Canine behavior problems usually start with a human problem. You might be using the wrong solution for their problem or giving them the wrong food. Dogs only have one thing on their mind: a partnership with you. Join Doug Poynter as he shares three stories about three different dogs with different problems. Doug shows us what each owner was doing wrong and how he fixed it. Listen to this episode in case you are experiencing some of these problems with your canine buddy.
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The Tale Of 3 Dogs
I always say I end up training the owner while modifying the behavior of the dog. I specialize in behavior problems. I still haven’t seen a canine behavior problem that’s a canine problem. Canine behavior problems usually start with a human problem. Those problems usually stem from a misunderstanding of dog behavior, how dogs learn, and what makes them up.
I’m going to tell you a story. I call it The Tale of Three Dogs. I worked with these three dogs. I’m going to tell you how human behavior and bad training impacted these dogs, and created behavior problems in two of the dogs. We were able to get another dog before someone could create a bad problem and solve the minor problem that he had.
It was interesting, fun, and simple, but still, many times, a difficult problem to solve. It was cool to walk her through it and solve this behavior problem. I’ll tell you all about it. Dog number one, a little mixed breed dog, the cutest dog you’ve ever seen in your life, fluffy. It could not be more than 20 pounds. He started in life as my client told me that he was the worst puppy. She said he was out of control and would not listen, was wild, and had no ability to “settle down.” He was a ‘pain in the butt’ is what she told me. To make matters worse, he was reactive around other dogs.
She took him to a dog park. I don’t want to get all controversial here with you, but I always recommend to my clients, “Don’t take your dog to the dog park.” Lots of people have good experiences at dog parks, but I cannot tell you how much business I get from clients who have taken their dogs to the dog park. Somebody invariably does not have control over their dog in the park and creates big problems, dogs jumping on other dogs, creating reactive situations. That’s what happens with this little fella. He was reactive with dogs after this.
I was asked to come in and help my client be able to walk him under control, and also be able to have him near other dogs without him losing it. When I went and did the session, I did my discovery with her over the telephone and then did a little bit more discovery with her when I got there. She brought him out, the cutest dog you ever saw in your life. We started out in her fenced-in backyard. She told me that she had been to another trainer. I’m certainly not going to name names, but it was somebody if you’re from this area where I’m from and you’re involved in training, you would probably recognize the name.
This person, when this dog was a puppy, asked my client to buy an eCollar and put an eCollar on a puppy, and then told my client that whenever they went out for a walk, if he wasn’t walking politely next to her, then she was supposed to hit him with the eCollar. I don’t know at what level this was being used. By the way, I do not use eCollars. One of the methods of using eCollars is to use it at what’s known as a working level, which typically is low.
The stimulus feels like a slight tickle. The problem that I have with eCollars is that people have that power in their hands, and they can ratchet it up and shock their dog. Some trainers recommend that you use a higher level of stimulation for correction with the eCollar. It’s used with the working level, the lower level, to teach obedience. It’s like pulling the old-school style of training where when you ask the dog to sit, you slowly pull up on the leash, and the collar tightens. When the dog sits, you let off the pressure. You take away something negative that the dog is not the happiest with. When the dog complies and does the obedience, you let off on the negative stimulus there.The problem with E-collars is that people have the power in their hands to ratchet it up and actually shock their dog. Click To Tweet
The eCollar represents the same thing. That weird feeling of the little tickle of the working level is turned on as you ask the dog to perform the obedience. When the dog performs it, you cut it off and release it. It’s a method to teach. It’s not anything that I use, but the problem that I have with eCollar is that because you’ve got that power there, people will want to use it, “I’m going to correct my dog. Crank it up and zap him with it.” She was told if this little fella didn’t walk properly, she was supposed to hit him with the eCollar. On top of that, he’d had the issue with the dog. She told me that she did not want to do this with the eCollar with her puppy.
She stopped going to the training, but that still didn’t help him walk properly. He still had an issue with dogs, that’s why I was hired. I went there. She brought him out. Right away, the cutest dog you ever saw in your life. I use marker training. I started with my markers. I use a clicker. Sometimes I use a yes marker. Sometimes I use a whistle with my dog. My dog works for a clicker, a yes marker, and a whistle. This dog, I used the clicker. It took me less than two minutes to have him seated perfectly in front of me and focused on me. I took his leash, and I started to walk around the backyard. Whenever he was right next to me, he got the mark and the reward.
It literally took me 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops, to have him walking politely beside me on the leash, no pulling. She said to me, “That was quick.” I went, “The reason it’s quick is that he’s a working dog. The reason why it’s quick is that he’s having fun doing the work.” He’s getting rewarded for working and focusing on me. He’s not getting zapped with an eCollar, which is negative and can create negative associations.
I told her, “This could be part of the problem he has with other dogs. If he’s walking in politely and he sees another dog, or he reacts to another dog, and you zap him with the eCollar, then that’s a negative association. I see that thing I already don’t like because a dog jumped on me at the dog park and then I get this feeling of electricity in my neck that’s unpleasant.”
I asked my client, “Suppose every time you saw your husband, you’ve got a little zap. It wouldn’t be long before you started to have a negative association to your husband.” She got it. She laughed. I said, “Let me give you another example of what it’s like. Have you ever had a nice meal, and within 20 minutes, 30 minutes after having that nice meal, you caught the stomach flu or you had food poisoning, and as a result, you never want to eat that food again? That’s a negative association. That’s the thing that you can create with an eCollar used in the way that you were told to use it. If that happens to occur in front of another dog, then that can be linked.”
I hate dogs. I hate them even worse because I keep getting pain whenever I see them. She immediately said, “I didn’t like it. That’s why I stopped using it.” I said, “Look at how he’s responding now.” We literally walked around the backyard. In fifteen minutes, I’m walking around this backyard with him doing a perfect competition heel. He’s looking up at me and walking next to me without pulling and forging. It was amazing. I handed him to her, and I showed her how to do the marker training. I said, “Now what we need to do is I got to get you the behavior modification exercises when he sees other dogs.” It’s complicated.
What happens is I use an exercise that was created by a lady named Leslie McDevitt. It’s called Look At That. Every time he looked at a dog, before he could react negatively, he got a mark and a treat. There’s a lot of figuring in this. There’s distance involved. When you push it forward versus when you don’t push it forward. It’s a simple exercise, but there’s more complexity to it when you start putting it into play. Suffice it to say I showed her how to do it. We had one of her neighbors bring her dog over and keep a safe distance. This little fella, every time he looked at the dog, before he could react in a negative fashion, got a click and a treat. He never reacted in a negative fashion. He looked at the other dog and he would wag his tail and then look back at his owner. She was amazed at how quickly he picked it up.The look at that exercise is to give your dog a treat before your dog reacts negatively to another dog. Click To Tweet
I went, “He picked it up because he’s smart and he loves to work.” When somebody is focusing on what he doesn’t do well and zapping him for not doing exactly what we want, that’s not taking advantage of the personality of this dog. That is focusing on what I call command and correct. That’s the old-school way of training dogs. eCollar is not an old-school training tool, but the old-school way of training dogs is to figure the dominance alpha principle into our training. If you read my first episode, you know that alpha dominance is a myth in the canine world, but lots of people don’t know that. Lots of people, who do what I do, don’t know that. These correction-based command, what I call command and correct ways of training, are done to establish dominance or alpha.
The theory is if the dog is not doing exactly what we want, we need to correct the dog so that A) It understands what it’s supposed to do. B) It knows that we are the one that’s in charge. That’s alpha dominance. That’s what was done with this dog. Meanwhile, when we flipped it around and we taught him with markers what we want and then we did behavior modification, he was enthusiastic to comply. He did great. I had a session with him. We went to the dog park. No, we did not go in the dog park, but I always do reactivity exercises with behavior modification exercises with dogs at a dog park, especially one that we can get some distance from because we have control. The dogs are behind the fence.
We were able to walk this dog right up to the fence of the dog park and have no reactivity whatsoever. He focused on his owner and me. He wagged this tail. He was a happy dude. She was a happy owner. I said to her, “You’ve got to keep this going. This is not something that you let go and figure like it’s a pair of pants that was altered. It used to be a 36 and now it’s a 34. We never have to do anything with it anymore. No, you’ve got to continue to work. You’ve got to continue to train, work the behavior modification, get him out walking with folks who have nice dogs, and go on nice long walks. Parallel walks are always good. Reward him when he’s walking well under those situations. We can have success.”
We almost had a dog that was a serious behavior problem for his owner because of what was done with him prior to us meeting. Remember, this is not about command and correct. That’s not what works. What works is teaching, showing the dog what we want, and then rewarding the dog for it. Dogs learn by association. They’re the ultimate figure out how to get what I want and then do it over and over again. We make what we want the thing that they want by rewarding them when they do it. There’s no reason to force it, be pushy, and be “alpha.” It’s teaching. This dog is a great little dog now. He’s so cool.
Anyway, that was one dog. Dog number two I met with the next day. These clients have a German Pinscher. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the breed, but there’s essentially three Pinscher breeds. There’s a Miniature Pinscher. There’s a German Pinscher. If you have the same coloration in all three and all three have cropped ears, you could be looking at German Pinscher medium version. Miniature Pinscher, little version. They look like reduced photographs of the same dog. This cool dog did not have cropped ears. He was not black and tan, but he was more of a tan color.
I was hired because of similar problems except for one additional thing. He had bitten his owner when he was on his dog bed. The owner was understandably upset about that. He wants to keep the dog but didn’t know how to get through this. That’s why I was hired. When I went out, and they brought the dog out to see me, I found out “coincidentally” enough that the training that they had previously with this dog had been from the same organization that the other trainer with the little dog I told you about had come from. They put the eCollar on this German Pinscher. They told my now client, “Anytime he doesn’t do exactly what you ask him to do, the instant you ask him, correct him. Hard leash correction with a prong collar, or if he’s got the electric collar on, zap him with the electric collar.”
They started out with a prong and hard leash corrections, which hurt. They then graduated to the eCollar. If he didn’t comply when they asked him to sit, come to them, or whatever they were asking him to do, they zapped him with the eCollar. I asked one of the owners, “What level on the eCollar were you using?” They were using an eCollar that had 100 levels on it. When you have an eCollar with 100 levels on it, levels 1 through probably 20, you can’t hardly feel. When you get to 20, it feels like a TENS unit. I don’t know if you’ve ever had any physical therapy, but a TENS unit is that little electronic thing that goes on your muscle and stimulates the muscle, and it tickles. 20 on an eCollar feels like a TENS unit.
When you start getting below that, it feels like a slight tickle. If you put it on yourself, you’ll hardly even feel it. If it’s being used in the most equitable way, one could use an eCollar again when the queue or the command is given, the dog is supposed to sit, you turn the eCollar on the working level. When the dog sits, you turn it off. That’s one way of doing it. The way that these folks were taught was if he doesn’t do what you say, zap him with it as a correction. I asked them what level. My client said 40. I did not disguise my feelings on this.
I was like, “This is why I don’t like the eCollar. Have you felt a 40?” He said, “Yes, I turned it up to 40, and I put it on. I wore it and zapped it at 40. It was uncomfortable, which is why I took it off my dog and I didn’t use it anymore.” I said, “I’m glad you’re not using that, but I can tell you, I believe that’s where these problems lie.” The very training that was supposed to get him under control because he was such an out-of-control dog is the stuff that’s causing the problem. They had some other issues going on. They did not know how to lead the dog. The dog was leading them. I had a Zoom session with them where I taught them leadership, the same thing that we talked about in the first episode.
I gave them all the research behind it. They started asking him to work for his love and affection as a result of that Zoom meeting. They said they had started to see his behavior change a bit. He was doing much better. I asked them to switch dog food. They were using a dog food that was chicken based as a dry dog food that had chicken as a meat source in the dry dog food and chicken as a meat source. Not all the time, but sometimes because it can cause food allergies. The other issue with chicken and dry dog food is that it’s thermogenic. This is not something I’m making up. It’s coming from a holistic vet that I’ve taken my dogs to. Lots of folks here in this area take their dogs to see her.
She told me chicken and dry dog food is thermogenic. If you don’t know what that term means, thermogenic is the type of supplement, for example, that a bodybuilder would take leading up to a contest to burn fat. It revs the metabolism up and burns fat. They were giving him a dog food like that. I said, “You’re winding your dog up with the food. If you can switch to a fish meat source food, or there’s one that I use with my dog that’s got pork as the meat source and it’s cooling and calming.” They switched him and they said, “He, in fact, was starting to settle down.” I said, “Great.” They brought him outside. They said, “We can’t walk him well because he pulls us down the road.”
This is the issue that lots of folks have with their dogs. The dogs pull and they can’t walk politely with their owners. It took me no more time with this dog than it did with the little dog I was telling you about to get him focused on me, to have him seated politely in front of me to have him dialed right in because that’s what marker training does. Dogs love it. They love to work for the mark. They get rewarded with a high-value food treat after the mark. He was dialed in big time. It took no more than fifteen minutes for me to say, “Hand me the leash.” They handed me the leash. This is a dog who dragged his owner out into the driveway when they brought him out. He handed me the leash.Dogs love marker training. They love to work for the mark. Click To Tweet
As I had the leash in hand and the dog was beside me, he got a click and a treat. Again, that took five minutes. I’m walking him up and down the driveway with a loose leash. He’s right beside me, focused on me. I came back and I showed them how to do it. I said, “You need to work this dog in your driveway and in your backyard until you start to get the flow of this, and then we can start working him out to the road. Don’t worry, he’ll get plenty of exercise with these obedience routines that wears dogs out mentally and physically.” They are now working him at the end.
The guy said to me, “What I was worried about is I’m going to have to send this dog back to the breeder.” I went, “No, you’re not going to need to send this dog back to the breeder. He’s a great dog.” The guy said, “You’ve made a believer out of me. Let’s sign up for another session.” Again, when you see how wonderfully your dog responds to this marker training, which is what I’m going to teach you in the next episode, when you see how wonderfully dogs react to this, then you know we’ve got a winner here.
I even use this for dogs that are aggressive and want to attack me. It’s a wonderful method to modify behavior and teach obedience. This dog is now on the happy path and he’s working for his owners. There’s no doubt that I’m going to need to continue to train them to do this well. That’s why I said I end up training the people while modifying the behavior of the dog. As the people get better, then the dog gets better.
It’s funny, wherever I go, the dog ends up wanting to go with me and wanting to work with me because I’ve done this a lot. When you do it a lot, you’ll have the same reaction with your dog. That’s what I told him. I said, “The more you work with him, the more he learns to follow you, the more fun he has doing the work, the easier it’s going to get, and you’ll have control as well.” This dog is a big enough dog that people are scared of him. He turned out to be nice and cool. I love the dog. Again, command and correct training created the problem with this dog that marker training solved.
I want you to be on the lookout for the next episode after this because I’m going to teach you how to do it. The third dog, interesting, a simple problem, but one that’s not easy to solve. This is a female dog, a Labradoodle. She had never been through command and correct training. That wasn’t what her issue was. Two problems. Number one is she wouldn’t walk politely with her owner. She was a big Labradoodle. She probably weighed 75 pounds and was tall. She was somewhat energetic. I’ve seen Labradoodles a whole lot more wound up than she was. Sweet dog, but would pull her owner down the road. The big problem that I got hired for is she would not get in the car.
He had to pick her up and put her in the car. She could easily jump in the car, but she would not do it. She would freeze. When she would freeze, he’d pick her up and put her in the car. I said, “Part of the problem is you’re picking her up and putting her in the car. We got to figure out what’s going to work to get her into the car.” What I did was I stayed completely away from the car. I taught her to come to me. I taught her to sit. I taught her to walk next to me on a loose leash using marker training. The more I did this, the happier she got. The tail wagged more. She was excited to see me. When I always work with folks, I work with them outside. I work with the dogs for 3 or 4 minutes, then have them take the dog inside and come back, and we review what we did.
I describe why I did what I did and then we bring the dog out and I show the owner how to do it. We want them to do something new. I do it again and demonstrate. We talk about it and we bring the dog back out and we have the owner do it. We were going back and forth. I said, “Now we’re going to start getting near the car. With her happiness to do the work with the marker, the clicker, and the treats, I would do my walking with her on my left and having her sit right near the car.” We opened up the two back doors. We would walk up to the back door. I would ask her to sit.
She would sit, click and treat. We’d walk away from the car because the car had caused her some nerves. When she sits politely and happily and gets a click and a treat, that also earns her the reward of walking away from the car. She would get a click and treat then. Gradually, the car got less and less negative for her. At one point, I walked up with her next to me, asked her to sit. She sat. I clicked and I tossed the food treat in the back of the car on the floorboard in front of the backseat. It took her a little bit, but she stuck her head in there and she got the food treat. Boy did she get a click and treat then, and a big jackpot, a handful of food treats and lots of happy talk, goofy talk. Her whole body wagged.
We did that for a while then we started putting the treats up on the seat. As long as she didn’t have to go too far, she would lean over and get the treat and happy talk. I had a 10-foot line on her, a leash. She had a flat collar with a 10-foot leash on her. I asked her owner, I said, “I want you to have her here on the right side and I want you to take that leash. I want you to throw it through to the other side, through the other open back door.” Now I’m on that side with the leash and he’s got his dog. I’m talking all funny to her and getting her goofy. I said, “Now I want you to pick her up. I don’t want you to put her all the way in the car. Put her front feet on the back seat and then move her a little bit so her back legs are on the back seat as well.”
She was perched there. He was holding her so she wouldn’t fall off. I had to lead in my hand. I was talking in an excited manner to her. I said, “Take her and give her a slight little move into the car. When you see her front legs move, then take your hands off of her.” As he did that, I gave a slight little tug on the leash. As soon as her front legs moved, I stopped tugging on the leash and she walked all the way across the seat and got the treats out of my hand. She got a jackpot then and we had fun. We ran and jumped all the way to the other side of the car. I handed her back to her owner again. By the time we were through, he was amazed because he doesn’t even have to touch her.
Once she started to get up in the car, he put a cue on it. He wanted her to go in when he said car. He’d say, “Car,” and she’d jump right into the car and go across and get food treats from me on the other side. We shut that other door, and she would jump into the car and get food treats through the window. We were able to get this done what was a minor behavior problem that felt more than minor because it’s a 75- or 80-pound dog he’s having to pick up and put in the car, but we did it purely with clicks and treats, marker training, and jolly fun.You can train your dog with just proper clicks and treats, marker training, and jolly fun. Click To Tweet
I mentioned William Campbell in our first episode about the principle of working to earn your praise for the dog, that principle to help lead the dog. Campbell also had a thing that he called The Jolly Routine, which is at the onset of the negative situation. Before the dog can react negatively, you get all jolly and get the dog all wiggly and waggy and having fun. That can change the association. That’s exactly what we did. Anytime we got near that car, we talked in a goofy fashion. We were getting her all goofy and fun as well. It didn’t take long before she was starting to associate fun with the car.
The Tale Of 3 Dogs
Does this mean we’re alpha? Do we care about alpha if the dog behaves the way we want the dog to behave? Were we being dominant? Did we need to be dominant? No. What we needed was to help this dog learn the behavior. Keep in mind, from episode number one, what’s in a dog’s DNA is to work together to accomplish a job. Partnership. That’s what wolves and wild dogs do. She was now working with us, me and her owner, as a partner to solve this problem.
In her little dog brain, it wasn’t a problem. It was just a task, get into the car. She didn’t know how to do it. Because of that, she was reluctant. Once she learned that it was fun, then she did it over and over again. Working your dog, teaching your dog, rewarding your dog, these are things that work. I want you to see that the old command and correct can create more problems than you had ever imagined.
The Law of Unintended Consequences is in effect. The answer to this is marker training and behavior modification using marker training. It’s a wonderful thing. If you come back and join me for the next episode, I will teach you how to do marker training. I hope this has been helpful for you. If any of this sounds familiar to you, if you’re having any of these issues, find a behaviorist in your area, or if you’d like, you can go onto my website, www.BetterDogBehaviorNow.com. There’s an intake form on there. You can get a free discovery session out of it and we can talk about your dog. It’s been a pleasure. I look forward to speaking with you again on the next episode, where I’ll teach you marker training.