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Behavior

Training Diaries – the Beginning

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Like many families, we’ve gotten lax in our dog training.  Okay – the truth is, we haven’t gotten lax, we just haven’t done it. We are not great trainers, the dogs are not great listeners, and the only thing these three dogs know how to do is sit. And they’ll only do that if I’m holding a treat (they’re onto the whole “I don’t have a treat right now, but I’ll give you two next time” trick), so that doesn’t even work anymore.

There are a lot of reasons for my lack of training. First of all, my dogs are kind of like celebrities (see The Rescue Rap) and celebrities don’t like to be trained. (Relax, that was all meant to be funny). And also, up until now, they have mostly been pretty good. Sure, they have a few problems, but it’s nothing we haven’t been able to live with. Also, I’m not good at training and I know that about myself, which makes me want to avoid it. Finally, we had a lot going on that was out of our control during our dogs’ “formative” years.

Bottom line is that despite having two of these dogs (Brock and Bree) since they were a day old, and Cheiss since he was only a few months old (see Herding Cats for his rescue story), we never invested our time in training. Worse, largely due to my profession as a pet writer, and their status as celebrities, they have become incredibly spoiled dogs…

That’s all well and good when they are cute little pups running around the yard doing cute puppy things (see cute puppy pic). But, now they are 65-lb dogs with the potential to create big problems (see not-so-cute big dog pics)… Their lack of training is all my fault, which I fully acknowledge, but it’s not an excuse. As a big dog parent, it’s my responsibility to make sure they are all trained. That’s part of having dogs and why I’m writing this training series – in hopes you will also realize that if your big dogs are not so cute anymore and not so well-trained, you’ll take action to train them. Maybe you’ll do it with me, just as I’m taking action to fix the new problem. So, here’s the new problem:

The Problem

Recently, our two males began fighting. Not “play fighting,” not “wrestling,” and not a simple, “Hey, get away from my food” type of fight. I’m talking about two dogs eying each other across the room, then a full-fledged attack. The fights are initiated (at this point) by my senior dog (Cheiss), focused solely on my younger male (Brock). The young female (Bree) gets involved as soon as she sees her brother threatened.

Up to this point, no one has been hurt, but it’s my responsibility to ensure no one ever gets hurt in the future. And, after a reader told me this story the other day, I went into panic mode… I tell you this story because I hope it will serve as a cautionary tale if you still haven’t decided whether or not to train your dogs:

The Cautionary Tale

I recently learned of the tragic tale of a family’s two large shepherds, who were left crated at home (individually) while the family all went out for the day – it was a normal day. The family had done this a thousand days before. First a movie, shopping, maybe a quick bite to eat. The point is, everything was totally normal. Until they returned home to find the house was a wreck. As they worked through the house eying the mess, including plumbing that had been ripped from the walls, they noticed the empty crates and the blood. They found one of their dogs dead in a bathtub, the other lying in the bedroom. He eventually had to be euthanized due to his injuries. As it turns out, the dogs had broken free of their crate and fought while the owners were away. These were family pets. They had shared the same space for years.

It was a huge wake up call for me… It honestly scared me into action.

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So, this is just one reason why we are investing our time into training and why we’re keeping a journal so that we can show you (and prove to ourselves) that is possible to regain control of a pack and have a happy household.

The Diaries

Of course, I’m taking a chance in posting our journey on PetsWeekly. We may not succeed in training. We may not have as well-trained of a household as I would like to see. We may get tired and give up. But my hope in making it public is that we won’t do any of those things – that we will end up with model dog citizens and show that it can be done in any household. If not, well – we tried.

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So begins the weekly training diaries… or Captain logs… or Pack Leader Logs… Whatever you want to call them. Feel free to come along for the ride. Maybe it will help you. Maybe it won’t. But, I am confident it will change our lives.

Cast of Characters

We are starting the adventure with our eldest dog, Cheiss. He’s a 13 yr old Australian Shepherd (aka, the smartest dogs in the world) and chow (aka the most unpredictable dog in the world) mix.

Also starring in the show is Brock, our two-year old male bully (aka, the strongest dogs in the world) and pointer (aka, the most obsessive dogs in the world) mix and Bree, his sister.

 

We’ll be also observing our cats for notes on how to handle the dogs. Kyra (aka – the Cog) is our 12-yr-old DSH and she is the

cat who thinks she’s a dog = Cog. She rules the roost and is in complete control of the dogs at all times. Cassie is our younger Maine Coon mix and she is also in complete command of the dogs. It’s sad on some level that our cats know more about training a dog than we do, but there it is…

The Methods

There is a lot of controversy in the animal world about the ‘best” training methods. Personally, I think that your approach absolutely depends on the individual animal you’re working with. To assign a generalized label of “best method” or “terrible method” is wrong because not one approach will work with every animal.  The one thing that I think does hold true no matter what method you choose is that the dog must start with the proper exercise routine, somehow teach the dogs to respect the humans as “leaders,” and the dogs must be in good health to begin with. We have recruited the assistance of a well-known local trainer who specializes in aggression (and I’ll tell who that is once I talk to her) and another trainer who specializes in rehabilitating dogs for a rescue who is based out of California. We’ll be consulting with him as the we move through the process.

We think this is a good way to go. You may disagree and that’s fine. But, in the end, this is how we’ve chosen to begin our training diaries. Hopefully you’ll stick around for the journey. It’s bound to be a long one…

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