Our Personal Dogs.
Some of you already know, I got into dog training because of some major fighting issues that my dogs were having several years back.
These issues stemmed from several problems that commonly cause housemate dogs to fight:
* We brought a new, one year old dog into our home.
* It was a poor introduction.
* The new dog (Lana) had pretty severe resource guarding.
* The new dog was fearful and nervous.
* One of our other dogs was territorial and reactive.
* There was chaos, tons of freedom, lack of rules, plenty of toys, and lots of affection.
* There was a huge gap in leadership on the part of us humans.
All of those things combined were a recipe for disaster. Two of our three dogs at the time were power breeds, and fights happened and escalated in intensity over time.
The rehabilitation process consisted of:
* teaching all the dogs on and off leash obedience. This helped to eliminate chaos. Chaos can and will send fearful dogs into defensiveness if left unchecked.
* Teaching the new dog not to resource guard food by teaching a solid “out” command. This can also be used for moving her away from any situation where I see she is or may become uncomfortable. Toys and food were no longer left out.
* Teaching the new dog to be more comfortable when food is shared with other dogs. (there is a very specific protocol for this- don’t try this without help from a trainer)
* Stopping my other dogs from being reactive towards dogs. This included: on walks, no fence fighting with neighbor dogs, and no reacting when another dog enters our home. No territorial behavior allowed.
* Teaching all dogs to wait at thresholds. They are called to go through the door one at a time by name. (This eliminated fights over space and competition at the door)
* Consequences for bad behaviors and for breaking commands.
* us learning to be better leaders to the dogs.
* setting the dogs up to fail initially while muzzled, so they could be corrected for starting fights.
*correcting any dirty looks they gave each other.
* initially not allowing any free roaming in the house, no dogs on furniture, and no unearned affection.
*Fulfilling their needs for exercise and play in healthy, controlled, yet fun ways.
* I’m sure I’m forgetting some things we did to balance our dogs; but the bottom line was, structure, structure, structure, and consequences.
Dogs are opportunistic and will do whatever they are allowed to do. If you set down firm rules and teach them exactly what they should be doing, they are far less likely to make bad choices.
As an owner, you need to really get to know your dog. Learn who they are in general. Are they fearful overall and being pressured? Are they pushy and are they being allowed too many freedoms? Is it a combination of both?
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows!
Once a dog starts acting aggressively they will most likely need some degree of management forever. Any good dog trainer will tell you this upfront. Yes, we can help dogs and owners make huge changes to their lives and relationships, but we can’t work miracles. Some dogs will make a complete turn around, and some will need very close supervision, structure, and leadership for the rest of their lives. If you put in the work, you will absolutely make great strides and your dog may not display any aggression in the future. You can help them to build confidence and overcome most things, but it’s not like owning a happy go lucky puppy from day one. To some degree you will always have to be vigilant. You may need to use muzzles in certain situations, there may be situations you avoid altogether. While you should continue to ask a lot of your dog and have high expectations specific to their individual capability, you need to keep dogs and people safe. This is honoring the dog for who they are and helping them reach their full potential.