Dog training is a broad subject. And conflict could be present in many branches of the industry. A handler may overload an agility dog or an officer with a police dog that can’t focus.
In this article, I’m referring to obedience training. New behaviors require compliance for reliability. So now you are pushed into a dilemma; the art of shaping your dog to obey while believing you’re fair.
The Individual Dog’s Temperament
In descending order, categorize your dog like this:
- Breed-specific (or at least has some strong traits)
- From a litter
- An individual from that group.
Reflecting on this will shape how you see your dog. Observing the dog in this contrast will accentuate physical expressions for you.
NATURE VS. NURTURE
Working and herding dog groups produce various selectively bred dogs to be assertive. They can be challenging when told what to do.
Here’s a small list of them:
- Dutch Shepherd
- Belgian Malinois
- German Shepherd
- American pit bull terrier
A Goldendoodle can even be pushy! but some dogs (in the small list above) genetically have what dog trainers call “Fight Drive.” That is where the dog is less likely to back down. There’s a small percentage of them that become more intense when challenged.
The DNA your dog was born with trumps how you raise your dog. However, how you lead your dog makes all the difference.
Does avoiding conflict with a dog make you submissive? I mean, whoever wins the challenge is the boss.
The truth is, whoever accepts dependence on the other is the subordinate. A good leader prevents conflict. And clear leadership helps avoid conflict in the first place.
HOW TO BECOME THE LEADER
Before I tell you what dog leadership is, let me say what it is not.
It isn’t status. A dog‘s position in a pack involves dominance, hierarchy, and fine-tuned linearity.
The leader makes decisions. He Initiates and finalizes interactions.
For example, if I were taking the lead, I would look you in the eye, shake your hand and say hello. When finished, I would say goodbye.
THE LEADERS’ LIST
Here’s the list of resources to lead your dog. It’s specific.
- Affection-When you want to pet your dog, call him to you and pet him. But do not allow him to initiate interaction that results in your hand petting him. And don’t reach your hand out to pet him without calling him.
- Food-If, your dog walks away from his food, pick it up after a few minutes. Offer it later.
- Resting areas-your dog should have a separate resting area from you. In dog culture, status is set apart by the resting place.
- Outdoor Access-keep your dog on a regular schedule instead of him initiating access outside. A bark or swat at the door to pass through shouldn’t get a response.
- Interactive toys-Present a ball for fetch or a toy for tug of war. Ignore either of the objects brought to you.
- Group Movements-initiate what direction in which to go. If you are stationary and the dog pulls, do not follow him. If he puts on the brakes, humanely get him out. If you’re walking on the sidewalk and he pulls toward the grass, do not let him. Allow all these things on your terms.
WHAT MOST TRAINERS DON’T REVEAL
Taking the lead poses a potential risk to some dog owners.
What kind of dogs are dangerous? Should you take the lead, then?
The conflict doesn’t happen when a dominant dog is used to free access (to the resources listed above). It’s when a human tells the dog what to do when the dog is already entitled.
Here are some examples of the confusion that leads to conflict.
- Someone allows an adult male Rottweiler on the couch or bed. As a result, the dog owner tries to get him off, and the dog snaps.
- Someone has a pit bull that pulls, and his owner follows. As.a result, when the owner pulls in the desired direction, the pitbull puts his mouth or paw on the leash or drops to the ground.
- Someone extends an arm randomly and pets their dog. Other times the dog is allowed to approach and press against the owner. As a result, when the owner tries to ignore the dog, the dog demands attention by barking. In other cases, the dog acts aggressively for attention.
- Dog gets what he wants, then snaps as a direct response to the owner telling him what to do or the word “no. “ In some cases, I’m called by people getting attacked because of this.
HOW TO TAKE THE LEAD SAFELY
Should you not take the lead to avoid conflict?
No. Executing leadership is safe and predictable because if you slip up, your authority will gradually fall apart. However, if your dog makes decisions, he will test more over time.
If you have a dog that lets you do anything to him, I’m truly happy for you. But if you sense your dog may not take well to change, there’s a chance you could be right.
HOW TO USE THE MUZZLE
If you believe your dog will act aggressively when told what to do, begin muzzle conditioning. It’s relatively easy, just tedious. In the meantime, do not trigger the aggression.
During the process of taking the lead or training, aggression may come to the surface. At this point, you would have the muzzle on, so no hospital visit. However, how do you get through it?
Well, are you an assertive adult male with a 40-pound dog? Or are you a 90-pound female with a 100-pound male Rottweiler? You get the point, but what you do has to make sense.
This part of the article is for
- An amateur trainer
- A dog enthusiast (Those that train their dog)
- Someone confident they have a natural dog training instinct.
If you are unsure that you fall into either of those categories, get professional help.
If you don’t require professional help and need your dog to accept your leadership, wait him out. He will get over it. What you are asking of him is rational.
Leadership is a prerequisite for training. If your dog doesn’t respect you, how can you tell him what to do?
A GENERAL DOG TRAINING BLUEPRINT
I will give you a template of how I train dogs full-time. I cannot show you a custom program because every dog is different. But the main idea is both reliable and safe.
Think of the training in phases. It should be clear that your dog understands a previous step before moving on.
- Positive Reinforcement (food only)
- No timeouts or punishing the dog
- Fade visual cues and human body language (only verbal command)
In the first stage, you ensure your dog understands his commands. There’s a difference between disobedience and misunderstanding. And most dogs are reasonable.
- Starmark or Prong Collar
The second level of training could have a longer list, but for many commands, use the leash and a training collar.
Escape conditioning sums up this part of training. Your dog learns to turn off punishment as if he turned it on.
Imagine putting your hand on the top of the stove when it’s hot, then removing it. You knew how to remove it because you put it there. It’s this cause-and-effect training that is humane and delivers high-performance.
HOW TO DO PHASE 2
The concept is simple. Command the dog into the position (E.g., sit) with food. When your dog first begins to break, gently but quickly help him back in place with the training collar.
When breaking “sit” and “down,” you would correct your dog back into position before your dog’s legs straightened.
For “come,” “place,” and “heel,” his legs are already straight. In these three behaviors, you would show your dog he has to enter the position.
When your dog complies and understands, attempt the command with the leash from out of position. Still offer treats sometimes once in place.
EMPHASIS ON PHASE 2
In phase 1, your dog acquires the most basic level of understanding. Because of the nature of that degree (reward satiation, inability to create avoidance), it is limited.
In the second phase, the leash delivers directional guidance. It’s the most extensive phase of the training.
It’s because you physically help your dog.
For example, if his paws are off his pet bed, you are directing him back. And if he doesn’t understand coming outside, use a retractable.
These techniques may call for practice from you!
DANGEROUS DOGS IN PHASE 2
There are a small number of dogs that refuse to listen even when leadership is in place.
If you think your dog will react when using tools, this is the time to have that muzzle. Again, if you don’t think you can bear his behavior while getting him through, get professional help.
The handler raises the level of an aversive in the third phase. It is also used the least. A low-level nick is often what is used to add motivation to what the dog previously learned.
If you have not trained like this you would be stunned by how little the electric collar can be used. Not only for humane purposes but high performance.
HOW TO DO PHASE 3
The concept is the same as phase 2.
The dog would go into the obedience position with the leash and collar (Starmark perhaps). As he breaks, low-level nick quickly helps him back into position.
When he does not break the command attempt with an electric collar from out of position. The leash and another collar would be on at the same time. If he didn’t seem to get it, help him to place.
This is an advanced article in its nature.
What do I mean by training a dog without conflict?
The point is, if your dog depends on you through canine leadership, you should be able to do anything for him from a training standpoint.
For example, I have brought very dominant dogs home to train them. By day to their ears are back and their tail is doing a lower wag. I do not begin the relationship by “loving them up.”
I’m also implying that whatever you ask of your dog is rational. reducing your dog’s motivation to be aggressive is the safest.
If you’re not sold on training your dog, this article will reveal where you stand with your dog.
Ignoring these truths altogether is not avoiding conflict. It’s abandoning leadership. But if you’re safe and happy with your dog, that’s all that matters!
Carlos Garcia, CFSDT
Carlos is a Master Dog Trainer at Exclusive Dog Training LLC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Local dog owners with aggression problems depend on Carlos and his company. Carlos has been training dogs since childhood.