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. 

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. 


Group Class 2

So we have wrapped up our first class here at Aim High K9.  We had 4 dogs go through the class and all of them did very well.  All of the dogs came to the class at different levels of training.  The class was a basic on leash class that included being able to enforce the commands by the end of the class.

The Am Bull dog who at the beginning of the class could not stay in the group because she was so worked up and excited did very well.  We did do some private sessions with her inbetween the Sunday classes.  On the last day of class she was heeling up and down the parking lot with dogs on either side of her. And also doing sits and downs while other dogs heeled past her.

The young ( but very large) Newfie mix was also doing very well by the last class day.  She had come to the class with her mom because she is so big and her female owner could not handle or get control of her.  On the last day of class her mom said she felt so much better being able to walk and handle her without feeling overwhelmed.

The older golden retriever came to class mostly for heeling.  His mom was having a hard time handling him when there were other dogs and distractions around.  Now his mom can walk him and not worry about being dragged around by him.

The lab came to class with some previous training.  She also did very well and just needed some help with enforcing the commands.  She would decide when and where she wanted to do obedience.  Now she is getting the idea that when mommy says a command it is not optional no matter what is going on around her.

The students all did great and everyone was putting in the effort at home inbetween classes.

For our second class the dogs all came in knowing most of the basic commands.  The owners again needed some help with enforcing the commands in all situations.  All of the dogs did very well and the owners were great with working them at home.  One of the hardest things to teach in a class setting is the enforcement of the commands.  The class all listened well and worked on timing of the correction and paying attention to the response of their dogs.  Our second class still has 1 class left to go and I know they are all great.  Our last class is a lot of heeling up and down and practicing sits, downs and the all important come command.

We got some great input from the class members on how they liked the class and what they would like more of.  Thanks everyone for great classes!!


Invisible fence among other types

Occasionally I have clients ask me about invisible fencing for their dogs.  Usually this comes up when we are talking about training and the off leash recall.  You may need an off leash recall even though you have a fenced in yard, whether you have an invisible fence or a physical fence of some sort.  You can train a dog to do a recall in your yard if they like playing the “catch me if you can” game when it’s time to come inside.  The issue comes up with invisible fences because people think if they have one then the collar for the recall will interfere with the fence.  I have never had this happen.  More than likely if they are trained and they get to close to the fence, they may just come running back to you.

Even having clients with invisible fencing I am still not a big fan of them.  I feel that it gives people a false sense of security with their dogs.  I have told quite a few people that an invisible fence is just not the same as a physical one.  The truth of the matter is that your dog could leave your yard.  They can chase a squirrel, or go after another dog that they see outside the yard.  And then once they leave the yard, they cannot come back in without getting shocked again.  So then that makes them stay out of the yard!

The other factor that people don’t think about with an invisible fence is that another dog can come into your yard and get into a fight with your dog if you are not outside with them.  I never recommend leaving a dog outside unattended, no matter what type of fence you have.  You just never know what could happen when you are not looking or paying attention.

I once had a client with a Rottweiler that was starting to become aggressive towards young men.  The client did not know why this behavior was happening suddenly.  She actually set up a camera in her yard to see what was happening during the day while she was gone.  She had an invisible fence and the dog had always done great with it and never left the yard.  When she watched the footage from the camera this is what she saw.  The boys that lived next door were coming up to the fence line and teasing the dog.  Throwing rocks and sticks at it and sometimes crossing the line and running back getting the dog to chase them.  The client ended up putting up a privacy fence between the yards.  Having the invisible fence made her feel like her dog was safe while she was gone.  Even now with the privacy fence she no longer leaves her Rottweiler outside when she leaves.

With an invisible fence your dog is limited to your yard or just one certain area.  With an off leash recall you can take your dog off your property and still have a reliable come command if needed.  🙂

Group Class

At Aim High K9 we now offer group classes for our clients.  Teaching group classes is a very different dynamic.  We have small classes of 4-5 dogs per class. Within the group you have an assortment of dogs with varying degrees of training.  In our Basic obedience class we have one dog that has been through a class before and knows commands but only performs them when she wants to.  We also have a young dog ( under 1 year ) who has gotten a good foundation started by her owner.  She is a very large dog and her owner wants to have very good control over her as she gets older.  In addition we  have an older dog who is good with his male owner but does not listen as well to his female owner.  So the female is going through the class so she can handle him too.  And then there is the over exuberant dog who just wants to run up and play with everyone.  She happens to be an American Bulldog and unfortunately is very strong and quite a handfull.  Other people don’t always interpret her joy as being playful.

In a group class you can get a lot accomplished in a short hour session.  Some dogs will excel and do everything right then and there.  And some are not so comfortable in the class and can only do a little bit .  Our over exuberant dog was too worked up during class. The owners had trouble with her, she wouldn’t take any food, and she just wanted to investigate the other dogs.   We ended up having them watch the other dogs work and then after class we did some one on one work with her.  When they get home though we have given the owners the methods to use in training so they can work with them at home during the week.

In our first class this week we went over how to teach the commands sit, down and place.  By the end of the 4 weeks the goal is to have the dogs performing all of the commands around distractions.  We will also teach heeling, off and come during the course of the class.  We try and have fun in the class and get a lot of information across to the clients.  Having a good dynamic is important.  I actually told one person that if you don’t feel ridiculous then you are not doing it right.

For some people attending a class is a fun way to spend some time with their dogs and their friends.  Our second class of the day is a group of friends and their dogs.  They all know each other and we have a lot of fun during the class joking around and still teaching the dogs new things.  The dogs in the second class are a little more advanced and know commands already.  This allows us to move through the commands faster, and start adding distractions.  The goals for everyone are still the same no matter what class they are in.  To be able to communicate with their dogs and have fun with them.

As our classes progress I will give updates on how it is going.  Any problems that pop up or issues that the dogs have within the class will be discussed openly.

Choosing a Trainer?

There always seems to be great debates going about clients choosing a trainer and program for their dog.  I will say this…. there is no perfect method or perfect trainer.

To me training is about always being open to new methods and constantly learning about what other trainers are doing.   I have had clients come to Aim High K9 for a visit and have been very happy when we explain our training programs.  Some people will come for a visit and then say that they would like to do clicker training with their dog.  If I can I will actually recommend to them a trainer that will better suit what they are looking for.

When you are considering getting your dog trained you need to think about the goals you have for you and your dog.  Do you want a dog with some good house manners, but no time to do the training yourself?  Do you want to participate in the training with your dog.  Are you interested in group classes or do you learn better in a one on one setting?  In all of these instances you can find a trainer that can best fit your needs.  Within the realm of training you have many options.

Inboard– you leave your dog with the trainer and they train your dog.

Group lessons– you bring your dog to a group class usually 1x a week for so many weeks.

Private lessons– you work with a trainer one on one with your dog, either at a training facility or at your home.

Once you decide how you want your dog trained it is a good idea to meet with the trainer and ask them about their method for training.  Feel free to ask them how they will train your dog and what rewards and or punishments they will use.  Also ask them what they recommend for training equipment and if it will be included in the training or if you will need to purchase it.  Have the trainer explain the type of equipment they use and why.  Even the difference between using a nylon slip collar, a buckle collar, choke chain, pinch collar, gentle leader, e-collar, or martingale can sometimes be confusing if you don’t understand how they work.

There is a wide variety of training methods that trainers use.  I am not a trainer who is stuck on one single method being the only way to train a dog.  Not all dogs are the same and a good trainer will know how to adjust to your dogs specific needs.  Some trainers will train in a purely positive or motivational way.  This means they will use treats a lot and do not use any type of correction.  Other trainers will use clickers and mark behaviors and reward with treats.  Still others will take a middle of the road approach and use a combination of reward and correction. There are some trainers who exclusively use the e-collar in their training.   The only method that I as a trainer will warn people away from is a trainer who uses pure compulsion.  This means they will start out correcting the dog before teaching what they want.  When the dog performs the command the correction will stop.  Using pure compulsion is often referred to as “Old School”  and was used for a long time before motivational training came along.

If a trainer is not willing to explain their methods or give you a demonstration, then beware.  In the end you need to feel comfortable either working with the trainer or with leaving your dog with them to be trained.

Crating your dog?

Recently someone sent me a link to an article about crating dogs.  The article was against crating dogs for any reason and said it was cruel.  Let me say this right up front, I believe that a crate is a very useful tool.  But like any tool it can be misused.

I have heard people say that they will never use a crate.  I have heard that it is wrong to crate a dog.  I have heard that if you are a good dog owner then you should not have to crate your dog.  That you should be able to train them so they don’t need a crate.  Well I believe that most of these comments have come from people with very limited dog experience.  If you have owned two or three well behaved dogs in your life then maybe you have never needed to crate your dog.  But some of us have owned “special” dogs and have needed to crate them.  When I say needed to crate them I mean that literally, for their own safety.  I have owned multiple dogs in my life.  I have had some that “needed” to be crated at different times in their lives.

I was given a GSD when she was about 1 year old.  She had grown up outside in someone’s fenced in yard.  She had no idea what the house was all about.  She had no house training.  If she needed to go potty she would just squat and go.  Now would anyone in their right mind just leave this dog loose in their house while they go to work or the store??  I am a pratical person, I can put a dog on a feeding schedule and have a good idea of when they need to go to the bathroom.  But I cannot predict what that same dog will do when left to her own devices.  Eat a pillow?  Chew through  a wall? Tear up an entire room of carpet.  Smash through a window to get a squirrel?  Open the fridge and eat the entire contents?  Anyone of these scenerios is perfectly plausable and some I know have happened to people.  So yes for the safety of the dog I crated her when I was gone.  Often she would come to work with me and stay in a crate and I would walk her when I had a break and on lunch.  The point being that it was not cruel to crate her for her own safety.

Now the article I read mentioned having a pet sitter/walker come to your house if you were going to be gone for an extended amount of time.  I am guessing this would be an average 8 hour workday. Well guess how long it takes a dog to eat a couch pillow??  Not long.  So you leave the house and within 10 min your dog has done something that could potentially harm or kill it and you have the dog walker scheduled to show up 3-4 hours later.  Turns out they could show up and find your dog in serious pain from eating something they shoud not have.

The GSD that was given to me has come a long way, today she is laying on the couch with me sleeping soundly.  She is obedience trained and off leash trained.  She loves running in the yard and playing with other dogs. She has gotten to the point where  I will leave her loose in the house if I am going to be gone less than an hour, but she still has a propensity to put things in her mouth.  She seems to just be investigating her surroundings but still she could pick up something that might harm her if swallowed.  So when I am gone for a while out grocery shopping or something she is either crated or in a kennel.  To me it is a perfect way to manage her and make sure she stays safe.

When she was given to me it was a “you take her or she is going to the pound” situation.  So the alternative to having to crate her is much worse in my opinion.



Hanging out on the couch


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