“My dog is pretty good at basic obedience” is something we hear daily at our dog training business in Northern Virginia.
As noted on our website, we have a our “Basic Obedience Package” which covers your main six commands: come, sit, down, place, off, and heel. People see this on a daily basis and they contact us via email or call us. Almost once per day I hear, “I’m not sure where to start with my dog, I see your basic obedience package; however, my dog is already pretty good at basic obedience.”
Generally, I immediately laugh to myself and think, “Here we go, again.” My immediate follow-up question anytime I hear someone say this is, “Can you take your dog outside, off-leash, with a couple distractions (dogs, people, cars), and your dog will do the basic obedience very reliably within the first couple commands?” Generally the answer I get back is, “Hell no, they would run away or completely ignore me.”
My immediate follow-up to this is, “Well, I hate to tell you, but your dog isn’t good at basic obedience.” I help them clarify with, “What you meant is your dog KNOWS basic obedience.”
At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I always explain it this way, “If your dog does the commands when they want to, they know basic obedience. If your dog does the commands in any situation in a realistic environment (outside, off leash, with distractions), than they are good at it.
As people see in our 400+ Before and After Videos on our YouTube Channel, we get dogs to be good at obedience. Additionally, we do not require that they even know any obedience whatsoever, prior to coming to us.
So, when looking for a dog training course that is right for you, ask yourself, “Does my dog know basic obedience or is my dog good at basic obedience?”
We literally tell people everyday, “There is no point in teaching your dog an advanced command if they are not good at a basic command.” I have personally seen dogs that “know” 10-12 commands; however, if you put them outside, off-leash, with a distraction or two they will run away. To me, this is a pointless way of training your dog. As I always say, “No other command matters if your dog will not “come” in a realistic environment.”
So, when it comes to training your dog, get your dog good at a command and then progress to the next command. This is literally the reason we have a mandatory week between lessons (with the exception of our board and train program) in order to ensure your dog is good at the last lesson it learned before we progress to the next.
Everyday at our dog training business in Northern Virginia, we get calls from unhappy owners telling us that they are at their wits end with their dogs and “your training is our last resort or we have to get rid of him.”
These calls are for numerous reasons, dragging the owner down the street, knocked them down, attacked another dog, bit a person, destroyed something valuable in their house, and the list goes on and on (literally).
Anytime I get these calls, I am usually more upset than they are! I always ask myself (and often times them), “Why do you let it get to the last resort?”
Training your new dog should be the “first” resort for many reasons:
-Makes both of you happier
-Learn how to effectively communicate with your dog
-Teach them your expectations
-Builds a closer bond
-Builds confidence in your dog
-Teach them manners and pack leadership
-A way to manage and control their behaviors
-An outlet of energy giving them physical and mental stimulation
and so much more!
At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, on a daily basis I am comparing how dogs are much like kids, this blog is no exception either. Your puppy (or adult dog) does not know how to behave, they do not know what is acceptable/unacceptable, they do not know what manners are, etc. These are all things that you have to teach them through effective communication.
Just like a baby or a toddler, imagine if you never talked to them, never taught them what was unacceptable, never taught them what your expectations are, and never taught them manners (etc). Would you be surprised if 3-5 years from now, they were pushing you to your “last resort?” Of course not, so why would you expect anything different from your dog?
So, just like with a toddler, you START them off by teaching them all of these fundamental things, which eliminates future issues from arising. By doing this, it eliminates you from seeing training as a last resort.
What I see all of the time is the dog’s negative behaviors start to become a snowball effect. Meaning, they saw something and dragged you down the street leaving you bruised, 2 weeks later they jumped on a kid and knocked them over, 1 month later they took off out the front door and you spent 2 hours chasing them, and as your frustrating is rapidly growing, yesterday they destroyed your new couch while you were gone! This was it, this is what pushed you over the edge!
I literally hear sequence of events like these on a regular basis. Just think, what if you would have gotten training after the first event? Even better, what if you would have gotten training BEFORE the first event.
So, do not hold off on training until you cannot stand your dog. At our dog obedience training in Northern Virginia, we literally hear every single day, “I wish I would have done this 2 years ago,” or “I wish I would have done this with my last dog.”
Remember, look at your dog like a child, you should not wait until they are seven years old and riddled with issues before you “start” trying to address the issues, just do it from the beginning and give yourself and your dog a happy, confident, obedient, and problem-free life.
Why Are Retractable Leashes Bad For Working With Your Dog?
As I have probably said over a thousand times, “I have never seen a dog in my life that heeled really well, and the owner had a retractable leash.”
Let me say that just one more time in case you missed that, in over 5000+ dogs trained,us training 7 days per week, 65 dogs per week, “I have never seen a dog in my life that heeled amazingly well, and the owner had a retractable leash.”
Why this is important is anytime the owner has a retractable leash, there is generally no structure to the walk, whatsoever. Meaning the dog is generally walking ahead, cutting behind, cutting across, pulling out more leash, and just wondering all over the place.
The Biggest Problems I See With Retractable Leashes Are:
-A retractable leash actually teaches your dog to pull, not only does it teach them to pull but it also REWARDS their pulling. What does a retractable leash teach your dog? “The harder I pull, I get more leash.” So, your dog is constantly pulling (even though they are at the end) because the leash has conditioned them to learn “by pulling, I keep getting more distance and more leash.”
-It often times to lead to improper greetings with other dogs, which can lead to a dog fight or altercation. If another dog is coming while walking your dog on a trail, they can take off running and get 15+ feet momentum to run over to the other dog. This can cause for an improper/uncontrolled greeting with the oncoming dog can interpret wrong, causing an altercation between the two dogs.
-If your dog is a prey-driven animal, and they see a squirrel, cat, rabbit (etc), they can take off running at full speed, the retractable leash gives them 15+ feet of momentum and speed in order to drag you to the ground. We hear these stories on a daily basis at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia. If you take the same dog and put them on a 4′-6′ leash, they do not have enough ground in order to get their speed and momentum going which prevents them from being able to pull you down.
-A lot of people have received rope burn from these retractable leashes. Almost every retractable leash has a very thin leash. If this thin leash gets caught around your hand, leg, ankle (etc) and the dog takes off running at a high rate of speed, this cord can cause sever rope burn.
In summary, if you have a retractable leash, do yourself, your arm, and your dog a favor and get rid of it.
You can look at over 400+ of our videos on our YouTube Channel if you want to see what a structured, disciplined, a controlled heel looks like with training.
People do not realize, there is NO “real” dog trainer certification. Meaning, if you are a licensed plumber, electrician, contractor etc, that means you attended mandatory training and received a license from the state showing that you have passed certifications required by state and federal regulations. There is no such thing in dog training. I will say this again, there is no such thing as being a “real” certified dog trainer.
There are many trainers who love to boast about all of their dog training certifications; however, what they are really saying is, “I paid all of these for profit businesses for a course they offered and they gave me a certification from their course.” I have encountered numerous “certified dog trainers,” who could not train a dog to save their life (nor the dogs’); however, according to some for profit organization that they paid, they can.
For example, we have a dog training trainer’s program in which the trainers who go through my course literally spend over 175 hours working with dogs of all shapes, sizes, energy levels, and aggression levels. This is 100% hands on working over 175+ hours with real clients’ dogs, not “their own dog” like many programs have their would-be trainers do, this is a very unrealistic way to become a dog trainer.
Give me a few hundred dollars and I can make a 10-year old a “certified dog trainer” in the next 7-days based off many of these companies and websites who sells you the ability to be a certified dog trainer. He has never even taught a dog one thing, but I will be able to say he’s a certified dog trainer.
To give you an example; myself, my trainers, my friend who is a US Navy Seal K9 Handler, my friends that work with the Secret Service dogs, police, my friend who is the most accomplished French Ring Decoy in the US, and the list goes on and on and on are NOT “certified dog trainers.” Why? Because we all know how to train dogs amazingly well, and we do not need to pay a civilian-run and created (for-profit) business to give us a certificate they print up to vouch for us.
When people ask, I always say as a joke: “My certification? Former US Marine, former US Secret Service, I have the highest rated dog training business in the tri-state area, train 65 dogs per week, over 400+ before/after videos, and 100+ 5-Star Reviews on Googles. That’s the only certification I have.” 🙂
Again, many of my friends, associates, and colleagues are literally considered the top trainers in the world, and you will never see letters or “certifications” on their websites.
When looking for a trainer, look at that trainer’s reviews, references, and their videos of dogs they have actually trained. Do not be fooled by all of their titles, certifications, and letters they put next to their name. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with their ability to train dogs nor fix your dog’s behavioral issues.
So, what we immediately begin doing is asking them questions to see “why” the dynamic of your relationship is the way it is. Generally, this dynamic among owners and the dog has a lot to do with pack leadership. Ask yourself who is the strongest member of your pack at your house; meaning, which one of you are the strictest on the dog, makes him have the best manners (make him wait before he eats, make him wait at the door, doesn’t let him drag them around on the leash, etc). These small yet simple things generally have a lot do with how your dog sees you in the pack structure. “Generally” we hear females saying “He listens to my husband better than he does me” much more than we hear males say this. Generally men are harder on the dogs and more strict, and women are generally more cuddly, loving, gentle.
Another major factor that can make a big difference is who spends the most amount of time working with the dog? During our obedience training lessons in Northern Virginia, we tell people on a daily basis, “You and your spouse should both be practicing this training at the house.” What we see all of the time is if there is just ONE person that trains the dog, over the course a few weeks the dog will listen to that person flawlessly, and not so much the other person.
This is because the dog sees that just one person if correcting them, enforcing the commands, doing all the pack leadership things that are built into the training, etc. So, the dog simply learns, “I have to listen to and respect this person; however, not so much this other person.”
The analogy I use on a daily basis is that it’s just like children. Think about it, if the dad is disciplinarian of the household, and the mom is the pushover, which person does the child listen to the best? Welcome to the world of how your dog thinks and acts, as well.
So, if you find that your significant other has more control and respect out of your dog, start working with them on obedience training and pack leadership, and you should soon see a shift in the dynamic of your relationship.
Regardless of what training method you choose to train your dog, one of the biggest things you do not want to do is to over-train. Always end your training sessions when the dog is still having fun and is actively engaged in the training. Again, you want to make this a fun process, not a dreaded one. This is especially important with puppies. Everyone wants to get their new puppies trained as rapidly as possible, however, they lose focus of the fact that they are only two or three months old and have an extremely short attention span. If you find yourself chasing your puppy or dog around in order to get it to participate in training, the training session was probably too long and he has completely lost interest. As a general rule, 10-week-old puppies can take about 10 minutes of training at a time; five-month-old puppies can do about 45 minutes at a time. Remember, always end training when the dog wants to keep going, to build up the drive to train.
Rewarding Marginal Performance:
Once your dog knows the command, never reward him for anything less than exactly what you wanted him to. In training, we see this happen with owners and dogs all too often and it can quickly turn an amazing obedience dog into a marginal one if it continues. For example, if you give the command “down” and your dog almost lies down but is still hovering slightly above the floor and you reward that, he will learn that he does not have to go all the way down in order to get rewarded. By doing this, your dog learns, “Why go all the way down if I can go halfway and get rewarded? I can do half the job and still get the reward.” I always tell my clients, “Never reward them once for something you wouldn’t want them to do the next 10 times.” Dogs are creatures of habit, and they learn amazingly well through repetition. If you reward them once for something, they will try that same thing the next 10 times, especially if it requires less work. So, never reward them for something you wouldn’t want them to always do. If they mess up the command or don’t do it all the way, make them finish it or just start again from the beginning, but do not reward them unless you want the behavior to be repeated. I recently just told someone, “The best thing about dogs is they will do exactly what you accept from them. If you only except perfection, they will be perfect; however, if you accept good enough, they will be good enough.”
Knowing Your Limits:
I have had many people at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia tell me, “I once tried electronic collar training on my dog, but I really wasn’t sure how to use it.” If you do not know how to PROPERLY use a prong collar, electronic collar (etc), find a qualified trainer who does. As I say all of the time, “More people ruin their dogs with improper use of these training tools than people benefit their dogs.” When these tools are properly used, you can build confidence, create a close bond, and make a dog amazing. However, if you do not know how to use, you can cause more problems, ruin their confidence, and be left with a cowering dog. You can read about these training methods in the blog on electronic collar training.
Too Quick To Add Distractions:
Don’t be too quick to incorporate distractions while training your dog. I have found that people find this hardest to accept when we start training their dog at our facility. Their dog will have just finished the first lesson and the owner will ask, “Should we start practicing this with a lot of distractions?” No. Your dog (and YOU) has to be amazing at the commands without distractions before they will be great with distractions. If your dog is mediocre at a command when it is just the two of you practicing, you can expect nothing but less than mediocre with multiple distractions. It is important to have your dog nearly flawlessly obedient before you start to incorporate distractions. Once he is to the point of near perfection, the distractions should be incorporated slowly. Meaning, do not take them to the middle of the dog park and practice as their first test run with distractions. Start with one other dog around, then two dogs with a couple of people, and then build up from there. By ensuring they are near perfection and then building them up to multiple distractions, you are setting them up for success in their training.
Work and Pleasure:
Do not make your sessions obedience training with play built in; try to make them play with obedience built in. What’s the difference? Your mindset. When working with your dog, think of it as playing with him and throwing obedience into the play. If you think of it this way, and act this way, then your dog will think the same thing. Dogs are like people—they are much more motivated to learn if they want to do something versus if they feel like they have to do something. If you take them out with the intention of making them work on obedience, then they will feel like it is work and will not be as receptive nor motivated. However, if you are taking them out to play and simply incorporate the obedience into the play, then they will be much more receptive because they are wanting to learn. When you find a good balance of play and training, your dog should not even realize he is training. For example, you could be playing with your dog, tell him to down, sit, stand (etc) and as soon as he does, excitedly release him and throw the ball or play tug. He does not see this as doing work, he sees it simply as playing.
Stop If Frustrated:
Do not get frustrated when working with your dog. I know, it sounds a lot easier than it sometimes is. Remember, if you are properly correcting and motivating your dog with whatever drives him (treats, tug, toy, ball, etc.), then he wants to learn! So, if for some reason he just isn’t picking it up, it is probably more your fault than his. There is a communication problem, and since you are the only one communicating what needs to happen, it is a problem on your end. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it’s probably time to stop training for the time being. Also, this will give you time to stop, calm down, and reevaluate your teaching style and method. Again, dogs are like people—what works for one does not necessarily work for another. So, if you saw a great training method on TV, the Internet, or in a book (even this book) do not be afraid to tailor that to what you find works best for your dog. Do not get tunnel vision and start thinking the method you saw is the only way to achieve the desired result. This is the trap that MANY “treat only” trainers fall into. They cannot fix an aggressive dog (for example) with their training method, so they tell the owners it cannot be fixed, only because it could not be fixed with THEIR method.
Get Creative in Training:
Constantly try to find new things to teach your dog to do. So many people get so focused on teaching them just the basic commands; those are very boring for your dog once he masters them. As soon as your dog masters one command, move forward and teach something new, then repeat. Many people are in awe of my dog, Duke, because he knows 25+ commands in English and some in German, and personal protection, and drug detection on 4 odors. As soon as Duke masters a command, I try to be creative and think of something else to start working on with him, in addition to the commands he already knows. It’s a constant learning and practicing process. Think of your dog like a kid in school who didn’t just learn addition in math and then was done for the rest of his or her life. Once learned the basics, and once those were mastered, moved up to something harder. Just like with us, for your dog, learning should be an ongoing cycle that never ends. Dogs that are always learning are never bored. In fact, dogs love to learn just like people do. It stimulates them mentally and makes them use their brain instead of just lying around, eating, and going out to the restroom.
Be consistent in your reward, your correction, and your expectations. Consistency is truly the key in dog training. Make the rules of obedience for the dog simple and fair, the easiest way to do this is by not changing the rules. Imagine if you were learning a new game and the rules changed every time you played, would be pretty difficult to learn to master, right? Your dog is no different.
At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we do everything from personal protection dogs (bite dogs), drug dogs, basic/advanced obedience, and behavioral issues. So naturally, people see our numerous videos on YouTube of our trained dogs doing bite work and they call us or email us to because they want their dog to do it, as well!
Here’s the problem, everyone assumes because they have a German Shepherd, Doberman, Pit Bull, Rottweiler Cane Corso (etc) that they can be an amazing personal protection dog. This could literally could not be further from the truth. We train 65 dogs per week at our facility, and out of an entire moth, we may see ONE dog who is capable of performing this task.
The chances of you getting a (insert almost any breed here) German Shepherd from a regular rescue, breeder, or shelter and that dog being able to be a personal protection trained dog is probably about 2% (a general guess, not statistical based).
What people do not realize is places that employ personal protection or police dogs, get them from breeders who breed SPECIFICALLY for that. Even when they breed specific for that, maybe only half of the litter has what it takes to be amazing at this type of work. So your chances of getting a dog from a regular breeder/shelter and that dog be able to do this type of work is VERY slim.
Unfortunately, I have to tell people every single day that the dog they bought for family protection and have to spend the next 14 years of their life with will NEVER perform the task that they intended it to do. So, do your research and read the blog below to ensure you are getting the RIGHT dog for what you want.
A myth about personal protection dogs is that they need to be aggressive, this isn’t true whatsoever. Myself and my trainers all have bite-trained dogs and they love people, love kids, love other animals, etc. They should be very stable dogs that can know when to bite (on command) and know when to be a great family companion, as well!
Another myth is when people say, “I know my dog will protect me if it really came down to it.” Research and studies have shown that this could not be further from the truth, either. About 98% of dogs (unless specifically trained to do so) will look to you for comfort and help in a threatening situation. Sorry to disappoint you, but better that you know the truth verse have a false sense of security. There have been a lot of studies done on this, this is just one of MANY:
It takes a lot of work, training, scenarios, and discipline to get well rounded, friendly, and socialized dogs to bite people; therefore, it’s abnormal for a dog TO bite someone.
Personal protection dogs have to have set characteristics that are usually only found in dogs when they are bred to have these characteristics: high confidence, very HIGH prey drive, high energy, good nerves, etc.
Know that if you are wanting a personal protection dog, you have to be prepared to invest a lot of time, training, scenarios, pack leadership, confidence, and obedience training with this dog.
Ensure you do a lot of research, talk to a qualified trainer, a good breeder, and ensure you do a lot of research on the subject before making this 15-year commitment. Again, most high-drive working dogs ARE NOT a good fit for about 90% of people. I generally am quick to tell people that they do not NEED a personal protection, get an alarm system and a gun for the house instead.
At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, we always get asked about foods that people should avoid their dog eating. There are quite a lot of of them, actually. Anyone with a dogs knows that it can sometimes be hard to completely prevent your counter-surfing dog from snatching some foods off of the counter that they should not have. Clearly, if this is your issue, this can be fixed through obedience training, it’s a common problem that we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
However, some owners just like for their dogs to eat like them! They love them and want to give them their amazing tasting “human-grade” food, right? This love for your pet is fine, as long as you know the foods to avoid!
Things You Should Avoid Ever Giving Your Dog:
We will start with the obvious, that I “think” every dog owner in the world knows! Chocolate/Caffeine – The active ingredients in chocolate and caffeine theobromine and theophylline, which is toxic to dogs. They have been known to cause heart or nervous system failure even in reasonably small amounts. Also remember, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous for your dog. To give you an example, Denver based veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald says, “20 ounces of milk chocolate, 10 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, and just 2.25 ounces of baking chocolate could potentially kill a 22-pound dog.” However, it should be noted that serious toxic or health problems could arise with even lower doses than listed above. In summary, no amount of chocolate should ever be acceptable for your dog and you should avoid it’s ingestion at any cost.
Milk Products – Can cause diarrhea.
Sugary Foods – Can do the same thing it does to humans, cause obesity, dental problems, diabetes, etc.
Alcohol – alcohol even in small amounts can cause coma or even death in small pets.
Bones – If giving your dog a raw diet (or if accidental), ensure they do not consume any bones. This can cause cuts, obstructions, and intestinal blockages.
Cat Food – Sometimes you may find your dog sneaking into your cat’s bowl because they often times find cat food (which is richer and fattier) delicious! Cat food is very high in protein and dogs often time can have a hard time digesting this.
Citrus Oil Extracts – May elicit vomiting in dogs.
Fat Trimmings – Fatty foods are a common cause of pancreatitis, so try to avoid giving your dog your fat trimming scraps.
Grapes or Raisins – Known to contain a toxin that can lead to kidney damage.
Liver – Ingesting too much can adversely affect the dog’s bones and muscles by creating vitamin A toxicity.
Macadamia Nuts – Much like raisins and grapes, the toxin and mechanism of action are not known at this time
Molds – Ingesting any form of molds have the same affect on dogs that it has on humans (except generally worse because they are smaller).
Mushrooms – Some mushrooms are toxic to dogs (just like people), which can result in shock, nervous system failure, and even death in severe cases.
Onions and Garlic – Can cause anemia and blood damage in both cats and dogs.
Peaches , Avocados, Plums – Peaches and plums themselves are not unsafe for your dogs to eat; however, they contain pits which can present a choking hazard to your dog. All pitted or nutted foods should be avoided.
Raw Eggs – Eating avidin enzyme can reduce biotin absorption and lead to hair and skin problems or get salmonella poisoning, as well.
Raw Fish – Feeding your dog raw fish can lead to a thiamine deficiency. This can cause your dog to lose his appetite, have seizures, and can even lead to death if your dog eats raw fish regularly.
Salt – Too much salt in dogs has the same affect as too much salt in humans, it can lead to dehydration.
Xylitol – This is an artificial sweetener, which can lead to liver failure.
Yeast – Yeast can cause swelling and pain in the stomach.
If your dog has ingested an abnormal quantity of any of these items, contact your local Vet immediately! Also, you can contact the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.
So, safe-proof your house, your pantry, and your cabinets to ensure your dog doesn’t get ahold of foods that they should never eat.
Training a dog to heel is one of our most requested and needed commands at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia. We currently have over 430+ Before/After videos on our Youtube Channel, most of these videos show dogs we have trained off-leash heeling with distractions. The picture above is me working a Belgian Malinois on a focused heel, this is an advanced form of off leash heeling, where the dog stares at you the entire time they are heeling.
There are a few KEY of elements in order to get a nice, solid, on or off leash heel:
Correction: In order to get a solid military/police precision heel, I am a believer that with the vast majority of dogs, there has to be a correction for the unwanted pulling; however, the correction is delivered is based upon your dog training program that you are enrolled in. You can read about the different dog training methods here in my blog, “The Pro’s and Con’s of Different Dog Training Methods.” As I say on a daily basis, “I have never seen a dog (or a child) that has impressed me in obedience that did it solely through a reward-based program.” Military dogs, police dogs, and ring dogs are the most confident and obedient dogs in the world, none of them solely use a reward-based system.
Pick A Side: Pick a side on the left or right and stick to it! Our dogs we train to heel on the left, NO EXCEPTIONS. Never on the right, never in front, never behind, always on the left! Consistency is the key! It’s much easier for them to learn to always heel on the left, no exceptions, than to learn to “generally” heel on the left, but sometimes on the other side, too!
Pace: I am a huge advocate of what I call “pace-variation.” If you watch our numerous videos, you will see me heeling a dog and walking at a fast pace, and then suddenly I will walk at a very slow pace and you will see the dog automatically adapt. Then, I will repeat this; walking normal, speeding up, slowing down, etc. This teaches the dog that irregardless of whom is walking them, they have to modify THEIR pace to that person, not the other way around. You can see a great example of this pace variation in this 140lb uncontrollable Great Dane that we trained.
Direction: As I tell our clients on a daily basis, ensure YOU also control the direction of the walk; meaning, never change the direction you are walking in order to adapt to your dog. For example, if your dog pulls you to the left, most owners will go to the left to accommodate the dog, this is wrong. You keep walking in the same direction that you were going and make your dog adapt to your direction, not vice-verse. If your dog pulls one direction and you go that direction, you simply taught your dog that they are a steering wheel and whichever way they pull, you follow. You can see owners that have adapted their direction to accommodate their dogs in these before/after videos.
Avoidance Behaviors: An avoidance behavior is something that your dog will do in order to help control the walk or the breaks during the walk. Some of these avoidance behaviors are stopping and sitting as you are walking them, marking on everything, lying down, stopping and scratching, etc. These are all things that owners allow their dogs to do during a walk, which teaches the dog that they can control the starting and the stopping of the walk. Never let your dog control the walk with avoidance behaviors, if we are heeling a dog and they stop (by marking, sitting, scratching, etc), we simply correct them and keep walking, NOT changing our pace whatsoever.
Anyone who has worked with me onheel lessons at my dog training facility in Northern Virginia, has undoubtedly observed me doing this. I will be working the dog on a heel, the dog will stop, sit, and start scratching (for example), I correct and just keep walking at the same pace and in the same direction without skipping a beat. Again, “I” control the walk, not the dog.
Consistency in Leash Length: This is something that most people do not consider, even most “trainers.” If you are giving your dog a correction based off of when they create tension on the leash (which is the proper way to do it), THE LENGTH OF LEASH THEY HAVE SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE SAME! Amazing concept, right? You cannot correct your dog based off of them pulling on the leash, yet the amount of leash you give them changes every time you walk them, your significant other walks them, etc. In order to TRULY make it fair and easy for your dog to understand, they should always have the same amount of leash between your hand and their collar. We tie a knot in the leash to ensure every time we heel the dog, we are giving them the same amount of leash as last time.
Opposition Reflex: Whatever the dog does, we do the opposite to counter it. If they slow down, we speed up and correct. If they speed up, we slow down and correct.
Patience: Every single day we hear people say, “My dog doesn’t heel with with distractions.” We then see their dog, and their dog doesn’t heel with WITHOUT distractions. Or, “My dog cannot off leash heel,” and then we see their dog and their dog isn’t good at ON leash heeling. So, you dog should literally be flawless at on-leash heeling before you even consider distraction work or off leash work.
If you are having a lot of trouble with your dog on a walk, find a qualified trainer in your area that can assist you with getting your dog’s heeling perfect!
Here is a recent before and after video of a German Shepherd that we just recently did a heel lesson with:
Toy Aggression is a behavioral issue we deal with a lot at our dog training facility in Northern Virginia.
First, we will start with prevention, to ensure you never have this problem with your dog.
Anytime we do our puppy training classes at our Northern Virignia facility, I always tell the owners to get their puppies used to them taking away their toys, giving them back, etc. So, as your puppy is playing with a new toy, bone, Kong, etc, I will just walk over to them, take it away from them, praise them, and then give it back. This gets your puppy at a young age conditioned and used to you taking things from them, I talk about this in my Pack Leadership Blog, as well. Essentially what you are doing is desensitizing them to people taking stuff from them while they are small and manageable, that way they think nothing of it when they are older and larger.
Also, what I’m a huge advocate of that most people do not do is I always recommend keeping all toys put up. Meaning, if you come over to my house, you will not see one dog toy on the floor. I only get out a toy (tug or a ball) when I’m working with my dog and he is doing well on obedience, then I use the toy as a reward. This does two things: 1) It helps build his drive for the object and 2) It teaches him that all of the toys are MINE and he only gets them when I give him access to them. I talk about building drive in your dog in my blog “Should I Play Tug With My Dog?”
Dogs who are toy aggressive see these toys as THEIRS and “you” are trying to take away THEIR toy. This is a very bad state-of-mind for your dog to be in. That shows that they do not respect you as the owner of these objects nor do they respect you as the pack leader.
Lastly, get your dog some obedience training so they have a solid “out” command or “leave it” command and you have control over your dog’s movement. Now, you can eliminate the issue by telling them to “out,” calling them away from it, and picking the toy up.
So, in summary: start desensitization work with your dog to get them used to you taking things away, find an obedience trainer to gain solid control over your dog, teach the dog that the toys are YOURS and not theirs by limiting their access to them, and start incorporating all of the pack leadership things discussed in the blog above.
My Dog Has Toy Aggression, Now What?
Your first course of action would be to find a qualified dog trainer in your area. As I tell people on a daily basis, “You cannot fix any issue in a dog that doesn’t listen.” To me, obedience and control over your dog is paramount for fixing almost any behavioral issue in your dog. As I’ve said before in another blog, “I have never seen an amazingly obedient dog with major behavioral issues and I have never seen a dog with major behavioral issues that was amazing in obedience.” Generally, all of these things go hand-in-hand. Obedience is a natural confidence builder for a dog, as well as a natural pack leadership bolsterer for you.
Now that you have control over your dog and you are working on the pack leadership issues that you have, now we can concentrate on correcting the behavior.
(Start Side Bar Topic) Here’s where it gets controversial, in my opinion, most dogs with aggression issues have to have a correction for the behavior! We work with 65 dogs per week, many of which went to some “positive reinforcement, clicker and treat, give him hot dogs until he’s full and falls over” trainer. Once they paid money, wasted a few weeks of time, and received no results, THEN they called us.
I think that dogs, much like humans, have to have a balanced approach of training. There has to be positive and praise when a desired behavior is achieved, and there has to be a correction for an unwanted behavior such as your dog trying to bite you or someone else. You cannot raise highly intelligent kids solely based off of positive reinforcement and ice cream, so why people think you can dogs is beyond me. As I say, the most confident and obedient dogs in the world are military, police, and ring (Mondio, ScH, French Ring) dogs, right? Not ONE of them solely use positive reinforcement. End of debate. (End Side Bar Topic)
So, while working with your toy aggressive or toy possessive dog, there has to be a correction for the unwanted behavior and positive reinforcement for the desired behavior. This will help teach your dog what is acceptable and unacceptable. Find a qualified trainer to work with your dog on these issues, do not try to fix this on your own.