Aggressive dogs

  As a dog trainer I get all kinds of phone calls from people needing help with their dogs.  For me the hardest call is one about an aggressive dog.  I don’t dread these calls because I can’t help them though.  More because people want a “cure” or a quick fix.  One thing I have always told people is that I can do all the obedience training they want with a dog, but it is up to the owner to then use the training to control and manage their dog.  I know there are trainers out there who will promise the world and take someone’s hard earned money, saying everything will be just fine.  I’m not one of those trainers, I’m realistic.  When dealing with any aggression issue the owner has to be 100 % dedicated to working with the dog.  I own a dog aggressive dog.  But most people don’t even realize it.  Because I control him and the situations that I put him in.  I don’t take him to dog parks or feel that he absolutely needs to have dog friends. He gets along with a few select dogs and that suits him just fine.  People seem to want to force their dogs into situations that the dogs have no desire to be in.  And that’s when accidents happen.  Forcing your dog to meet other dogs or people is not going to help them. 

  There are different types of aggression that can be worked with and managed.  I have delt with dogs that have food aggression, possessiveness over toys, aggressive with strangers, aggressive with other dogs and small animals.  All of these forms of aggression can be worked on and managed.  But I feel it is always there, just under the surface.  It does not go away completely.  Some owners can handle dealing with these dogs and understanding their needs and situations. 

  The one type of aggression I do not deal with and have no desire to work with is handler/owner aggression.  I don’t trust a dog that bites it’s owner.  Now let me clarify this because it’s not a black and white issue.  If your dog has dog aggression and gets into a fight and bites the owner when they are breaking up the fight that’s not horrible.  A little excited nipping or mouthing is normal for some dogs/breeds.  The problem is when a dog has bitten it’s owner and now the owner is afraid of the dog.  I have heard people say they are afraid of their own dogs in the house.  All the obedience in the world won’t help them not be afraid of the dog.  Because they are not going to use it.  What will happen the first time they go to put a leash on their dog and the dog growls at them.  They back off and the dog wins, making it more likely to repeat the behavior the next time.  Unfortunately in these situations I usually tell the people they may need to choose to find a new home for the dog.  They say they love the dog and don’t want to get rid of it.  When it comes down to it these owners need to determine who is more important, people or animals.  After working with dogs for over 15 years I’ve come to the conclusion that not every dog can be helped or fixed.  It’s sad because it may not necessarily be the dogs fault, it could be genetic. 

  Dealing with aggression takes time.  I’m a slow and steady person and that’s how I train.  I take my time and don’t like to push the limits with dogs that have aggression.  Sometimes people are willing to work with their dog, but always ask the question “when will I be able to….”  insert whatever issue the dog has.  Take toys or rawhides from his/her mouth, take him/her to the dog park, have him/her around kids.   The answer might be never.  Owners need to come to terms with that, because if you put a timeframe on working with aggression I feel you are setting yourself up for failure.  But if you say “ok lets see how this goes”  you will probably get a lot further and have more success. 

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Self Control

It’s been a while since I have blogged, well like 20 minutes.  I wrote this whole blog out and somehow deleted it.  So here goes try # 2.  I’ve had a busy summer with boarding and training dogs.  I pay attention to what is going on in the dog world, but generally try and keep to myself.  Within the last few weeks though there have been a few things that have gotten my attention.  Trainers and everyday people bashing other trainers and methods all over social media.  I find it very depressing to see. 

  The other day I actually had an intelligent conversation with someone about dogs.  He was very honest and realistic about training and the limitations of his dogs.  Every dog is different and not every approach works for every dog.  I understand this and he understands it.  We stood and talked about it for a good bit.  We may not agree with everything or see eye to eye on all aspects of training and dogs.  But we can talk about it.  And in the end he goes home to his dogs and I go home to mine.  Some people want to say training is black and white, but it’s not.  There is gray area and lots of it, and even some red and green areas too 🙂

  So my point is this, he trains his dogs how he sees fit.  I train mine how I see fit.  We each have control over what we do.  People can complain all they want but in the end they have every opportunity to walk away from anyone or anything if they are not comfortable with it.  You raise your children how you want to, you get lots of advice from people along the way and you are free to choose what advice you want to utilize and what you don’t want to use.  Same goes for your dogs.  You are responsible for them.  You choose whether or not to train them and how.

  I went to school to learn how to train dogs.  I spent 8 weeks in school, then I did a year long internship to learn more.  And I don’t know everything.  I am always open to learning more and seeing how other people train.  I went to an e-collar seminar because I was curious about how the trainer was using it.  She uses it very differently than I do.  I don’t think I will ever believe I know everything there is to know about training.  People make snap judgements about someone because of a certain type of equipment used or certain methods.  But until you see how they are training you are uninformed.  Any person can go into a store or go online and buy any type of training collar/leash/harness that they want.  And they may or may not know how to use it.  The extent of their knowledge may be a youtube video.  To a layperson the youtube video may seem to have all the information needed, a professional may watch that same video and cringe.  This goes for all things not just dog training.  I’m not about to watch a video and then assume I can tear out and rebuild my truck engine. 

  Now I’m not a super opinionated individual, I can take or leave most things.  But lately I’ve had this thought sort of pinging around in my head.  You are in control.  Let me say it again for emphasis, YOU are in control.  If I put an e-collar on my dog it won’t do a stinking thing until I press a button.  If I put a martingale on my dog it will just lay there until I put a leash on it and do something with the other end of the leash.  Same for a halti, or pinch collar or flat collar for that matter.  See what I’m getting at??  You control everything.  You the person/owner.  Nothing happens until you do something.  So maybe you should not use certain things unless you know how.  People have impulse control issues just like dogs do.  It’s all about education for you and your dog, and again if you don’t feel comfortable with something don’t do it. 

  Just a little something to think about………..

Recall?? What’s that??

  Spring and summer are here and that means being outside with your dog!  Teaching a solid recall is one of the most important things you can do for your dog.  But what does a recall mean?  Some people think that having a recall means your dog will never run off again.  Not so.  Having a recall means that you can get your dog to come back to you no matter what.  It does not mean that your dog will never want to chase something or run off again.  Your dog wants to do these things.  Squirrells are awesome!!  And they run when chased!!  Your dog sees them and wants to go.  But you  must still pay attention to your dog and call them either before they give chase or even while they are chasing.  If you don’t call your dog then yes they will chase the squirrell.

  The general idea is that if you call your dog away from the temptations enough times then eventually the urge to chase will go away.  If they are never allowed to do it then eventually they will stop trying.  But believe me they try a lot.  You have to pay attention!!  A recall is only good if you use it.  Having one does not make your dog into a little robot.  You still have the same dog with the same personality.  You just have more control.  And there is nothing better than going to the park or on a hike and letting your dog be off leash and explore their surroundings. 

The Future…

As I go about my duties during my days I often wonder what the future holds.  I’m no fortune teller but I can almost guarantee there will be dogs in my future, always.  I have big plans and ideas for the kennel I run.  Improvements and upgrades in the near future.  I also would like to improve myself as a trainer.  I have said before that I do not believe in only one method of dog training.  Almost everything in life has more than one way to do things.  I see people on social media all the time arguing about who’s method is the best and how other people should be doing things.  I am aware that things change and they way dog trainers were training 50 years ago is considered by most to be outdated and cruel.  I have seen though modern day trainers using those “old school” methods.  They put a spin on things and change the phrasing they use.  I’ve also seen trainers who feel they are so ahead of their time it seems they feel you should be able to telepathically train a dog. 

  I’m open minded enough to know I don’t know everything.  One of my goals this year is to attend more Seminars and Training Workshops hosted by other trainers who specialize in methods other than how I train.  I’m interested to hear trainers explain theory and show how their training method works.  I don’t want to get stuck in a rut and not have options when it comes to training dogs.  And as Sheldon from “The Big Bang Theory”  so nicely pointed out some methods work on people too. 

 Dog training is always evolving, there is no right or wrong.  The sad fact is most people do not even ask how I will train their dog, they just want it done.  But I think I still have room to grow as a trainer.  Some trainers boast about how long they have been in the business or how many dogs they have trained.  In my opinion that really has nothing to do with how good of a trainer you are or can be.  I’ve seen trainers with years of experience and I’ve taught people to train who have never owned a dog in their lives.  It all comes down to heart.  If you want to do it you can.   Sometimes I prefer the people who have never trained or owned a dog, as they tend to be more open minded to methods.  As opposed to the experienced dog trainer/owner who feels that they have done it 1 way for years and it has worked so why change anything??

 Overall I feel like there are lots of good years ahead of me.  Training and trialing my dogs and owning a training and boarding business.  This year I’m looking forward to big changes and lots of fun. 

Aside

A Book?

I recently bought a book at a well known national bookstore.  It is about dogs and behavior and training.  I am about halfway thru reading this book.  I have learned nothing so far.  I wonder why I buy books about dogs.  I have read quite a few of them and always hope to learn something new and innovative.  But it never happens.  I am usually disappointed by the same old methods rehashed over and over.  I wonder if the average person reading these books is learning from them.  In that case I guess they are helpfull to the everyday dog owner. 

  If I were to write a dog training book I think I would cause a great controversy.  Maybe I’m just being conceited though, I doubt anyone would read my book.  I would write a book about how I train.  When I train I don’t use just one method, I have one way that I pretty much stick to but I vary it depending on the dog and how they progress.  The controversial part would be when the “normal” methods don’t work.  For instance, I use hot dogs in the beginning of training to teach basic positions.  But what happens when you have a dog that will not eat hot dogs?  Or any type of treat for that matter?  Well I will have them skip a meal before training.  Then when it comes time for their lesson they are hungry and are more willing to work for the treats.  Some people would balk at this or say it is cruel.  I don’t think so.  I skip meals all the time, and there are lots of people who fast themselves and their dogs 1 day a week.  But to put it in writing in a dog training book would probably be blasphmy to some people.  I could write a whole chapter on it.  I think people only want to hear the “nice” training methods though.  I ran a group class last summer and had to tell the owners not to feed breakfast to their dogs on the day of class.  Again some people just can’t do it and say “oh but I just gave them a little bit”.  Then they wonder why their dog won’t pay attention during class. 

 Honestly if I wrote a book I would have trouble holding back.  I would probably be called mean and horrible for putting in writing what trainers are doing everyday.  I guess I will just keep reading other people’s books for now.  🙂

24/7

I work in an industry that is 365/24/7.  I know this and really most of the time I am just fine with it.  I have had jobs in the past that require long mandatory hours on weekends and holidays.  Being in the pet industry means that no matter what I want to do, I have to make sure the dogs are taken care of first and foremost.

This basically means I do all my personal errands at night.  Grocery shopping included.  Sometimes this is frustrating because Lowes and Sam’s Club are only open so late.  If I want to have dinner with a friend it has to be after 8pm and then I have to be home by 10-11pm to put the dogs in for the night.  I will admit I don’t get out much.  I work every holiday, and weekends.  I’m up at 7am and work untill dark, then put the dogs to bed.

Now here is the part that makes me slightly mad.  I live on the property where my kennel is.  Some people seem to think that this means they can stop by or come pick up their dog whenever they want.  I am a very lienent person.  I let my one daycare dog go home at 7:30 almost everynight.  Some people just must think that I never eat, bathe or sleep though and my whole existence is just to wait around for them to show up.  I have had clients ask if they can pick their dog up at 10 pm before.  Really??  Are they just taking advantage?  Do they lack common sense?  I know they love their dogs and just want them home.  But really I need some personal time too.

My first year in business I probably would have let someone pick a dog up at 10pm.  But no more.  People need to respect boundries, I am putting my foot down more and more often.  And I don’t feel the need to explain either.  At one time I felt like I needed an excuse to say no.  Not anymore.  I have set hours and they need to adhere to them.  Admittedly I still make a few exceptions for long standing clients or if there is an emergency.  Sometimes I just get extremely frustrated with people though.

I have come to accept that it is part of the path I have choosen.  But I think from now on if I give a dog a bath expecting it to go home within the next few hours and then I get a txt msg asking if the dog can stay 2 more nights, they are gonna get charged for the bath.  Normally a bath is given to the dogs free of charge before they go home.  But I am not going to bathe a dog 3 times in a week and have the pick up constantly get pushed back.

And just because you know I’m here on Thanksgiving or Christmas and I say I’m closed, don’t get upset.  Feel free to board somewhere else.

Upset Tummy

Some people may wonder why their dog might get an upset stomach when they bring them to a kennel for boarding or training.  There are lots of reasons that this can happen.  Some of them are unavoidable and some you can help prevent.

At Aim High K9 we require that dogs coming in bring their own food.  Switching foods quickly can very easily give your dog an upset stomach.  When you bring your dog to the kennel bring them the same food they have been eating at home.  Some people want to bring special treats or snacks for their dog when they leave them at the kennel.  Sometimes this is because they feel bad about leaving them and want to compensate for that.  But special treats are just like changing the dog food.  If it is not something they regularly get at home then it can and will upset their stomachs.

One thing that you mostly cannot avoid is the change in water when you bring your dog to a kennel.  Although I have had clients bring cases of bottled water for their dogs to drink while they are being boarded.   Some dogs stomachs are so sensitive that the change from city or well water can upset them.  One thing you want to make sure of is that the kennel provides fresh water daily to the dogs.  Water that sits for more than 24 hours can get dirty and have germs and bugs in it.  This can also easily upset a dogs digestion if they drink that water.

Stress and Anxiety can also upset your dog.  If they have never been to a kennel before they can become stressed just by being away from home.  It may be nothing that the kennel or their staff does.  Just the simple fact of not being in their comfort zone will upset some dogs.  We always recommend people have a boarding kennel that they take their dog to even when they may be in town.  That way the dog can get to know the place and have less stress if something comes up and they need to be boarded.

Some kennels will require a negative stool sample before your dog can be boarded with them.  At Aim High K9 we do not require a stool sample before boarding.  We realize that you can have a stool sample taken by your vet a week, month or day before coming in for boarding.  And since then you could have walked your dog in the park, gone to the dog park, had a play date with the neighbors dogs, or just gone for your daily walk and picked up something within 24 hours of coming into the kennel.   A yearly stool sample is good for your dogs general health but it will not necessarily keep them from getting sick.

If your dog comes home from the kennel and has some loose stool, please don’t jump to conclusions and immediately blame the kennel.  Give them a day or so to relax and get back to normal.  If you see blood or the loose stool continues for more than a few days then a trip to the vet may be called for.

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