    Suggested reading... the keeper pages. Some truly outstanding dog trainers have posted to the keeper pages.

    Patricia McConnell. She's not only a dog trainer, but a certified behaviorist. She specializes in aggression and how to overcome/diffuse it.

    Sue Ailsby. If I was ever going to try and train under one teacher, this would be the one. She also has livestock. Sue trains her own service dogs, has held AKC/CKC judging cards, and has participated in nearly every dog sport there is. She is phenomenal.
    When I have a student who truly understands operant conditioning, I suggest they get and work through her Training Levels Program. It is *outstanding*.

    Denise Fenzi, another +R trainer that is at the top of her game. She does obedience and schutzhund. Too bad she lives in CA and I can't get INTO a seminar with her. She's so good her semiars are books sometimes a year in advance. I settle for reading her blog and watching her youtube vids.

    all of these women use no compulsion. They are experienced with a lot of very high drive dogs and are at the top of their game. Their dogs live in their homes and usually with multiple dogs/kids.

    None of them endorse Cesar Milan.

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