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Nerves

It has been my experience that you can take the most horribly abused dog and have them do a total 180 in a matter of a few months, if they have good nerves.

Nerves

I often use terms like "weak nerves" and in contrast "good nerves". The average person might not know what these terms mean. I think a basic understanding of these terms is essential to understanding common canine behavior issues.

Good Nerves: A dog with good nerves is often happy go lucky and very confident. If there is a negative event or something that startles him, he quickly recovers. An example I can give is my new Boerboel pup. We were walking one day and large shaggy dog charged us. I knew the dog was behind an invisible fence. My pup did not. His tail and his ears went down. I assured him by saying "Come on! Lets go!". Within 5 to 10 seconds, after he realized there was no danger his ears were back up and the spring returned to his step. He barely bothered to look over his shoulder.

Weak Nerves: A dog that has weak nerves is best described as skittish and nervous. Every startling event is a very traumatic event in this dogs eyes. It takes him much longer to recover from the event than a dog with good nerves. These sorts of dogs are often very reactive. They are typically leash reactive in that they feel that they must defend themselves from every dog and every person. This sort of dog may snap at its owners if it is startled. The world is a very scary place to this dog.

Whether a dog has good nerves or not is mostly determined by genetics. Training and conditioning can improve things, but only so much. We are who we are. In this regard dogs aren't that much different than us.

Rescues will often have a dog that comes across as skittish. The story that they most often tell is that the dog was abused. In many cases, if you press the rescue with pointed questions with regards to the history of the dog, one comes across alot of "ummms" and "ahhhhs" which go on to become a lot of unknowns in the dog's history. Besides, these folks will tell you that "people suck" and you can't trust what they say. So how come if it comes to abuse without any physical signs the stories are to be believed yet other times people can't be believed.

But please do not let these statements detract from all the poor souls that obviously were abused and have the wounds to prove it. These dogs do deserve your pity and I appreciate anyone that donates in hopes of providing life saving care. There are a whole bunch of rescues the are very legitimate and honest. I appreciate anyone that supports the good ones. I just want to make sure that the good ones survive and the ones that do more harm than good go out of business. Those that lie need to stop.

Perhaps the rescues that do make up the abuse tales do it because they feel that it will help the dog get adopted or better yet might bring forth a large donation. In my eyes it is very unethical to make up stories. When you lie to someone and they later find out, trust has been shattered. A rescue should always try to look at the long term picture. Would you rather have that donation now and have it be a one time thing or would you prefer the support over many years?

It has been my experience that you can take the most horribly abused dog and have them do a total 180 in a matter of a few months, if they have good nerves. I have seen some incredible success stories. You can take a dog from the best home, with the best care and have it be nervous and aggressive.

In the case of the nervous aggressive dog, some will claim that the owner has a weak energy. That does make for interesting TV but it often isn't the truth. Yes, a brat, ill behaved dog might be due to lack of structure in the dog's life but the nervous dog in the good home is more than likely genetics.

If a rescue or a trainer tells you that it might take years for a dog to get rid of his nervousness, the training program is either very ineffective or the dog has really bad genetics. Good trainers can turn a dog around very quickly. One of my dogs, that came from a rescue more than likely had been "kicked around" a fair bit. This particular dog is very strong willed. I had a night and day difference in her attitude towards life and people in a matter of weeks. One could not find a more affectionate dog.

If you want a dog with weak nerves, go to a puppy mill or a pet store that sells dogs (the practice fortunaltely is quickly going extinct). Dogs that come from puppy mills often have issues and it wasn't just their treatment while in the mill. It is largely genetics (poor breeding) and some other factors like being removed from the mother at too young of an age.

If you want a dog with nerves of steel go to a working-line breeder. These breeders typically have a massive amount of pride in their product. I am using the word product because things are really that cold sometimes. In defense of these breeders, they do not want to contribute to the problem. "Undesireable" dogs are often culled at a very young age. Before you race off to the nearest working line breeder be advised that these types of dogs despite being very sound genetically, require the level of effort of a second full-time job. There are non-working line breeders that produce dogs of very sound temperament and health. One just needs to do extensive research.

You can also get some very good dogs from rescues and the pound. You could go with a trainer or behaviorist to make the selection. Go look at five hundred dogs and pick one. Do not make a rushed decision - a dog is for life. Do yourself a favor also, close your ears to what the rescue person has to say. Let the trainer/behaviorist do the talking. More importantly, let your eyes and brain make the decision and not your heart. The heart will often lead you down a very long hard road.

-- Daniel Audet

Atlas the Dog

Atlas

Atlas (aka Gabe at the time) was found as a young dog at the front of a rescue organization's gate. Some from the rescue believed that he would never find a home because he was too rough, too powerful and he didn't have flashy enough coloring.

Read the Full Article About Atlas

Jonesy the Dog

Jonesy

Jonesy was found in the Myrtle Beach area as a very young puppy. He quickly grew up to be an unruly adoloscent. Before I met Jonesy I was told that he had aggression issues and that a Pure-Positive trainer suggested that he be put down. If people wonder sometimes why my message is a bit "heated" this is a classic example. This dog does not have any aggression issues nor has he ever han any aggression issues.

Read the Full Article About Jonesy

Tyco the Dog

Tyco

Truth be told, I have never met Tyco. I received a call from a rescue describing a dog with resource guarding issues. They considered this dog to be to aggressive to adopted out under the rescue name. The information that I heard on the phone had me thinking that this dog was not that big of a deal.

Read the Full Article About Tyco

Too Much Dog?

The problem with many “problem dogs” is that they chose the wrong owner!

People often go to a dog trainer because of a problem behavior. The problem behavior is often the result of a dog that has too much drive and not enough to do. People need to be honest with themselves before selecting a dog. If you don’t exercise now, a dog isn’t magically going to give you the desire to “get your lazy butt off the couch” and start training for a marathon.

I have listed several dogs on the right hand side who at one time belonged to a rescue and had very uncertain futures due to them being just a bit more dog than the average person can handle. I believe that the rescues that owned them certainly felt overwhelmed by them. As mentioned in other parts of this website, I have a huge problem with rescues that want to be in the rescue business but don't want to truly learn about dogs. I don't care how many years that you have done rescue for, it doesn't mean that you know dogs unless you are actually out there interacting with them. The challenge cases are a gift in that they are the only ones that really teach us volumes. None of the dogs listed, I would consider extreme other than my Macy. I took Macy in, because she probably would have met an untimely end in short amount of time due to who she is.

At the same time, if you want to do Schutzhund or Mondio Ring don’t get a couch potato dog. I have seen people show up at a Schutzhund field with their German Shepherd wanting to do Schutzhund with a dog that was not food motivated and had the prey drive of an overcooked spaghetti noodle. Why make a dog miserable by trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Don’t get a puppy! Get a dog that someone else didn’t want because it had too much drive for their lifestyle. You can often find these at the pound if you look hard enough. These dogs get themselves into trouble because their owners couldn’t handle them. Rescues rarely have these dogs, because the rescues just label these dogs as being unstable because they can’t handle them. I have seen numerous cases where the rescue considered putting a dog down for that reason. The dog went on to have a happy home because someone like me persuaded them to the contrary.

I said “pound” earlier because often rescues are smart enough to not take in dogs that are super charged Tasmanian Devils. The rescues realize that these dogs have no chance of being adopted by the typical fuzzy bunny slipper wearing crowd. Sport people most often don’t go to rescues to get a dog. Law Enforcement often wisely gets good scent dogs from the pound when they have someone knowledgeable enough to make good selections. I once knew a guy that ordered a multi-generation Schutzhund German Shepherd puppy from Europe. The dog eventually decided it was fun to run after children and bite their clothing whenever they ran. The gentleman’s wife insisted that he get rid of the “aggressive dog”. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! In my eyes they got exactly what they ordered; a dog with a bit of drive. I often advise people to buy/adopt a dog that is a bit older (young adult), so that they can see what they are getting. The common excuses I hear from people why they don’t do this, is, “We want a puppy so that we can train it, just the way we want it.” I scream back, “Nonsense! How many dogs have you trained in the past? Were all of these dogs exactly the way you wanted?”. Hand me a dog that is 5 or 6 years old and I will train it. Puppies are for people with mountains of patience, and tons of time on their hands.

If you want a high drive dog, remember that drive isn’t something you can turn off like a light switch. It is energy that exists in this dog’s every waking moment. If you don’t release some of the bottled pressure that is this dog, he will become stressed, miserable and then do things to try to relieve that stress and that my friend will make you one miserable sob.

In recent times there have been numerous rescues that adopt out Pit Bulls. These rescues will preach positive training methods only because supposedly conventional training hurts and stresses dogs out. They also become horrified at the mere mention of using a tug in training or protection sports. They claim these things will make a dog aggressive. Little do they realize that not giving these dogs outlets for “what they are”, is extremely stressful to these high drive dogs. I am the proud of owner of a dog that is high drive and some would call a Pit mix. Wrestling and mock battle are what makes her happy. Tug games give her satisfaction that gives her soul peace. I once walked this dog for 15 miles in a 24 hour period. It didn’t even put a dent in her. She could have easily gone for another 15 miles. So, how many people are going to walk 30 miles a day to bleed off all that drive. Walking a high-drive dog is not exercise. This same dog, if I play some high paced tug games, is feeling tired after 20 minutes. She has had a good work-out that tests her strength, timing, reflexes, endurance and at the same time teaches her additional obedience and self control. Best of all it dramatically improves the bond with the owner. Walking does not give you any of these things. The rescues that don’t want to become educated in things like appropriate tug play really need to leave these “gladiator breeds” (horrible term but used for lack of a better word) alone. Understand what you are dealing with or quit. Most of them don’t have anything in their mission statement about putting dogs in homes where they will be miserable. So they need to stop discarding good owners that will challenge a dog with the things they love to do. Instead they cater to the crowd that wants to park the Ferrari in the garage and leave it there. Only thing is that we are talking about is a living, breathing thing and not a piece of metal. It feels stress and discomfort from a non-eventful life that is a void when it comes to outlets.

People with high drive dogs, without outlets for the dog often seek a trainer when the built up pressures have caused the dog to engage in negative or destructive behaviors. They might try a reward based trainer initially to discover that the methods are good for teaching the dog new competition style behaviors but they do little to fix the problem behaviors. Most of these folks in desperation then reluctantly seek out someone who is a bit more “old school”. The dog receives hard corrections for infractions and eventually gives it up for as long as someone keeps him in check. I don’t have a problem with corrections. Some dogs I will agree even need very firm corrections. I however have a huge problem with this approach being all that is needed. In my opinion the dog needs outlets to make a good percentage of that negative behavior evaporate. It is all about balance.

Get a dog that matches your lifestyle, personality and energy level. Don’t try to make your dog a sport dog if it isn’t in his genes. Provide your high drive dog with outlets that challenge him. If you belong to a rescue get on board with the program. High Drive Gladiator type breeds need non-politically correct games to make them happy. Accept this and stop making dogs miserable by placing them with the fuzzy bunny slipper crowd.

-- Daniel Audet

Dog Bite

Dog Bite Injury

This picture is of a rescue volunteer/foster's calf who was the recipient of redirected aggression that was triggered by the foster's personal dogs. Now, does the well meaning trainer who insists on "my way or the highway" really sound so bad?

Poor Introductions

I am probably going to make some folks very upset with this article but the truth needs to be told. For the rescues where the following criticisms don't apply please don't be offended - Thanks for all that you do. Please be advised though, that these bad rescue organizations give people a negative view of rescue and in turn damage your legitimate association by the typical behavior of people painting things with a broad brush. If the shoe doesn't fit please don't wear it. My comments are certainly valid for many of the rescues I have seen.

I have witnessed rescues repeatedly do introductions of dogs into multi-dog homes that have set the dog up for failure. In addition to the dog potentially not getting a home, it puts all of the dogs and humans at risk.

I have approached rescues in the past to change their ways. This typically falls on deaf ears. Some of them have even said to me, "Our approach has worked in the past... maybe we are just lucky!". These folks don't realize that their luck will eventually run out.

In a recent case, I got into a huge debate with a rescue with regards to their approach. They had just had three dogs returned from fosters. Two out of the three were returned because the fosters claimed that they were beginning to see aggression issues. You would think that the rescue would want to do some analysis of what was going wrong instead of burning bridges with fosters. Fosters are hard to come by. Instead of questioning their own actions, the quick and easy excuse is always, "People Suck!". That's easy to say instead of accepting some of the blame. Yes, they kick people in the groin that went out of their way to help them out. Even if the fostering lasted one month, the foster did the rescue a big favor by providing the dog a temporary home. Remember that typically there is little cost to the rescue. Some of these folks seem to have a feeling of entitlement. Years ago, when I started donating training time to rescues, other trainer friend's told me that if you do it for free, it will be seen as not having any value. Years later... he was 100% correct!

This same rescue wanted me to do the TV style 5 minute intro, at the new foster's house. I told them that I don't referee dog fights. I don't do TV style nonsense either. I take a slow approach that often takes ten days to two weeks before the dogs even get to interact with each other. They have of course exclaimed, "That's too much work! That is too hard to do! Can you shorten it?". Yes, sometimes it can be shortened - other times it is lengthened. I let the dogs tell me when they might be ready. I am using the word might because no human really knows what goes on between the ears of the dog. Anyways, the rescue would rather chance dogs, killing each other or perhaps having dogs maimed for life or maybe even a human badly injured. All of this because it's apparently too hard and too much work.

I am shocked and amazed by all of these rescue folks who claim that "Would do anything for the dog" and "Whatever it takes" but then discard safety because a plan of "Crate-Rotate and Observe" is too much work for them.

If you're in rescue and you do a bad job, sorry you don't get a special place in heaven reserved for you. You're obviously doing something so that in your mind you can feel good about yourself because you certainly aren't doing it for the dogs.

Not only did they not want to try suggesting a safe plan to their fosters and adopters, they were unwilling to do it with dogs that they foster. I think some of these people need to take a good look in the mirror and decide what their motive really is. Rescues complain they have no money for this and that but they must have tons of money for getting dogs sewn up at the vet or euthanized.

In some cases, rescues do a bad intro, the dog acts out of panic and the resuce labels the dog as "Having a Screw Loose". They then euthanize the dog because they claim the dog was unfixable. Remember again, these folks are claiming that they are the "Kinder-Gentlers". And, apparently, anyone who corrects their dog is an animal abuser.

I have considered that maybe these rescue folks are good hearted but extremely naiive and don't really know as much about dogs as they like to pretend. However, they have been doing rescue for five, ten or even twenty years. Twenty years of fund raising doesn't teach you squat about dogs!

Perhaps they have not heard a tale where one family pet killed another. They have never seen pictures of a human that was torn up in the worst way. They have never perhaps had to break up a real dog fight. I've broken up a bunch and have the scars to prove it. Be advised that with some dogs, once they latch on they need to be choked to unconsiousness before they will release. Are these rescue folks ready to start telling potential adopters that? No, that would be bad PR for rescue. No one wants to hear that.

Some things rescues could improve on:

  • New owner of foster not given any documentation on how to live with a dog. Dogs don't have an owner's manual built in. Some people don't have much experience. Would it really hurt to give them a list of guidelines to help their chances of success?
  • Would it really hurt to call the potential adopter regularly for the first couple of weeks and ask them if there are any issues. Some people won't call you until they are ready to return the dog.
  • Don't introduce dogs in the living room of the adopter's/foster's house because it is too hot, cold or rainy outside.
  • Don't introduce dogs on tight leashes face to face. When I see this sort of behavior on a rescue TV show on Animal Planet, I always ask myself, "Why these people arent being arrested?". They are obviously engaging in dog fighting which is illegal, immoral and disgusting.
  • They don't tell people how to feed a dog. You wouldn't believe how many people don't know how to do this. I know of another rescue where one volunteer who thought she was a trainer would hold the bowl up and the minute the dog sat would throw it down for the dog to run in quickly. The rescue is then scratching its head why the adopted dog engages in resource guarding after it has been adopted out.

When I have brought the previous point it always degrades into "We dont have enough time", "Don't have enough money", "Too much effort" and "I give too much of myself already". If you cant do rescue properly, don't do it or rescue fewer dogs, but at least do a good job with the ones you do have.

Rescue volunteers have no interest in listening to trainers. They will claim that they dont want to bother with trainers because trainers insist, "My way or the highway!". Guilty as charged! If a trainer has something that works well and they are willing to donate their time for free, who is the rescue to question the trainer? I know of a rescue person that is a teacher. I asked this teacher what the sentiment would be if her students told her to teach class in a different manner.

Rescues claim they want help from for trainers but reality is different. I know of a trainer friend that has a fairly large training business, who at one point offered her group classes for free to a local rescue. She has never had anyone take her up on an offer, that countless people have spent a lot of money on.

-- Daniel Audet

About Dominance Theory

The two radical extremes of dog training love to debate whether or not dominance exists in domestic dogs. The discussion usually devolves into debating about wolf packs. The similarities and differences are passionately debated to support their side of the argument. I say they are both wrong. I believe that the original theory that describes one Alpha wolf is highly flawed.

I also believe that anyone who thinks that dominance doesn’t exist really needs to open up their eyes and actually watch dogs instead of reading books by some crackpot author trying to sell you on “Her System”. If you don't own a dog, a trip to the local dog park, combined with an open mind and eyes will quickly reveal what I am talking about.

I think part of the problem is that the English language is somewhat lacking in its ability to describe all the different types of dog behavior.

Dominace does not always equate to violence. It often occurs via posturing and body language.

The word dominance definitely gets way overused by all of these TV style trainers. It seems that everything is dominance to them. It gets very tiring after awhile. A dog darting through a doorway in front of you is not dominance. A dog jumping on a bed is not dominance. The TV style trainers love to call everything dominance so that way they can shut down the behavior with dominance. For their next trick they will walk on water.

Click here to read the rest...

The pure positive trainers love the word dominance because it is yet another opportunity for them to tell the world how “scientific” they are. They climb up on their soap box to deliver their sermon on how dominance has been “debunked”. You know immediately that zero thought went into this because they are simply regurgitating what they heard. Just look at their choice of words. Most of these people probably never use the word “debunk” anywhere else in their lives other than on this topic. They use the word in this case because it is the word their pure positive god dispenses like pez candy.

Dominance does exist but it is very dynamic and situatonal.

I say situational because it often varies depending on the exact set of circumstances. If a weaker dog has a bone, the stronger / more dominant dog might choose to leave the dog alone. The more dominant dog has decided that the less dominant dog might choose to fight because the bone has value. The more dominant dog also decides that reward to risk ratio just isn't worth it. The original wolf dominance theory would have you believe that the Alpha always eats first and takes what he wants.

Those that claim dominance doesn't exist would celebrate the above example as a victory, to their argument. That isn't true either. If you take the same two dogs, you might note that one will always go out the door ahead of the other one. You might even see the less dominant dog stop and wait for the more dominant dog to go first. You will also see the more dominant dog push the weaker dog away from his owner when the owner begins to dole out affection. Both of these examples, occur because the weaker dog decides that a fight with a potential loss doesn't warrant the value of the reward.

Justice Dewayne With Dog

Justice Dewayne

The Farmer Method

Farmer techniques are very simple. To get dog to sit, might involve a light kick to the chest. If a dog is engaging in bad behavior, a firm “No” and a swat across the nose with some work gloves. If the dog tries to race out a door or gate before the farmer, squeeze him with the door making it an unpleasant experience that he won’t want to repeat.

  • Farmers don’t have hours to spend training a dog every day.
  • Method is based on minimal use of equipment.
  • Farmer spends little time contemplating on what is fair.
  • Cesar Millan popularized a watered down version of this system.
  • Corrections can be anywhere from firm to harsh.
  • A dog on a farm that doesn’t learn quickly, can end up very dead.
  • Farmer’s selection of good dogs that are high drive and strong nerved translates into little fall out.
  • The approach is similar to Koehler but less structured, involves careful dog selection and few tools.

Farmer-Style Sit

You must understand the farmer’s perspective. He isn’t going to spend his day dog-training. He has far too much work to do.

  • Say sit, when he doesn’t sit put the nasty game face on, stiffen body and move towards him while repeating.
  • If he still doesn’t sit, a tap with your foot to his chest gets his attention and down goes his butt.

I can hear the shrieks of horror now. Truth is, a tap isn’t going to hurt anything. It isn’t going to endlessly damage your relationship with a good nerved dog.

Watch how puppies play? The are downright cruel and barbaric. They bite each others ears with needle sharp teeth and ignore the screams of their victim. These pups don’t grow up emotionally scarred. The ear bite doesn’t ruin them and neither will a very light tap to the chest.