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Of Dogs and People

Posted by KCFiddles on Monday, June 6, 2011

Got a new dog a couple of weeks ago, a rescue dog that had been living at a shelter for two years.  Clyde's turning out to be an interesting dog. He's bred for hunting dangerous game, among other things, and the breed has a reputation for never backing up. He's a sweet dog, eager to please, and really smart. It only takes a couple of repetitions for him to learn a command, but because of that built-in drive, he becomes a real handful when he sees strangers or other dogs - he's bound and determined to go check them out, and nothing's going to stop him.

The usual practice once a dog is trained to walk at heel, is to give him a sharp sideways tug on the leash when he starts to pull, and not to engage in a tug of war. Well, I can pull Clyde clear off his feet (he's managed to reciprocate a couple of times), and it doesn't faze him at all.  If he can't get there one way, he'll get there another, and he can be a real challenge.  I've never met a dog that strong (although pits are probably as strong, pound for pound.) Naturally, he's too big to be allowed to do that.

I don't mind being firm with a dog, and I don't mind correcting them, but I really don't like fighting them for control to the point where I know it's gotta hurt.  I decided to go back to starters, and take a fresh approach.  I started being very punctilious about not ever letting him do any behavior that would make him think he's in charge.  He has to wait until I go through a door and invite him in.  He never gets to go in front when we walk, only beside me or behind. When he starts to try to pull ahead, I change direction - left, right, or even reverse, or just stop. I don't allow him to jump on people or paw at them for attention, behaviors which had been encouraged by his caretakers at the shelter.  I also figured out a way to gently restrain him without letting him jerk on the leash, and with me in a very dominant position.  I just hold him in gently but  firmly in place, make him sit when he gets excited, and release him when I feel him relax. This lets him know that the quickest way to be free is to be calm, and it's working much better.  He's a lot less excitable on the street and in the shop, a lot more responsive when he gets distracted, and he seems pretty happy.

This got me thinking about people.  A lot of them accept authority, or can be out muscled or out-blustered, or otherwise dominated, and accept it just fine, but sometimes the best and strongest people simply can't be dominated directly. You need to earn their respect minute by minute, day by day, and a gentler, more respectful approach works better than a strong, domineering one. I think they call that leadership.

Just a reminder of one of the similarities between dogs and people.

21 comments on “Of Dogs and People”

richdissmore Says:
Monday, June 6, 2011 @5:27:13 PM

i like the dog were not as young as we once were we are strong but not that strong any more to figth with a young dog thats strong got to think about this???i,m kind of in the same boot

KCFiddles Says:
Monday, June 6, 2011 @5:56:35 PM

Well, I think I could could fight him til the cows come home and dominate him physically, but I don't think it would make much difference. He probably wouldn't back down to a boar hog or a black bear until one of them was dead, so getting jerked around by me, while it might leave him bruised and sore, would hardly even get his attention away from what he was focused on.

I think my point was, that taking a less direct, more fundamental approach, earning the authority (in his eyes) in all areas of his life got the results I needed without having to fight with him on this one issue. It's not enough that he is sweet and easy to get along with, eager to please at home; I have to earn strong enough authority so that he'll respond to it under all circumstances. Other dogs don't need such rigorous consistency, but some of the strongest and best do. Same with some of the best people - you've got to earn their respect, day in and day out, so they'll follow you and have confidence in you when it really counts.

richdissmore Says:
Monday, June 6, 2011 @10:06:08 PM

it looks to me you just may win him over ever thing from food and t5hings he loves to play with put your hands in ever thing you give him show him i give this to you i,m the boss no you can,t eat tell i give you i watch to much tv dog wisper i think your doing this rigth

fishingcat Says:
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 @7:33:42 AM

True of all animals IME you earn respect and trust (if you're lucky, you get to build on respect and trust of the critters' other interactions with humans), and you either continue to reinforce what was earned every time there's an interaction or that respect and trust are in jeopardy ... and the trust and respect that is in the least danger of fast erosion and/or permanent collapse is that which was earned by reasonable means to get the animals' agreement, not by force. The old saying "a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still" holds just as true for dogs ... horses ... cats ... llamas ... And as a friend of mine once said, "We've got these big brains, so it's incumbent upon us to actually USE them!"

bsed55 Says:
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 @6:57:39 PM

Sounds like you may need a session with the "Dog Whisperer". But I am delighted a rescue dog has found such a good home & understanding human!

mudbug Says:
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 @3:35:47 AM

Nah, you don't need a seesion with the dog whisperer, you're becoming one. Great post, and so true.

KCFiddles Says:
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 @8:47:47 AM

Kids & dogs - everything you do around them is training for them. Clyde's calm and happy except when his "drive" kicks in, and I'm pretty sure it will just take a while longer to redirect it, if I'm consistent. Even when he's focused on getting to check out another dog, he's respectful. He gets better every day, and he's great around the shop with customers now. For most things, it just takes a quiet word to direct him. I'm pretty sure Cesar wouldn't do anything different. For just over two weeks, as old as he is, I think he's doing great. He can tell when it's time to go to work or to run by what clothes I put on. He just lies around the house until I put a work shirt on or put on my running shoes, and then he's right there, ready to go.

ncfiddleing Says:
Friday, June 10, 2011 @4:26:31 AM

Thats really great that you adopted! I love dogs and on that matter animals of any kind!

Ozarkian DL Says:
Friday, June 24, 2011 @3:45:04 AM

A great writing on "Dog and Man" Michael. Ceasar Chavez ( tha dog whisperer ), summed it up nicely with his quote....."a good way to train a dog is to let tha dog train YOU. Give Clyde a head pat fer me.

KCFiddles Says:
Monday, June 27, 2011 @11:11:37 AM

That's a good thought, and there's more than a little truth to it. Clyde continues to get better every day. Not nearly so pushy for attention, much more relaxed & smiley. Seems that "firm but gentle" gets the best results. Muscle against muscle and sharp corrections just get him more excited. Just holding him until he calms down, or asking him to come back to heel and sit until he is calm works the best. When I started giving him "time out" (after a couple of warnings) in the bathroom at the shop for getting too pushy with the customers, he got it right away, and toned it down pretty quick. So, yes, he is in a sense training me to train him, and making me a better trainer, too. And he gets plenty of pats and strokes. Almost everybody loves him. Walking every day is still the key, IMHO.

jehanna Says:
Monday, June 27, 2011 @1:09:33 PM

Sounds like you have it well in hand. I foster and retrain problem dogs so they can be placed for our local humane society. A few have become forever dogs because I knew they could never be successfully placed and the alternative is not acceptable.
It is too bad there are not more people out there like you who are willing to put in the time and care enough to bring out the best in a dog that has been abused or neglected. If there is something wrong with a dog nine times out of ten a human did it to him.
The only way to negate the damage is unconditional love and unwavering consistency.

tarheel Says:
Tuesday, June 28, 2011 @7:07:18 PM

Wood wiz hold the lead in the hand you want to walk the dog on, left or right, and wrap it be hind your back so the dog has to walk beside you. when you stop or turn the dog will too, no matter how strong or hard headed it is. It pulls the dog to your side, even a simple minded dog will catch on he caint walk in front of you, which is most folks mistake. I have raised hounds and curs, hardest headed headed dogs in the world, and I guarantee this will work.

KCFiddles Says:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011 @8:33:40 AM

I've tried that in the past, but I run with him a lot and that doesn't work so well. I'll try it again when we're just walking, though, especially in the high distraction areas. If you've raised good curs, you know how eager they can be to please, but their prey drive and curiosity often overrules that willingness. You have to have a dog with really strong drives to do what curs are asked to do, so it comes with the territory. Have you trained them as companions, or just as hunters?

Faire Fiddler Maid Says:
Friday, February 17, 2012 @2:30:35 PM

With dogs and people, someone else might need to take the lead and take the pressure off. ..we are also are both products of our experience.
I have an Australian shepherd and have found the gentle leader..a type of head be gentle and very effective when out and about. It gets the dog to look at you and follow your commands more directly than a harness or traditional collar leash where you pull and add to the excitement. Also, once my dog gets excited she can't listen that well and putting distance between is the best solution for us. Also anticipation about her behavior can help prevent it from happening. Rewarding good behavior works best, distraction is good too. Last note..try to be the one walking the lead. I will often stop and stand in front of Heidi and walk backwards...forcing her to walk behind me, not letting her get past.

KCFiddles Says:
Saturday, February 18, 2012 @9:29:18 AM

I love this dog! After eight months, he's settled in pretty well, and is about as good a companion anyone could ask for. I can't get over the amazing combination of power, gentleness, and sweet temperament in this critter.

I can leave him alone for half a day with a bag of his favorite biscuits open on the floor, and he won't touch them. He doesn't steal food from anywhere.

He goes to great pains to not put his mouth on me. When I give him a treat, he's just amazingly delicate when he takes it. I trained him to jump up for treats, but most of the time he'll just bump them with his nose rather than risk putting his teeth on me.

He behaves on his leash well enough, although when he sees a cat, you have to catch him quick. Anticipation is the key, and as strong and quick as he is, you have to stay awake and keep your feet under you all the time.

Seeing a 110 lb dog dancing around like Snoopy, waiting for me to put his leash on, is quite a sight.

I could go on ad nauseam, but in short, I think I made the right choice.

Faire Fiddler Maid Says:
Saturday, February 18, 2012 @12:03:16 PM

Sounds like you've really bonded...that's great. Any nick names yet? Heidi is also known as ...Heidene, Heidifur, Heidiferous One, Hiedi Didee Fur, Hynado,,when she races all around...

Andah1andah2 Says:
Saturday, February 18, 2012 @12:51:35 PM

If I leave any food out within plain sight, the moment you turn your head, he'd steal you blind. And damn, he just barked at a @$%^&@ squirrel and woke the kids up from their nap. Bye

SamY Says:
Saturday, April 28, 2012 @9:18:38 AM

I took a dog through an obedience class once. The owner is the handler, not the instructor. I think I learned more than the dog. Very, very enlightening. I'm sure many owners are repelled by the thought of using a choke chain, but this is a most wonderful tool for dog training.

KCFiddles Says:
Saturday, April 28, 2012 @9:36:33 AM

Sorry, but I would have to strongly disagree with that, especially with strong, highly driven dogs. A choke chain is a poor substitute for leadership, and there are much better methods.

From a web article: "Vets will tell you they encounter disc and neck problems which they believe to be a result of dogs being corrected on check chains. Respected veterinary behaviourist Robin Walker wrote a strong letter to the Veterinary Record (Veterinary Record March 19th 1994 p312) in which he makes clear his professional opinion that check chains are damaging and dangerous."In 30 years of practice (including 22 years as veterinary adviser to a police dog section)" he says " I have seen numerous severely sprained necks, cses of fainting, transient foreleg paresis, and hindleg ataxia after robust use of the check chain." He has more to say about the use of punishment, period, in training. "It fails disastrously when it creates anxious casualties or violently defiant rebels." (op cit)

Swedish expert, Anders Hallgren (Animal Behavior Vol 9 No 3 July 1992) found that 63% of dogs ("ordinary dogs that owners presented without any suspicion of spinal anomolies") in a study he carried out in 1992 had spinal anomolies. 55% of them also had some form of problematic behaviour. Of those that exhibited overactivity and aggression, 78% had spinal anomolies. It is a scary figure. Dogs that experience pain are very likely to show aggression. Of those dogs which showed anomolies in the cervical region (the neck) a whopping 91% had been subjected to corrections on a check chain or had along history of pulling on the lead. He, like many others, criticise the use of check chains and training methods which use jerking and pulling on the lead as way of controlling a dog."

Clyde is a very powerful dog, and still gets excited at times. When he does, I find a way to calm him down, and if there's just too much stimulus, I lust remove him from that environment until the excitement wears off. He gets the message, and I don't have to fight him.

You need to teach a dog self control instead of trying to control the dog. I find very little need for punishment in training a dog. That was sort of the whole point of the blog. It's about mutual respect and true leadership.

SamY Says:
Saturday, April 28, 2012 @10:35:21 AM

Okay, so your blog was more philosophical than about dog training. I don't get philosophical about dogs, and having had an experience with dog training, I zeroed in on it. Sorry about that.

But if I may be allowed to respond to your reply about use of the choke chain... I'm sure different breeds of dogs will benefit from variations and refinements in training techniques. My dog was 70 pounds, not so powerful as yours. Anyway the choke chain is NOT a punishment tool when used properly. It is simply a teaching tool. Its goal is to teach the dog how to behave on leash. When he wants to lunge ahead, the chain simply squeezes his throat, restricting breathing. Most dogs don't like that feeling. When he stops, the chain AUTOMATICALLY releases (when properly placed on the dog). You don't wait until the dog runs 20 feet before the chain takes affect. The dog should never be jerked sideways with the chain. So the dog learns that it is more comfortable to not try to run ahead of the handler. Proper behavior on leash may save a dog's life some day by preventing him from running into the street in front of a vehicle. But if you can accomplish this by different methods, that's great.

You mentioned similarities between dogs and people. In the case of kids, some are more easily trained than others. A very few require hardly any correction. Others require (or need, but often never get it!) firm and strong correction.

UsuallyPickin Says:
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 @7:36:42 AM

Well Wiz you have reached into your life and given us a parable worthy of consideration. I have always said of myself ask me and I will help , order me and you're on your own. Domination is all too often our species reaction. Co-operation and restraint a far cry second and third response. Taking a path over can allow us the opportunity to view missed options or make the same bloody minded mistakes. In times like those I try to remember the famous Einstein quote and choose the former. Be well... R/

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