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The new definition of good dog

Posted on August 1, 2011 by rufflyspeaking

Ive been thinking about this a lot today because of something a friend is going through, and thought it was worth exploring with the group of you. Ive been interested in dogs long enough, and been reading about them long enough, to have seen some broad swings in training. Im not talking about positive/negative reinforcement, though that is certainly the case (and I honestly think its a mistake to see this as a progression from bad to good its a lot more of a pendulum swing, and I would predict things will move back the other way in the next twenty or so years); what I mean is a change in the definition of the well-trained dog. It has historically been the case that training was a preparation for the dog to work a job; you were teaching the dog the vocabulary it needed for its role in life. The basic stuff was all the same whether herding or protecting or sending messages or a hundred other things, dogs need to not run off on their own, need to come when called, need to stay close to a handler, need to pick up and carry stuff when asked. So thats what basic training was heel and sit and down and stay and so on. A few people got very interested in doing those basic exercises super well, which is where competitive obedience comes from competitive obedience is like compulsory figures in figure skating. Youre doing a few simple things with a very, very high degree of style and consistency.

But whether the commands were done at that very high level or on a more normal level, the goal was never to be that the dog just did THAT. It was supposed to lead to a life with a dog that was just a normal life where the dog did stuff. Its sort of like teaching a toddler what the word cup and then cupboard means you dont do it so you can say cup! cupboard! when the kid is eighteen years old. You do it so you can say Hey, go get me some coffee when youre in the kitchen. The basic commands for a dog were in order to facilitate a day where you go move a bunch of sheep, or walk down a dangerous street and collect rent, or deliver milk, or patrol a wall. Stay was stay there and dont move so I dont get shot when I peer around this corner, not an exercise to see how straight the legs were. When dogs lost their jobs, over the course of the 20th century, for a long time the basic commands kept their place in training and obedience. You took a puppy to a class that taught sit and down and stay, and the further classes were refining those same basic commands. The focus of training became competitive obedience, which I honestly think is kind of a tragedy because so few of the students would ever go on to compete and we lost the idea that the commands were part of normal life and not a style exercise. In maybe the 90s trainers began to realize that the usefulness of a beautiful retrieve and finish was pretty low in the real world, because nobody was using dogs to send messages to soldiers anymore (where the dog should quickly deliver the message and then get ready to run with the soldier to the commanding officer) or in fact to do anything that a retrieve and finish is good for. Hand me something and then get ready to move was no longer a problem that anyone was trying to solve. What people WERE trying to solve were the issues that come when you have a whole bunch of frustrated dogs living with no exercise in close proximity to other dogs. Because, as you know, humans have ALSO lost a lot of their jobs. But were still the same inside we still envision ourselves as hunters or fishers or farmers or explorers or messengers or warriors. And we buy dogs that satisfy those internal envisionings, not the crappy office job we actually have. We buy big retrievers and mastiffs and border collies and livestock guards and hunting dogs, and so do all our neighbors, and then the dogs are living far closer to each other than theyd ever choose to live and theyre not getting any exercise and they have no job or outlet and they start acting badly. So trainers began to try to solve the problems of dogs biting other dogs, dogs pulling on leash, dogs who didnt get along at the dog park, dogs who werent happy with strangers approaching them, dogs who were distracted by moving objects, and so on. The expectation moved from well-trained dogs are useful dogs to well-trained dogs are endlessly tolerant of absolutely anything and never discipline, punish, or predate on anything. With this new expectation came new words its FASCINATING. When I do a book search, from 1800-1980 theres ONE book that uses the phrase dog aggressionthe Monks of New Skete book that came out in 1978. From 1980 to 2000 there are about a hundred books using that phrase or close to it. From 2000 to 2011 there are almost a THOUSAND.

Reactive has exploded; before 2000 it was almost always used positively a dog who has a quick response time. After 2000 its now in thousands of references to bad dogs, poorly trained dogs, unsocialized dogs. There will be more new words I told my friend today that I needed to go copyright motion insecurity before somebody decides that we have to rename the urge dogs have to chase moving objects! I said earlier that I thought it was a tragedy that training didnt move away from competitive obedience sooner and I do mean that. But I think we may have done an even bigger disservice to dogs by saying that the new role of the good dog is basically a big body pillow. So here are the big questions 1) Is it in fact normal for dogs to endlessly tolerate everything? 2) Are we insisting that dogs be perfect when theyre not in fact perfect? Where is the place for the dog whos just plain grouchy, and its not a training error but personality? 3) Are we doing justice to owners by implying that this new expectation of behavior is valid for all dogs? (To use a specific example, saying that we can help their terrier not chase cats, or help their chow not react to other dogs.) 4) Why exposure and not avoidance? That is, if you have a dog who lunges at other dogs, why is the answer to helping that dog (and yes, I do keep putting helping in quotes because thats how I ALWAYS hear it used now its not training, its helping, implying that the dog WANTS this help and is incomplete without this help) going out and finding 40 other dogs to expose the dog to (whether in a class or in a park or whatever) and not avoiding other dogs? Why is one right and one wrong? 5) Do we need a revival in an understanding of dogginess? (A celebration of Jungian dog archetypes, if you want to get fancy-dancy?) Can we re-find the validity of the warrior dog, messenger dog, defender dog, hunting dog in our own backyards? Talk to me! I am very interested to hear if you think I am completely off-base, or if you have thoughts to add or ways to solve these problems. Should I start a new blog like the Art of Manliness called the Art of Dogginess? :) Hmmm primal weekends with dogs howling at the moon it could work! You may also enjoy: How to find a trainer or behaviorist Adopting a dog from a pound, shelter, or rescue part 3: The first month Trainin' hatin'

The importance of trusting dogs to understand metacommunication Dog training: The difference between skill and strategy This entry was posted in Dog Behavior and Training by rufflyspeaking. Bookmark the permalink [] .

Miriam Dalfen on August 1, 2011 at 6:29 am said:

Far too many people have a vision of dogs as some sort of animate stuffed toy, or a Disneyfied semi-person on four legs. They are shocked when the dog actually behaves likelikean animal! And more specifically, they dont understand their breeds purpose and cant figure out why theie vicious terrier wants to kill those cute little squirrels, or their husky drags them down the street and takes off it it gets loose. We recently had someone posting one a message board concerned because their puppy was following them everywhere and because it seemed to be food obsessed (hello, its a Basset Hound, theyre walking stomachs).

Joanna Kimball on August 1, 2011 at 6:46 am said:

I totally agree, Miriam, and I think its even worse when their trainers (heck, when the massive community of trainers) supports them in it. Food obsessed should be struck from the vocabulary forever. Theyre DOGS, you idiots. For five million years theyve had to bolt as much food as possible whenever they found it. The ones who DONT do that are the bizarre anomalies.

Miriam Dalfen on August 1, 2011 at 7:04 am said:

One of our better Basset trainers believes that Bassets (and other hounds) are more food obsessed than other dogs because a dog that was perpetually hungry would be a more motivated/better hunter.

Miriam Dalfen on August 1, 2011 at 7:05 am said:

You may be able to train some breeds to leave food thats been left on a counter or table, but with a Basset its much more productive to simply bang your head against a wall and dont leave stuff within reach.

Ruth on August 1, 2011 at 9:01 am said:

You should try the standard training regimen with a dog thats not really food or toy driven. The trainer will look at you like youve grown horns and insist you must be doing it wrong (the look on her face when she waived a piece of peperoni in front of his nose and he turned around and headed in a different direction was priceless, to be fair to her once he proved her wrong she coped very well and helped us manage anyway). Not that he doesnt LOVE peperoni, but thats not enough to hold his attention when he decides hes not interested. But no, its not normal for a dog to tolerate everything. The really good ones allow us to train that into them, and humanity has been breeding for that for at least a few generations, but no, not even close. The place for the grumpy dog is with someone who understands that

avoidance is a valid technique for handling a dog! I think a certain amount of exposure is nessecary, but avoidance should be used more often, though it takes an on-the-ball owner/handler to do it properly so maybe thats why its NOT used more often. Id love to see more dogs doing things besides just being companions (not that thats not a huge amount of work sometimes). It doesnt have to be the traditional doggy tasks, just doing THINGS. Were teaching our puppy to pull a cart, both for use around the property and for competition, the work does him good, helps keep his mind going, as well as his body, and once he got over his WTH is that thats following me?? he seems to enjoy it.

Red Dog Mom on August 1, 2011 at 9:13 am said:

Great post. Ive said for years that you cant expect all dogs to get along with all other dogs. You dont like every other person you meet so why should your dog like every dog he or she meets. Anthropormorphizing doesnt even begin to cover what weve done to dogs and, yes, Im guilty of it too at times.

Melissa on August 1, 2011 at 9:49 am said:

Its not natural for dogs to accept everything but in todays world its important that they try. A dog growls at a person and suddenly theyre dangerous and you have everyone watching them for a mistake and if one happens the fate of your dog can be out of your hands. Avoidance isnt a luxury many can afford with the needs today of having our dogs out and about, taking them everywhere, dog parks, boarding, pet parties. Lets be honest, the average pet owner isnt willing to give up their social lives for their dogs. Should we help a dog overcome its basic instincts, it goes back to what Ive already said, to be socially acceptable yes, I think so.

Personally I dont expect my dogs to be perfect but I do try to make sure they are rounded enough to be acceptable in public as our dogs cant control others and its our job to keep them safe.

rufflyspeaking on August 1, 2011 at 9:57 am said:

Melissa I absolutely agree that right now dog ownership means all those things, if youre not willing to move your life around to make your dog(s) happy. I guess my question would be something like WHY on EARTH do we have pet parties? The dogs are usually angry, stressed, frustrated, or hugely overstimulated and crazy; its only for the humans, so why do we tell ourselves that our dogs should like it? Because we like the thought of it, because WED like it, and we want our dogs to be the primates that we are. What I would like to see is somebody saying Wait a sec; this is insane. The dog at the pet party thats biting every other dog as they run past is the only one acting like he should, honestly. Dogs arent supposed to tolerate chaos. But the biting dog gets cuffed on the side of the head or has an owner apologizing and stuffing cookies in his mouth to control him. I think my short answer is that yes, at this point in time thats whats socially acceptable. And I wonder if theres any way we can change the idea of whats socially acceptable.

Laurel on August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm said:

This is a great point. The biggest problem with normal dog behavior is that humans dont tolerate it. Like Ruth said above, the place for a dog who doesnt tolerate everything is with the owner whos willing to give the dog a sane, comprehensible environment. You would not *believe* how blind people are to dogs extremely clear signals (except you would, of course), or how unwilling they are to let dogs get out of situations that scare and worry them. The best thing we could do for letting dogs be dogs is to teach people about dog body language and signals. If you can SEE how stressed it makes your dog to be hugged or be in a chaotic environment or meet strangers, you can either try to desensitize the dog to that stress or stop exposing the dog to it. But if you cant see dog behavior, youre going to keep hugging terrified dogs until one of them bites you. If you can see dog behavior, you can also figure out what stresses

YOUR dog, which isnt what stresses everyones dog. My lab mix loves a party: shes the one at the park whos right in the middle of 7 other dogs playing chase. But shes got a particular kind of goofyhappy play-motivated personality, and she has really good dog manners from tons of puppy playtime and growing up around some cranky older dog-ladies who would have chomped her in a heartbeat if she forgot who was in charge.

Ruth on August 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm said:

Some exposure can help, but you have to be able to tell when its not helping and when to stop, and so many people cant. One of the dogs that regularly comes to pulling practices is a rescue with some dog aggression (and hyperactivity) issues. The owner keeps her well in hand, and seperated from the other dogs by a bit more than usual, and keeps an very close eye on her the whole time theyre there. The owner told me last time they were there that this is pretty much the only social time she took with the dog because she knows she can count on the other owners to control THEIR dogs properly around her. She also told me that the extra exercise from pulling, as well as the carefully supervised exposure to other dogs was slowly making a difference in her dog. The dog is becoming less likely to attempt to jump at or lash out at a dog passing by, and more tolerant in general of the various dogs they saw. (She is working with a trainer as well, just in case anyone was wondering, this was infact the trainers idea.) She is completely ok with the fact that this will likely never be a dog she can take to the dog park and let go. All she wants is to have a bit more control for those times when exposure to another dog is unavoidable. I think what shes doing is a perfect example of the right mix of exposure and avoidance needed to keep the dog under control.

priscilla babbitt on August 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm said:

Thanks for this discussion, my carly is a huge puller and

ive had her in three cgc classes , starting at 4months , she is afraid of people so the she always fails the class. We walk alot, but avoid strangers and if i take her anywhere i have her on a tight leash. I would keep her home but she loves to go in the car.. it makes her so happy and My other one is just the opposite, hes very social. I appreciate all the comments about dogs and there ability to or not to conform to Our rules Its bee a very big challenge for me , since getting a corgi, (my first dog to live in the house 24/7) ive learned a more than i ever expected to or thought i needed to know about dogs in general, Especially this breed. I sure hope im doing all i can, i wish we had a special place i could take her to work this energy out and give her a job off leash but theres none available in my city.. Like someone on her said her instincts are strong , much more so than my younger male.. NO amount of treats or correction keeps her from wanting to pull when a car drives by, or jump on Frankie to herd him when they are running. She doesnt forget the things i have managed to teach her , which all pertain to bad habits in the house, but on the other hand id love to see her out where she would have the chance to be who she is.. Speaking of all the ways to train, i have only been doing this for a 1 1/2 an my own experiences have gone from choke the crap out of her to give her a click and treat!! Infact that first trainer may have been the reason shes so afraid of strangers? Way to confuse me trainers! I was as ignorant as they come when i started and unfortunately i believe she was my guinea pig. Not a good thing with a strong willed corgi. having said that i know she is mine i will never give her up regardless of whether or not she does what i wish shed do , im here for her and she feels safe. Im thankful she is not a bitter, she loves other dogs if they dont try to dominate , she wants to be the boss, she is awesome with my family, the grandkids adore her and she them..

priscilla babbitt on August 1, 2011 at

11:45 pm said:

Sorry about all the misspelled words, i was in such a hurry, tending to dogs and a gran-baby. I hate it when i dont proof read what i write..

Melissa on August 1, 2011 at 10:17 am said:

Hollywood (Paris Hiltons poor dogs anyone) along with the fact that so many people view their dogs as children. I think its great that they love their pets but too often they forget that they are still dogs, and need to be treated as such. I celebrate my dogs birthdays with some venison heart and a photo session. No party, no hats. But for others their children/ dogs NEED THAT PARTY!!! As for trainers, take Cesar Millan for example, I think they are giving the dogs the best chance of surviving their owners. I dont know how many episodes Ive seen where the owners had no clue at all about basic dog behavior, so by helping the dog overcome their instincts and traits the dog has the best chance of having a decent if not perfect life with the owners .

S on August 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm said:

I dont think Cesar Millan has much idea about dog behaviour, considering the clear stress signs he ignores!

Elaine Axten on August 1, 2011 at 3:46 pm said:

my dog would have a NERVOUS BREAKDOWN if i made her have a party. shes not antisocial exactly, but she likes people better than dogs, and the idea of putting her in a place where there was a lot of excited dogs would be my idea of hell as well as hers. she would go to a party that involved cats, though. when i take her to the vets she more or less ignores other dogs, after all she sees dogs all the time, but CATS! wh00t!!

Rachel on August 1, 2011 at 12:40 pm said:

I wanted some time to think about this before I answered, and this is what I came up with: No, its not normal for dogs to tolerate everything. Thats why you get reports of good dogs biting. They were pushed too far. And because a lot of people work on the no biting EVER and dont work on teaching bite inhibition (or dont bother teaching the dog anything beyond dont go in the house), when a dog does bite, the bite does a lot more damage because the dog doesnt know how much pressure is too much. Also, the myth that a good dog will tolerate anything has spread and people will push an uncomfortable dog untill it becomes a cornered dog, and a cornered dog, with no place to run, will bite. I dont know wheter these people just cant read dog body language, or they read it and ignore it, but any dog owner or walker has stories of people who wont listen when you say Please dont pet my dog right now. There are also many owners who do very little training. Not all, but a lot. Dogs who have never learned respect and have learned that bullying gets them what they want. I think we do need a revival of knowledge of what is real dog behavior. There are too many shows where the animals are given human voices and human wants and desires. Kids grow up seeing these and grow up into adults who assume their dog or cat or horse thinks just like they do, wants the same things, and shows emotions the same way. Not only that, a lot of current dog training is based on out-dated sience where dogs are equated to wolves, and wolves who were in captivity and not acting like normal wolves. (Just finished reading Dog Sense by John Bradshaw. A little scientific but a must read as he covers how much scientist have learned over the past two decades about how

dogs think and what motivates them. Sorry for the side track.) So people are expecting a dog to either act like them and see the world the way they do, or to follow rules that apply to wolves and captive wolves at that who are not acting the way they would if given a choice. Either viewpoint looks at the dog as something other than what he or she is, and sets up expectations that the dog either cant meet, or doesnt know how to meet.

KellyK on August 2, 2011 at 8:52 am said:

A revival of knowledge of what is real dog behaviorabsolutely! And I have had a couple people who get pushy with my dog. It irritates me, it scares her, no good can possibly come of it. Fortunately, most people I spend time with on a regular basis know the drill and are willing to give her her space. And when they do that, she warms up to them.

Anne on August 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm said:

What I see a lot of in my training classes is families who just need a dog they can live with. This means a dog that doesnt potty all over the house, a dog that doesnt bark loudly all day and disturb the neighbors, a dog that doesnt pull their arm off when they walk down the road. I dont think any of these things are too much to ask for, in ANY breed of dog. Sometimes it means the dogs behavior needs to change, but sometimes it means the humans need to change what theyre doing so the dog isnt set up to fail. We also talk a LOT about communication- what a stressed dog looks like (time to play some fetch and give up on that down thats not working out) what play fighting looks like (do NOT pick up Smoochiepoo, see how her body is relaxed and shes going back for more? The pit bull is NOT eating her. Theyre wrestling.) and the like. Something I see a lot of is families from other cultures who are getting their first dog EVER. They didnt have dogs as children. None of their friends had dogs. The only dogs were in the street, CERTAINLY not in the house, so they have no idea what theyre doing. We have to start from

square one and help them first figure out what they even want out of their dog, and do the very basics in talking to a dog. Its an interesting experience, really. I wasnt raised in a particularly doggy family, but we always had at least one and they were always reasonably well behaved, so Im always a little amazed at what some people will be tolerating. The four year old dog thats only mostly potty trained, for example. Flabbergasting.

Julie E on August 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm said:

This is a subject that Ive been thinking about for quite a long while. We have so very many breeds bred for thousands of years to do a JOB: herding, hunting, verminating, guarding all very intense activities that really require intense behaviors from our dogs. We also have become a touchy-feely society that is reluctant to correct our dogs, our horses, or our children. (There is discipline, and there is abuse we arent talking abuse, here!) Everything is positive never a no in sight. (As an aside, I had had to quit one agility club because I wasnt allowed to say uh-uh to redirect my dog. It made him confused that I wasnt really communicating with him, and he didnt like the happy-happy, joy-joy method. I am now allowed to stop him and redirect he is having fun again.) Modern society, however, really does not need such intense dogs and thats where many people get into trouble. The vast majority people dont have flocks of sheep or cattle to herd and guard. Most people dont have large estates to hunt and guard. We have alarms systems and pest control companies. We dont spend the day hunting our dinner any more. We dont need our dogs to help haul in nets of fish. The vast majority of us no longer fight our dogs in pits. In all the years that Ive rescued/retrained, the majority of dogs that were given up were given up for breed-specific behaviors: barking, digging, herding/nipping, insane and undirected energy. Once the need to perform a duty was addressed, the behaviors magically became controlled. There is great lamentation about the loss of instinctual drive in the individual breeds of dogs that they have become more generic. We live in a society that mostly needs companion dogs, not dogs that

need a physical job. I can definitely see how serious fanciers dont want to lose the behaviors which are fundamental to their breed after all, that is as much a part of the standard as coat color, etc. is, but Im not entirely convinced it is what is best for the average dog in modern society. I wonder whether it is necessarily a bad thing that a Labrador is willing to retrieve all daybut doesnt NEED to. Or that a Sheltie is bred to be quieter and less inclined to bunch up the children with yaps and circling. I think because of societal drift towards city life, we have lost our ability (or indeed the patience to learn how) to read animals. They miss the stiffened tail, the squared stance, the stink eye or other signals that communicate play, distress, fear, and so forth. They inadvertently praise the very behavior they wish to discourage. They feel guilt if they have to correct. They feel fear that the dog might bite them (valid) or that the dog may get bitten or hurt (also valid.) I thinks its an excellent idea for people to learn Primal Dog. Once you understand that, it becomes relatively easy to find solutions to doggie problems. Most dogs are not endlessly tolerant, any more than most people. I see nothing wrong with keeping a curmudgeonly dog away from other dogs or small children, or terriers away from pocket pets that is a way to address an issue. It might be the best way for a person without the knowledge of how to train differently. While were at it, can we please get rid of the phrase pet parent? Its driving me nuts

ali on August 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm said:

The expectation moved from well-trained dogs are useful dogs to well-trained dogs are endlessly tolerant of absolutely anything and never discipline, punish, or predate on anything. this is the exact concept that I have expressed to people at work. I am a veterinary technician and dog owner. I think its absolutely ridiculous that dogs are expected to tolerate anything, without reaction. For example, i have heard this several times from an owner I dont CARE what my kid does to the dog, if the dog bites my kid, hes

over. Can you get any more unrealistic?? At the same time, i also find it hard to believe that people are so lazy with training their dogs to withstand certain necessary things, such as toe nail trims. My rationale is: if we as humans can get a killer whale to open its mouth to brush its teeth, or train a tiger to hold its leg out for a blood draw..why cant we train our dogs to? the answer is simple, nowadays people view their pets as ottomans, no longer objects with a purpose other than to sit in our living rooms.

KellyK on August 2, 2011 at 11:34 am said:

Wow, thats crazily unrealistic. And itd be so much better to teach the kid to treat the dog appropriately (and keep them separated as much as possible if the kid is too young to get that).

Melissa on August 1, 2011 at 8:53 pm said:

I have to take a second to curve the topic, used properly a choke chain is not bad, I train using them and my dogs are far from traumatized. That said any tool has to be used responsibly.

rufflyspeaking on August 1, 2011 at 9:07 pm said:

Absolutely agree. I was ready to jump in and stop it if the thread turned into anti-training methods, dont worry :). Ive used every collar that exists and am a firm believer that the best method is the one YOU can do best. There are ecollar trainers who are the gentlest and most supportive dog-savvy people on earth and they get fantastic results from their dogs, who are happy and joyful workers. Ditto with clickers and chokes and prongs and ear pinches and anything else thats in vogue now or unpopular now. If you can use it well, you can train a happy dog with it. If you cant use it well, DONT USE IT. Find something you CAN use well and your dog will do great.

priscilla babbitt on August 2, 2011 at 12:01 am said:

I still use the choke chain when walking Carly , i have to or she wont listen at all.. i do think the old school trainer who was our first experience with the chain, knew how to use it but she was so mean, she made me cry twice! One vet teck who was teaching the puppy socialization class said dont do anything thats not fun, well good luck with that.. i ask her how many dogs she had trained, she has cats! I also heard that very sensitive dogs can be traumatized by some types of training, is this true? Believe me i have read and obviously still need to read more and listen well. Maybe i getting to old to learn new I know i have along way to go with carly and im training a 7month old as well.. i just want to know im using the correct method so i dont screw them up more Reminds me of raising my kids and questioning every move i made, some choices were good, some were dreadful..

Rachel on August 2, 2011 at 11:42 am said:

From personal experience I would say yes some dogs are easily traumatized. My dad was trying to train our new dog, we hadnt had her very long, and were still getting used to her (our previous dog was, mostly, well trained and the adjustment from familiar well trained dog to new, knows nothing dog was a big one. Shagg tolerated a lot, yelling didnt phase him (all the guys have loud voices and Shagg grew up with us while we were still learning volume control). Dad caught the new dog stealing a rather large chicken leg off the counter where it was thawing and yelled at her. Shagg would have looked and dropped the chicken (more likely would have left it alone knowing he would get some later). Sunshine not only dropped the chicken, she ran and hid under the furniture and I had to get her out. She avoided Dad for the rest of the day, and he spent a lot of time soothing her into trusting him again. Dad hadnt meant to scare her badly, just startle her into dropping the chicken, but what would barely bother one dog had this one cowering. That was the only time he yelled at her like that, it was just the once a couple years ago, and she has long since forgotten.

However, had he continued to try training her that way, I think she would very likely be a wreck. Had she ended up in a situation where they tried physical punishment, she would likely have severe behavior problems. I use clicker training, with appropriate punishments (basically a loud hey when she is ignoring me) and for her it works great. Other dogs need other methods and I dont think it hurts to take something from every kind of training. With us she is now quite confident, even pushy, but obeys most basic commands except loose leash walking and lie down.(We are working on those)

LouisatheLast on August 2, 2011 at 1:01 am said:

Actually, to the commenter aboveI dont trim my dogs nails. Not because Im lazy or unwilling to train him, but simply because I have bigger issues to work with him on and dont need to provoke him into hysterics over something like that- he absolutely loathes it. Im working on training him to file them on a sandpaper-coated board so theyre a bit less.talon-like. Arthur is my special boy, and a prime example of this sort of thing. Hes a pit bull mix of mystery origin, who I acquired from a neighborhood kid who claimed to have found him. Possible, given the rough neighborhood, but he was only about five weeks old. Since I did the things I was supposed to with him (puppy kindergarten, gentle dog park socialization time, visiting stores) and he still turned out to be very uncomfortable with new people and very dog aggressive, I can only assume its genetic or possibly a result of being weaned way too young. Whatever it is, I struggle a lot with how much I can expect him to adjust his behavior, and how much Im just going to have to accept. Ive given up on having him ever interact with strange dogs. My goal is not to make him dog park ready- its to make him tolerant enough that other dogs can walk by him without him going berserk. My goal is not to turn him into a Golden Retriever when it comes to strangers in the house, but just to get him civil and trustworthy, and not have to

physically wrestle him into his crate when someone unexpectedly knocks on the door. And other than those (admittedly fairly major) problems, hes a near perfect dog: hes polite and attentive when it comes to food and asking for attention. He cuddles, hes gentle and patient with my toy poodle, he tolerates and even sometimes seems to like the cats, and hes not even a bed hog. Hes also the most genuinely loving dog Ive ever known, when it comes to his family. Yet I know he fits a lot of peoples definition of a bad dog, because he is most definitely not ever going to be the dog kids can run up to pet when hes on a walk.

Melissa on August 2, 2011 at 8:54 am said:

I adore the bully breeds, its my firm opinion that they are not problematic as a breed but due to irresponsible breeding and ownership get the short end of the stick far too often. Take a popular classifieds site. Ads on it, English Bulldogs 1507 last count, Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldogges 68, Staffordshire Terriors 1955, American Pit Bull Terriors 15393 and just for kicks Cardigan Welsh Corgis 2. Craigslist is swamped with them, shelters are swamped with them. I have met more aggressive labs and goldens then pit types but thanks to dog fighter breeders and OMG LETS MAKE MONEEEEZ breeders they are getting the shaft. So your dog could very well be an unfortunate by product of bad breeding, but he was lucky enough to find someone who is willing to compromise with him. Sorry for the bully rant but it hits a nerve with me. Second I WISH more parents would teach their children proper dog manners. My daughter is only 19 months and already knows to stop well back from a strange dog and go pet puppy? before putting a hand near them. Even with my two who would rather lick you to death before flipping over to demand belly scratches Im half tempted to get vests saying.NO TOUCH. Evidently small dogs give people the license to swarm.


on August 2, 2011 at 11:24 am said:

The small dog thing drives me crazy. Somehow everyone thinks they can just swarm and smother them. My parents have two minature dachsunds and a third almost standard size dachsund. The male standard size adores ALL people and especially kids, will welcome anyone who approaches, and all touching and petting. But, they also have one who is extremely afraid of strange people and will try everything to get away, and the third has a low threshold to being touched and handled and her standard reaction is to nip/bite when that threshhold is exceeded. Luckily, when they walk them and are often assaulted by people and children who think OMG they are all so cute, I MUST touch them, they can use Charlie as the shield and sacraficial PR rep, while sheilding the other two. Personally, I have a Corgi/JR heinz 57 rescue that loves her family and people she knows, is essentially indifferent/ignores strangers and is therefore, less than thrilled to be sidetracked, or touched by them while out and about. Luckily, she is at least tolerant of any interaction that occurs, but I work to minize the chance. She also has extremely unpredictable reactions to new dogs. Sometimes she loves them and wants to run and play, and sometimes she really cant stand them at all. There is absolutely no pattern I can dicern in regards to size, or gender, or location that will predict her reaction. She is very happy never interacting with other dogs, so we dont force the issue. I dont want to spend my time at the dog park, or god forbid dog parties if she doesnt.

Paula on August 3, 2011 at 12:52 am said:

I am concerned about all the laws being passed that require dogs to be perfect. Some places will confiscate and destroy your dog if it kills a cat or a rabbit. Not all dogs like all other animals. I sometimes think dog parks are one of the worst ideas ever. Way too many people are not capable of knowing whether their dogs should be thrown loose in an area full of strange ones. I too hate the term pet parent. I love my dogs dearly but I am still their owner.

KellyK on August 3, 2011 at 8:53 am said:

I think that if your dog kills somebodys pet, you need to be held responsible, absolutely, but a dog shouldnt be destroyed for doing what a dog does. Some dogs have a really strong prey drive, and owners of those dogs need to keep them away from other animals that look like a snack. Personally, Id be more in favor of fines and restitution (paying any vet bills and the replacement cost of the other persons pet) the first time something like that happens. After multiple times, it would certainly get to a point where destroying the dog is the only option left, but that should only happen after someone has demonstrated repeatedly that they cant or wont control the dog.